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Pioneer VSX-AX5ai-s - Annexe 1 Home Cinema Amplifier, size: 2.3 MB
User reviews and opinions
|SosMicro||1:06am on Tuesday, August 10th, 2010|
|GOT RID OF IT,OVER PRICED. NOW HAVE A SONY STRDB895D ,WITH DAB TUNER BUILT IN RECEIVER. SOUNDS MORE BASSY & CLEARER & WHATS MORE IT WAS ALOT CHEAPER. Although I am not an audio expert, I have setup (IMHO) a decent sounding Home Cinema system, using mainly Pioneer, VSX-AX5Ai-S (Amp), DV-668 (DVD). Excellent sound, good feature set Ease of use and setting up are as straight forward as it gets the (MCACC)function does a great job. A great piece of kit for those with deep pockets!! Excellent build, this beauty weights a good 20KG.|
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0605HCC31 Pioneer VSX-AX5Ai-S
PIONEER VSX-AX5AI-S N 1,000 (Approx) N 500 N www.pioneer.co.uk
Champion of surround sound music
Pioneers latest receiver promises auto setup and best in class surround sound. Shaun Marin expects a lot and is pleasantly surprised
Highs: Multichannel music performance, connectivity, MCACC setup Lows: Not always intuitive to use
he VSX-AX5Ai-S is Pioneers best-specified home cinema receiver; the only thing above it
THX post-processing, as evidenced by its THX Select certification, along with the unique AIR Studios sound tuning feature. Performance is augmented by 192kHz/24-bit DACs on all channels and two Motorola 150 MIPS 48-bit DSPs.
Sound Build Features OVERALL
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in the brands range is the long admired VSA-AX10Ai-S amplifier, which sells for three grand and is aimed at the cuttingedge of the home cinema market. While this model weighs in at only a third of the cost, it boasts a fair number of its higherend siblings more desirable features. The build quality is certainly impressive. Even if, as a matter of personal preference, you prefer the styling of the current Denon range to this Pioneer, theres no getting away from the fact that this update on the previous Excellent Average
a compatible DVD player into the receiver. It includes Pioneers improved Precision Quartz Lock system, whereby the heart of the receiver clocks the DVD transport. Auto calibration features are standard on higher-end receivers, and it was Pioneer which initially popularised the technology. So its fitting that the VSX-AX5Ai-S has the latest incarnation of its MCACC automatic setup system. At the touch of a button, its possible to sort out the speaker delays and balances across all channels. Although further tweaking is possible, I suspect many people will be happy at the level of finesse this auto tuning displays; the end results are impressive. I found that the M&K K5 speaker system used for this audition benefited when this receiver was tuned to match them. Day-to-day use is par for the course with this type of product. This isnt an
Connection options are also impressive, with swathes of audio and video inputs jostling for space on the back panel. There are two component video inputs and, interestingly, a USB socket, so you can use your computer as a source for music files. Its worth noting that this socket is for audio only you cant stream video from you PC into the receiver and then out to a monitor. Video routed through one of the five composite and S-video inputs is upconverted to component, which helps reduce the amount of cable clutter going to your display (sources maintain their native resolution, though). Pioneer has also included its i.Link (aka IEEE1394) digital interface, the brands preferred route for multichannel DVD-Audio from
Manufacturers Rated Output 110W per channel into 8 Measured power @ 1kHz 2ch driven: 120W into 8 5ch driven: 100W into 8 2ch driven: 210W into 4 5ch driven: 150W into 4 Fidelity firewall @ 1kHz/2ch 115W into 8 (0.05%THD) Distortion @ 1kHz 0.003%THD @ 50W (8) Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz +/- 0.2dB
VSX-AX5i-S is a well-crafted piece of kit. Poor The controls on the front panel, and below the fascia flap which drops to reveal a host of obviously useful buttons, appear purposeful. Pioneer has also hidden
the convenience inputs under this flap.
