Just a few years ago, HDMI connectivity was a major step-up feature on AV receivers; now, it's standard for all but the least expensive models. That's mostly a good thing, because although HDMI can be finicky, its one-cable simplicity makes it much easier to set up an AV receiver.
The Pioneer VSX-1018AH is a midrange AV receiver with three HDMI inputs, which is actually fewer than you'll find on competitors such as the Onkyo TX-SR606 and the Sony STR-DG920. And even though it's easy to add more connectivity with an HDMI switcher, it's still nicer to have it built into the unit. Luckily, that's our only major complaint with the unit, as we were pleased to find the VSX-1018AH was easy to use and sounds great. It upconverts analog video up to 1080p over its HDMI output, and actually does a decent job. We also liked that the USB port allowed for onscreen navigation of a connected iPod--the blocky white text menus don't look nice, but it gets the job done. Altogether, the VSX-1018AH has one of the more attractive combinations of features to performance in this AV receiver range, making it a good choice for those satisfied with only three HDMI inputs. Just keep in mind that its successor, the VSX-1019AH, will offer four HDMI inputs (for a list price of $500) when it debuts in spring 2009.
The Pioneer VSX-1018AH has a classy look. The faceplate is covered with a glossy black finish, which means it will look right at home in most modern home theaters. On the far right and left are large knobs for volume and input selection, respectively. In the center toward the top is the LCD screen, and underneath is a line of input buttons, which seem a bit superfluous given the aforementioned input knob. Further downward are some additional front panel buttons, a headphone jack, as well as a front panel AV input, including a USB port and optical audio jack.
While the outside looks good, the VSX-1018AH's onscreen interface isn't quite as nice. Competitors such as the Sony STR-DG920 include a basic graphical user interface, but the VSX-1018AH is limited to just white text on a black background (think VCRs, circa 1991). That being said, the onscreen menus are relatively easy to navigate, which is more important than them being nice to look at.
We weren't big fans of the included remote. It's filled to the brim with small square buttons, and even important functions like volume aren't properly differentiated from less important buttons.
We liked the onscreen menus' straightforward appearance and navigation, so making our way through Pioneer's MCACC (multi channel acoustic calibration) auto setup was a breeze. The system automatically determines speaker sizes, speaker-to-listener distances (including the subwoofer), sets the volume levels of all of the speakers and the sub, and calculates the subwoofer crossover point.
To initiate MCACC, simply plug in the supplied microphone and follow the instructions of the onscreen prompts. The MCACC sent a variety of tones and whooshes to our speakers and subwoofer for close to 8 minutes, but unlike the Audyssey-based auto setup systems we didn't have to repeat the process over and over again in different positions in our room. The MCACC is easy enough to implement and is highly effective.
|Dolby TrueHD + DTS-HD MA||Yes||Onscreen display||Text|
|Analog upconversion||1080p||Source renaming||Yes|
|Selectable output resolution||Yes||Satellite radio||Sirius + XM|
The key features for the VSX-1018 are fairly standard. There's no graphical user interface, but, as mentioned before, there's a basic text-based onscreen display. The VSX-1018AH will upconvert analog signals to 1080p, but note that it will not convert 1080i component video signals to 1080p over the HDMI output.