Pioneer's revamped A/V receiver line isn't so different from last year's offerings--but considering that they were top-ranking contenders, that's hardly a knock. The VSX-D914-K offers all the latest surround formats, lavish connectivity options, above-average power, and a crisp 'n' clean sound quality--all for a list price of just $475 (and even less online). Thanks to fierce competition from the likes of Denon, Yamaha, and Harman Kardon, the D914-K isn't quite worthy of the Editors' Choice nod that its garnered. Nevertheless, it's a solid receiver distinguished by an easy-to-use and effective automatic setup system. We were put off at first by the Pioneer VSX-D914-K's blizzard of buttons and knobs, but after playing a few DVDs and CDs, we felt right at home. As midline receivers go, the D914-K is of average size: 17 inches wide, 6.25 inches high, and 15.8 inches deep. And at 23.3 pounds, it's actually a bit lighter than most.
Pioneer's slender learning/preprogrammed remote is also crowded with too many buttons, but its LCD does keep you informed about which source it's controlling.
The VSX-D914-K's MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) automatic setup function is easy to use and remarkably comprehensive. After you plug in the supplied measuring microphone and push a few buttons on the remote, the D914-K goes about its business, performing a three-minute process accompanied by beeps, whooshes, and tones. MCACC can significantly improve the sound of your system. The surprisingly thorough process determines speaker size and speaker-to-listener distances--including the subwoofer--and sets the volume levels of all the speakers and the sub. We found it more accurate than Harman Kardon's EzSet calibration system and easier to use than Denon's Auto Setup routine, as implemented in the and the , respectively. The Pioneer VSX-D914-K's jam-packed feature set includes six 110-watt channels and a Motorola 48-bit chipset that provides the latest surround processing modes. Dolby's EX and Pro Logic IIx are onboard, as are the ES Matrix, Discrete, and 96/24 options from DTS.
The D914-K's abundant connectivity choices will likely suffice for all but the most complex home-theater systems. There's component-video switching for two sources, along with three A/V inputs, one output, and two audio-only stereo inputs. A full set of 5.1 preamplifier outputs provides a possible future upgrade path. A 5.1-channel SACD/DVD-Audio input set completes the analog selection. You also get four digital audio inputs (two optical, two coaxial) and one optical output. The front panel's jack set accommodates gamers and video camera users and even offers an additional optical digital input.
Please note: The D914-K is a six-channel receiver, but it can be used with up to seven speakers; the sixth channel can drive one or two back-surround speakers in mono. There's also a B set of speaker outputs that can deliver sound to another room, but when you engage both A and B speaker sets, the D914-K reverts to stereo operation for both pairs of speakers. People I Know is a gritty drama set in New York City, starring Al Pacino as Eli Wurman, a show-biz publicist on the skids. The Pioneer VSX-D914-K dropped us into the DVD's urban soundscapes. The DVD isn't as taxing as the big special effects-driven films, but we were wowed by the sheer realism of the sound.
The swashbuckling feats of Captain Jack Sparrow on the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD came alive over the D914-K. We especially enjoyed the scene where Sparrow narrowly escapes from a ship as the crew fires their muskets. We just about smelled the gunpowder.
The Crystal Method's new DVD-A, Legion of Boom, unleashed a torrential storm of beats, crashes, and slashing guitars--so we nudged the volume way up. The D914-K obligingly pounded out the band's fiercest grooves without strain. Bass sounded crisply defined, never veering over to the boom or the bloat we hear from lesser receivers. The disc's evenly distributed surround mix ripped through the 5.1 channels, putting us in the middle of the action.
At this point, we performed a shootout with a receiver ($449 list), which sounded a little richer than the D914-K. Switching back and forth between the two receivers, we also determined that the Yamaha's soundstage was more spacious and laid back. The Pioneer sounded closer, or more up front, and performed better when we upped the volume levels. Which is the better receiver? That's a matter of taste, but we preferred the Yamaha's more spacious sound, when we held the volume to more neighbor-friendly levels. Beyond that, the Pioneer's slight power advantage won us over.