Beneath the lid are seven channels of amplification, rated at 120W apiece when all are driven (up from 100W on the previous model) when measured by our Tech Labs, we rated onboard muscle at 100W into 8 with all channels driven. If you intend to use the Pioneer in stereo mode, the power increases to 120W at 8, giving you that extra degree of oomph with stereo sources such as CD. Predictably, theres a serious amount of audio processing on board, allowing the unit to decode and process any major codec you would care to feed it (DTS 96/24, DTS-ES Matrix 6.1, DTS-ES Discrete 6.1, Dolby Digital EX, DTS Neo:6 and Dolby Pro-Logic IIx). The VSX-AX5Ai-S also offers
Specifications: 7.1 channel amplifier; 7 x 120W into 8; Stereo mode 2 x 160W into 8; MCACC (Multi Channel Acoustic Calibration); supplied with setup microphone; multiroom option; composite and S-video upconversion to component video; learning remote control Surround sound formats: THX Select certified; THX Surround EX; DTS 5.1; DTS-ES; DTS 96/24; DTS Neo:6; Dolby Digital 5.1/EX; Dolby Pro-Logic II/IIx; Dolby Headphone; Dolby Virtual Surround; DSP modes including seven-channel stereo Connections: Audio: Inputs: two i.Link; nine analogue; MM phono stage; two optical; two coaxial; 7.1 multichannel; USB. Outputs: three analogue; two optical; 7.1 pre-amplifier output. Video: Inputs: four composite; four S-video; two component. Output: four composite; three S-video; component Dimensions: 420(w) x 188(h) x 464(d)mm Weight: 21.2kg
HCC PRACTICAL TIP
Reinforcing the receivers AIR Studios pedigree, perfectionists can download a utility for personal computers from the Pioneer website (www.pioneer.co.uk). Using the receivers RS232 interface you can measure the reverberation characteristics of your living room in the search for accurate studio monitoring. This is stuff for serious audiophiles as 3D graphs and charts can be printed out for reference.
116 H O M E C I N E M A C H O I C E
The units amplifier section is first rate considering that seven channels have been squeezed in
amp for novices even though the auto setup makes it easy to get up and running and youll need to read the instruction booklet in-depth to get the best out of it, as not everything is self explanatory. The supplied remote is a learner, which should allow users to ditch several of their component controllers. mean that it stays taught and quick throughout the highs and lows of a wellrecorded movie soundtrack. The musicheavy DTS mix of Belleville Rendez-Vous, for example, appears engaging and punchy, with the unusual instrumentation articulated with power and grace. Listening to the unit both before and after calibration confirmed the benefits of the process. The soundfield is wellintegrated and convincing when used with timbre-matched speakers. Theres a real solidity to the imaging. The mid-range, in particular, is worthy of commendation: ignore the rending metal of movie car crashes and listen
to its vocal presentation, which is naturalistic and warm. The units amplifier section is first rate, especially considering that seven channels have been squeezed into the case work. This obviously pays dividends when listening to high-resolution surround sound music, and its good to see that Pioneer which launched the first universal player capable of playing Super Audio CD, DVD-Audio and DVD-Video is not approaching multichannel in half measures. I would rate this receiver as one of the best around when it comes to delivering surround sound music. Interestingly, I also found myself experimenting and enjoying some of the acoustic DSP modes on offer Classical, Chamber, Jazz, Rock, Dance and seven-channel Stereo.
Audiophiles with 5.1 systems will use the receivers two redundant amplifiers for bi-amping their main stereo pair.
