Pioneer VSX-922 AV-receiver

May saw Pioneer doing its traditional start of a new range of AV receivers. As usual, the lower- and mid-range models break cover first - along with the VSX-922 is among the latter.

Last season's VSX-921 bagged the EISA award for best European Home Theatre Receiver, along with the Japanese brand will expect the VSX-922 can be in the running for the same accolade. This new contender is not a radical departure, nonetheless. It's best described as updated version of last year's receiver and just a softly fettled. If it ain't broke don't mend it.

The key assumption of the latest receivers of Pioneer is pairing potent processing and beefy power with seamless network integration. Not just a brand new concept, I grant you, but one which Pioneer has better that is developed to perfection to date than another brand. It matters not whether you want to employ a standard HDMI input, AirPlay, an Apple i-device, USB or DLNA server - the VSX-922 treats them all like normal inputs and brings them together under its classy GUI, or the absolutely beautiful 2012 variant of the Pioneer iControlAV App.

A quick scan of the features list might make you think the VSX-922 the actual hardware of has changed but what alterations have been made are not unimportant. Pioneer has clearly taken criticism of the VSX-921 onboard and raised the HDMI input signal count from four to six (all v1.4 3D-compatible). This can be a major incentive to the majority of buyers and adds flexibility that is immediate.

The HDMI inputs are now each equipped with a stand by pass through mode, also, so you could view sources without having to power up the receiver.

The VSX-922 gets a cosmetic look that may be an identical twin to its predecessor plus the same 7x150W asserted power output signal. You still get the outstanding MCACC room EQ with Standing Wave Control of Pioneer, you still get the naff plastic set up mic, and the lifeless remote is also virtually identical.

One major change is analogue. I've never seen a mid-priced AVR with few phono sockets on the back. Does this matter to you? Probably not.

What has been upwardly revised for 2012 is primarily in firmware and the operation. Upscaling is improved via Pioneer's Advanced Video Adjust package, which comprises the Stream Smoother of the brand together with 1080p24 video conversion. This improves low bit rate video sources, such as YouTube footage. I set it to the evaluation uncovered videos smoothed, making them easier to the eye with less artefacting, and, sure enough, with said online service.

The networking of the VSX-922 is only seamless, joining to any one of my five AirPlay sources (I Have been Apple-ized), two DNLA servers or, using the provided cable, the iPhone without so much as a stutter.

Once I'd ended faffing about on my home network, it was time to enter the fine-tuning acoustic and tweakery that is Pioneer's MCACC, now with Phase Control and tuning for one or even two subwoofers. This receiver gets what is Pioneer 's top of the line MCACC system whole with the 'expert' EQ setup. The method is pretty long winded compared to many of its own competitors - measure for Standing Wave Control, Stage and the EQ each station is fired up in sequence five times to examine polarity and after that set channel levels.

That's it for setup through the GUI as, for no reason that is easily explainable, plenty of attributes are only reachable in the fascia screen.

That is no update on the old iControl AV versions (which will not work with 2012 models, confusingly) and requires you to download a whole new program. It's worth it, however. The iPad variation of iControl AV 2012 is just bad, it's way, way ahead of every other AV apparel-manufacturer on the planet in terms of its operation, appearance, depth of control, usability and overall wow factor. Like choosing audio and source format, yes, all the usual operation characteristics are in there, but the program adds a layer of alterations that may only otherwise be tweaked in the front panel.

The Sound Explorer tablature that is revolutionary provides a wealth of attributes, including phase control, conversation augmentation and virtual depth, presented as bouncing balloons that provide and lock dial-like alterations when pressed. I'm certain this will soon be sorted soon although at the period of writing there's a bug that shuts the app should you attempt to take a look at the MCACC EQ graphs. In fact, the iControl AV 2012 App is so cool you could spend all night playing with it and not see a movie. This really is the template that other manufacturers should want to replicate.

Once I 'd located the lip-sync delay in the fascia menu I still struggled to get sync between graphic and audio. The setting resulted in a delay a serious way from ideal and made pictures sound detached and unwatchable. Some tweaking of the manual adjustment was demanded, and by trial and error the sound and video came. Manual lip sync isn't a massive dilemma and only has to be done the once but on such a techy AVR it's a pain.

Additionally you can be got by the sheer amount of adjustments in the AV 2012 Program that is iControl in all kinds of acoustic fuss. And Pedigree Chum it wasn't. Demonstration was phasey and abnormal, although the sound stage was massive, at least the size of my listening room.

Stripping everything back to basics and making just the EQ participated, the Pioneer ripped into pictures and music with lightning speed and a feisty, upbeat presentation. The top end was clear and well expanded and managed to keep only on the correct side of competitive. The bottom-end was just as well drawn-out and with stereo music (no subwoofer) the LF response was rich and fulsome with great attacking force. Lana Del-Ray romped into the area with such authority I needed to check the sub wasn't engaged.

But it's by using films that the VSX-922 actually glows. Throughout the Alien Anthology (Bluray) it created an enormous soundstage, epic bass effects and brought the extraterrestrial atmosphere and tension to life. As the Alien head dribbled and respired in big-screen close up, coming within inches of Ripley's head, the sound was real and intense. The VSX-922 all but encourages one to shrink into the sofa and pull a pillow up over your face.

Stepping up the tempo even further with Super 8 (Bluray), this AVR drove the train crash into the room in an all-station festival of effects. The key action was pulled around center of the screen (thanks to the height channels) and I was treated to some seamless 360-degree immersion. Sadly, the presentation of the Pioneer does nothing to boost the twee Spielbergisms that grate within an otherwise fine movie.

So, playing together with the many settings in the iControlAV 2012 Use does add levels of enhancement, mainly space but it is the constitutional nature of speed and clarity that really shine through of the Pioneer.

I Normally it's a slick performer, although I had a few awkward minutes with it. Worth an audition.

Pioneer VSX-922 AV-receiver photo