Pioneer return after a four year absence with a brace of new mid-range AV receivers: the VSX-LX505 and VSX-LX305. In USA, these AVRs form part of Pioneer’s ‘Elite’ range, and while not badged as such on this side of the pond, apart from the branding they appear to be the same.
The costlier VSX-LX505 claims 180W-per-channel into 8ohms, compared to 170W on the VSX-LX305. Other differences include the VSX-LX505’s ability to decode up to 11.2 channels, while the VSX-LX305 is limited to 9.2, and the latter also has a stripped down set of legacy connections.
In all other respects the feature sets are identical, with nine channels of built-in amplification and support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX Enhanced. They also include HDMI 2.1 support across six inputs that can handle HDR10+ and next-gen gaming features like 4K/120p and VRR.
New for this generation is the adoption of Dirac Live room correction, although the two receivers also include Pioneer’s proprietary room correction software – Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System (MCACC) room ‘tuning’ acoustic calibration software.
The Pioneer VSX-LX305 immediately reveals one of the brand’s major strengths: a forthright and muscular delivery of multichannel film soundtracks. If you like your movies big and bold, this is the AV receiver for you to seriously consider. That’s not to say it’s bad with music, but there are more melodious options.
However, this lack of explicit musicality is made up for by a dramatic performance that gives a film like Elvis added ‘Viva Las Vegas’. The precise Dolby Atmos decoding brings the concert halls to life, while the music enjoys clarity and focus, plus tight bass that gives the drums greater impact.
The sci-fi action bonanza, Edge of Tomorrow perfectly demonstrates the strengths of the VSX-LX305, from the nimble way it decodes multichannel audio, to the power of its nine channels of built-in amplification. As a result, the visceral beach landing becomes a frenetic sonic assault on the senses that utterly delights.
The processor steers sounds seamlessly from speaker-to-speaker, while Dirac reveals a better sense of tonal balance compared to Pioneer’s own MCACC, ensuring there’s no change in the sonic signature as the effects move around. And no matter how chaotic the action, dialogue always remains clear.
This film has serious amounts of bass, and Dirac’s superiority at eliminating the worst acoustic aspects of a room smooths out the frequency response, ensuring bass that’s deep and controlled. How deep will depend on your sub, but the global crossover (a setting applied to all the channels) didn’t adversely affect sound quality.
Black Adam has an equally bass-heavy and bombastic sound mix, and the Pioneer produces the necessary scale and slam to perfectly complement the film’s titular muscle-bound anti-hero. The Dolby Atmos track employs all the channels with verve, enveloping you in the action.
There’s excellent use of the overhead channels as the sounds of gunfire ricochet around the room, and a malevolent low-end rumble whenever The Rock takes to the skies, followed by a series of sledgehammer punches as he dispatches bad guys with a brutal ferocity.
The VSX-LX305 ability to orchestrate all the channels at its disposal results in a believable three-dimensional bubble of sound, especially if you’re using four overhead channels. So whether its Atmos, DTS:X or IMAX Enhanced, film fans are in for an object-based immersive audio treat.
There’s a host of advanced surround modes such as Classical, Drama, Game, Action, Sports etc., but I tend to avoid any sonic manipulation in favour of the original mix. Having said that the Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X upmixers can breathe life into older soundtracks with surprising skill.
The Pioneer VSX-LX305 sports the brand’s classic AV receiver design, with an input dial on the left, a volume dial on the right, and a display sandwiched between. Beneath this are some basic controls, a headphone jack, and an HDMI 2.0 input. There’s also a USB port and mic setup jack.
The build quality is good for a mid-range model, but not exceptional, with a brushed metal front plate and a choice of matte black or silver finishes. The included remote control is disappointing – a simple black plastic affair that feels cheap and doesn’t even include a backlight. It feels like a bit of an afterthought.
Thankfully the Pioneer Remote App is excellent, with a well-designed interface that’s a joy to use. It provides access to multiroom and streaming functionality, control features, and various setup options, including Dirac Live. The app-based interface for the latter is a first for an AV receiver.
At the rear Pioneer has stripped away most of the legacy connections, with only single optical and coaxial digital inputs, along with four analogue stereo inputs. Vinyl addicts will be delighted to learn there’s a phono (MM) input, plus a built-in DAB/FM tuner for any radio fanatics out there.
