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Today’s Show:

Pioneer VSX-1120-K Audio/Video Receiver

Street Price $535

We recently switched our go-to value receiver to the Pioneer VSX-820-K.  For under $300, it packs in a great deal of features.  But it also makes some sacrifices to get the cost down that low.  So for those who want to step up to a 7.1 receiver, we decided to check out the Pioneer VSX-1120-K.  Right now it’s just over $200 more at a street price of $535.

So what do you get for that extra cash?  Here are some key features of the step-up solution from Pioneer.

Features:

  • 7.1 surround sound, 120 watts per channel
  • 6 HDMI Ports with v. 1.4, 3D, Deep Color and X.V. Color
  • DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Pro Logic IIz with pre-out, THX Select2 Plus
  • 1080p video conversion and upscaling
  • USB input / “Works with iPhone”-certified
  • Sirius and Internet Radio
  • iPhone Remote App
  • PC Control
  • On-Screen GUI Display
  • Multi-zone audio (7.1 or 5.1 + 2)
  • Digital Formats: JPEG, MP3, WAV, WMA

 

Setup:

Like the little brother, the 1120 feels pretty light; it is heavier that the 820, but still weighs in at around 28 pounds.  Of course it’s a receiver, so you have to connect speakers, input sources, and power. Since this unit supports Internet and network connected features, you can plug an Ethernet cable in as well.  The default DHCP configuration grabbed an IP address right away, so for us, network setup didn’t add any time at all. We spent a lot of time with the Bluetooth functionality of the 820, so we decided to skip that in the review of the 1120.

The auto calibration was very easing using the included calibration mic. It plugs into the front of the receiver with a cord easily long enough to reach our ideal listening position.  Calibration took a while, but we got a nice on-screen GUI on the HDMI output that showed us what was going on.  That helped pass the time a bit. Pioneer’s exclusive Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration system (MCACC) did a pretty good job, but of course we fined tuned things a bit as well.  Nothing beats a trusty Sound Pressure Meter for getting your audio dialed in just right.

Performance:

With all your video sources going through your reciever these days, it’s tough to say that we buy a receiver for it’s audio performance anymore.  These days video is just as important as audio.  The 1120 has Marvell video processing so you can upscale your picture to digital 1080p from virtually any source, even digital HDMI.  While the video looked good, we experienced quite a few video drop-outs we weren’t used to seeing with other receivers from brands like Onkyo and Denon.  While it was on, it looked great, we just wish it stayed on all the time.

The more we used the unit, the worse the dropouts became.  Eventually, it was just plain unusable as an AV Receiver.  For the sake of this review, we assumed it was a bad unit so we could continue with our testing. But for us, this unit is not at all usable.  It’s a shame, too, because the video processing was very good.  The Marvell technology really worked, while it was on screen.

As to audio, this unit did really well.  It supports Dolby True HD, Dolby Pro-logic IIz and DTS Master Audio.  Like the Onkyo TX-SR608 we recently reviewed, the Pioneer won’t let you run 9 speakers at once, even if you connect an external amplifier to the audio pre-outs.  That’s annoying, but since there really isn’t any content for the 9 channels, we can live with it.  The 1120 produced very good sound.  We would describe the sound as very accurate and clear.  Other receivers are louder, others might have a “fuller” sound, but the Pioneer is very crisp.  We tried with several speaker configurations and got the same impression.

Other Features:

The 1120 includes an iPod cable so you can connect your iPod, iPhone or iPad directly to the front of the receiver. It works just like the 820, so we don’t need to get into it too much.  You can also use the front USB for other devices that store digtal files.  Beyond the iPod cable, the 1120 also works with Pioneer’s free iControl app.  We actually found it to be quite useful.  Of course nothing beats an good universal remote, but for quick access to the Pioneer without having to pull out the factory remote or dig through device menus, it works really well.

The network connection is for more than just iPhone control, though.  You can use it control the unit from your PC or Mac as well.  We didn’t see a whole lot of use for that, but it’s there if you want it.  The 1120 will also connect to the Internet and allow you to stream Internet radio directly to the receiver.  This gives you literally thousands of stations – almost unlimited amount of choices for things to listen to.  We don’t do a lot of radio listening in our home theaters, so the feature might be wasted on us, but for those who do, this should come in pretty handy and save you from having to buy a secondary device.

While the 820 didn’t provide any on screen display over HDMI, the 1120 does provide a rich GUI over HDMI for setup and configuration.  This is great, but it fell short of being perfect.  Many other receivers in this price range will also display status information onscreen, over-layed on top of the video you’re watching.  For example, volume levels, changes in audio mode, etc.  With the Pioneer you have to keep an eye on the front LCD display to know what’s going on.  We would have expected more from such a feature rich receiver.

Conclusion:

The Pioneer VSX-1120-K does add quite a bit of capabilities to our go to receiver for value, the VSX-820-K and we believe it’s worth the extra $200 if you can swing it – if you can ignoring the video dropout issue assuming ours was a bum unit. We won’t go as far as saying it’s the best receiver we’ve used in this price range, but it does a solid job and should satisfy most needs.  It’s a good receiver, but it would have to be a bit better to get a unanimous seal of approval.

 

Download Episode #464

 


Posted by The HT Guys, February 3, 2011 10:44 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.