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Pioneer VSX-1016TXV review: Pioneer VSX-1016TXV

Pioneer VSX-1016TXV

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Steve Guttenberg
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Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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6 min read

As $500 receivers go, the VSX-1016TXV is a bit bigger than average, measuring 16.5 inches wide, 6.75 high, and 18.5 deep. That might make for a tight squeeze in cabinets or on shelves, so it's a good idea to measure your space before you buy this receiver. It weighs just more than 33 pounds.

7.7

Pioneer VSX-1016TXV

The Good

This affordable THX Select 2-certified 7.1-channel A/V receiver offers switching for two HDMI sources, XM Satellite Radio capability with XM HD Surround, an accurate autosetup system, and an optional iPod dock. Also, you can configure the receiver to biamplify compatible front speakers.

The Bad

HDMI switching is for video only, which means you'll have to hook up audio cables as well. Additionally, the receiver won't convert composite, S-Video or component-video sources to HDMI output, and the onscreen menu display doesn't work via HDMI.

The Bottom Line

The Pioneer VSX-1016TXV offers formidable home-theater sound and a solid feature set for a midrange A/V receiver, with only its minimalist HDMI features falling short.
Intro
When it comes to designing cutting-edge A/V receivers, Pioneer has plenty of experience. The company was an early, well, pioneer, in autosetup technology and its MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) is still one of the most accurate and easiest to use systems. The company's also been a supporter of XM satellite radio from the get-go, and most of Pioneer's 2006 A/V receivers, including the one reviewed here, offer XM's new HD Surround processing. But more importantly, the VSX-1016TXV is Pioneer's first midrange receiver (read: $500) to feature THX Select 2 certification and HDMI switching. Unfortunately, the HDMI features offer merely the bare minimum, but when you combine the VSX-1016TXV's otherwise solid feature set with its clear sound and abundant power, it comes out ahead of most A/V receivers in its price class. Like most of Pioneer's non-Elite models, the VSX-1016TXV is a pretty understated affair. The front panel's neatly arranged buttons and knobs offer direct access to all sources--DVD, radio tuner, XM, CD, and so forth--and we really like the Multi Jog knob because it let us easily tune to any AM/FM/XM channel--a quick spin would bring up one of XM's 160-plus channels--if you had the optional XM Connect and Play antenna attached, as we did. It's a big improvement over the usual up/down tuning buttons.

We had no complaints about the included remote. The LCD display is comparatively easy to read, and the keypad, though dense, is well laid out with clearly labeled buttons. As noted, Pioneer's MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) auto setup program is both highly accurate and easy to use. After you plug in the supplied measuring microphone, bring up the onscreen display, and push a few buttons on the remote, the MCACC automatically determines your system's speaker sizes; speaker-to-listener distances, including the subwoofer; sets the volume levels of all of the speakers and the sub; sets the subwoofer crossover point; and applies a room/speaker correcting EQ program. And if you want to delve deeper and change some of the MCACC's setup details--the crossover setting, for example (MCACC selected 80Hz; we changed it to 50Hz)--it's easy enough to do. That's not always the case with autosetup programs.

Our one beef with the Pioneer's interface: The setup menus of the onscreen display are available over the composite, S-Video, and component-video outputs, but not HDMI. The Pioneer VSX-1016TXV sports seven 120-watt channels, and all of the basic surround-processing modes from Dolby and DTS. In addition to bass and treble controls, the VSX-1016TXV has a tone-control feature we haven't seen for a couple of years: Loudness. Engaging Loudness selectively boosts the bass and treble frequencies that human hearing is less sensitive to when the volume is low. We found it effective during late-night listening sessions.

