Pioneer's new receivers are some of the most feature-packed models we've seen. We've reviewed receivers with XM Satellite Radio capability, iPod interfaces, advanced autosetup functionality, and format conversion from analog video inputs (composite, S-Video, and component) to digital HDMI video output, but the Pioneer VSX-72TXV ($1,200 list) has all those features and superior sound to boot. In fact, the Pioneer's superb and easy-to-use autosetup routine trumps even that of the stellar Denon AVR-3806. Like all Pioneer components, the Pioneer VSX-72TXV comes in a stunning high-gloss black finish. It's a rather large beast, measuring a whopping 18.25 inches deep and weighing 35 pounds. To commemorate Pioneer Elite's 20th anniversary, a limited number of VSX-72TXV receivers will be available in silver, the VSX-72TXV-S. The stately, minimalist face includes just two knobs (input selector and volume) and seven buttons, including the power toggle. A fold-down door hides additional controls and a bay of front-panel jacks for quick and easy temporary hookup of devices.
Unfortunately, the style of the remote does not match that of the receiver itself. It's crowded with way too many buttons, which aren't backlit, though the nonilluminated LCD screen eases the hassle factor a bit.
Sporting the latest revision of Pioneer's autosetup program, MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration), the Pioneer VSX-72TXV balances the satellite speakers' volume levels, measures speaker-to-listener distances, determines the various sizes of the speakers, and equalizes the frequency response of the speakers in your room. This Advanced MCACC also applies "time axis" calibrations that distinguish between the direct sound of the speakers and the room reverberation to produce a more accurate sound. Using the MCACC system is quite simple. Just plug in the supplied microphone, place it at your main listening position, bring up the setup menu, and press the Enter button on the remote. A few minutes later, the Pioneer VSX-72TXV will be tuned to your speakers and room. By contrast, the Denon AVR-3806's autosetup program is far more complex and time-consuming, though no more accurate. If you don't like the results after running the MCACC, you can easily dial in the sound you prefer. If you like to tinker, the Expert menus offer a host of even more involved tuning adjustments, and the receiver will store up to six sets of equalization so that you can have one for action flicks, one for dramas, one for music, and so forth. The 72TXV also includes a Professional Acoustic Calibration option that requires the use of a PC to perform an even more detailed analysis of your room's acoustics. This level of processing flexibility is rare, even in far more expensive receivers. The Pioneer VSX-72TXV's seven-times-130-watt receiver offers most of the latest and greatest surround-processing modes: Dolby Pro Logic IIx and Dolby Digital EX, DTS-ES Discrete 6.1, Neo:6, 96/24, and THX Select2. Processing duties are handled by 32-bit Sharc-EX and 48-bit Motorola chips to ensure high-end sound quality.
In terms of connectivity, the Pioneer VSX-72TXV has an impressive seven A/V composite and S-Video inputs (one on the front panel), three component inputs, and two HDMI inputs. There are seven digital inputs (five optical and two coaxial, including one on the front panel) and one optical output; audiophiles will appreciate the turntable and analog inputs for SACD and DVD-Audio. The receiver also has 7.1-channel preamp connectors for hooking up separate power amplifiers. Speaking of amplifiers, you can reconfigure the Pioneer VSX-72TXV's 7.1 channels to run in a 5.1 configuration with the extra 2 channels powering the B speakers in another room. Alternately, you can configure them to "biamplify" compatible front-left and front-right speakers, which can significantly improve their sound quality. The 72TXV's infrared jacks and 12-volt trigger controls allow for three-zone multiroom operation.
In addition to an A/V composite and S-Video monitor output, the receiver includes component and HDMI video outputs. The Pioneer VSX-72TXV can convert video and output any standard analog input (composite, S-Video, or component) via the component outputs and the HDMI jack. Theoretically, that means you need only a single connection to your TV. But there's a catch for HDMI users: analog video is converted to digital for HDMI output, but the resolution remains at 480i, as does the 72TXV's onscreen display. If your HDTV can handle 480i HDMI signals, there's no problem; but if you have one of the many older sets that can't, you'll get a blank screen when trying to watch analog video sources--for example, your VCR or cable box or any video source that's not outputting 480p progressive-scan or 720p/1080i high-def.
Digital music fans will welcome the Pioneer VSX-72TXV's impressive extras. The nifty iPod hookup scheme uses a special (included) 5-foot cable that runs between the iPod and the back panel of the receiver. The Pioneer VSX-72TXV converts the iPod's analog audio output to 96KHz/24-bit digital output and displays your iPod's menus on your TV, allowing you to navigate your music collection with the Pioneer remote. The receiver supports iPods that have standard dock connectors, but it handles only audio, not video or photos. The XM Satellite Radio input accepts an XM antenna (XM subscriptions run $12.95 a month), so you can get satellite radio without needing another bulky component. On David Byrne's concert DVD Live at Union Chapel, the Pioneer VSX-72TXV had no trouble pumping out hard-hitting dynamics while still finessing the sensual sound of violins, violas, cellos, and bass. The band's rhythm section kicked out the jams on "Life During Wartime," amply demonstrating the receiver's potent power reserves and ability to rock. The DVD Flight of the Phoenix was exciting, especially when the doomed plane flew through a vicious desert storm. The onscreen mayhem sounded frightfully realistic, and the plane's crash was conveyed with maximum impact.
DVD-Video sounded first-rate, but Jackson Browne's DVD-Audio Running on Empty was even more spectacular. The immersive surround mixes were eerily holographic, with the sound of the band coming solidly out of the front three channels and the sound of the concert hall and the crowd radiating from the rear speakers. DVD-Audio's superior resolution was most evident when Browne played the piano on "Rosie." The Pioneer VSX-72TXV well communicated the majestic scale of the instrument.
The sound quality of XM Satellite Radio wasn't fully on a par with that of CD, but it was way ahead of what we're getting from the best Sirius satellite-radio receivers. When we played AAC/192Kbps files through our iPod, the sound lacked detail and sparkle, but Apple Lossless files sounded distinctly clearer, nearing CD quality.
The Pioneer VSX-72TXV's sound strikes us as warmer and fuller than that of other Pioneer receivers we've tested over the years. In particular, the multiroom connectivity is a strong step up from that of the midpriced . Overall, we'd say the quality of this product equals that of Denon's and Harman Kardon's receivers--high praise indeed. With the exception of the HDMI/480i limitation (that the 480i pass-through from the onscreen display and analog video sources won't work with some older HDMI-equipped HDTVs), the Pioneer VSX-72TXV is an easy recommendation for discriminating listeners.