The Pioneer VSX-1016V looks identical to its more costly sibling the VSX-2016AV, and at first glance the specification looks remarkably similar too.
It's a step down model, but THX Select2 and THX Surround EX certification are emblazoned on the front panel, which is remarkable at the price. Also, HDMI socketry and second zone facility are all provided.
Even the power output rating to each of its seven channels of amplification matches its more costly sibling. So just what's been sacrificed to make the VSX-1016V so much more affordable?
Surface to air
Scratch the surface and you quickly realise that the front panel is plastic, and the VSX-1016X feels a bit less sumptuous than its cosmetically identical, alloy-clad brother. But its brutish looks and core facilities are startlingly similar, and feature sacrifices are surprisingly slim. Notable absences include the lack of digital video conversion circuitry, meaning only analogue video signals are upconverted, and there's no custom iPod connectivity either. But that's about it.
Pioneer's MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration) and Phase Control system have also been pared back to basic options. Nevertheless, they still make light work of balancing and tuning the receiver to your speakers and environment, and are an impressive inclusion at the price.
The VSX-1016 carries HDMI video but digital audio must be connected separately. Digital video signals routed through the Pioneer exhibit no sign of degradation from DVD and TV sources, and high definition signals pass through the Pioneer untainted. Analogue signals also fare well with the bleached colours in Jarhead, and any visible flaws are those associated with the signal's characteristic weaknesses.
Home cinema performance raises eyebrows at the price, and the VSX-1016V is full of energy. It puts in a remarkably potent performance with Jarhead on DVD, and surround effects move around the room with expert precession during the Middle East desert sequences. There's an authentic cinema sound that really draws you into the movie, and soundtracks are big and expansive, making flatscreen images seem even bigger than ever.
Its big movie sound is matched by a punchy music performance, and CD tracks from Muse's Origin of Symmetry album sound tremendous through the Pioneer. The Sound Retriever DSP mode does a good job of making compressed stereo music formats sound closer to the originals, which is good news for portable music player owners.
There are more than enough facilities to keep home cinema enthusiasts happy, and its sparkling performance easily rivals more expensive models. Pioneer's VSX-1016V surround sound receiver sacrifices little at the price.