THE GOOD: The Pioneer Elite VSX-45 is a solid performer. Unlike last year’s VSX-44, it has built-in WiFi and bluetooth which doesn’t require the purchase of additional adapters. It’s also 4K ready with the inclusion of HDCP 2.2.

 

THE BAD: The VSX-45’s remote can use some simplification (and bigger buttons). Also, the surround channels are underrepresented during multi-channel playback.

 

SUMMARY:  Overall, the Pioneer VSX-45 is a solid receiver. As with most of Pioneer’s amps it does well for both movies and music. If the surround channels had a little more oomph I would put it up there with the Sony STR-DN860 which is its main competition at this price point since both receivers have nearly identical features. The 860 has a slight edge because it has 7 channels of amplification. However, if you have no use for 7 channels, then the VSX-45 may be a better choice for you.

 

Pioneer Elite VSX-45 5.2-Channel AV Receiver with Built-In Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (Black)

Price:

3.6 out of 5 stars (30 customer reviews)

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Pioneer VSX-45 Review

Pioneer Elite VSX-45

Appearance & Design

The look and feel of Pioneer’s receivers hasn’t changed much the past few years. The front of the Pioneer Elite VSX-45 has a brushed aluminum facade, with small unobtrusive buttons. The remote for the 45 isn’t horrible, but it isn’t great either. So far this year Onkyo’s receivers win the award for most over complicated remotes. The Pioneer VSX-45’s remote is just a button or two away from joining Onkyo. However, the biggest gripe I have with the 45’s remote is that the buttons are just too darn small.

Pioneer VSX-45 Remote Control

The VSX-45 uses a decent icon-driven GUI. Pioneer touts that the GUI is designed to make operation and setup of the 45 simpler. In my time with this receiver I’m inclined to agree. Onkyo & Pioneer are both part of the same corporation, so maybe some of these features will rub-off on Onkyo’s future offerings. There’s also a control app called the iControlAV5 that you can use to control receiver. This app is available as a free download from the Apple app store and Google Play. The app is surprisingly deep with the amount of control it gives you.

 

Connectivity

If you’ve purchased any AV receiver lately, you’ve probably noticed something. Analog connections are going extinct. The Pioneer Elite VSX-45 continues this trend and only supplies 2 analog inputs. If you have older AV equipment that requires analog connections make sure this will be enough for your setup otherwise you could be in a heap of trouble.

 

Pioneer Elite VSX-45 Rear Panel

 

In contrast, the Pioneer VSX-45 has 6 HDMI inputs and 1 output all of which support HDCP 2.2 copy protection for 4K video. It also has 2 digital inputs (1 optical/1 coaxial), 1 ethernet and 2 subwoofers pre-outs. For custom installations the 45 has an IR Control input, an RS-232C input and a 12V trigger so it should integrate easily with most home automation systems. Bluetooth and WiFi round out the connections for the Pioneer Elite VSX-45.

 

Pioneer VSX-45 Features

The VSX-45 gives you a variety of ways to stream music to the receiver. It comes pre-loaded with Pandora, Spotify and Vtuner. Apple product users are also given the choice to stream music from their Apple devices via  AirPlay. The Pioneer Elite VSX-45 also supports HTC connect, so HTC users can also stream high-quality WAV files to the receiver.

 

The Pioneer VSX-45 sports 5.2 channels of amplification and is rated at about 80 watts per channel which may not sound like much, but in my listening tests the 45 has plenty of juice for most home theaters.  The 45 can also pump sound to a 2nd zone if required.

 

As far as music formats are concerned, the 45 can handle the usual Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio sound tracks. As you’d expect, it doesn’t support Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. For audio, the VSX-45 decodes a number of compressed and uncompressed files including 92 kHz 24-bit AIFF, WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless up to 96kHz 24-Bit, MP3, WMA, and AAC.

 

 

Setup

Pioneer’s Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration (MCACC) system is incredibly simple to use. Plug in the included microphone and the receiver does the rest. The Pioneer Elite-VSX45 sends out a series of test tones to each of the speakers and then adjusts the speaker distances, levels and crossovers accordingly. I still found myself going in and tweaking the settings a bit as the 45 decided to set my front speakers to large.

 

Pioneer also has an application called the “Control Navigator”. This little web app is designed to streamline the setup process for someone trying to setup an AV receiver for the first time. Once you get the receiver on the network. You only need the IP address of the unit in order to use the app. After that you can access the Navigator on any smartphone, tablet or computer that’s also on your network.

Pioneer Control Navigator

Once you get the Navigator up, it will ask you about the equipment you’re connecting to the receiver and the type of inputs it has. The Navigator will then tell you the optimal methods you should use to connect the equipment to your receiver. It also gives you the ability to rename inputs if you choose to do so. After this it will then walk you through the calibration process. The application is a useful tool for people who are setting up a home theater for the first time.

 

Performance

Prior to receiving the Pioneer VSX-45 in our offices I had the chance to set down and listen to the Onkyo TX-NR646 so I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two amps. Side by side the two sound very similar. However, I did notice some differences. In the bass department the Onkyo TX-NR646 is like Ronda Rousey who just comes in pummels you and knocks you on your ass. The Pioneer VSX-45 is more like Sugar Ray Leonard. It doesn’t brutalize you with heavy bass, instead it beats you with it’s precision and accuracy. Two very different, but effective approaches.

 

The precision of the VSX-45 carries over into it’s movie performance as dialogue is crystal clear. The formula 1 race cars in Iron Man 2 rumbled and zoomed around the race track creating the illusion that I was there with Tony Stark as he faced off with Whiplash.

 

Jupiter Ascending’s sound track can push an AV receiver to its limits. This blu-ray runs the gamut of sound effects. When Channing Tatum’s character is chased around the city in his gravity boots by a group of bounty hunters the 45 demonstrated a seamless transition from speaker to speaker, especially the fronts. In fact, that’s probably my only gripe with the Pioneer VSX-45. The surround channels of the 45 weren’t as active as I would have liked. Even after adjusting the channel levels for the surrounds and re-calibrating the receiver, they never seemed to quite come alive. While their overall presentation was good I feel they needed just a little more “oomph” to really create a superb surround sound experience.

 

Musically the Pioneer VSX-45 is a surprisingly good performer. Nearly every type of musical format I threw at it sounded great (even bluetooth sounded pretty decent). The 45 displayed great balance and clarity. Vocals and instruments displayed layers of distinct textures and characteristics. The 45’s treble response was crisp and bass was rich and powerful when needed.

 

Conclusion

The Pioneer VSX-45 is a solid receiver and a pretty good value. With HDCP 2.2, WiFi, bluetooth and solid sound quality it would be a good purchase for most home theater enthusiasts.


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