If you need a home theater receiver that is jam packed with features, Pioneer wants to make it easy to find these models. Rather than picking from dozens of confusing model names, Pioneer has a special category of AV receivers called Elite. Pioneerís Elite family of home theater receivers normally start at more than $1,000 and have Class D3 amplification for added power for your speaker setup. Of course, you still have to compare the members of the Elite family as there are some Elite products that are significantly more powerful and have more features. But this 2013, Pioneer announced 2 new members of the Elite family and they surprisingly fall below the $1,000 price point. In fact, the Pioneer VSX-43 retails at only $525 which puts this AV receiver in line with the mid-range Pioneer VSX-1023-K. Find out what makes the VSX-43 special in this review.

Pioneer Elite VSX-43

Pioneer Elite VSX-43

Design

The Pioneer VSX-43 looks a lot like the VSX-1023 in terms of control layout. It features a fairly large info display that shows plenty of indicators. Right below that display is the usual array of thin control buttons. There is also a row of circular buttons just below the thin buttons that operate certain features including the newly introduced ECO mode. The available connection ports are positioned on the left and right sides. The most important ports include the typical USB port and HDMI port.

What is rather nice is that the VSX-43 gets the same Elite treatment as the other Elite devices. There is a prominent Elite logo below the buttons and the Pioneer logo has a golden color. Finally, the text on the display is golden as well.

The back of the receiver shows the same amount of connection ports and terminals as the VSX-1023. You have 5 HDMI inputs to work with and the labels below give you an idea of what to hook up. There are also a number of component video and composite audio ports as well if you need to set up older components for your home theater system. What makes the Pioneer VSX-43 unique for a budget home theater receiver is the 12-volt trigger on the back for certain components like a projector or screen. With this setup, you can use the VSX-43 to toggle the state of these components once they are selected as inputs.

Pioneer Elite VSX-43 Back Panel

Pioneer Elite VSX-43 Back Panel

Features

The rest of the features of the Pioneer VSX-43 are identical to the VSX-1023-K. It delivers a total of 560 watts and supports 7.1-channel configurations which is nice if you are looking for that kind of support for a budget price. Because 7.1-speaker setups are not exactly common, you still have the option to use a 5.1-channel setup while having space for setting up a small stereo system in another room. Pioneer makes it easy to use the Powered Zone 2 output to set up a second system in another room.

No matter how many speakers you have surrounding your living room, you need to calibrate them individually to equalize the sound field. Pioneer makes this process simple thanks to the MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) system. After you properly connected all the speakers and included microphone, all that is left is to position the microphone to the preferred listening spot and let the VSX-43 do the rest. Various factors are evaluated like the distance and size of the speakers along with the timbre and sound levels. With a calibrated system, the listening experience is much better.

Although the Pioneer VSX-43 is the most affordable Elite model, it will integrate well with your home network, your Internet connection and mobile devices. You can unleash the full potential of the VSX-43 by connecting the home theater receiver to your wireless router through an Ethernet cable. You can then use the Internet connection to stream online music using popular sites including vTuner Internet Radio and Pandora. If you have a huge music collection in your portable media player, smartphone or computer, you can take advantage of the many network streaming capabilities that are present in the Pioneer VSX-43. Apple devices and products get the best support in the form of AirPlay. This makes it easy to take your iOS device or your iTunes software and stream music directly to the AV receiver. Recent HTC devices that rely on the proprietary HTC Connect feature can also wirelessly stream to the AV receiver. Finally, Windows 7 and 8 users can stream content even without iTunes installed since DLNA 1.5 is supported.

On the audio side, Blu-ray content sound great since the latest formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) are supported. If you have a lot of compressed files like WMA and MP3 files, you will also notice some improvements to the audio quality because the Advanced Sound Retriever technology restores some of the lost quality.

Pioneer has also developed a couple of mobile apps to make the home theater experience even better. Its main app is the Pioneer ControlApp which is a free download for Android and iOS devices. It puts a full interface on your device’s touchscreen so you can operate the device as a remote. All the controls you need like volume control are present so you won’t need your remote. You can also use the Air Jam application to pair multiple smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth. Each of these users can collaborate to make a playlist making this app great for parties. This app requires Pioneer’s Bluetooth adapter which is sold separately.

AV receivers can consume a lot of electricity but Pioneer has a new feature that can alleviate those concerns. The front panel has an ECO mode button which you can use to put the home theater receiver on standby. This refined standby mode only consumes 0.1 watts.

Bottom Line

You can’t ask for more from a receiver at this $500 price point. The Pioneer VSX-43 is a peach of a receiver in terms of audio and video quality and sets an incredibly high performance to price benchmark. And being an Elite series model, you can be assured of trickled down technology from top of the line Pioneer engineering.