Pioneer has been on the rise as of late with the success of their Kuro line of displays and their new flagship receiver, the Pioneer SC-09TX. Pioneer has always stood for quality among high-volume electronics manufacturers, which include Sony, Onkyo and others. A few years ago, Pioneer set out to establish themselves in the higher-end markets with the creation of their Elite series. The Elite tag now accompanies many higher-end products that Pioneer makes, from televisions to CD players. The Pioneer Elite VSX-94TXH, reviewed here, retails for $1,800.
The VSX-94TXH sits right in the middle of Pioneer's Elite lineup of receivers, boasting many features and capable of performance levels the competition would brand as flagship. For starters, it features the latest in HDMI connectivity, which includes full upscaling via its Faroudja DCDi internal processor, as well as full uncompressed audio support via Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio. The VSX-94TXH has four HDMI 1.3a inputs and one HDMI out. If four HDMI inputs don't get it done for you, then there are three component video inputs and one out, as well as a host of legacy connections, all of which are scaleable to 1080p through a single HDMI monitor out. There are more than enough digital audio inputs to compliment the analog video side of things, which is a bit of a rarity in today's HDMI-infatuated world. The VSX-94TXH also features USB, Ethernet and satellite radio inputs that allow the VSX-94TXH to serve as the hub for a whole home audio and video distribution system.
The VSX-94TXH is a seven-channel receiver with 140 watts of power on tap across all seven channels. If 140 watts doesn't get it done for you, then the 7.1 preamp outputs will allow you to mate the VSX-94TXH to an outboard amplifier of your choosing, though I doubt you'll need it unless your room is ungodly large or you're running first-gen electrostatics. With seven channels of surround sound at its disposal, the VSX-94TXH features all of the standard surround sound formats and DSPs. The VSX-94TXH also features automated room calibration and set-up, which has become somewhat standard with receivers in this class.
The fit and finish of the VSX-94TXH is first-rate, with trademark black lacquer façade and large source and volume selector knobs. Truthfully, the VSX-94TXH is rather minimalist in its appearance, which only heightens its high-end look and status.
• Terrific build quality and a robust feature set make the VSX-94TXH a class leader among the competition.
• The VSX-94TXH's internal direct energy amplifiers provide more than ample power for a variety of loudspeakers and rooms, easily filling them with rich, full, dynamic and, dare I say, analog-like sound that suits a wide variety of listening tastes and source material.
• With HDMI 1.3a at the wheel and support for the latest audio formats, the VSX-94TXH is a natural mate for any Blu-ray or HD enthusiast looking to get more than just everyday performance from the system.
• Once set up, the VSX-94TXH is a delight to use and among the easiest full-featured receivers to live with day to day.
• This may sound odd, but there is a pride of ownership factor one finds with the VSX-94TXH or any Pioneer product brandishing a large golden Elite badge on its front. Though Elite in name and performance, the VSX-94TXH is very competitively priced.
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• The VSX-94TXH's remote, like most from Pioneer, is truly awful and the only item in the package that doesn't qualify for Elite status. Get a third-party universal remote once the initial set-up is completed.
• The set-up menus are vast and complicated and the navigation and process isn't altogether intuitive. If you've never set up a receiver before, please keep the manual handy.
• While I love the VSX-94TXH's look, the shiny finish is difficult to keep fingerprint-free if you're one to use the manual controls.
The Pioneer VSX-94TXH sits in the marketplace amidst heavy competition but, in my opinion, it sets itself apart from the rest with its comprehensive feature set, un-receiver-like sound quality and stunning good looks. When you consider the competition charges upwards of two grand for a receiver housed in the same casing as the $800 offering, you have to wonder, where's your money going? With the VSX-94TXH, there is no such wonder, for the evidence is clear. For $1,800, every dime of your hard-earned money is given back to you in sheer enjoyment, and that's the way it should be. Is it elitist to think so? I don't believe it is.
• Read a full archive of over 100 HDMI receiver reviews from Sony, Pioneer, Pioneer Elite, Onkyo, Integra, Sherwood Newcastle, Anthem, Arcam, NAD and many others.
• Check out a Dr. Ken Taraszka review of the Onkyo TX-SR608 HDMI AV receiver here...