Pioneer VSX-1124-K 7.2 A/V Receiver Review

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review Highlights

The Secrets Team has reviewed many A/V receivers from many of the distinguished brands on the market. This review examines the performance of the Pioneer VSX-1124-K A/V receiver.

The Pioneer VSX-1124-K features 90 Watts per channel (20 Hz – 20 kHz, THD 0.08 % @ 8 ohms FTC), 4K 60P Ultra HD Upscaling and Pass-through, DSD Playback, Subwoofer EQ, Dual Subwoofer Pre-out, Built-in AVNavigator, and Spotify® Ready and Roku®Ready playback.

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Highlights Summary

  • 7.2 channel Networked A/V Receiver
  • 165 watts per channel (6 ohms 1 kHz 1 % 1ch Driven) or 90 Watts per channel (20 Hz – 20 kHz, THD 0.08 % @ 8 ohms FTC)
  • 7 HDMI 2.0 inputs Compatible with Ultra HD Upscaling and Pass-through
  • Multi Channel High Resolution file Playback
  • Advanced MCACC with Subwoofer EQ
  • 192 kHz/24bit ESS Sabre Premier DAC

Introduction to the Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

The Pioneer VSX-1124-K is an AV offering from one of the most storied firms in audio. Before there was such a thing as High End Audio, Pioneer manufactured what many folks considered the best audio equipment. I fondly remember the Spec 1 and Spec 2 amp and pre-amp combo and of course the mega receivers like the monster wattage SX-1980 which weighed almost eighty pounds. When I was a teenager I wanted a Pioneer SX 737 badly but could not afford it then. Today collectors seek these rare units and they command a high price if they are in good condition. On Pioneer’s website they describe all the technology they have put into this unit. If you read it it’s rather impressive for an all in one, relatively affordable unit. When the Secrets Team contacted me to review the new top of line Pioneer I was excited to see what the folks at Pioneer were doing with their current top receiver.

PIONEER VSX-1124-K RECEIVER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS

  • Design: 7.2 A/V Receiver
  • Amplifier Design: Discrete Direct Energy
  • Power Output: Watts per Channel (20Hz-20kHz, 0.08% THD @ 8 Ohms) 90 Watts x 7
  • Power Output: Watts per Channel (1kHz @ 8 Ohms) SC Model Power Rating Only
  • Power Output: Watts per Channel (1kHz,1%THD @ 6 Ohms) 165 Watts x 7
  • Digital Core DSP Engine: Texas Instruments Aureus
  • DAC: ESS SABRE Premier Audio DAC 192kHz / 24-Bit
  • Hi-bit: 24
  • iPod Digital Audio: Yes
  • Music File Playback: MP3, WMA, AAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, DSD via USB and Network
  • Dolby True HD: Yes with Loudness Management
  • Dolby Digital Plus: Yes
  • Dolby Pro-Logic IIz: Yes
  • DTS-HD Master Audio Yes
  • DTS Neo:x: Yes 7.1
  • HDMI SACD Transfer Multi-Channel
  • Estimated Power C 4K Ultra HD Pass-Through: Yes
  • 4K Ultra HD Video Scaler: Yes
  • 3-D Ready: Yes
  • Audio Return Channel: Yes
  • HDMI Standby Through: Yes with Input Switch / Last Memory
  • HDMI 36-bit Deep Color: Yes
  • HDMI x.v. Color: Yes
  • Video Processor: QDEO
  • Video Converter to HDMI: Yes
  • HDMI to HDMI Video Scaler 4K Ultra HD
  • Component Video Scaler: 4K Ultra HD
  • Composite Video Scaler: 4K Ultra HD
  • Pure Cinema I/P Converter: Yes
  • Advanced Video Adjustment: YNR, CNR, BNR, MNR, Detail, Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Chroma, Black Level
  • 3D Noise Reduction Yes
  • Consumption/Standby with HDMI Control off 550 W/0.1 W (standby)
  • Dimensions: 6.6″ H x 17.1″ W x 14.3″ D
  • Weight: 21.6 Pounds
  • MSRP: $599.99 USD
  • Pioneer
  • SECRETS Tags: 7.2 channel Networked A/V Receiver, Pioneer VSX-1124-K, Receiver Reviews 2014, Pioneer, HDMI, Built-in AVNavigator, Spotify Ready, Roku Ready

 

Design and Setup of the Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver

When a new component arrives at my home it is like Christmas Day! I quickly opened the box and the first thing that came to mind was that the unit seemed light for the amount of power output. Times have changed from the 1970’s/1980’s, so I was curious to see how this receiver would perform in a system. Unpacking, I looked over the back panel. Clean I thought, and then I realized just how much times have changed. Most of the inputs and outputs seemed to be HDMI and I found the quick set-up guide so I could hear the unit right away.

