Pioneer VSX-9040TXH

The Pioneer VSX-9040TXH is a mid-priced 7.1 channel AV receiver designed for a multi-channel, multi-room, home theater system. It comes with support for all high resolution audio formats, plenty of inputs and outputs for all your devices and THX Select 2 Plus certification. Pioneer has included a full set of useful features not usually available on other similarly priced receivers. You have an option to listen to XM® and Sirius® Satellite radio service and will be able to connect and control an iPod or iPhone, which is highly unusual at this point. You also get high end audio circuitry for top notch sound quality. Best of all, you get all this for well under $600.

Pioneer VSX9040TXH AV Receiver

Pioneer VSX9040TXH AV Receiver

Design

The Pioneer VSX-9040TXH sticks to the tried and tested black finish that distinguishes Pioneer from the rest of the field. The front panel design is simple and classy. The power button is conveniently located near the top. A subtle blue accent light below the display panel indicates powered-on status. The most commonly used functions are controlled by two prominent round knobs. The left knob is for input selection and the rugged-feeling volume control knob on the right. The front panel display readouts are clear even from a distance. It displays information like input audio format, channel info, volume levels, radio stations, input source, and even the precise audio decoding format. Below that are a row of red selection lights. Apart from this the unit is clear of clutter and looks breathtakingly sleek in this high gloss finish.

Layout on the back panel is quite standard among receivers. There are 4 HDMI inputs and one HDMI out on the top row. Two sets of component video inputs are also conveniently located towards the left side of the back panel. Speaker outputs occupy the bottom center. The neat layout lends itself to easy connectivity. Each of the inputs can be re-assigned during setup as needed to facilitate your particular system.

Features

The VSX-9040TXH is capable of 7.1 channels of digital audio decoding. Each of the 7 channels delivers up to 110 watts of Direct Energy Amplification. Unlike regular Bi-Polar transistors, Pioneer’s efficient Advanced Direct Energy (A.D.E.) MOSFET amplifier produces high-end sound quality with equal amplified power for each channel to ensure consistent sound quality. According to Pioneer, this advanced circuitry is designed to offer high stability combined with low energy loss and ultra linear amplification. Pioneer’s proprietary PQLS technology promises ‘jitterless’ audio for a near-perfect transmission when connected to a blu-ray player via HDMI.

Other features include:

  • THX Select2 Plus Certification – The THX Select2 Plus certification means that the receiver incorporates an array of THX technologies that combine to produce breathtaking cinematic sound. These technologies include THX Loudness Plus, Surround EX, Cinema, Music, and Games modes, Boundary Gain Compensation, and Neural THX Surround.
  • 1080p Video Upconversion with PureCinema Processing – This unit features analog-to-1080p HDMI upconversion and analog-to-analog video up/down conversion, and its PureCinema processing drastically reduces video noise without sacrificing image quality and sharpness.
  • iPod and iPhone Connectivity – A convenient front-panel USB 2.0 port enables you to simply connect and even charge your iPod or iPod Touch. You will also get iTunes Album Art through the on-screen display (OSD) that is generated by the VSX-9040TXH on your TV. Your iPod effectively becomes another Pioneer component flowing through the receiver. A well thought out and useful feature considering the number of iPod owners out there.
  • Support DTS-HD Master Audio and High-Resolution Audio – DTS-HD Master Audio supports bitrates up to 24.5Mbps, 7.1 discrete channels of 96KHz/24-bit audio, and is ideal for HDMI Version 1.3a cables. DTS-HD High-Resolution Audio also offers 7.1 discrete channels of 96KHz/24-bit audio, but only supports bitrates up to 6Mbps.
  • Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System (MCACC) – For enhanced room acoustics, Pioneer’s Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System (MCACC) detects speakers, and then sets levels, delays, and crossovers, as well as measuring room acoustics. It is designed to work with home theater systems to create a larger, fuller listening area without distorting the sound.
  • Neural-THX Surround – Neural-THX Surround is specifically designed to enhance the playback of compressed digital media content. It provides listeners with an expanded sound stage and clean surround experience, even when listening to compressed audio sources such as MP3s and Internet music streams.
  • High-Quality 24-bit Audio Processing – Pioneer’s 192 KHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converter is the backbone to this receiver’s excellent multi-channel audio conversion. By resolving an accurate sound-field reproduction and reducing analog noise in the signal path, it produces an enveloping audio signal that is unsurpassed.
  • Sirius XM Satellite Radio Ready – It is capable of receiving Sirius XM Satellite digital radio, which provides 100% commercial-free 5.1-channel surround sound music of over 120 digital channels. To listen to Sirius XM radio programming, you would need an optional docking adapter/tuner and activation of optional Sirius XM service.
  • Advanced Surround Modes – Enjoy 13 advanced surround modes that include Action, Drama, Entertainment Show, Advanced Game, Sports, Classical, Rock/Pop, Unplugged, Extended Stereo, and more. It also features SACD playback via HDMI (multi), Multi PCM playback (192KHz) via HDMI, Auto Lip Sync (0-300ms), and Stream Direct for pure uncompressed digital sound.
  • Multi-Room Capabilities – This unit is capable of reproducing surround sound entertainment in your main room while you play back a completely different A/V source in another room.
  • Auto Level Control – Monitors and maintains the volume at a consistent level, which means that commercials can’t blast sound louder than the actual show.