Pioneers VSX-AX5Ai-S is the latest iteration in a line of popular and wellspecified receivers. If you already own one of its forebears, then an upgrade probably isnt justified but if youre looking to move into the first division of integrated AV receivers, then this model is a fine piece of kit. Sonically, its more than comfortable with high-octane movies, and is consistently impressive with multichannel music and theres enough features to keep all but the most intense home theatre tweaker happy. Definitely one to shortlist I
Sound as a pound
All this hardware and tech is for naught if the performance isnt up to scratch. Thankfully, the Pioneer doesnt disappoint. This is a model that revels in the cinematic; its presentation is bold and dynamic, and ample power reserves
The AIR Studios logo implies approval from the famous recording studio
The remote is a bit of a handful, but the LCD display is useful
The two i.Link ports can accept multichannel audio from compatible players
H O M E C I N E M A C H O I C E 117
0501WHC03 PIONEER UPGRADE GT
Group Test # Flagship Amplifiers
Oodles of audio inputs for extra AV kit Even more audio inputs plus video inputs Component video points aplenty nice
With just mild tweaks, the VSX-AX5Ai-S continues Pioneers good work
Pioneer # VSX-AX5Ai-S 1,000
RS EDITO## #
## ICE CHO
Pioneers VSX-AX5i-S broke new ground last year with i.Link connectivity and MCACC automated calibration setup. This year the ground is broken, so the VSX-AX5Ai-S represents more of a tweak than a transformation on paper at least. Theres no one big change, although in combination the tweaks could make a significant improvement to performance. The Pioneers amplifiers have been boosted (from 100W/channel to 120W/channel), improvements have been made to the calibration system, the i.Link has a more advanced Precision Quartz Lock System (to better synchronise
DVD and amp), theres a sevenchannel stereo option, analogue downmixing for stereo SACD with a datastream direct option, and a video conversion system now runs alongside the video selection. The VSX-AX5Ai-S retains the Dolby Digital EX, Pro-Logic IIx, DTS ES Matrix and Discrete 6.1, DTS Neo:6, DTS 96/24, THX Select modes and AIR Studios sound tuning of its predecessor.
changes improved the sound of all bar the most high-end setups we tested. However, there are some purists who prefer a less draconian setting, and for them theres only microphone-free installation. Still, almost everyone would welcome the advantages of MCACC.
STAR WARS: EPISODE IV
Larger than life
Ultimately this all means that the VSX-AX5Ai-S provides an extremely cinematic sound, both enveloping and seemingly larger than the room itself. Voices from our Star Wars DVD were perfectly integrated, and stood out thanks to excellent diction. We clearly heard the Halt! Rebel Scum clich from the Stormtroopers running round the Death Star, despite the chaos of this chase scene. A typically Pioneer direct and forward sound also comes through well, but is not so strong as to undermine the overall sound with movies. Our only real complaint is that this kind of sound from the VSX-AX5Ai-S can make stereo sources lacking in subtlety. Its a measure of how good the original AX5i was that, with just mild tweaks, the VSX-AX5Ai-S can continue Pioneers good work and remain at the forefront of home cinema sound. An absolute cracker of an amp. I
Han sprints after a couple of Stormtroopers, only to discover hundreds of them staring back. You can clearly hear their Stormtroopery comments with the Pioneer
Slow but sure
Installation is very thorough. It may not be as fast as the Denon (p108), but the result is more precise. Enhancements to the MCACC system do not constitute a significant improvement, but they do seem to make subwoofer installation more accurate, and the amp equalises the output to replicate the AIR Studios sound in your room. Pioneer was the first to release a corded microphone automated installation process and with these mild upgrades in place it remains the best. The MCACC system had a profound change over the sound of the speakers we tested with the Pioneer. It enforces a distinct equalisation curve, attempting to bring the speakers into line with the AIR Studios sound. Happily it is a benign enforcement, as the
Style Ease of use Features Build Sound Value Overall #### #### ##### ##### ##### ##### #####
AT A GLANCE
7.1 channels 120W/channel Dolby Digital EX Pro-Logic IIx DTS-ES Discrete 6.1 Matrix 6.1 DTS 96/24 DTS Neo:6 Enhanced DVD-A/SACD digital datastreams via i.Link Auto Setup/auto room EQ adjust with microphone
I MAIN CONNECTIONS
i.Link connection x2 A/V line in x3 A/V tape in x2 Component in x2 Component out Audio-only line in x2 Audio-only tape in x2 7.1-channel in Electrical digital in x2 Optical digital in x3 Optical out x2 Analogue out from all channels Speaker out x6 Headphone socket
Subtle improvements to an existing star performer make this a peach. The Pioneer can transform your room into a cinema (or control room) better than most amplifiers
www.pioneer.co.uk 01753 789500
WHC January 2005 101
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