As with the Pioneer VSX-933 we reviewed last year, the Pioneer Elite VSX-LX504 9.2-Channel Network AV Receiver packs a whole lot of goodies into one package. Of course, at more than double the price ($999 versus $479), you'd expect the LX504 to boast a reasonably impressive feature set. Still, its impressive just how much this one black box does. In addition to its Works with Sonos certification, the LX504 also supports Chromecast, works with Google Assistant, and features Apple AirPlay 2 functionality. It supports powered second and third audio zones, and boasts DTS Play-Fi and FlareConnect support. Of course, you could say a lot of the same for the VSX-933, barring the whole powered-third-zone thing.
Where the VSX-LX504 mainly sets itself apart is in its number of amplified channels (nine versus seven) and the power delivered to each of those channels (120 watts per channel, with a full bandwidth signal, two channels driven into 8 ohms, with 0.08 percent THD; via the same standards, the 933 max out at 80 wpc). The VSX-LX504 also adds support for IMAX Enhanced, upgrades Bluetooth from 4.1 to 4.2, and supports Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization, a feature that unfortunately isn't enabled yet, but will via firmware allow you to approximate the sound of a full Atmos system without using overhead speakers or Atmos modules, not long after this review goes live.
The VSX-LX504 also, of course, supports all of the AV connectivity and processing you would expect, including HDMI 2.0b with support for HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG, along with HDCP 2.2 copy protection. The number of HDMI ports is a little limited for an AVR at this price point, with only six rear-panel inputs and two outputs and one aux HDMI input around front.
As with all recent Pioneer receivers that I have hands-on experience with, setup of the VSX-LX504 is an absolute breeze and navigating its well-designed and utterly ergonomic remote is a pleasure. Before getting to the point of using the remote, though, one needs to make some back-panel connections, and doing so can be a bit of a cramped experience depending on what you're connecting.
The binding posts for speaker connections, for example, are of the old-school vertically-stacked style, and are grouped far too close together for comfort. They're also far too close to the HDMI ports above. I pulled the banana plugs off the end of one of my speaker cables and attempted to go with a bare-wire connection, just for the experience of it, and ended up saying some very salty words before giving up and re-bananafying my cable. One hopes that with Sound United acquiring Pioneer, we'll soon see Elite receivers at least adopt the horizontally arrayed binding posts common to Denon and Marantz AVRs, because they make speaker connections so much easier, no matter which style of termination you prefer.
Along with speaker-level connections and of course the HDMI ports, the VSX-LX504 is equipped with a nice collection of legacy inputs and control connections. There's an RS-232 port for advanced control, but given that the receiver is supported by fantastic two-way IP drivers for most control systems, that's probably largely unnecessary. (The driver for Control4, by the way, is SDDP, meaning you don't have to set a static IP address in the receiver, and programming is pretty much drag and drop, aside from binding the connections in Control4's Composer Pro software.)
There's also a pair of 12-volt trigger ports (3.5mm), as well as IR in and IR out (ditto). Legacy video inputs come in the form of a pair of composite ins, as well as a component video input that oddly only accepts 480i signals. If your component source only outputs a progressive-scan signal, you'll need to opt for the composites instead. There's also a pair of antenna inputs for terrestrial radio, a single coaxial digital and solitary optical digital inputs, a phono input, four stereo line-level RCA inputs, stereo Zone 2 and Zone 3 outputs, and 9.1-channel preamp outputs. I say "9.1," not "9.2" as Pioneer says in the receiver's name, because while the VSX-LX504 does feature dual subwoofer outputs, they cannot be leveled, delayed, or equalized independently. As far as the system is concerned, you've got one subwoofer output with a virtual y-splitter on it.
Unlike the VSX-933 I reviewed last year, the VSX-LX504 boasts Advanced MCACC room correction and auto speaker setup, which means that this model is capable of EQing your sub as well as the main speakers, and is designed to deal with standing waves. Running Advanced MCACC is simple and straightforward, and although it allows for up to nine in-room measurements, it doesn't give you any guidance as to where to place the mic, rather suggesting that you place it at the center of each listening position. In my room, I selected my seat as the first mic position, my wife's seat as the second, split the difference for the third, and then placed the mic in positions in front of and behind our main seating positions and the spot in between for the other six.
Most people, I imagine, will take a sort of set-it-and-forget-it approach to running Advanced MCACC, but the system does allow for a few additional tweaks, should you care to make them, including independent application of EQ and standing wave control, as well as some finessing of the EQ. We'll dig into the effects of these tweaks in more depth in the Performance section.
For the most part, the auto setup did a good job of nailing the distances and levels for my RSL CG3 5.2 system, though there was a slight problem with the crossovers. Over the years with the RSL system, I've settled on a crossover configuration slightly different from what I detailed in my original review of those speakers. I tend to like a 110 Hz crossover for the bookshelves and a 90 Hz crossover for the center. Such isn't possible with the Pioneer VSX-LX504, though. You can individually set speakers as small or large (i.e., full range), but for any small speakers in your system, there's only a single, global crossover setting. I settled on 100 Hz for the entire system.
Before we wrap up the setup, I do want to circle back to the remote really quick. The controller included with the VSX-LX504 is similar in many respects to that of the VSX-933, to which I say: good! If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That was my favorite AVR remote that I've come across in quite some time. But there are some subtle-yet-noteworthy differences between the two models.
The remote for the VSX-LX504 is a little more refined, with more rounded corners and more rounded buttons. There are also a few extra of the latter, including three personalized presets; a rocker control for tone, dialogue, and subwoofer level; a dimmer for the front panel; and a few others. But the new remote, despite its enhanced functionality, doesn't lose the elegant simplicity of the VSX-933's remote. It's small, to be sure, but it feels great in the hand and gives you easy access to all of the things you might need to tweak on the regular. That, combined with the receiver's fantastically intuitive GUI, makes for a sound system that's a pleasure to operate, even without the benefit of an advanced control system. Thankfully, the receiver is configurable enough that you don't really miss anything by ditching the remote after initial setup and just using a control system. So, it's really win/win either way you control this thing.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...