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Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Product Review

Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K Home Theater Receiver - P.2 - Evaluation and Final Take

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Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front View

Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front View

Photo (C) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Audio Performance

Using both analog and digital audio sources, the VSX-1018AH, in both 5.1 and 7.1, channel setups, delivered an excellent surround image.

This receiver also provided a clean signal via the direct 5.1 analog audio inputs from both DVD and Blu-ray disc sources, in addition to the HDMI and Digital Optical/Coaxial connection options. I fed both uncompressed two and multi-channel PCM signals from the OPPO DV-983H DVD Player and the Yamaha BD-S2900, as well as undecoded bitstream output from the above players to get a comparison between externally processed audio signals and the internal audio processing of the VSX-1018AH.

Another aspect of the VSX-1018AH was its multi-zone capability, which is becoming more common in this class of home theater receivers. Running the receiver in the 5.1 channel mode for the main room and using the two spare channels (normally devoted to the surround back speakers), I was able to run two separate systems.

I was able to access DVD and Blu-ray audio in the main 5.1 channel setup and easily access XM or CDs in the two channel setup in another room using the VSX-1018AH as the main control for both sources. Also, I could run the same music source in both rooms simultaneously, one using the 5.1 channel configuration and second using the 2 channel configuration.

The VSX-1018AH can perform second zone operation with its own amplifiers or using a separate external amplifier via Zone 2 preamp output. It is important to note that only analog audio sources are available in a 2nd Zone. Refer to the VSX-1018AH user manual for specifics on this feature.

Video Performance

Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front Inputs

Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front Inputs

Photo (C) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
Using the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD as a reference, I found that the internal scaler of the 1018 does a very good job upscaling analog video to 1080p. The video processing is as good as many upscaling DVD players, but not quite as good as the OPPO DV-983H used for reference. The upscaled image from the 1018 was essentially digital artifact-free, but had a slight softness in comparison to some of the other upscaling DVD players and Receivers I have review. However, if choosing the lesser of two "evils", a softer image is more viewable that an image filled with artifacts. Check out some of the VSX-1018AH's video processing test results.

With regards to video connections, the VSX-1018AH has just about all the connections you need, including analog video connections, but S-Video is not included (S-video connections are being elminated by some manufacturers). The only other connection complaint is that is would have been nice to offer four HDMI input connections at this price point.

In addition to analog video upconversion via to resolutions up to 1080p, the VSX-1018AH can also pass a native 1080p source unprocessed through to a 1080p television or monitor.

The image on a Westinghouse LVM-37w3 1080p monitor showed no visible difference, whether the signal came directly from one of the 1080p source players or was routed through the VSX-1018AH before reaching the monitor.

What this means is that irrespective of the limited video upscaling of standard definition sources, the VSX-1018AH provides excellent pass through and switching of HDMI source signals.

What I Liked About the Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K

Some of the standout features of the VSX-1018AH-K include:

1. Power to spare, excellent audio performance, extensive surround sound settings.

2. Extensive Audio and Video Connectivity - including 3 HDMI inputs and Front USB input for iPod.

3. Very good built-in 1080p video upscaling - See Test Results.

4. MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) speaker setup system works very well.

5. Runs Cool compared to some other branded-receivers.

Some of Features That Are Missing Or Need Improvement Include:

1. Could use more HDMI inputs. Adding an HDMI input on the front panel would be nice.

2. No S-Video connections. Not including S-Video connections is becoming more common in newer receivers. However, for those that still have Laserdisc players, Hi8 camcorders, or S-VHS VCRs this is a disappointment.

3. Complicated to use for the novice - Remote control has small buttons.

4. No dedicated phono turntable input connection. The trend nowadays is to only include a dedicated phono input on higher-end receivers. However, many still own turntables and vinyl record collections and it would be nice to have this feature offered.

5. No AC convenience outlet. Although this is not a deal breaker, it would be nice to have one or two convenience outlets on the VSX-1018AH to plug to plug in the AC adapters for the external XM/Sirius Tuners, or a DVD/Blu-ray Disc player.

Final Take

Home Theater receivers have definitely evolved, with even mid-priced units incorporating features and performance, in some cases, that did not even exist as recently as a couple of years ago.

Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Remote Control

Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Remote Control

Photo (C) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
With the VSX-1018AH-K, Pioneer has incorporated such features as three HDMI video inputs, HDMI video and audio switching with analog-to-HDMI video conversion and 1080p upscaling, advanced HDMI audio capabilities, iPOD compatibility, and both XM and Sirius satellite radio.

Having had a chance to get a hands-on with the receiver, I can say that it performs its primary role very well, providing a satisfying listening experience from both movie and music source material.

In addition, the VSX-1018AH-K offers convenient and abundant features. One of my favorite features is the front mounted USB port for connecting an iPod. In addition, the MCACC automatic speaker setup system provides fairly accurate results, which can be fine tuned by the user, if desired.

Also, this is one of the least expensive receivers to offer on-board 1080p upscaling. In comparison to other home theater receivers I have reviewed with video upscaling capability, the VSX-1018AH does a good job (see video upscaling test results ).

In addition, while you should always place a home theater in an setup that allows good air circulation, the VSX-1018AH-K remains fairly cool after hours of operation. It was definitely cooler than my Onkyo TX-SR705 home theater receiver used for performance and feature comparsion.

If you are planning to purchase a mid-range home theater receiver, with lots of features and good performance for the price, then Pioneer VSX-1018 definitely deserves your attention.

The Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K has a suggested retail price of $599.

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Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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