I finally received my Pioneer 1019 from 6Ave last night. It was sitting in the UPS warehouse for the last 48 hours so I'm glad it finally arrived (technically on time but why leave it sitting there?!?). Anyway, I ended up staying up way too late last night setting this up. I was not able to run MCACC yet (kids and wife were asleep and would not have appreciated hearing all that noise). Here are my first thoughts on the Pio, I'll update it later this weekend after I've had a chance to run through the rest of the settings.
I purchased the Pioneer 1019 after a lengthy decision process between the Denon 1910, Onkyo 607 and Yamaha 765. I needed 4 HDMI so the earlier models wouldn't work and I was also limited in footprint depth so it was these 4. I went with the Pio because I've always been a fan of the sound and quality and each of the others had one or two things wrong (Denon not available, Onkyo quality issues (?), Yammy no assignable inputs). My one concern with the Pio going in was the revamped amps and the decline in weight. Would it impact quality of sound and power? Based on my early tests, NO. This unit has a great, clean sound with lots of detail at low levels and high. I did not hear any hint of strain (although, in fairness, I couldn't go too loud because it was late. I'll reconfirm that this weekend).
Read on for more details:
First, here's my equipment:
Comcast/Moto DCT-3416 HD DVR
Macbook as HTPC (mini-DVI to HDMI and Optical)
Energy Take Classic speakers
Sennheiser wireless headphones
Room is about 19x14 with one open wall to a kitchen and sitting area in middle
While the unit is smaller and lighter than the 1018 it doesn't look cheap' and it still has enough bulk to it to make you think it has power. It looks great in the rack. Remote is a bit confusing but I won't use that much after setup and the Harmony database had all the relevant codes, a nice surprise for such a recent release.
The Setup Process
It was pretty easy to get all of the speakers and components hooked up. The manual stinks but I had spent a fair amount of time with the manual online in advance and after a few reads you can fill in the blanks. It took me about an hour to get all of the old equipment out and the new equipment in. Assigning the inputs was relatively straightforward. Renaming inputs was awkward due to the way they handle text input but it was very flexible. I had a little trouble assigning the Optical audio signal from my Macbook along with an HDMI input. I first tried to assign the optical directly to an HDMI input but you can't do that. Instead I had to assign both the HDMI and Optical to an entirely different Input Name (I chose DVR). It worked fine but I suspect that means I really lost a video input since I can't send anything else to the original HDMI input. Not a huge deal as I don't use all the inputs but it was still annoying.
As I said before, I haven't done MCACC yet but I did use the manual speaker setup and my speaker settings from my old Sony AVR and input those here. That was pretty easy and even with this rudimentary setup the sound was great. Even my wife (who is happy with TV speakers alone) commented on the improvement in quality.
I ran though some of the DSPs and effects but I prefer to set everything to DIRECT, especially on BDs but it was nice to use the Extended Stereo for my iPod and get sound from all of the speakers.
I had lots of questions on the video scaler. I agree with most posters that you should not buy an AVR for this capability. Most TVs will do a better job than any $500 AVR. My TV is a 2006 model though and it has pretty average scaling so I wanted to see how it would look. I hooked up my Comcast DVR with both HDMI and with Component/Optical to gauge the difference. HDMI looks great (and no scaling, of course) but there was no impact on visual signal. I did not have any annoying audio lags either. Component also looks really good for HD signals. I could not tell the difference between the HDMI and Component signals on HD channels.
I then tried it on some SD channels with the scaler set to 1080p. The AVR did fine but it wasn't any better than my TV. No worse either but then I already mentioned my scaler is pretty average. So, as I said earlier, don't buy the unit for the scaler but it's not a negative either. Just try it for your sources and TV and it may or may not generate any improvement in PQ.
The good news is that it does a very good job of upconversion (switching analog signals to digital) which means you can have 6 HD sources (4 HDMI and 2 Component) which is nice.
The one odd thing I found was in the aspect ratio settings for 4:3 signals. The default is Through' which would make me think it sends the signal untouched but it is actually for stretching the signal (and it does a bad job of that). I switched the signal to Normal' and it then just passed the 4:3 signal untouched - a definite improvement.
All other sources looked great. Panny BD35 looks and sounds great and I was relieved to see that my Macbook was able to pass a clean signal through the AVR to the TV.
So the real question is about how this unit sounds. As I mentioned earlier, I am really pleased with the quality and balance. Everything sounds warm and detailed. I expect it to improve even further with the MCACC adjustments. I've listened to quite a few units over time and this has all of the Pioneer sound and quality you expect from them. I don't think anyone will be disappointed with the sound or the power (Of course, if you are willing to spend 3x the $$ then you can get better quality from the Elite series. If you have the cash, definitely buy one of those. If you are looking to spend <$700 then this is a great unit.)
One thing that annoyed me was the crossover setting. My sub and speakers want a 110hz crossover but the options aren't that fine grained. I think you can set at 50, 80, 100, 150, and 200. I would have appreciated a few more options. Setting at 110 causes me to lose bass but 150 causes me to send more signals than necessary to the sub. It sounds ok but most other AVRs I've seen allow for this extra detailed setting.
Movies and TV sounded really great and my speakers and sub had a nice blend even before running MCACC calibrations. Music was where I really noticed a HUGE improvement over my older Sony. That unit handled movies well but strained a bit on music. The Pioneer really handled music beautifully. I tried a CD, an iPod via the USB interface, and an iPod via RCA inputs. CD sounds fantastic and I was pleasantly surprised by how great the iPod with USB sounded too. When you use this setup the Pioneer is using its quality DACs instead of the cheaper ones in the iPod and it makes a really big difference. Still, even with an iPod and RCA connections the Pioneer had a really nice balanced sound and were quite powerful. I don't think you will be disappointed with music from this unit at all.
On the iPod interface/GUI it's ok but not great. The GUI is very low end. It's functional but I don't think anyone is going to want it up and displayed all of the time. I can't fathom why people don't make these a bit better. I've got to image the design costs would be negligible. I have both an iPhone and a 5th generation iPod. I was not able to get the iPhone to work at all but I didn't try very long. 5th gen iPod worked and sound was great but I was annoyed that you cannot use the iPod itself to control materials on 5th gen units (apparently you can on newer models). That means I'd need to turn on the TV to play music from the iPod. So I'll probably use the old RCA connections for most usage (despite less quality) just to avoid turning on the TV. If I have a party or will be playing music for a long time I'll use the digital connection then and turn on the TV to choose the playlist and then turn off the TV. Again, not a big deal but annoying.
If you can't tell by now, I really like the Pioneer and am quite pleased with the purchase. Way more upsides with a few annoyances but no showstoppers. Unit runs warm but not too hot. I could still put my hand on top after 5 hours on. There are plenty of inputs, lots of flexibility on configuring inputs, plenty of decoding options, video conversion works well and scaler is decent (but not great). Sound is fantastic - don't worry about the weight. I highly recommend this unit. If you want a quality AVR with great sound for less than $500, this is your unit. If you can spend $800-1000 then by all means get a Pioneer Elite but everyone else will be very, very happy with this unit.