The emphasis is on HDMI 2.1, with six inputs and dual outputs at the back, all of which are fully compliant with features such as 8K/60p, plus upscaling if necessary, Dolby Vision, and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode). One output supports anEnhanced Audio Return Channel, more commonly know as eARC. This allows a connected TV to send its audio (and the audio of anything connected to the TV) losslessly back to the receiver via the same HDMI connection.
The other handles a second zone, which is usually another room.
There’s an Ethernet port and extensive wireless connectivity, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, and Chromecast. Multiroom functionality is offered through DTS Play-Fi, Roon Ready, and Sonos Connect, while you can stream music using services like Amazon, Spotify, Tidal and Deezer.
The onscreen interface has been given a long-overdue upgrade, and is now not only informative and intuitive, but also a good looker. Setup is a piece of cake thanks to a wizard that takes you through the entire process. There’s also a web-based interface for additional tweakery.
The VSX-LX305 has nine channels built-in, and uses Pioneer’s Direct Energy Class AB amps to drive the system. The 170W per a channel should be sufficient for most rooms, which is just as well because there are no pre-outs (aside from two subwoofers), so you can’t upgrade the power.
This receiver supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced, but like the amplification is also limited to 9-channel processing. This means you can't expand the channel count, and the largest speaker layout you choose is either 5.1.4 or 7.1.2. I’d go for the latter if that’s an option.
One other setup observation worth mentioning is a global crossover setting that applies to all the channels. The crossover is the frequency at which anything below a certain level is sent to the subwoofer rather than a speaker. Most receivers allow you to set the crossover for each speaker individually, but the Pioneer only has a global control for all speakers simultaneously. You can choose between 50, 80, 100, 150 and 200Hz, but you’re limited by whichever speaker in your system has the highest low frequency response.
Pioneer has offered its own MCACC in its receivers for years, and while easy to use, it does tend to struggle when it comes to smoothing out and integrating the bass. This new AVR supports Dirac Live room correction, a superior third-party platform that in this case uses an app-based interface.
This is the first time I’ve seen Dirac implemented this way, and it makes the entire process easier and far less intimidating. You do the initial setup via the receiver, before connecting the mic and then simply follow the instructions. The Dirac app displays the results in a similar way to the more common laptop-based implementation, although options for fine tuning are limited. When comparing MCACC and Dirac, it was obvious the latter delivered smoother bass, greater cohesion, and better overall tonal balance.
The Pioneer VSX-LX305 delivers muscular multichannel heroics, making it ideal for film fans, while a host of streaming options also cater to music lovers. Gamers aren’t forgotten either, with HDMI 2.1 connectivity ensuring they can enjoy next-gen gaming features like 4K/120p and VRR.
All the main immersive audio formats are supported, with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced, plus the VSX-LX305 can handle every variety of HDR. The addition of Dirac Live is welcome because, not only is it superior to Pioneer’s MCACC, but the app makes it easy to use.
The design is minimalist, the build quality decent, and the display informative. There are plenty of HDMI ports, plus extensive wireless connectivity, and while the legacy inputs are stripped down, you still get a phono input and built-in tuner. The remote disappoints, but the app is great.
The nine channels of amplification and 9.2-channel processing are more than enough for modest-sized rooms, but there’s no path to expand the channel count or increase the power. However if you feel you might need more of either, the VSX-LX505 offers both for an extra £200.
Black Adam (4K Blu-ray)
The Rock plays the DC character with muscular charm, and this comic-book adaptation is enhanced by Atmos immersion. Bullets ricochet around you, the overheads get a thorough workout, and shed-loads of bass punctuates every super-powered punch.
Elvis (4K Blu-ray)
This Oscar-nominated biopic about The King features a star-making turn by Austin Butler, and a glorious Dolby Atmos soundtrack that delivers all the hits in style. It’s a great test of a system’s musicality, while the ‘If I Can Dream’ sequence will bring a tear to the eye.
Edge of Tomorrow (4K Blu-ray) Groundhog Day meets Saving Private Ryan in this time-loop sci-fi actioner. The newly minted Dolby Atmos soundtrack will test any system’s cohesiveness during the oft-repeated beach assault, while subterranean bass will reveal any weakness at the low-end.
The Pioneer VSX-LX305 produces the kind of in-your-face delivery that will delight anyone who enjoys aggressively immersive movie soundtracks. However, the addition of Dirac Live also ensures the soundstage is cohesive and tonally balanced, with seamless steering and smooth but deep bass. Decent build quality, extensive features, and forward-looking connectivity round out a solid mid-range offering from a brand that’s been absent from the stores for too long.