Audio: This is very similar to the 59TXi, with some added features. There are four optical and two coaxial digital inputs (all re-assignable) and two optical outputs in the rear, with an additional optical input on the front. A USB interface lets you take signals from a computer, which includes onboard WMA (Windows Media Audio) decoding. WMA is supported with up to eight channels at 48 kHz (no limit on bitrate was specified).
My preferred digital audio connection is i.LINK, a non-proprietary IEEE1394 connection. There is no limit (well 17, or 63 with a repeater) to the number of components that can be daisy chained with i.LINK. What sold me on i.LINK was the combination of PQLS (Precision Quartz Lock System), giving completely jitterless playback and the ability to carry all DD, DTS, PCM, DVD-A, and SACD signals using just one cable.
Combined with the Advanced MCACC calibration (explained in detail later), I was very happy SACD was supported and that all channels were on one cable, as set-up was much easier. HDMI 1.1 supports DVD-A but not SACD and does not work with Pioneer's PLQS. Like the 59TXVi, you can use an alternate set of surround speakers for different sources such as DVD-A if you wish. There are also adjustable Dynamic Range Control, Bass Peak Level, Direct Stream (bypass processing), Multi-room, adjustable Prologic IIx modes, various THX modes, Virtual Surround for headphones, and twelve additional DSP advanced surround effects.
The front speakers can be set for bi-amplification. For crossover settings, 50, 80, 100, 150, and 200 Hz are available.
Additional Connections: The iPod interface and included cable may be a huge plus to those with a 3G (third gen) or newer iPod, mini, photo (and most likely Nano). One stipulation is that the software version must be 2004-10-20 or newer. Don't worry if your version is older, software is updateable, see Apple's website http://www.apple.com/ipod/download/ for details.
Another new addition is the XM Satellite Radio connection. Similar to the iPod interface, control and
display information is done directly through the receiver. There is also an
RS-232 connector for use with the professional MCACC set-up and a computer.
The calibration goes a long way towards allowing the receiver to work well in most rooms. Like the 59TXi, it absolutely nailed the distances (0.5 foot increments) and levels (0.5 dB increments) of the main speakers (verified with tape measure and SPL meter). Imaging, bass clarity, tonal balance, speaker timbre matching (identical speakers but different locations) were all greatly improved using the MCACC.
I ran the set-up a number of times and checked for consistency. Every now and then one band would report a decibel different than before, but by and large, the settings were repeatable to 0.5 dB or better like the 59TXi. Also like the 59TXi, it features nine bands of user adjustable EQ and X-Curve with multiple reverb windows for pro-level adjustment using a computer.
So, what does this version of Advanced MCACC have over the one on the 59TXi MCACC? It has standing wave control. It only reaches down to a center frequency of 68 Hz, so it won't replace your SMS, BFD or other subwoofer-only parametric EQ. It does however adjust for standing waves in three bands with a variable frequency, Q (width), and attenuation in the upper bass region. The wave control is applied to your choice of Main (all but center and sub), Sub Only, or Center Only (especially useful for centers on RPTVs). In addition, phase inconsistencies between speakers (and sub) are adjusted using a per channel phase control in an effort to maintain a cohesive sound stage.
Furthermore, a multipoint MCACC
has been implemented. If you want to try and balance the corrections for the
best possible sound over multiple seats, you have the option to run three
consecutive MCACC tests in three mic locations. This can then be stored in a
separate setting using the Data Copy feature. This is a nice addition,
allowing the user to switch between having one ideal listening position and
the best compromise between multiple positions. Other options include "Front
Align" to make all the speakers sound as close as possible to your main pair
without EQ instead of the "All Channel Adjust" default. All told, you can
have six MCACC settings which can also be renamed, reconfigured ,and copied
under the "Data Management" menu.
The overall sound can be described best in comparison to the 59TXi which I reviewed in August of 2005. The 74TXVi shares many of the sound characteristics with its older, bigger brother, and the processing is slightly more advanced in the 74. But at the end of the day, the 59TXi just plain sounds better. Every instrument has the extra bit of air, a little smoother, more alive. It is quite subtle and nothing compared to the night and day improvement of using MCACC or not using it. Certainly, higher quality components and better power supplies are going to give an extra edge. Of course, at $4,500, the 59TXi can afford to have those higher quality components.
However, compared to the 53TX that I own, the advanced correction processing definitely put the 74TXVi on top, and even if I had some concerns about build quality, they didn't show.
I have been finding it more and more difficult to try and give hard and fast sound impressions other than to try and give them in comparison with other pieces of equipment. At some point you need to hear for yourself. This receiver has that newer Pioneer sound, influenced no doubt by the Air Studios tuning. The positive influence of MCACC and the room correction can't be understated for most users. And at this point, with pure digital audio paths and DSP, you can adjust the sound to your liking without the past penalties of added distortion and phase errors.
While there is some disagreement as to the effectiveness of Auto Set-up and
Auto EQ routines (even among Secrets staff), I have found a well implemented
system like Pioneer's Advanced MCACC to be a beneficial feature. My
experience has been echoed by a number of "real world" users who may not
have the equipment, knowledge, or room needed to set it all up manually.
I really enjoyed my time with the Pioneer VSX-74TXVi. I thought it was my long awaited replacement to the 53Tx, but the lack of up-scaling and de-interlacing analog sources to a progressive HDMI output was a deal breaker for me. My projector's DVI input simply won't recognize those 480i signals.
The feature set is excellent, the sound is
extremely good, and this would make an excellent pre/pro for those who would
like to add an external amplifier for more power. As it stands, it is very
highly recommended for the sub-$2,000 receiver class.
• Hands down more usable remote
• Three HDMI inputs vs. two inputs for the 74TXVi
Onix Rocket RS-850s (X4)