Leading manufacturers are pushing out new AV receivers in droves to catch on the 3D bandwagon. The 3D ready Pioneer VSX-1020-K receiver is one of those mid-priced units that is well positioned to jostle for a piece of the pie. It comes with the latest HDMI 1.4a that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and many useful features.
The VSX-1020-K replaces last year’s highly popular VSX-1019AH-K and Pioneer has added many significant functionalities. There are now 6 HDMI inputs, network capability with the addition of an Ethernet port, Sirius radio support and iPhone control.
Latest Update: The Pioneer VSX-1020-K is Now On Sale at Amazon.com
Design & Connectivity
The overall look of the receiver hasn’t changed much with the same classic black scheme of Pioneer receivers. It is a well built and gorgeous looking piece of equipment. The front panel buttons have been reconfigured slightly to give it a more minimalist look.
The front panel layout remains the same with the power button and the input selector buttons on the left and large master volume control on the right. There’s a headphone jack, USB and iPod connections, plus a HDMI input for easy connection of laptops or camcorders equipped with HDMI outputs.
On the back panel there are 5 HDMI 1.4a inputs, 2 component video inputs, 2 composite video inputs, optical and coaxial digital audio inputs, and an adequate number of analog audio inputs. In addition you get an Ethernet port, a Sirius input jack, and a port for Bluetooth adapter. Speaker outputs can be configured for a 7.1 system or 5.1 with second zone (or configured as height/wide speakers). There are no multi-channel pre-outs for external amplification other than a line-level output for a subwoofer.
For a mid-priced receiver, the Pioneer VSX-1020-K comes with an impressive set of innovative features. The 6 HDMI inputs should be more than ample for your needs. On-screen menu has been upgraded to a nicer looking full color GUI. It is now network capable via an Ethernet port. When connected online you have access to hundreds of internet radio stations.
Here’s a summary of its features:
- HDMI ver 1.4a specification for next generation of 3-D video playback.
- Supports high-definition audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
- Dolby Pro Logic IIz adds front “height” channels for a more immersive experience.
- 1080p upconversion via Anchor Bay ABT1015 chipset.
- PureCinema processing for 3D noise reduction and Y/C color separation.
- Pioneer Precision Quartz Locking System (PQLS) utilizes the digital clock in the A/V receiver to exactly synchronize the signal passage from a compatible Pioneer Blu-ray player. This creates absolute synchronized and jitter-free playback of all advanced audio formats. The VSX-1020-K features two-channel PQLS for jitter-free CD playback.
- Works With iPhone Certification – you can enjoy music with iTunes album art, movies, downloaded TV shows from iTunes, photos, web content such as YouTube. An included USB/composite video cable makes connecting your iPhone to share your favorite media easy – and your iPhone charges automatically when connected. Unlike other receiver lines, there’s no need to buy a separate dock to enjoy your iPhone with your home theater. This included cable also works with most generations of iPod Classic, Nano, and iPod Touch. Pioneer’s iControlAVR (downloaded separately via Apple’s App Store) gives you total control over your home theater sound.
- Bluetooth Ready – you can add a Pioneer AS-BT100 Bluetooth adapter (sold separately) to release your music stored on your iPhone, Blackberry, or Android smartphone as well as other Bluetooth-enabled sources like laptops.
- Advanced Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration system (MCACC) provides a near studio-quality, multi-channel listening experience customized specifically to your listening environment.
- Advanced Sound Retriever (AIR) enhances audio playback of compressed audio such as WMA, MP3 and AAC to near CD quality sound. This technology also enhances the audio quality of SIRIUS Satellite Radio and can realize an upper limit frequency of 20kHz with compressed audio playback for surprising audio richness and clarity even from “lossy” digital audio sources.
- Auto Level Control equalizes volume level differences between tracks playing from an iPhone or iPod or during television programming.
Setup & Performance
Depending on how familiar you are, setting up the 1020-K is fairly easy once you have read through the comprehensive manual. The new GUI definitely aids in the set up especially when it comes to fine tuning the surround speakers. This receiver is best matched with efficient medium sized speakers. Large power hungry floor standers should be avoided.
To use your iPhone wirelessly as a remote control, the receiver must be connected to your home network through its Ethernet and the iPhone connected to the network via Wi-Fi.
The Advanced MCACC is markedly improved and it provided excellent correction for troublesome standing waves in the room. The process took no more than 15 minutes to complete and the auto calibration mode is good enough to do the job.
To test the frequency response and effectiveness of the sound calibration, we used the high resolution audio recordings from the The Nordic Sound blu-ray disc, an excellent production of pure audio tracks by 2L of Norway. The sound was simply astounding. High frequencies were extended and shimmers with rich overtones. Voices, violin tones and piano timbres were rich. There were just ample low frequencies such that the bass did not sound overbearing. Overall a very well balanced and full sound.
On ‘The Dark Knight‘ blu-ray, the picture quality was equally impressive. Presented theatrically in both standard 35mm and IMAX formats, ‘The Dark Knight‘ is framed here in alternating aspect ratios. The sharpness is crisp and color palette displays rich hues and tones for the entire spectrum. Images are absolutely spotless, blacks are deep as ink and Bruce Wayne’s skin tone natural. Dialog is abundantly clear through the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and audio from the surrounds is natural and engaging. With a 15-inch subwoofer, the Batmobile’s rumble created low bass that is tight as a drum, and depth of sound across the front soundstage provided a most satisfying movie experience.
All in all, the video and audio performance is a discernible improvement over last year’s VSX-1019-AH-K.
Pioneer has again over-delivered with the VSX-1020-K. The picture and sound quality is way above what we’d expect from a receiver in this price range. It makes even more sense if you already own a Pioneer blu-ray player as you will be able to take advantage of PQLS for jitter free CD playback. Coupled with 3D readiness and an extensive feature set, the Pioneer VSX-1020-K certainly raises the bar for mid-priced receivers.
Actual user reviews:
• “I upgraded from a 3 year old Yamaha AV receiver and couldn’t be happier. This has been running cool even in the wooden TV console its in. Had a bit of trouble setting up to power up and down correctly with my Harmony One remote, but eventually got it though trial and error. I would recommend this due to its smaller size, nice features, easy setup, great sound and so far cool operation.” – TechNoNerd (TX,USA)
• “I purchased this receiver about 1 week ago and love it. It has great sound, tons of features, and lots of connectivity for whatever device you may have. The only real issue I had was how the receiver would switch to TV/SAT every time I would turn on the system using my Harmony One remote. However, I discovered that this problem was caused by my TV and the fix is the following: Go into Menu under HDMI-CEC and turn it Off. If the set is a Samsung look for AnyNet+ (default is normally On) and turn it Off. Once I did that, the problem was gone. Once that problem was resolved I was really able to appreciate the features of this receiver. I used the automatic setup with the MCACC and it worked out very well. The only minor problem was that it listed my surround speakers as LARGE so I manually went into the setup and changed them to SMALL. Overall, I would say this receiver was pretty easy to set up, has great sound, and does not run hot like some of the other receivers out there so it can easily be placed in a closed cabinet without overheating. I highly recommend this AV Receiver for the money.” – M.Harms (CA,USA)
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