Taking a look at the back panel I was impressed with the layout. Very clean I thought, and this is mostly because there are the multiple HDMI inputs and there was a LAN port for connection to a modem (Pioneer has a wireless adaptor available) to take advantage of digital steaming media. The Pioneer VSX-1124-K is ROKU ready too. Truly a component for today’s user, and I am thankful that the industry adopted the HDMI format. When I worked in retail and I was installing A/V receivers back in the day it was a work of love to hook so many cables up to components and monitors (three to five cables per component). Now you just need one cable to handle everything, and it is a very high quality cable too.

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

I fed my HDMI cable from the Blu-ray player and the one from the Direct TV HD box and I was done with the components. For the speakers I took one of my vintage Klipsch Heresy speakers and placed it under the wall mounted LED Panasonic monitor as a center channel to complement my Klipsch Cornwall mains. Since my sofa is placed against the rear wall of my listening room, I elected to use a pair of Sony bookshelf speakers as the rear side channel speakers. True rear channel speakers are not practical in my main listening room, so I elected to go with side rear placement. Video was from the Panasonic 55” LED, and source was my Sony Blu-ray disc and Direct TV satellite DVR.

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

The next step was to set the calibration mic up on top of my sofa at the listening (ear level) position. Pioneer provides the disc shaped mic and plenty of cable to connect to the port on the front of the receiver. I turned on the Panasonic LED monitor to view the set up window. Pioneer calls the set up system the Advanced Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration (MCACC). Once the menu was up I selected the MCACC set up and let the receiver do its job. For several minutes the receiver sent test tones to each speaker individually and then it was time to play a movie. Coming from someone who used to do the calibration manually, I thought the set up was a breeze, but a word of caution. You must let the other members of the family know what you are going to do. My wife and son were both alarmed and asked “what is happening?” during the calibration. Truth be told, the calibration tones sound like aliens from outer space are landing, or like a bomb is about to go off!

 

The Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver In Use

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

For starters I thought I would try a heavy weight movie with a heavy weight sound track. I decided on Transformers the Dark of the Moon. From the very first moments, I was wowed. Tremendous, huge sound filled the room. Electronic Transformer sounds whirled around the room with explosions, music and narration all artfully blended to get the heart racing. The MCACC calibration did the job well.

I think there is nothing like having big horn speakers up front to get that true cinema sound. Maybe it is the sense of scale and an easy swing of dynamics that creates this sound. There is also smoothness to the sound of horns that has, to paraphrase John E. Johnson in his review of a modern horn speaker; “effortless midrange” http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/floor-standing-speakers/floor-standing-speakers-reviews/linn-audio-athenaeum-horn-speakers.html. Whatever it was, the experience with the Pioneer VSX-1124-K was wonderful.

My initial impressions were of a clear and involving sound produced by the Pioneer VSX-1124-K out of all channels. The superb sound out of the front channels was complemented by oodles of information out of the side channels. As I passed the video through the Pioneer to the TV monitor I thought that the picture was beautifully preserved. Pioneer claims that the video processor has 4K Ultra HD pass through and upscaling.

I could not detect any degradation of the video signal passing through the Pioneer when compared to direct connection of the TV monitor from the component. The Pioneer did no harm while handling the video signal. Since this was just a preliminary viewing and listening session I started watching the movie to hear and see a few scenes to get some initial impressions. I wound up watching the whole film. I stopped making critical notes and just enjoyed the movie. The sound and video immersed me into the story and I just decided to have fun watching this film. Later I thought that this is a good thing. When watching a movie or video you should not be aware of what the equipment is doing or not doing. It should simply allow the production to take you (the audience) on a journey.

I next tried the Direct TV feed and I found Django Unchained . Django has that great opening song that evokes the spaghetti western movies and on the Pioneer I heard the wonderful spacious airiness of the recording. On the first scene I noted the crispness of the sound of the chains on the black slaves as they trudged through the woods, and those night sounds of the dark evening put me in the forest with them. As with Transformers there was good detail on the voice reproduction, and very good crack on the gun shots and the creaking of the wheels on the dentist’s wagon. Suffice it to say that the Pioneer handled the music and soundtrack really well.

Over the next few weeks we watched some of my wife’s favorite programs. Elementary and Hawaii 5 O are some of the shows we watch together. The sweeping shots of the Hawaii coastline in particular were breathtaking, along with the engaging sound. Needless to say our evenings together with the Pioneer were very enjoyable.

However, as good as this was I knew that I would need to hear this receiver on a full 7.2 surround system. Luckily, I had a fellow friend and RCA member that had just re-tweaked his 7.2 system and would be keen to have a listen to the Pioneer VSX-1124-K.

