Hardware Spotlight ? Pioneer
Pioneer Elite VSX-49TXi A/V Receiver
By Ron Goldberg
Traditionally speaking, A/V receivers haven't been a top-of-mind choice for most C-tailers. In a market oriented toward the upscale, receivers are usually perceived as downscale choices. But lately, manufacturers like Denon, Marantz, Yamaha and Pioneer have answered the charge with a generation of "super" receivers that offers a one-box hardware and software solution for even elaborate home theaters. The Elite VSX-49TXi ($4,500) is Pioneer's entry in this class, a monster unit with an outstanding user control and features that go beyond "me, too."
The VSX-49TXi is flexible enough to compete with a dedicated A/V preamp/processor and, at 160 watts into seven channels at 6 ohms, powerful enough to credibly compete with a dedicated multichannel power amp. In terms of connectivity, it's hard to imagine the need for more inputs or switching, or an array that would be more up to date. There are three assignable, HD-capable component video connections and a component output, eight assignable digital audio inputs (three coax, five optical), seven A/V inputs with S-Video, five additional audio-only connections with dubbing, RS-232 control with flash memory upgradeability and banana speaker terminals on all channels.
While there's good compatibility for older media, including a phono input and an RF input for Dolby AC-3 laserdiscs, it's newer media that is the real emphasis here. The VSX-49TXi is the first receiver to feature an IEEE 1394 iLink port for multichannel audio from a DVD-A or SACD source. At the moment, Pioneer is about the only game in town with a similarly equipped disc player, but soon, all makers will likely offer this connection. In the meantime, the VSX-49TXi also features standard five-channel analog jacks for high-res audio hookup. The unit also runs two separate systems in different rooms by outputting two different A/V sources, both of which have independent power control. To facilitate this, Pioneer offers a mating IR receiver, the MR-100.