Pioneer VSX-1020-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver


Pioneer VSX-1020-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front View w/Included Accessories
Pioneer VSX-1020-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front View w/Included Accessories. Photo (c) Robert Silva Licensed to

The Pioneer VSX-1020-K 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver provides practical features and good audio performance in an affordable package. Some features include 3D compatibility, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD decoding and Dolby Pro Logic IIz audio processing, 6 HDMI inputs, and analog to HDMI video conversion with 1080p video upscaling. Extra bonuses include direct iPod connection via USB port, Sirius Satellite radio compatibility, and Internet radio access via Ethernet connection to a home network (router).

After reading the following review, also check out my Photo Gallery and Video Performance Tests.

Product Overview

1. The Pioneer VSX-1020-K delivers 80 WPC into 8-Ohms (measured from 20Hz to 20Khz two channels driven - actual power output with 7 channels driven will be lower).

2. Audio Processing: Dolby and DTS surround sound processing options including DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Pro Logic IIz.

The VSX-1020-K also incorporates the HDMI™ Precision Quartz Lock System (PQLS) for jitterless audio transfer between the receiver and compatible Pioneer Blu-ray Disc Players for optimum audio CD playback.

3. Video Processing: HDMI pass-through of 3D and high-definition signals up to 1080p. Standard definition video signals are deinterlaced and can be upscaled up to 1080p utilizing PureCinema processing and Anchor Bay ABT-1015 deinterlacing/scaling chip. There are video settings for Output Resolution (Auto, Pure, 480p/576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p) Aspect Ratio (4x3, 16x9), Progressive Motion, Noise reduction, Detail, Sharpness, Brightness, Contrast, Hue, and Chroma Level.

4. Audio Inputs/Outputs: Two Coaxial and two Optical), Analog stereo audio connections and a subwoofer pre-out.

5. Video Inputs/Outputs: The Pioneer VSX-1020-K offers six HDMI inputs and one output, as well as two Component inputs and one output. There are four Composite Video and a VCR/DVR/DVD Recorder connection loop.

6. Front Panel Display, OSD, and LFE Features: The fluorescent front panel display and Onscreen menu system make setup and operation of the receiver easy and fast. Also featured is an adjustable crossover on the Subwoofer LFE pre-out channel.

7. AM/FM/Sirius Satellite Radio: AM/FM tuner and built-in Sirius satellite radio capability. Subscription and optional antenna are required for receiving Sirius Radio Service. 40 station presets provided that can be used for setting any combination of favorite AM/FM or Sirius stations or channels.

8. iPod and Flash Drive Connectivity: With the front mounted USB port you can plug an iPod directly into the VSX-1020-K without an additional accessory adapter. You can also connect USB flash drives.

9. Wired internet connectivity via provided Ethernet port. Provides access to internet radio stations.

10. Wireless Bluetooth connectivity via an optional adapter.

11. Lip Synch Adjustment (Sound Delay for non-HDMI sources and Auto Delay for HDMI sources): Allows the user to compensate for any audio/video time discrepancies.

12. Dialog Enhancement: Insures understandable center channel sound levels when listening to DVD or Blu-ray multi-channel soundtracks.

13. MCACC: By connecting the provided microphone and following the instructions outlined in the user manual, the 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. As an added bonus, completed MCACC settings can be stored on a USB flash drive for additional reference.

14. Zone 2 Operation: The Pioneer VSX-1020-K can be used in a full 7.1 channel configuration, or in a 5.1 channel configuration in the main home theater room, with simultaneous 2 channel operation in a second room. If you want to use the full 7.1 channels for the main room, you can still run an additional 2-channel system in another room by using the Zone 2 preamp outputs.

However, you will have to add a secondary amplifier to power the speakers in Zone 2.

The Zone 2 function allows control of either the same or separate, source than the one being listened to in the main room, in another location. The user can watch a Blu-ray Disc or DVD movie with surround sound in the main room, while someone else can listen to a CD player in another, at the same time. For details how the 2nd Zone feature is implemented, refer to page 30 in the Pioneer VSX-1020-K User Manual.

15. iPhone Remote Control App. A downloadable app allows an iPhone to be used for select remote control functions (see video demo).

Hardware Used

The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo TX-SR705, Harman Kardon AVR147.

Blu-ray Disc Players: OPPO BDP-83 and Sony BD-PS350 Blu-ray Disc players.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 1 (7.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center, 2 Polk R300s, Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

TV/Monitors: A Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor, and Syntax LT-32HV 720p LCD TV. Displays calibrated using SpyderTV Software.

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Cobalt, and AR Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used.

Level checks made using a Radio Shack Sound Level Meter

Software Used

The software used in this review included the following titles:

Blu-ray Discs used included scenes from from the following: 300, Across The Universe, Avatar (2D), Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2D), Hairspray, Iron Man, Kick Ass, Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour, The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, Transporter 3, and War of the Worlds (2005).

Standard DVDs used included scenes from the following: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - Sparks of Ancient Light, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Lisa Loeb - Firecracker, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

DVD-Audio discs included: Queen - Night At The Opera/The Game, Eagles - Hotel California, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Uninvisible, Sheila Nicholls - Wake.

SACD discs used included: Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon, Steely Dan - Gaucho, The Who - Tommy.

Audio Performance

The VSX-1020-K delivered an excellent surround image from both analog and digital sources in 5.1 or 7.1 channel setups.

