Pioneer's Elite VSX-LX101, LX301, SC-LX501 AV Receivers Profiled

Power and flexibility make this Pioneer home theater trio worth considering

Pioneer Elite VSX-LX101 and VSX-LX301 Home Theater Receivers
Pioneer Elite VSX-LX101 and VSX-LX301 Home Theater Receivers. Images provided by Pioneer Electronics

Pioneer (whose home electronics business is now controlled by Onkyo) is well-known for its Elite home theater receiver line. The VSX-LX101, VSX-LX301, and SC-LX501 are three receivers in this line that that is definitely worth considering. Featuring a traditional box design, each receiver has a large front panel display surrounded by practical onboard controls. The rear panels feature a good complement of audio and video connections that are well-laid out.

However, although they all have a lot in common, there are differences that may lead you one that fits your needs. Let's check out what each offers and how they might fit into your home theater setup.

The VSX-LX101

To get things started, the VSX-LX101 lays the foundation for the Elite line, with solid features, and coming in at an initial suggested price of $500. Here is some of what it offers:

  • Amplifier Configuration and Power: The Elite LX-VSX101 incorporates Pioneer's Discrete Direct Energy Amps, and states the power output rating as 80 Wpc 8 ohms, 20Hz to  20kHz with a 0.08% THD, 2ch Driven FTC. For more details on what those power ratings mean with respect to real-world conditions, refer to our reference article: Understanding Amplifier Power Output Specifications.
  • Audio Decoding and Processing: For audio, the VSX-LX101 provides Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Atmos decoding (5.1.2 channel configuration), and DTS:X can be added via free firmware update. It is also important to note that VSX-LX101 also provides DTS Neo:X audio processing built-in, but when the DTS:X firmware update is applied, it will supersede that audio processing feature.
  • Hi-Res Audio: In addition to home theater surround decoding and processing, the VSX-LX101 also provides Hi-Res audio playback via a home network, smartphone/tablet, or direct USB connection. Compatible Hi-Res audio files include Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV, FLAC, AIFF, and DSD (2.8 MHz).
  • Speaker Setup: For ease of setup, Pioneer's MCACC is included for calibration of speaker levels, speaker distances, and both speaker and subwoofer EQ, using a supplied microphone and built-in test tone generator.

    The VSX-LX101 offers several speaker setup options, from a traditional 5.1, 7.1, or 7.2 channel speaker configuration, to a Bi-amp setup where four channels are devoted to compatible front speakers and 5.1.2 channel speaker Dolby Atmos setup option.

  • HDMI and Video:  The VSX-LX101 futures 6 HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 connections. HDMI capabilities include 3D and HDR pass-through, 4K pass-through at up to 60fps, 1080p to 4K upscaling, Audio Return Channel, and standby pass-through, which allows audio and video signals connected via HDMI to pass through the receiver even when the receiver is in standby mode.
  • The Internet and Direct Streaming: The VSX-LX101 also provides built-in Ethernet and Wifi for access to Internet Radio (TuneIn), Pandora, and TIDAL (via firmware update), as well as well as access to media files stored on compatible PCs and media servers.

    Direct streaming from compatible devices via Bluetooth Apple AirPlay, GoogleCast (via firmware update) is also provided, as well as access to content stored on USB flash drives can also be accessed directly via connection to the front mounted USB inputs.

  • Multi-Room Audio: In addition to the above internet and direct streaming features, a new capability being offered this year on the VSX-LX101 is the inclusion of FireConnect By BlackFire Research. This option will allow the LX101 to stream audio directly to compatible Pioneer (and possibly Onkyo) wireless speakers placed in other locations throughout the home (specific products to be announced later in 2016).
  • Control Options:  In addition to the provided remote control, management and control compatibility is also available via iPhone/iPad and some Android devices using Pioneer's iControlAV5 App.

The Elite VSX-LX301

The Elite VSX-LX301, coming in at an initial suggested price of $700, incorporates everything that the LX-VSX101 offers, but also offers the following additions that you might consider.

  • Power Output: Stated as 100 Wpc using the same testing standard used for the LX-101.
  • Video: Analog-to-HDMI video conversion, One component video input.
  • Connectivity: More analog and digital optical audio inputs, the addition of a front-mounted HDMI input (for a total of 7), as well as two HDMI outputs, which allows an additional HDMI source to be accessible in a second zone.
  • Zone 2 option: Allows 5.1 channel setup in the main room, combined with an independent 2-channel setup in another room using the VSX301's built-in amplifiers, or opting for 7.2 or 5.1.2 setup in the main room, as well as using a 2-channel setup in other room with the addition of optional external amplifiers.
  • Custom Control Integration: Inclusion of 12-volt triggers and an RS232C port. Custom control partners include Crestron, Control4, AMX, URC, RTI, Savant) is provided.

The Elite SC-LX501

The Elite SC-LX501, coming in at an initial suggested price of $1,000, builds up from both the LX101 and 301 further with some higher-end perks, but is still priced below most high-end receivers:

  • D3 Amps: The SC-LX501 incorporates upgraded amplifier design from that used in the VSX-101 and 301, referred to by Pioneer as D3 amplification. For more details, refer to Pioneer's Official D3 Page.
  • Power Output: Along the upgraded amplifier design, the stated power output for the SC-LX501 is 120 Wpc using the same test measurement standard as the VSX-LX101 and 301.
  • The SC-LX501 is also 4 ohms compatible and provides a higher stable power output capability of up to 200wpc per for that purpose.
  • Additional upgrades include heavy-duty chassis construction, fanless cooling system. and anti-standing wave insulator.

What The VSX-LX101, 301, and SC-LX501 Don't Have

The VSX-LX101, 301, and SC-LX501 offer quite a bit for the money, definitely making them worth considering for both home theater and audio streaming applications, but it is also important note that if you have older source components, that only the VSX-LX301 and SC-LX501 provide a component video input (but no output - converted to HDMI), and none of the receivers provide S-Video connections, or  5.1/7.1 channel input/output connections, and the LX101 does not provide a dedicated phono input.

The Bottom Line

Pioneer's Elite home theater receiver line offers up several models that are good fits for both midrange and high-end systems. With their combination of both core and convenient features, flexible connectivity and control options, and an excellent automatic speaker setup system, the three models spotlighted in this article are worth consideration.

VSX-LX101 - Buy From Amazon

VSX-LX301 - Buy From Amazon

SC-LX501 - Buy From Amazon.

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