Early March 2015, Onkyo completed the acquisition of Pioneer’s Home Entertainment arm. This new subsidiary will continue to operate on its own so Pioneer’s home theater receivers live on. In fact, Pioneer announced a couple of new receivers just a few weeks after the announcement with the VSX-830-K and Pioneer VSX-1130-K representing the consumer category. Both of these models boast some significant improvements while retaining the things that made their predecessors good. But the VSX-1130-K is a more attractive device for people that don’t want to upgrade their receivers every few years.

About the Pioneer VSX-1130-K

The Pioneer VSX-1130-K replaces the VSX-1124-K as the new consumer flagship model. It is still a 165-watt 7.2-channel receiver with Pioneer’s familiar front design. The $599 price tag is retained too so you may not need to consider a $700+ Pioneer Elite receiver as the VSX-1130-K offers an impressive set of features and addresses the problems that plagued every Pioneer receiver released in 2014.

Pioneer VSX-1130-K

Pioneer VSX-1130-K

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Comparison with the Pioneer VSX-1124-K

While Pioneer’s older receivers offered great audio performance, they were severely behind the competition in terms of connectivity. The Pioneer VSX-1130-K finally catches up with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth onboard. The interesting thing is that unlike many other current home theater receivers, the VSX-1130-K has dual antennas effectively increasing the throughput and network range. 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands are supported too.

Pioneer is making better use of the wireless convenience too by releasing a new app that works exclusively for Pioneer 2015 receivers. This app is called Start-up Navi and is available for iOS and Android devices. You can immediately download this app by scanning the QR code found on the receiver’s Quick Start Guide. You can then proceed to setting up the networking features right from your mobile device. Once finished the Wi-Fi settings found in your mobile device should be in the receiver.

While setting up the Pioneer VSX-1130-K, you obviously need to connect it to your home theater components. The VSX-1130-K has a redesigned rear panel to make it much easier to hook everything up. Pioneer didn’t take away any connection ports from the Pioneer VSX-1130-K but it simplified the layout by improving the spacing between the terminals and enlarging the text and labels.

To complete the user-friendly makeover, Pioneer updated the GUI of the VSX-1130-K too. It now comes in 7 languages and uses an icon-based approach so you should be able to find the function you need whether it is listening to an Internet radio station or browsing your iPod or iPhone.

The Pioneer VSX-1130-K also brings Dolby ATMOS into the fold enabling even more setup possibilities if you are willing to invest in Pioneer Elite Dolby ATMOS enabled speakers. With the proper speakers, content and room setup, Dolby Atmos will literally fill the room with sound. You can hear sound from all directions including distinct sounds coming from up above giving a full three-dimensional feel. There are not many movies that are optimized for Dolby Atmos but having this technology on a $599 receiver should encourage filmmakers to take it more seriously. Just make sure your ceiling is flat and hard for proper audio reflection and the height should be around 8 to 14 feet.

The VSX-1130-K is also a good choice if you plan on buying a new 4K TV because all Pioneer receivers in the 2015 support HDCP 2.2. Once content creators release their 4K Ultra HD sources, you can be sure they work with the Pioneer VSX-1130-K. It also unlocks the full bandwidth potential of all the 7 HDMI 2.0 inputs.

Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.

Pioneer VSX-1130-K Back Panel

Pioneer VSX-1130-K Back Panel

Exclusive Features

The cheaper $399 VSX-830-K offers many of the key improvements found on the Pioneer VSX-1130-K but minus the Dolby ATMOS support. You are also limited to just a 5.2-channel setup compared to the 7.2-channel specification of the VSX-1130-K. If you are after superior audio quality without spending too much on an Elite receiver, the Pioneer VSX-1130-K is a more powerful pick and it is equipped with the ESS9006 Sabre Premier audio digital-to-analog converter. This jitter-reducing DAC is normally found in receivers exceeding the $1,000 barrier.

The VSX-1130-K can perform better calibrations than the VSX-830-K because of MCACC Pro. Unlike the non-Pro version, this Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration technology can correct the phase and the group delay characteristics that are normally caused by filtering systems present in speakers.

Other Features

Like older models, the Pioneer VSX-1130-K grants you the privilege of accessing online music streaming services using your home Internet connection. This includes Spotify Connect, vTuner, Pandora and Internet Radio. Local streaming through Apple AirPlay, HTC Connect and DLNA is possible too. Of course, the Ethernet connection is only optional thanks to the newly added Wi-Fi capability. Since Bluetooth is incorporated to the receiver as well, you no longer need the AS-BT200 accessory to allow direct streaming from Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices.

Performance

To find out how improved the VSX-1130-K really is over its predecessor, the action-packed movie The Expendables 3 was used to test the audio performance. Only minor improvements in clarity were noticeable thanks to the superior audio calibration the MCACC Pro provides. The internal hardware remains the same though so those that find the Pioneer VSX-1124-K lacking in oomph should consider a 2015 Elite model. But with Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, The Expendables 3 sounded far more realistic as the Blu-ray version supports this technology. However, bigger rooms are better off with a 9.2-channel receiver as it lets you keep the 5.1 surround sound setup and add 4 ceiling speakers.

Conclusion

Pros:

• Dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is a powerful connectivity combo.

• Dolby Atmos and ESS Sabre 24-bit DAC on a budget.

• Setup and user interface improvements make it easier for average people to use.

• HDCP 2.2 ready.

Cons:

• 7.2 channels limit the effectiveness of Dolby Atmos.

• Audio improvements over last year’s model are very minor.

Verdict:

The Pioneer VSX-1124-K was an impressive receiver with a couple of potentially dealbreaking flaws. The Pioneer VSX-1130-K eradicated these issues leaving it with no serious weaknesses. This makes the VSX-1130-K one of the best $599 receivers in the market today.

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