The Hub loves its Pioneer VSX-1014 receiver at the heart of it’s home theater. At the time, it was a great buy since it had the same internals as Pioneer’s more expensive elite series and it was THX certified. It peaked my interested when Pioneer announced it was adding new lower cost receivers to their elite series: the VSX-30, VSX-31, VSX-32 and the VSX-33 ranging from $550 to $1000 suggested retail. It’s confusing since the highest end receiver in their standard line the VSX-1020 has a higher suggested retail than the VSX-30 (you can find the VSX-1020 for only $500 at Amazon). So much for simplifying the product line.
What’s the difference between these two receivers: They’re both 7.1 channel 3-D ready receivers with the latest audio decoding including Dolby ProLogic IIz (adds yet one more audio channel!). Both have about the same power output (80 watts). They both can interface with your iPhone/iPod Touch as well as controlled by it with a free app. They also have same Anchor Bay video processor. The 1020 does have some distinct advantages: Six HDMI inputs and a full set of analog inputs. The VSX-30 only has four and lacks the 7.1 analog inputs. It appears the elite series adds the ability to interface with control systems such as Crestron thanks to its RS-232 interface. The VSX-30 also comes with a two year warranty while the VSX-1020 comes with a one year warranty.
We’ll see once the reviewers get their hands on the VSX-30 if it has better sound but given the specs it seems unlikely. At the end of the day, I would go with the the VSX-1020 or if you are not interested in 3-D, last year’s model, the less expensive VSX-1019 for $400 will do quite nicely. If you are looking to drop some more bucks, at least opt for the VSX-32 which has a better video processor. The next real step up after that is the new SC-25 elite receiver ($1,800 SRP) which adds a Class-D power amplifier with 140 watts of distortion free sound. With it, you’ve left the budget home theater for listening nirvana.