Pioneer VSX-923 - Performance, Setup and Verdict

Score

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Pioneer VSX-923 – Setup

Setting up the Pioneer VSX-923 is as complicated as you want it to be. If you hate the stress of speaker calibration then Pioneer’s MCACC auto setup will take care of everything for you, including channel levels, speaker distances, EQ and room correction. It’s a more thorough system than most and as such takes a while to complete, but the results are pleasingly accurate. You can view the results in the MCACC Data Check menu.

However, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, the setup menu offers all the tools you need to optimise the speakers manually, as well as network, input and HDMI options. This drab-looking setup menu uses a black background and moody monochrome graphics, with clearly-structured lists.
 
Pioneer VSX-923
Pioneer VSX-923

Play music from an iPod or DLNA server and the Pioneer displays cover art and white text dotted around it. It’s all a bit dull but gets the job done. Onscreen dialogue boxes let you alter audio and video settings during playback, but these are also basic and old-fashioned.
Pioneer VSX-923
Pioneer VSX-923What really makes the Pioneer VSX-923 a chore to operate is the remote, which is poor for so many reasons – the ranks of tiny buttons with cryptic lettering that up the spaces in between, the dual function buttons, the ‘Receiver’ button – which you have to press in order to access the Home menu – and the awkward clicky direction pad.

Thankfully Pioneer’s iControlAV2013 app is a million times better. Available for iOS and Android, the app’s new interface allows you to control the VSX-923 with a phone or tablet, and browse music files on networked devices. It’s fun, stylish and intuitive, and covers practically every function.

Additionally Pioneer’s AVNavigator app, which can be downloaded for free from Pioneer’s website for Mac, iPad and Windows, gives you an introduction to wiring and calibrating the unit.

Pioneer VSX-923 – Performance

Playing The Hobbit on

Blu-ray, you can tell early doors that the Pioneer VSX-923 is a classy

performer, offering a smooth and intricate sound. The movie’s soundtrack

is conveyed with entrancing clarity and precision, and impressively the

Pioneer doesn’t lose focus at higher volumes.

The opening scenes

before Smaug’s assault on Erebor are beautifully presented, with lots of

crisp, twinkly detail peppering the soundstage, from the glassy chink

of chisels tapping on rock to kites rustling in the wind. It teases out

the smallest details and articulates Ian Holm’s narration with terrific

authority.

However, its sonic character is definitely more Hugh

Grant than Jason Statham, favouring a more polite, detailed approach

over the brash, brutal sound you’d get from, say, a Yamaha or Onkyo.

That’s fine most of the time, but in the heat of a raucous action scene

we found ourselves craving something a little more thunderous and

visceral.

But that’s not to say that the Pioneer doesn’t get the

adrenaline flowing. As the dragon smashes its way into the mountain, it

batters down the door with a splintery crunch, there’s a convincingly

metallic clank as armoured dwarves clatter into the walls and the

dragon’s roar is blood curdling, without the raspy edge that blights

lesser sound systems.

Mid-range and high frequencies are clean and

forceful, making the overall sound feel energetic without crossing the

line into harshness, while bass notes are taut, punchy and seamlessly

integrated.

We’re also impressed by the VSX-923’s orchestration of

the soundstage. Surround effects are cleanly isolated and accurately

placed, plus the Pioneer moves them between channels with great speed

and smoothness.

So in a nutshell, the Pioneer VSX-923 is an impressive

movie performer, delivering a refined, detail-packed performance with

good dynamics and enough muscle to keep you on your toes. It’s not the

most gut-wrenchingly powerful receiver though – those looking for more

aggression and bite should check out the similarly-priced competition

first.

Pioneer VSX-923

Should I buy the Pioneer VSX-923?

When

weighing up the Pioneer VSX-923’s pros and cons, there’s certainly a lot more

to put in the ‘pros’ column. We love its wholehearted commitment

to smartphones and tablets, with support for Apple devices (USB

playback, AirPlay), Android phones (HTC Connect, MHL) and DLNA music

servers.

There are loads of other features too, including DLNA

streaming, internet radio, auto setup, eight HDMIs, lossless music

playback, 4K upscaling, countless sound modes… the list goes on.

But

sadly that ‘cons’ column isn’t empty. Unless you’re using Pioneer’s

excellent control app, the Pioneer VSX-923 can be a pain to use due to the

confusing remote and patchy onscreen design.

It’s also a shame

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi aren’t built-in (but not a deal breaker) and

although its sound is perfectly entertaining and dynamic, some listeners

may crave a bigger, more brutal sound. But if none of those things

bothers you, then the VSX-923 has enough going for it elsewhere to make

it a worthwhile purchase.

Pioneer VSX-923 – Verdict

The Pioneer

VSX-923 boasts a terrific feature list and delivers an entertaining

movie performance, but if you’re after thunderous power look elsewhere

Score in detail

  • Performance 8
  • Features 8
  • Value 9
  • Sound Quality 8
  • Design 9

Features

3D Ready Yes
Supported Channels 7.2
DVD Player No
Blu-ray player No
Audio Processing Dolby Pro Logic IIz, DTS Neo:X
Dolby Digital Yes
DTS Yes
Dolby Pro Logic II Yes
Dolby TrueHD Yes
DTS Master Audio HD Yes

Connectors

HDMI Input 8
HDMI Output 2
Composite Video In 3
Component Video In 1
S/PDIF Optical In 1
S/PDIF Coax In 1
Subwoofer Out 2
Stereo Line In 4
Stereo Line Out 1
iPod Dock Via USB
Power (Watt) 150 per channelW

Physical Specifications

Height (Millimeter) 168mm
Width (Millimeter) 435mm
Depth (Millimeter) 362.5mm
Weight (Gram) 9700g
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