Pioneer Elite VSX-42 and VSX-60 Home Theater Receivers

Pioneer Elite VSX-60 7.2 Channel Network Ready AV Receiver
Pioneer Elite VSX-60 7.2 Channel Network Ready AV Receiver. Pioneer Electronics

Introduction to the Pioneer Elite VSX-42 and VSX-60 Home Theater Receivers

Pioneer's first two entries in its Elite Home Theater Receiver line-up for 2012 are the VSX-42 and VSX-60. Both receivers incorporate a host of features. Here is a look at the features they have in common as well as their differences, plus some things they don't include.

Amplifier Characteristics

Starting off with the basics, the Pioneer VSX-42 and VSX-60 both incorporate Pioneer's Direct Energy amplifier design, with the VSX-42 rated at 80 watts per channel (x7), measured with 2 channels driven from 20Hz to 20kHz, with a THD of .08%, and the VSX-60 rated at 90 watts per channel (x7), measured with 2 channels driven from 20Hz to 20kHz, with a THD of .08%.

It is important to note that in operation with all channels driven, actual sustained power output will lower than what is stated here.

Audio Decoding and Processing

The VSX-42 and VSX-60 feature audio decoding for Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and Dolby Digital 5.1/EX/Pro logic IIx, DTS 5.1/ES, 96/24, Neo:6.

Dolby Prologic IIz

The VSX-42 and VSX-60 both provide Dolby Prologic IIz processing. Dolby Prologic IIz offers the option of adding two more front speakers that are placed above the left and right main speakers. This feature adds a "vertical" or overhead element to the surround sound experience.

Virtual Speakers

The VSX-60 also provides an additional processing mode, referred to as Virtual Speakers. This processing mode expands the perceived surround sound field by giving the listener the impression that sound is coming from areas (height, wide, back) of the room where there are no physical speakers actually set up.

PQLS

Another adjunct to audio processing that Pioneer provides on the VSX-60 is PQLS (Precision Quartz Lock System). This feature provides jitterless digital audio playback (CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs) from HDMI connected Pioneer Blu-ray Disc players that also have the PQLS feature.

Loudspeaker Connections and Configuration Options

The VSX-42 can be used in a 7.1 channel configuration (the VSX-60 can be used in a 7.2 channel configuration), or a 5.1 channel setup in the main home theater room, with simultaneous 2 channel operation in another room using the "B" speaker connection option.

However, if you still want to use 7.1 or 7.2 channels in your main room, you can still run a 2-channel system in an additional room (referred to as Zone 2) by using the Zone 2 preamp outputs. In this setup, you will have to add an amplifier(s) to power the speakers in Zone 2.

For the main zone, speaker connection options are provided for a front left and right channel or for height a channel speaker setup when using Dolby Pro Logic IIz. The VSX-60 provides additional Bi-Amp and wide speaker setup options. When setting up your speaker configuration, go into the VSX-42 and VSX-60's settings menu to reassign the amplifiers for the option that best fits your speaker setup.

Audio Inputs and Outputs

Both receivers have assignable digital audio inputs. The VSX-42 has one coaxial and one optical audio input. The VSX-60 has two each of both digital optical and coaxial inputs. One additional set of analog only stereo audio connections is provided. The VSX-42 has one subwoofer output, while the VSX-60 provides two.

Video Processing

On the video side, both receivers also feature 1080p video upscaling for all video input sources. The VSX-60 utilizes QDEO video processing by Marvell, while the VSX-42 features the Anchor Bay processing chip.

It is interesting to point out that although Marvell QDEO processing allows for 4K upscaling, Pioneer appears not have chosen to implement this function, even though some competitors have.

The VSX-60 also features "Stream Smoother" technology, which is designed to compensate for compression artifacts present in video signals that are streamed from the internet. An "Advanced Video Adjust" feature is also included in the VSX-60 for fine tuning motion response, video noise reduction, details, as well as brightness, contrast, hue, chroma, and black level. This is very practical as you don't have to change your TV's picture settings for other components connected to your TV that do not go through the VSX-60.

Video Inputs and Outputs

The VSX-42 has six 3D-compatible HDMI inputs and one output, as well as one set of component inputs. There are two composite video (which are paired with analog stereo audio inputs), plus a front panel composite video input.

