Pioneer VSX-1130-K Review
THE VERDICT:
Overall, the Pioneer 1130 is one of the top amps you can get for under $600. It's robust feature set and great sound quality pushes it to the head of the class.

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Design7.5
Features8
Value7
Performance9
The Good
  • The Pioneer VSX-1130-K comes loaded with features such as WiFi, Bluetooth and Dolby Atmos. HDCP 2.2 compatibility means it’s well equipped to tackle 4K UHD video when it finally goes mainstream. These features plus the 1130’s great sound quality make it tough to beat.
The Bad
  • The remote is pretty terrible and needs overhauled. Also, the Pioneer 1130 doesn't support DTS:X. For that you'll need to move-up to Pioneer's Elite line of receivers.
8.6Overall Score

Pioneer VSX-1130 Review

Pioneer VSX-1130 Review

The Pioneer VSX-1130 is the last stop before you hit Pioneer’s Elite line of receivers. The 7.2 channel amp is rated at about 95 watts per channel which makes it more than adequate to push a decent set of speakers in a medium or large listening area.

 

From the front, the Pioneer 1130 is nearly identical to last year’s 1124. Spin it around and you’ll see that Pioneer’s moved things around a bit. One thing you’ll notice right away is that the analog inputs are sparse. However, the Pioneer VSX-1130 makes up for it by giving you 7 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs. The icing on the cake is that the HDMI’s are  HDCP 2.2 copy protection compliant. HDCP 2.2 is an encryption method that’s expected to be adopted by 4K content providers. Without it, your av receiver won’t be able to passthrough 4K video that uses HDCP 2.2. The 1130 also offers up powered zone 2 via HDMI so you can watch two different sources simultaneously.

Pioneer VSX-1130 Inputs

 

The remote that’s  bundled with the 1130 has an over abundance of tiny buttons which knocks it down a couple notches on the usability chart. Luckily the AV Control app which is a free download on the Apple Store and Google Play store is well designed. Once I had it installed on my iPad, I found myself preferring to use it instead of the amp’s over complicated clicker.

 

Pioneer VSX-1130 App

The on-screen GUI of the 1130 is certainly serviceable. When first hitting the setup menu you’re greeted by three icons for System Setup, MCACC (calibration) and Network/Bluetooth. While it won’t win any design awards it is easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for.

Pioneer VSX-1130 Screen

If you’re not used to setting up an AV receiver, it can be a little daunting, but luckily Pioneer has a solution. Pioneer has an interactive guide called the AV Navigator which comes built-in to the 1130. You can also access it via a PC once you have the Pioneer 1130 on your network. The Navigator will walk you thru step-by-step from setup to calibration. Anyone who’s setting up an AV receiver for the first time will appreciate the software.

 

WiFi and Bluetooth are both built-into the Pioneer VSX-1130 this year, so unlike last years model, there’s no need to purchase additional add-on’s for these two features. Being a networked receiver, the Pioneer VSX-1130 gives you access to a host of internet music streaming options including vTuner, Pandora and Spotify. WiFi on the 1130 is solid. Even with several walls between the router and the 1130 it never suffered from loss of signal when I tested it. This could be due to its dual band Dual Band Wi-Fi (2.4GHZ and 5.8GHZ).


On the audio side of things the Pioneer VSX-1130 includes ESS9006 Sabre Premier audio DACs for digital to analog conversion. HD audio formats such as 192 kHz 24-bit AIFF, WAV, and FLAC, Apple Lossless up to 96kHz 24-Bit and DSD (SACD) are all within the 1130’s wheelhouse of features. For home theater formats, the Pioneer 1130 handles Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. However, object based audio formats may represent the next stage in the evolution of home theater. Dolby’s new Atmos sound format allows sound engineers to place sounds at specific locations in your listening area with the help of additional channels. Being a 7.2 channel receiver, the Pioneer VSX-1130 can be configured for a 5.2.2 Atmos speaker arrangement. Unfortunately, the 1130 does not support DTS:X, which is DTS’s competing object based sound format. For that you’ll need to step-up to Pioneer’s Elite line.

 

Calibration

The VSX-1130 uses Pioneer’s Pro MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) system which was formerly reserved for their elite batch of receivers. As usual the calibration works by blasting a series of test tones thru your speakers and measuring the results. Based on that, it then adjusts accordingly for room acoustics, room size etc. The neat thing about MCACC is that if you have a dual subwoofer arrangement, it offers a subwoofer equalizer so that you can independently dial-in your subs.

 

Performance

I thought that last year’s Pioneer 1124 was one of the best sounding av amps of 2014. The Pioneer VSX-1130 isn’t far behind although last years model may have just a slight edge on it in the sound department.

 

Epic is a word I would use to describe Mad Max: Fury Road.  The audio assaults your ears like no other movie in recent memory. The Pioneer VSX-1130’s Atmos capabilities is like a layer cake of sound that washes overhead. Car engines swept around creating a near 3D experience. During one of Max’s numerous delusions, voices popped in and out overhead, to the side and behind my listening spot. While the 1130’s Atmos presentation was impressive, some of the sounds fell slightly in front of my listening location on occasion which meant that the audio presentation wasn’t as immersive as it could have been. This has been a common problem that I’ve experienced with Atmos tracks and isn’t isolated to just the Pioneer VSX-1130. When I re-watched Fury Road in Dolby TrueHD without Dolby Atmos, I was surprised at how much I missed the additional overhead channels.

 

The newly re-made Poltergeist on Blu-Ray provided an impressively creepy test for the Pioneer 1130. Ambient ghostly sounds crept around the room. This re-make has a surprisingly hefty low-end which the 1130 happily reproduced. One of my other favorite amps this year, the Onkyo TX-NR646, has punishing bass output. The Pioneer 1130’s bass has more finesse than the 646’s. While not as brutal, it still delivered the goods when necessary. Dialogue was crisp clean and focused.

 

For music, most receivers in this price range offer a direct or music direct mode. These modes essentially reproduce music with as little digital treatment as possible. I’ve never been a fan of either mode with most music sounding a little limp to me when either is used. I tested out the Pioneer VSX-1130 with both and to me the amp sounded much better when using MCACC room correction.

 

Conclusion

Last year’s model put a greater emphasis on sound quality, but lagged behind some of the competition in features. The 1130 equals its peers in features while still keeping the same great audio quality that made the 1124 a pleasure to listen to last year. If you have six hundred bucks to spend on a receiver, then the Pioneer VSX-1130-K should be on your short list.

 


Where to Buy:

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