Performance

The VSX-9040TXH has a new user interface that is like a hybrid GUI-text interface. There are some new graphics which are pleasing to the eye, but they don’t compare to advancements made by other manufacturers like Sony. Setup was not exactly a breeze but functional. By carefully following the instructions in the manual you should have no problems getting it up and running. The MCACC function is very easy to use and does a good job of properly calibrating your room acoustics based on the configuration of your listening space. One drawback though is the remote is just partially-backlit so expect to fumble your way through the plethora of square and rectangular buttons in a darkened room.

Video quality is excellent with lots of details and natural colors. Just like their Kuro plasmas, the black levels are solid as ink throughout. The color palette is extremely vibrant and helps deliver that almost comic book style visual presentation. Flesh tones are accurate and the rendering of details is remarkable in close-up shots. There is no over-sharpening or noise, no jaggies or judder, just a crisp, film-like picture from start to finish. It also did a good job upscaling DVDs, delivering sharp artifact-free images.

The forte of this unit is its audio performance. It is airy in the highs and enough heft and weight in the lower frequencies. Detail and mid-range accuracy are well above what you would expect in a mid-priced receiver. Imaging is spacious on 2 channel music and delivers a truly immersive experience on multi channel surround. Even on high volume levels there is no glare and hardness in the sound. On the Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen blu-ray disc the 9040TXH did an awesome job rendering missiles, gunfire, explosions and the transforming effects with a punch that will satisfy even the most ardent movie fan.

If you own an iPod, iPod Touch or iPhone you are in for a treat! Pioneer throws in a connection cable for the iPod and it works perfectly. The album artwork and song and artist info are displayed on your TV and you can control the iPod with the Pioneer remote.

Conclusion

The Pioneer VSX-9040TXH is a solidly built and amply powered receiver with features that will be more than enough to satisfy any home theater enthusiast. It’s not, however, what you’d call fancy. There are no network features so you can stream music or video through it. What it does have is good picture quality and a focus on delivering good sound – a focus that is well-placed and of primary importance. Pioneer’s mantra continues to be: Sound first, features second. If you’re looking for one of the best-sounding AV receivers in the sub $600 price category, this should definitely be at the top of your shopping list.

Average User Rating:

Actual user review:“I have had the Pioneer VSX-9040TXH for a few days now and like everyone else I cannot do anything but sing praises for the unit. The setup was in my opinion very easy. The sound is very excellent…much better than my 4 year old JVC unit. I love the Ipod playback with album art. I love (a lot) the setup menu. It truly takes a lot of the work out of setting this thing up. I have 5.1 sound and accidentally hooked up my rear speakers to the wrong rear plugs. The setup recognized this immediately as well as one speaker that I had wired backwards. The setup also suggested that I lower my subwoofer which I did and then it said lower it some more…then some more. Finally it agreed with my setting and moved on. It sounds better but I do want to over-ride it a little and increase my bass slightly. I still love this feature…much better than a Sony that I helped someone set up. I do agree with many that the remote is bad but I can live with it considering the other great features. If you have an Ipod…you need this unit. If you want something fairly easy to set up…you need this unit. If you want plenty of great sound…get this unit.” – P.Rich (Savannah,TN,USA)

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