Pioneer VSX-1131 AV Receiver
I still remember my first ‘serious’ Audio Video Receiver (AVR) with a degree of fondness. Purchased in 2001 for a tad under $2,000, it was a serious bit of kit… or at least I thought so at the time. In addition to decoding Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound, it was able to pass a video signal and of course featured an AM/FM tuner. Much like anybody else in the hobby for any length of time, my home theatre equipment has undergone many changes (thanks in no small part to a patient wife), with the AVR being one of the most frequently updated pieces of equipment.
Over the past 15 years, AVR’s have taken huge strides forward in terms of capability. Where their success used to be judged on sound quality alone, today’s AVR’s need to offer an ever expanding range of features (Bluetooth and the ability to access digital libraries etc.) to remain competitive. What’s more, in a market place filled with competitors, they need to accomplish this at a much keener price-point than ever before.
For this reason, AVR manufacturers have produced an ever-increasing number of models to cater to a variety of different budgets. In fact, a quick google search of half a dozen AVR manufacturers yielded a total of 48 different models!
Being a major player in the AVR market for some time, Pioneer offers a range comprising 11 different AVR’s, from their entry-level VSX-330 (RRP $549) to their flagship SC-LX901 (RRP $4,599). Pioneer’s AVR line-up is comprised of their ‘VSX’ range starting with the VSX-330 and their premium ‘SC-LX’ range which starts with the SC-LX501 (RRP $2,699). The subject of this review, the VSX-1131 (RRP $1,399) sits at the top of Pioneer’s ‘VSX’ range.
Providing the latest in surround sound decoding (Dolby Atmos and DTS-X) the VSX-1131 is a 7.2.4 AVR, (Front: left, right & centre Surround: left & right Surround Back: left & right Overhead: left right and 2 subwoofers), with nine channels of amplification. While the VSX-1131 will support a full 7.2.4 configuration (four overhead speakers), external amplification will be needed.
Being a network capable AVR, the VSX-1131 offers up a raft of network features, including Spotify, Deezer, Tidal and rather interestingly, Google cast (Chromecast). On the video front the VSX-1131 supports Ultra HD video (4K/60p/4:4:4, with HDR and BT. 2020 support) upscaling, through its HDMI 2.0 (HDCP 2.2 compliant) inputs.
What’s in the box?
Reassuringly, Pioneer’s VSX-1131 is housed in a black aluminium chassis, rather than the combination aluminium / plastic chassis sometimes found at this price-point. The front of the AVR has a large, easy to read LED display, with large dials controlling volume and input selection. Buttons located below the display provide direct access to the VSX-1131’s more commonly used features. The front of the AVR also hosts HDMI, USB and headphone inputs.
The rear of the receiver has 6 HDMI inputs (inputs 1-4 are HDCP 2.2 compliant) and 2 HDMI outputs (HDMI 2 is ARC compatible), with Ultra HD pass through supported through HDMI inputs 1-3. Legacy audio/video connections are catered for, with coaxial and optical audio inputs and component and composite video inputs. Connecting to a home network can either be done through the VSX-1131’s LAN input, or wirelessly (without the use of add-ons). Overall, the build quality is excellent and it’s unlikely the VSX-1131 would be mistaken for a budget AVR.
Also included in the box is the installation CD, MCACC calibration microphone (for Pioneer’s automated speaker setup and Room EQ software), basic user manual (the full user-manual is available on the provided CD or Pioneer’s website) and updated remote control. By relegating access to less commonly used features to the on-screen menu, Pioneer have created a remote control with a far cleaner layout, larger buttons and more space between the buttons for those of us who are um… dexterously challenged.
Having previously reviewed and setup Pioneer’s AVR’s, I have found Pioneer’s Startup NAVI app to be the easiest, fastest and most comprehensive way to setup a Pioneer’s AVR. Startup NAVI will guide you through every step of the setup process, from wiring your speakers through to calibration.
The VSX-1131, hosts a total of nine rows of speaker binding posts (right, left, centre, side surround, rear surround and presence speakers). Pioneer has opted to place the speaker binding posts top/bottom (red above black), rather than side by side in single row across the back of the AVR. This means there’s less room to work when connecting speakers, so it’s important to make sure your speaker cables are connected securely, with no stray wires that could potentially touch another binding post.
It’s rare now to find an AVR that doesn’t include built in calibration software, the VSX-1131 being no exception it's equipped with Pioneer’s Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System (MCACC) software. With the supplied microphone, MCACC is able to detect the speaker layout (5.1, 7.1 etc.), size of the speakers (small/large), set channel levels, crossovers and apply room correction.
With the excitement of setting up a new AVR, you might be tempted to put off the calibration until a later stage, or put it in the ‘too-hard basket’. Completing this step properly will provide some very tangible benefits in terms of audio performance, so it’s really worth taking your time to do things right. If the whole calibration process sounds too hard, don’t worry, the Startup NAVI app is going to make calibrating the VSX-1131 very easy. Although Pioneer hasn’t stated it in their documentation, you’re going to get the best results by placing the calibration microphone on a tripod at head-height in the primary listening position.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.