The VSX-1016TXV's connectivity options look, on the surface at least, to be fairly comprehensive, but there's two significant shortcomings. While it offers switching for two HDMI sources, the receiver doesn't convert composite, S-Video, and component video to HDMI. Ideally, you'd be able to run all your source cables into the Pioneer and have whatever signal is coming in converted for output to a single HDMI cable that's connected to your HDTV. Alas, that isn't possible here. For example, if you run the component-video input from your Xbox 360 into the Pioneer, you'd still have to connect a separate component cable to output from the receiver to your TV. To further complicate matters, the HDMI inputs can accept video signals only from source devices. Audio signals can be passed along to the speakers of an HDMI-equipped TV, but you won't get any audio from your receiver unless you also connect analog or digital audio cables from the source. While it's true that most receivers with more robust HDMI implementation (video and audio via a single HDMI cable, analog-to-digital HDMI video conversion) cost more, that's starting to change. The JVC RX-D702 and the JVC RX-D411S, for instance, can handle both features with aplomb, despite street prices below $600 and $500, respectively.

On a more positive note, the VSX-1016TXV does provide five A/V inputs with composite and S-Video (including one on the front panel), three of which can be assigned to component-video sources. The receiver will convert composite and S-Video sources to output to component video as well. Audio connectivity includes one set of stereo inputs and one in/out tape loop. The 7.1-channel analog input can be used with HD-DVD, Blu-ray, DVD-Audio, or SACD players. (In fact, because of the aforementioned HDMI audio shortfall, it's your only worthwhile choice.) You also get five digital audio inputs (two coaxial, three optical--one of which is on the front panel), and one optical output. The 7.1 preamplifier outputs can be used with a separate power amplifier. Pioneer also offers an optional IDK-01 dock for iPod users. The absence of a dedicated phono input means that vinyl fans will need to invest in a dedicated preamp or opt for a turntable with line-level outputs.

The VSX-1016TXV is a seven-channel receiver, but if you're only going to use five channels, you can reassign the remaining two channels to run B stereo speakers in another room or to biamplify compatible front speakers; that is, ones with separate woofer and tweeter connectors. Biamping can produce significant performance advantages and allow the speakers to play louder without distorting.

If you want to take advantage of the VSX-1016TXV's XM Satellite Radio capability, buy a Connect-and-Play antenna ($50) and a $13 a month XM subscription. If you're a subscriber, the Pioneer can decode not only the standard XM channels but the handful of XM channels that feature HD Surround sound. The HD Surround-encoded channels can sound pretty good and produce decent front-to-rear separation, but if you inadvertently leave the HD Surround processing on when listening to standard XM channels, the sound quality suffers, volume is reduced, and left-to-right stereo separation is decreased. The regular channels sound best in stereo.

In addition to the aforementioned JVC model, Sony's STR-DG800 ($400) almost matches the VSX-1016TXV's features set--it's XM-compatible but lacks HD Surround. Home-theater sonics are comparable, but we'd give the nod to the Pioneer for its more musical sound on CDs. If you're not swayed by the VSX-1016TXV's HDMI-switching capability, THX certification, or video format conversion, save $200 and go for Pioneer's VSX-816 receiver. It otherwise matches just about every feature of the higher-priced Pioneer. We started our auditions of the Pioneer VSX-1016TXV with the V for Vendetta DVD. The film is set in totalitarian-governed London in the year 2020, and the VSX-1016TXV reveled in V's swashbuckling swordplay and rendered every splattered slash of the bloodbaths with a vengeance. V's orgy of violence is accompanied by rumbling bass, heavenly choirs, and the metallic clash of his blade. The film is capped off a rousing set of really big explosions, and we felt every one, thanks to the Pioneer's ample power reserves. Home-theater skills were definitely up to snuff.

"Shine On, You Crazy Diamond" from Pink Floyd's Pulse DVD sounded exquisite. The ambiance of the concert hall and each note of David Gilmour's slow-motion guitar echoed through our home theater. The Pioneer's sound is very detailed and clear, but we prefer the slightly warmer tonal balance of Denon and Harman Kardon receivers. The Pioneer's Dolby Digital soundstage is also a little less spacious than we prefer, but that's very much a subjective opinion.

We heard the best sound from the VSX-1016TXV when we played The Police's Every Breath You Take SACD. Sting's bass had remarkable texture and detail, and Stewart Copeland's drums crackled with impressive dynamic energy. The disc's surround mixes weren't all successful (though no fault of the Pioneer), but the best mixes, such as the one on "King of Pain," produced a spectacularly enveloping soundscape.

7.7

Pioneer VSX-1016TXV

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7
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