This receiver processes DVD/Blu-ray sources cleanly with both the HDMI and Digital Optical/Coaxial connection options. I fed both uncompressed two and multi-channel PCM signals from the OPPO DV-980H and OPPO BDP-83 (via HDMI), as well as undecoded bitstream output to get a comparison between externally processed audio signals and the internal audio processing of the VSX-1020-K.

I also checked out the front height (Pro Logic IIz) option and wide surround speaker options, but was less impressed with those options. The use of Pro Logic IIz did provide a somewhat fuller sound field in front and above the listening space, filling gaps in the sound field in between and above the front left, center and right speakers moving towards the listening position, but was not as a dramatic improvement that would necessarily justify the added expense of purchasing additional speakers to take advantage of the effect. However, having this option does give consumers added flexibility in speaker setup.

The VSX-1020-K also offers Zone 2 setup. Running the 5.1 channel mode for the main room and using the two spare channels (normally devoted to the surround back speakers) I was able to access DVD and Blu-ray audio in the main 5.1 channel setup and access CD playback (using analog audio connections) in the two channel setup in another room. Also, I could run the same music source in both rooms simultaneously, one using the 5.1 channel configuration and second using 2 channels.

The VSX-1020-K can perform second zone operation with its own amplifiers or using a separate external amplifier via Zone 2 preamp output. It is important to note that only analog audio sources are available in a 2nd Zone. Refer to the VSX-1020-K user manual for specifics on this feature.

My only major audio complaint is that VSX-1020-K does not also offer a set of 5.1/7.1 channel analog audio inputs or outputs.

Video Performance

The VSX-1020-K has just about all the video connections you need, including HDMI, Component, and Composite video connections, but S-Video is not included (S-video connections are being eliminated on many receivers).

The VSX-1020-K offers both analog video upscaling to resolutions up to 1080p and can also pass a native 1080p source unprocessed through to a 1080p television or monitor.

The image on a Westinghouse LVM-37w3 1080p monitor showed no visible difference, whether the signal came directly from one of the 1080p source players or was routed through the VSX-1020-K before reaching the monitor.

What this means is that the VSX-1020-K provides excellent pass through and switching of HDMI source signals. Blu-ray Disc and DVDs upscaled by the DVD or Blu-ray Disc player looked great.

On the other hand, when connecting a standard resolution, non already upscaled (480i) source using a composite video connection and Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD as a reference test tool, the video processor of the Pioneer VSX-1020-K does a below average job on factors such 480i to 480p conversion and 1080p video upscaling.

The tests showed poor deinterlacing on rotating/bouncing lines, average-to-below average deinterlacing on flag waving motion, and inconsistent film/video cadence detection, including the important 3:2 cadence was well as the 2:2, 2:2:2:4, 2:3:3:2, 3:2:3:2:2, 5:5, 6:4, and 8:7 cadences.

On the other hand, the VSX-1020-K did well in reducing video noise and adding detail enhancement without additional artifacts.

For a look at test results, refer to my Video Performance Tests.

Note: 3D pass-through was not tested, as a 3D-enabled TV and Blu-ray Disc Player were not available for this review.

What I Liked

1. Excellent audio performance, extensive surround sound settings, including front-stage surround that only requires front speakers and subwoofer.

2. 6 HDMI inputs (5 rear/1 front) and front USB port for iPod/Flash Drive content.

3. MCACC speaker setup system works very well. It is easy to make any additional manual adjustments for personal preference.

4. Direct iPod connectivity/control without the need for a docking station. iPod A/V adapter cable provided.

5. Internet connectivity via Ethernet with access to a selection of Internet Radio Stations.

6. Large front Panel LED display. The front panel display is easy to read from across a medium-size room.

What I Didn't Like

1. No 5.1/7.1 Channel Analog audio inputs or outputs. For a home theater receiver has so many other great audio features, this is an odd omission.

2. Below average video processing. Poor deinterlacing capability, but does do well with detail enhancement and video noise reduction.

3. No S-video Connections, no analog A/V inputs on the front panel.

4. Remote control has small buttons, User manual not always well laid-out.

5. No dedicated phono turntable input.

Final Take

The VSX-1020-K offers convenient and abundant features. Two of my favorites are the front mounted HDMI and USB ports. However, on the analog side, the lack of 5.1/7.1 channel analog inputs and outputs is disappointing.

This is one of the least expensive receivers to offer 1080p video upscaling, but I found this aspect of the 1020-K's performance in this area to be somewhat disappointing, just as it was with its predecessor, the VSX-1019-AH-K It would have been nice to see some improvement in this area.

As an added note, although the VSX-1020-K is HDMI 1.4 equipped, it does not incorporate the Audio Return Channel feature that is common on most of HDMI 1.4-equipped home theater receivers.

The VSX-1020-K offers excellent audio performance, digital audio/video connectivity, and innovative features, such as comprehensive MCACC setup, Internet Radio access, Bluetooth, and even an iPhone remote control app, but points need to be deducted for the lack of some analog connection options, non-support of Audio Return Channel or standby video HDMI pass-through, and below average video deinterlacing/scaling performance. However, taking all into consideration, the VSX-1020 is a very good home theater receiver choice for its suggested $549 price point.

For additional perspective on the Pioneer VSX-1020-K, check out my supplementary Photo Gallery and Video Performance Tests.

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