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

My buddy Matt has a 7.2 surround system in his large den and has Definitive speakers and sub nicely set up in his comfortable room. He has installed Definitive Technology Powermonitor 500’s for the front channels, the center channel is a Definitive C/L/R 2500, the side surround channels are Definitive BP 1.2X, and the back surround are Definitive BP 1.2X, and the sub is the Definitive Powerfield SuperCube I.

For the setup, Matt pulled out his tripod to set the Pioneer mic up to optimal ear height. As the calibration was done, I was curious to see how the Pioneer would fare on the much less efficient Definitive Technology speakers and the larger room too. I pulled out the Transformers the Dark of the Moon, and told Matt we’d watch just some moments from the beginning. The same sense of clarity and ease was revealed as before.

The Pioneer had no trouble energizing the room with superb sound. As the film got going, I looked over at Matt and he just grinned and had that “this is nice look on his face”. Curiously Matt had never seen the movie, so we sat through the whole thing! At the end both Matt and I were impressed with the film experience from the Pioneer VSX-1124-K. We next streamed video concerts from You Tube and listened to Elton John via SACD. When we returned to Matt’s reference receiver, a Denon AVR 4310ci , I would be hard pressed to describe much of a difference on video but on music you could hear a warmer, more rounded sound out of the much more expensive Denon. Even so, we could hardly fault the clear sound of the Pioneer in this comparison.

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

Now I had been piqued by the use of the ES9006 Sabre Premier audio DAC in the design of the Pioneer VSX-1124-K. This type of DAC is used in some pricey high end equipment and it allows the user of the Pioneer to listen to play back files that include MP3, WMA, AAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, and DSD. I decided to take advantage of the Pioneer’s front panel ports to connect my I-phone 5 and my USB flash drive to listen to music. I decided to also evaluate the sound on some familiar material. On my flash drive I have two of my favorite albums, Letter to Evan by David Benoit and Islands by King Crimson.

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

From the opening of Letter to Evan I heard superb reproduction of the solo piano work by David Benoit. The upright bass was beautifully rounded and filled the room while the drums were nicely fleshed out. I have used this track and the whole album to evaluate components since the early 1990’s. The sound was surprisingly good on the Pioneer VSX-1124-K. This recording by Jeffery Weber is warm sounding and on a good system you can hear the tone of the instruments and the phrasing by the musicians clearly. As the opening track ends you can hear the beautiful ring of the piano up until the time Benoit releases the keys. The Pioneer surprised me in its ability to present the music so vividly. Very impressive I thought.

Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver Review

I enjoyed what I heard on the David Benoit, so I decided to see what the King Crimson Islands album would sound like. Now, let me tell you that I have listened to this album (Islands) for decades. I bought the LP when it was released in 1972. Later I bought the re-mastered CD. As I cued up “Prelude: Song of the Gulls” I was stunned by the playback. I listened through to the title track “Islands” and I realized that I was listening to something special. I was reminded of the time long ago when my system consisted of large Acoustat Model 4 electrostats driven by a modified Dyna ST70 and source components including a Denon DL 103D moving coil and Denon step up transformer connected to a Thorens TD 125 and Micro Seiki tonearm.

I bring this up because I was reminded of the quality of sound reproduced by this system. I loved the way the system made the recording sound human, like the performers are there with you. With the Pioneer I heard the same kind of humanness in the sound, minus certain colorations. From the opening of the piano trill and Mel Collins ‘ rich baritone singing Pete Sinfield’s lyrics I was transported back to another time and place. The Pioneer was transformative on this recording and I was amazed. If you buy this receiver please get the best speakers you can afford, you won’t regret it.

 

Conclusions about the Pioneer VSX-1124-K Receiver

The Pioneer VSX-1124-K surpassed my expectations of what a receiver at this price point can do. The design, the attention to detail, the ability to take advantage of current and developing technologies on this receiver is to me surprising and overwhelming (in a good way). Some of the components reviewed by the Secrets Team are pricey, so when something comes around that is very affordable and performs superbly I call this a victory for the consumer. If you are looking for a receiver at this price or twice as much consider the Pioneer VSX-1124-K and get it before Pioneer realizes they are selling this for far too little money. Bravo Pioneer.

Associated equipment:

  • Emotiva USP-1 preamp
  • Emotiva XPA-100 mono blocks
  • Sony Blu-ray DVD Disc player BDP-S480
  • Rega RP 6 Turntable
  • Rega Exact Cartridge
  • iPhone 5S
  • Direct TV HD DVR
  • Panasonic Viera TC-L55E50 55” LCD
  • Klipsch Cornwall Speakers
  • Klipsch Heresy Speakers