VSX-60 adds an additional HDMI input, which is mounted in the front (for a total of 7), an additional component video input (for a total of 2), and another set of composite video/analog audio inputs (for a total of three).

AM/FM, Internet Radio, Network Connectivity, USB

The VSX-42 and VSX-60 both have a standard AM/FM tuner that can be used for setting any combination of favorite AM/FM stations. The VSX-42 provides 30 presets while the VSX-60 provides 63 presets.

The VSX-42 and VSX-60 both provide music streaming and internet radio access from Pandora and vTuner (The VSX60 adds Sirius Internet Radio). Both receivers are also Windows 7 Compatible and DLNA Certified for access to digital media files stored on PCs, Media Servers, and other compatible network-connected devices, and is also compatible with Pioneer's iControlAV2 and Air Jam Apps.

A USB port is provided on both receivers for access to digital media files and firmware update files stored on USB plug-in devices, as well as content stored iPods, iPhones, iPads. There is also a rear mounted docking port for additional accessory plug-ins, such as a Bluetooth adapter, which allows wireless streaming from portable Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Apple Airplay

The VSX-42 and VSX-60 incorporate Apple iPod, iPhone, and iPad compatibility.

Just plug in any of those Apple devices using the provided connection cable and you can access iTunes and Apple AirPlay features.

Audio Return Channel

The VSX-42 and VSX-60 both incorporate the Audio Return Channel feature. This allows, if you have an Auto Return Channel compatible TV, the ability transfer audio from the TV back to the VSX-42 or VSX-60 and listen to your TV's audio through your home theater audio system instead of the TV's speakers without having to connect a second cable between the TV and home theater system.

In other words, you don't have to make an extra audio connection from your TV to your home theater receiver to access the audio from originating from the TV. You can simply take advantage of the HDMI cable you already have connected between the TV and the home theater receiver to transfer audio in both directions.

MCACC

Both receivers also include MCACC is Pioneer's built-in automatic speaker setup system. The VSX-42 comes with the standard MCACC system, while the VSX-60 provides a more refined version.

In order to take advantage of either version, you connect the provided microphone and following the instructions outlined in the user manual, MCACC uses a series of test tones to determine the proper speaker levels, based on how it reads the speaker placement in relation to the acoustical properties of your room. You may still have to some minor adjustments manually after the automatic set up is completed in order to conform to you own listening tastes.

Remote Control App and Custom Integration

A downloadable app allows an iPhone to be used for select remote control functions for both the VSX-42 and VSX-60.

Also, for those that want to incorporate either the VSX-42 or VSX-60 into a custom installation that includes centralized control, both receivers have 12-volt triggers and IR serial remote in/out connections. In addition, the VSX-60 incorporates RS-232C PC control interface connection, and is compatible with Control4, AMX, RTI and Universal Remote custom control systems.

Feature Omissions

Although both the VSX-42 and VSX-60 definitely offer a lot of cutting-edge features for the price, if you haven't shopped for a home theater receiver in a while, there are omissions that becoming part of a trend that you should take into consideration.

One omission is the lack of S-Video inputs or outputs.

Also, there are no Multi-channel analog input or output connections. Multi-channel analog inputs are important if you have an older SACD or DVD/SACD/DVD-Audio player that may not have HDMI connections, and must rely on these connections to access multi-channel uncompressed audio. On the other hand, ​multi-channel analog outputs on a receiver are handy if you want to bypass the amplifiers in the receiver by connecting an external amplifier to provide increased power output, effectively turning the receiver into a preamp/processor.

In addition, there is no dedicated phono input connection on either receiver. If you want to connect a turntable to either the VSX-42 and VSX-60, you may either an additional Phono Preamp in order to connect to one of the provided audio inputs or purchase a turntable that has a built-in phono preamp that will work with the audio connections provided on the VSX-42 and VSX-60. If you are planning to purchase a turntable, check for this feature.

My Take

Pioneer started their 2012 Elite Home Theater Receiver line-up with two similar units, the VSX-42 and VSX-60. Both offer cutting edge features that accommodate the increasing number of digital and internet-based content sources. However, as with most home theater receivers across all price ranges, some important, but now less used, connection options are no longer included.

For more details that I wasn't able to provide here, including more specifics on audio and internet/network streaming capabilities, check out the Pioneer's official product pages and documentation for the Elite VSX-42 and VSX-60 home theater receivers.