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Pioneer VSX-LX504 Receiver Review

A simple and brief review of the Pioneer VSX-LX504 home theatre amplifier


Some of the key features*


- 9.2 channel receiver

- 180 watts at 8ohms 1ch driven (120 watts at 8ohms 2ch driven)

- 32bit DAC

- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X

- DSD Playback

- IMAX Enhanced

- HDCP2.2

- HDR10, Dolby Vision, BT .2020 compliant pass-through

- Works with Sonos, built in Chromecast and Apple Airplay 2

- Zone 2 and Zone 3 both powered

- HDMI 6 in and 2 out

- USB in, 1 x component in, 2 x composite in, 1 x phono, 1 x digital coaxial in, 2 x optical in


(*for a more comprehensive list please click here download the spec sheet)



Introduction


The Pioneer VSX-LX504 receiver sits right where home theatre amplifiers start getting serious with an RRP of $2,199 in Australia. It puts you right in the company of the Yamaha RX-A1080 ($2,199), Anthem MRX 520 ($2,299) and close to the Marantz SR6015 ($2,570). Each of these amps offer it’s different pros and cons, but the Pioneer offers the greatest flexibility, specs and features for the price. However that doesn’t mean the other receivers don’t have their place, because they do, but this isn’t about them.


First Impression

The Pioneer is packed well like you would expect from any product at this price and the box it comes in is substantially bigger than your entry level receivers. Inside the box is pretty standard polystyrene, manuals in plastic and remote wrapped individually. Getting the amp out it has good weight and good feeling build quality to it. The size is also a good promise of the power and performance that lay ahead.



Setup


I setup a lot of amps and they are all very similar looking on the back at a glance but here are a couple of the things I like and don’t like. These are minor and not really anything that take points away but would be nice to see refined. I like that all the HDMI ports are at the top, HDMI isn’t the most solid connection so it is good to have them up high where other cable’s won’t be resting on them. The speakers terminals on this amp could do with a bit more of a premium product, they work, but they are what you see in cheaper receivers. The spacing of them is also painful if you are using the screw termnals like most people do to connect their speaker cable. It would be nice to see better spacing like on the Marantz amps. The other really little thing that just irks me is the labelling of assignable sources. For example on HDMI inputs they are labelled “BD/DVD” and “GAME” etc, just call them “HDMI 1” and “HDMI 2”, it upsets my OCD knowing that in the “CBL/SAT” input I have Apple TV plugged in. As said earlier though, these are very minor and don’t take marks away from the receiver.


Over all, the inputs and outputs are plentiful and offer a big array of options as you would expect including control, USB, network and 12v trigger. Very nice.


Once powered on and setup the receiver wants to run you through the initial setup. It will guide you in a very user friendly way through the speaker, network and calibration setup. This is all pretty simple and straight forward and the Pioneer amp does have a better user interface than a lot of receivers on the market.


I setup my system as a 5.1.2 with full size floor standers for the fronts. This is where the receiver gets a mark against it. The crossover settings! Why oh why is it that we can only give a universal setting for the speaker crossover? I have full size floor standers, a small centre, bi-pole rears and 8” in-ceiling Atmos speakers. All with different capabilities. I set my fronts to “Large”, so they will receive full frequency but anything that is set to “Small” will crossover at the one designated setting (in my case I set it to the THX recommended 80hz). I would like to see crossover assignable to every speaker.



Using the Receiver


This is where everything really matters, how it actually performs! While it is nice to have a great remote, or inputs labelled so you can sleep at night if you have an OCD problem, none of that really matters like its true everyday function and performance.


First thing I try is an Atmos movie on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Aquaman. The video is passed through very clean and nice and HDMI handshaking with HDR10 on seems to be very quick and reliable.


With volume quickly making it’s way to very loud, the receiver starts to really shine. The front speakers will be drawing a lot of power being set to “Large” and then with 5 other speakers to run you would expect some sort of strain or slight loss of clarity at very high volumes, but I am getting none of that! In fact I am noticing that I am getting more details from the soundtrack of the movie, the imaging is fantastic and instantly I am smiling. This is what the experience is all about, not the numbers, not the inputs, but when it gets past those hurdles, does it make you smile? Does it evoke emotion like it should? And I am very happy to say the Pioneer VSX-LX504 does just that, and does it well.


Next I tested some gaming on the Xbox One X, I set the surround mode to Neural:X (my favourite personally) as I find it tends to offer a bit more into the height channels than other surround modes. I played a bit of Farcry 5, an open world explorer shooter. The thing I was looking for in this game was how well it would reveal enemies around me and it did it with pinpoint accuracy (also a credit to the games sound engineers). You could tell if someone was behind you to your left in bushes, turn around, the sound would pan perfectly with the turn and there they were. I can’t stress enough if you are a gamer, get a receiver and setup some surround properly, it will enhance the gaming experience immensely! Another big tick for the Pioneer.


Last I tried some two channel music from Tidal into the coaxial input of the Pioneer. I let the receiver do all the digital to analogue converting, pre-amplification and powering of the main floor standers. Again the Pioneer delivered very well. Now if you want an unbelievable two channel setup, you can’t go past a dedicated stereo amplifier, but the Pioneer does very well. You will enjoy your listening experience.


Conclusion


At this price point, you should consider the Pioneer, it offers 9.2 channels which most amps at this price don’t, it has great performance, build, 3 year warranty and loads of flexibility that I didn’t even touch on. The Pioneer delivers excellent power, surround, video pass through and all at great price point. Be sure to put it on the list if you are looking for a new receiver.

Pros


- Great power

- 9 channels that can be assigned

- Lots of features done well


Cons

- Universal crossover

- Remote

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