Pioneer VSX-1022-K review: Pioneer VSX-1022-K

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The Good The Pioneer VSX-1022K features six HDMI inputs and built-in AirPlay. The AV receiver has built-in networking, with support for Pandora, DLNA, and Internet radio, plus you can control it from your smartphone. Discounts can bring the price down significantly.

The Bad The VSX-1022-K has some puzzling omissions, such as the lack of second-zone audio functionality and limited streaming-audio support. It can't update its firmware over its network connection, plus its Wi-Fi dongle costs $150. The user interface can at times look quite rough. Pioneer only offers a one-year warranty, rather than the standard two years offered by others. And sound quality was disappointing in our listening tests.

The Bottom Line The Pioneer VSX-1022-K's combination of six HDMI inputs and AirPlay looks good from afar, but this AV receiver is only worth considering if you can find it heavily discounted.

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7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6

The rate of AV receiver innovation is painfully slow compared with the growth of other living-room technology, but Pioneer has often been at the forefront, adding features like AirPlay and iPhone-friendly USB ports before other manufacturers. Its 2012 lineup is uncharacteristically bland, however, and the VSX-1022-K doesn't have much to recommend it over competing models. Yes, there's AirPlay, but that's no longer an exclusive feature, nor is it definitively better than buying a separate Apple TV. And, yes, the VSX-1022-K has built-in networking features, but its selection of streaming-audio services is meager, plus it strangely can't update its firmware over the network, unlike most network AV receivers. Our subjective listening tests were also disappointing, even though we've liked Pioneer's sound in the past.

The only thing the VSX-1022-K has going for it is that it's currently heavily discounted from its $450 list price. At the moment, you can get it for as little as $280 and at that price it compares favorably with Onkyo's excellent TX-NR414. But the VSX-1022-K's price usually hovers closely to $350, where it's not nearly as attractive.

Overall, the Pioneer VSX-1022-K is a middling AV receiver, but it's worth considering if you can get it at a deep discount. Otherwise, check out CNET's top AV receiver picks for a better value.

AV receivers tend to all look the same, but Pioneer's models have a distinctive black and gold look that sets them apart. There are two large knobs, for selecting inputs and adjusting the volume, with a wide glossy black strip covering the middle of the unit. Overall it's a flashier look than most receivers, which isn't quite our tastes, but that's a matter of personal preference.

The included remote isn't the worst I've seen this year (that would be Yamaha's), but it's not great either. Unlike Denon's relatively simple remote, Pioneer's clicker is covered with tiny buttons, most of which you'll never use. Do yourself a favor and replace it with a quality universal remote.

Pioneer has a confusing selection of smartphone apps, including iControlAV, iControlAV2, iControlAV2012, and ControlApp, making it difficult to know which one you need to control the VSX-1022-K. By trial and error, we eventually figured out it's ControlApp and it worked reasonably well once it connected to the receiver. The big benefit is that you can browse streaming services using the app rather than the receiver's clunky user interface, although it's disappointing that you can't search for Internet radio stations.

User interface
The VSX-1022-K has a text-based user interface consisting of largely blocky white text. The Pioneer's text looks a little better than many competitors' UI text, and the large font size is especially appreciated, but it's still hard to accept the low-tech look in 2012 when everything else connected to your TV looks vastly better.

Pioneer VSX-1022-K user interface
Pioneer VSX-1022-K user interface

The bare-bones look fared even worse when we used streaming-media services. While there is cover art when playing back tracks from Pandora, it looked pretty terrible on CNET's 58-inch Samsung PN58B650. The TV doesn't handle 480i video over HDMI well (which is the video format the Pioneer outputs) and the resulting picture looks slightly shaky and unstable. That won't be a problem with every TV, but I also haven't seen another recent receiver with the same issue.


Click to enlarge.

Six HDMI inputs: The VSX-1022-K has six HDMI inputs, all on the rear panel, which should be enough for most home theaters. If you want the most HDMI connectivity for your buck, however, go with Onkyo: the TX-NR616 ($430) and TX-NR515 ($340) both offer eight HDMI inputs. The rest of the Pioneer VSX-1022-K's connectivity is on the skimpy side, particularly with just two digital audio inputs, but I wouldn't worry about that too much since nearly all modern home theater components support HDMI. (Check out CNET's 2012 AV receiver spreadsheet for a more detailed comparison of AV receivers' connectivity.)

Built-in networking: The VSX-1022-K's Ethernet port allows for all kinds of networking functionality, including AirPlay, smartphone control, and media streaming via Pandora, DLNA and Internet radio. Shockingly, the VSX-1022-K cannot perform firmware upgrades over its network connection; you need to download the firmware from Pioneer's Web site to a USB drive instead. It's a frustrating limitation that other network-connected AV receivers don't suffer from.

I still don't think networking is an absolutely essential AV receiver feature (largely because AV receivers shouldn't be media streamers), but it's a nice bonus. The VSX-1022-K's set of streaming-audio apps is very limited compared with competitors', so if you won't be using a separate media streamer or iOS device (with AirPlay), you'll get more options, like Spotify, from Onkyo's network receivers.

Note that Pioneer does offer a Wi-Fi accessory (AS-WL300), but it's prohibitively expensive at $150. You're better off using a separate Wi-Fi alternative to get the VSX-1022-K on your home network if you don't have Ethernet in your living room.

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