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Friday
Jul182014

Podcast #644: Pioneer VSX-44 Elite 7.2 Home Theater Receiver

Back in May of 2013 we reviewed one of Pioneer’s entry Elite models the VSX-70. At that time we were impressed with the sound quality but the MSRP of $750 may have been a barrier for some. Now Pioneer has introduced two new entry Elites (VSX-80 MSRP $700 and VSX-44 MSRP $500) that have more capability and lower prices. We take a closer look at the VSX-44.

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Pioneer VSX-44 Elite 7.2 Home Theater Receiver

Back in May of 2013 we reviewed one of Pioneer’s entry Elite models the VSX-70.  At that time we were impressed with the sound quality but the MSRP of $750 may have been a barrier for some. Now Pioneer has introduced two new entry Elites (VSX-80 MSRP $700 and VSX-44 MSRP $500) that have more capability and lower prices. We take a closer look at the VSX-44.

Features:

  • 7 - Discrete Power Amplifiers each producing 80 watts per Channel (20 Hz – 20 kHz, THD 0.08 % @ 8 ohms FTC)
  • 6 HDMI (5 Rear, 1 Front) / 1 Out
  • HDMI 2.0 Compatibility with Ultra HD Pass-through
  • Roku® Ready with access to over 1000 stations, Internet Radio, Pandora and Spotify
  • iControlAV5 Remote control app
  • Powered Zone 2 Audio

 

Setup:

We do this quite often and can swap out a receiver in about 20 minutes. Your time may vary but our setup went like this; remove the receiver from the box, connect the speakers, connect the inputs, connect power, and run the auto calibration.

 

Performance:

There wasn’t much to test in the way of video. No upconverting or video processing. In our opinion that’s a good thing. Unless you use the higher end chips we find the video processing in low cost units are a waste. This unit passes the 4K signal through to the TV for processing and upconverting to be done there.

 The audio calibration produced results that only needed tweaking in the subwoofer. We found that it turned down the level too much for our tastes. We watched and listened to our standard fare of content that consisted of 256 Kbps AAC audio, Blu-ray, Satellite TV, Streaming content from our AppleTV.

In all the VSX-44 sounded good. But bearing the Elite name we were hoping for more. We understand that the receiver only costs $500 one whole penny more than the Pioneer VSX-1024-K. The two units are spec for spec identical. So why would Pioneer put the Elite name on this unit? We even asked them but never got an answer. Is the VSX-44/VSX-1024-K worth the money? If you are mainly using it for home theater, then the answer is yes.

 

Movies

Every modern receiver in this price range better produce good quality audio especially with blu-ray. The VSX-44 is no exception. Dialog was clear and present. Effects made the room come alive. We looked for scenes that did not use too much subwoofer to better evaluate the audio. To be honest the receiver did a great job but we can’t say that it was better or worse than any other receiver in its price class. Its getting to the point where each $500 receiver is as good as other $500 receivers. We think that’s due to the auto calibration software that receivers now have.

 

Music

The VSX-44 did well with classical music and acoustic performances. Rock sounded good too. In all the Elite wasn’t inspiring but adequate in its handling of music. If you are really into music we would suggest one of the higher tiered Elites to this unit.


Odds and Ends

  • iControlAV5 Remote Control App for Android and iOS devices. The app is nice and has more info and functionality than most people will need or use. You can even use the app to select music from your phone to play on the receiver
  • Airplay and HTC Connect - We streamed music from our iOS devices to the VSX-44 via Wifi with no issues. You can also plug an iPhone into the USB port on the front of the panel and control it from a full color GUI.
  • DLNA - The VSX-44 supports DLNA 1.5
  • Internet Radio, Pandora and Spotify - All are supported but the user interface was so difficult to navigate we decided that its better to use a separate external device like a Roku or AppleTV for these features.
  • Adapters - Both Bluetooth and Wireless adapters are available if you do not have a hardwired connection.

 

Conclusion

The VSX-44 is a solid receiver that is not overloaded with features that you would never use. Sound quality is good and will let you enjoy whatever you are watching. The real question is what is Pioneer trying to do with this unit. The have a model in their standard line of receivers that has identical specs for one penny less. Its probably someone in marketing suggesting that some people will only buy this model if it has the Elite badge on it. Perhaps Pioneer agrees with our earlier assertion that a $500 receiver is a $500 receiver. With that said, we no longer will review receivers under $1,000 unless there is some compelling reason. There is just too little differentiation in that space and it comes down to brand loyalty, aesthetics, or what’s on sale.

 

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Reader Comments (3)

http://instantwatcher.com is another good web site to help find good Netflix streaming movies. I like the "no frills" look of their site.

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Why buy the $500 Pioneer Elite receiver over the identical $499.99 Pioneer (non-Elite) receiver? The extra penny buys another year of warranty!

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve H.

Horrible product and worse customer service. Do not buy from this company. Better receivers are available for less money that come internet and bluetooth ready.
I have now had 2 of these and both are being returned. Takes forever to set up, it randomly turns off and on, randomly switches on its on from cable to TV settings, etc. Horrible.
This time around, after watching Netflix fine with sound, etc. last night, I come home and it will not play anything. No Playstation 3, no Satellite, nothing. I see on the front the HDMI is flashing. So I disconnect everything and reconnect them all. Nothing. Still flashing.
I call to get some help from Pioneer. After 15 minutes on hold the guy tells me it sounds like the HDMI board is out. I ask him how this is possible for an HDMI board to be out after 30 days with minimal use. I then tried to discuss the problem with him to attempt to fix it and he just says I will put you in touch with customer service and puts me back on hold mid sentence. I was with technical support for a total of 1 minute.

After being on hold again for a long period of time, Ashley gets on the phone to tell me I have to disconnect it all (again) and drive 30+ miles to drop it off at some camera shop. After a discussion about my prior experience with the Tech guy not giving me any answers I asked her if she could help figure it out. She just continued to tell me to take it to the Camera shop, it cannot be returned just fixed after 30 days of ownership and I am stuck doing it all. She then hung up the phone on me when I asked to speak to someone with management experience. She also stated during this conversation that there was ONE manager that worked in the entire Pioneer electronics division and he was in meetings.

Just save the hassle and your hard earned money and go somewhere else. This place and product is garbage.

February 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBill

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