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Review: Pioneer Elite VSX-90 7.2 Channel A/V Receiver

The HT Guys upgrade equipment faster than most just so we can stay on top of the latest technology. So when the 4K Fire TV product was released and our current receiver could not send a 4K signal to the TV we figured what better reason to upgrade. We chose the Pioneer Elite VSX-90 7.2 Channel Receiver with Atmos mainly because it is a capable receiver and it didn’t break the bank (Buy Now $699.99)


  • 7 HDMI inputs with 2 outputs
  • 100 W/ch (8 ohms 20 Hz-20 kHz THD 0.08 % 2ch Driven FTC)
  • 4K 60P Ultra HD upscaling and pass-through
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Simplified connection and setup
  • Dolby Atmos
  • DSD playback
  • Subwoofer EQ and dual subwoofer pre-out
  • Spotify Connect and Roku ready
  • Energy-saving ECO Mode
  • Intuitive setup with icon-based Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • Offers both RS-232c interface and full IP control


We have gotten really good at swapping out receivers. Probably a skill most will never need to master but it helps us from time to time. Our speakers are connected via Banana plugs so recabling the receiver took about three minutes which included 7.1 speakers, 5 HDMI connections, Ethernet, and power.

Then we ran the calibration setup which Pionner calls MCACC Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration. The VSX-90 uses the Pro Version of this technology. Like pretty much every other auto calibration system, Pioneer’s measures every speaker noting size and distance, sound levels and timbre from the listening point. The subwoofer is also analyzed and adjusted using four different frequency parameters to correct phase and timing errors.

The VSX-90 uses the ES9006 Sabre Premier audio DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) which should provide smoother audio. And you audiophiles may like to know that there is support for 192 kHz 24-bit AIFF, Multi-channel WAV, FLAC, and Apple Lossless up to 96kHz 24-Bit.

The VSX-90 offers both RS-232c interface and full IP control providing compatibility with the most popular home automation systems. For custom-installed home theater solutions, it offers multi-zone capability audio video support. For tablet and smartphone users there is the iControl AV5 app available to make using the receiver a breeze.


First up is video. The main reason we upgraded our receiver was to be able to pass 4K content from our Amazon Fire TV device to the 4K TV.  In this regard it is important to note that only the first three HDMI ports are HDCP 2.2 compliant and without that you won’t be able to pass protected 4K content through to the TV. The receiver will upscale all digital content to 4K but we found that the best picture was obtained by simply passing the original signal (Pure Mode) through and letting the TV do the upscaling.

The Amazon Fire TV looked fine with 4K content (See Review Here) that was unprocessed by the receiver. We subjectively compared the video straight from the Fire TV to that of video that went through the reveier. We could not see any difference which is what you would expect in the Pure mode. It should be noted that this receiver does not have video processing beyond a scalar. In general we feel this is a good thing because we have not found a good receiver that also processes video well.

Then it was time to listen to some audio. We had high expectations due to the Sabre DAC and we weren’t let down. Our listening material included lossless audio, 256 Kbps AAC, and streaming audio. Everything we listened to had more punch and the midrange sounded clear and crisp. If we had to sum up the listening experience it would be that the music sounded bright. The VSX-90 had no issues with reproducing an accurate sound stage with good instrument separation. When it came time to watch (listen) to movies we were impressed with how good our subwoofer sounded. Same subwoofer same Dolby True HD content but a noticeable improvement in the bass.

The only real complaint we had with the unit was source switching. Whenever we switched between sources it took as long as six seconds to get video back on screen.

Odds and Ends:

  • Dolby ATMOS sound technology – We did not test this feature
  • Remote – Typical receiver remote.
  • Multi-zones – The VSX-90 can send audio and video to a secondary room.
  • WiFi – The unit also has dual antennas to extend the range.
  • MHL compatibility – One port
  • Bluetooth and Airplay
  • Streaming Music – vTune, Pandora, and Spotify ready


The Pioneer Elite VSX-90 is a feature rich receiver that won’t break the bank and allow room for some future growth. You may not be in a position to upgrade to Atmos but it’s nice to know that when you want to the VSX-90 will be ready for you. It’s relatively easy to setup and configure with the use of the onscreen instructions. For those who really like to listen to high quality music this receiver fits the bill. We couldn’t ask for a better mid-range AVR to handle both movies and music.

Download Episode #712

Posted by The HT Guys, November 5, 2015 11:21 PM

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About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.