Topic: Reviews of the new Pioneer Elite VSX-49TX THX Ultra2 Receiver: Found this over at the Spot. For those interested in this new flagship receiver, there is favorable test report in the February, 2002, issue of SOUND & VISION. Additionally, DVDPhdD.com has the following review: "To elevate yourself to the level of dominant competition has always been the task; to raise yourself above your competition is nearly impossible. With each passing year since the advent of DVD, consumer electronic companies, specifically digital sound companies such as Dolby and DTS, have strived to out do each other, with every new line of major receiver. We have seen pro-logic become Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital become Dolby Digital EX, and DTS become both DTS-ES Matrix and DTS-ES Discrete. With THX processing, we have seen THX 5.1 elevate into THX EX, and more recently with the Denon 4802, THX EX for 6.1 Discrete. Now, with multiple now processing and digital sound schemes on the horizon, one company has become an AV Receiver phoenix; rising from the ashes of past lags in technology to become a new powerhouse in receivers….Pioneer brings you the new VSX-49TX. To grand to describe a battle primarily fought the last few years between Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, and Pioneer? Not when you consider the impact the technical decisions made for these pieces make on the Consumer Electronics market. Last year, the Denon AVR-5800 set the standard as the true reference AV receiver, with DTS ES discrete processing, and THX EX. This year, the new 49TX from Pioneer includes all of the aforementioned goodies, but ups the ante with 96/24 DTS, THX post processing for DTS 6.1 discrete, and the new THX Ultra 2 processing. However, hands down most impressive, the new MCACC automatic calibration system. This is something that must be seen, rather heard, to believe. Out of the box, this is one big ass piece of home theater equipment. "Seventy three pounds-careful!" reads the UPS shipping label. Upon setting this beast on top of one of our review racks, I was astonished in the shear beauty that was emanating from such a rock of a piece. The Uroshi finish, prominent on all Elite pieces, shines like a new car. The finish alone will satisfy your wife in ways you haven't since college. The back of the unit reveals a whole gambit of connections. This one has everything you could want: three component in's, one out, multiple Svideo in's and out's, standard composite, RS-232, optical, coaxial, and one RF input. The unit also features one set of 8 channel in's, and a whole slew of pre-outs, including two sub outputs. Immediately, many will criticize the fact this piece has one 8 channel in compared to Denon's two, however, this is the way most new companies will be going, as to accommodate the fact that most new high-end players next year will have both multi-channel SACD and DVD-Audio. For the consumer who can't afford both, well, then one is practical if not extravagant, wouldn't you say? The unit's remote is pretty good in comparison to the problematic Aktis remote that ships with the Denon 5800, short of its lack of USB or PC connectivity. This is basically a souped up Home Theater Master, with a cool little stylus to boot. I was able to get most of my units in the lab functional by selecting their make and model, and others like TiVo I added in manually via the learning function. The unit is backlit, thank god, and the input labels are permanent and can not be changed other than applying a sticker or something to that effect. Memos can be added to each unit, for example, DVD becomes DVD Panasonic, or TV becomes TV Pioneer. Unlike the 5800, every function you need is one the remote, so your fat ass can get fatter and still enjoy all the features of your great new receiver. Let's talk power: this baby has 7x160 watts rated at 6ohms. That's a hair shorter than the Denon's, but it is also a difference in wording. Denon's power is subjective, as are all power ratings, to how they were initially measured. The unit never functions at that rating, and if it does, even the most demanding speakers would be doomed. Keep in mind, one important factor is the speaker itself, and its power rating. Our review lab has a great set of THX 150's from M&K, as well as a 350THX sub. We also use a pair of Martin and Logan's for testing music on the front end. The THX Ultra 2 standard allows for hook-up of 2ohms speakers to 16ohms, but don't switch them around. Don't go from a 4ohm speaker to an 8 speaker, of you'll like blow the amps. Going to 2 ohms from 4 isn't as much a problem, but you are better off sticking with one rating for all seven amps. The coolest feature of the 49TX is the MCACC automatic calibration system. A small mic is hooked to the front panel, and we placed the mic on a tripod at the listening point (a chair at ear level will suffice). The automatic calibration begins at a touch of a button, and the unit completely detects everything from sound level to speaker size, subwoofer, delay, and room acoustics. The room acoustics feature plays a tremendous difference in your sound quality, and can allow even the cyber-nerd with an apartment, a ten x ten living room, 65" HDTV, and this receiver to still enjoy good sound. After the 10 minute setup, you can manually compare your notes and measurements, but there isn't a tremendous amount of need. In comparison to my $8,000 acoustic meter, this thing was pretty damned good; good enough where I didn't change a setting. Now that's impressive! Every DSP and post digital sound scheme you could want is included for both DTS and Dolby Digital, including Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6. Between the two, DPLII sounds much deeper on most two channel sources, but Neo:6 does sound pretty good with THX processing in comparison to how it sounds on the Denon. This unit can add THX to everything including a new THX Music mode, except for the 8 channel in. You can, however, add your MCACC adjustments to the 8 channel in, making any need for audio setup in the DVD-A menu obsolete. This is one of the most needed an impressive features of the unit. Unlike the current version of the 5800, this unit does post processing for DTS 6.1 Discrete, and it is an amazing difference. The opening sequence on the Gladiator SE sounded much more lifelike than without the processing. A lot of this has to do with the MCACC feature, again. Another nifty feature, a built-in video "scaler" which converts all your cables to component if you are using a component setup to your TV. All S and composite signals are converted smoothly over, and the video switching is flawless. This unit handles all HD signals like a champ. Not included, the controversial firewire input. Why? Pioneer doesn't support HAVI on its pieces at this point. DVI and VSB connections are not present, either. THX Ultra 2 processing creates two rear centers with Dolby and DTS tracks that are NOT EX or ES encoded. It uses two different methods for both stereo and monaural surrounds, and the result is impressive. The rear centers are not as in-your-face as you would think, which is the way they needed to go with this one. It makes a noticeable difference on atmospheric soundtracks. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track on Xbox's Halo smoked with Ultra 2, and added to the creepy Sci-Fi feel of the soundtrack. In comparison to Logic 7, the Ultra 2 sounded much more like an original track, and not something re-created for HT. Also included are a whole slew of DSP environments and a great 7 channel stereo setting. Unlike the Denon, this unit does not offer a pure direct featuring, enabling multiple DAC's per channel; is this a disappointment? Definitely, but overall this unit rocks. Now to what everyone wants to know: how does the 49TX handle in comparison to both the 5800 and 989 from Onkyo? Features: no question goes to Pioneer. In side by side comparisons of all three units, the 49TX sounded the most lifelike and robust of the three. Power differences were not noticeable at all, and both the Denon and the Pioneer were smooth and quiet (unlike the excessively loud Onkyo). The Denon did sound great with Pure Direct on two channel sources, but even without the "pure direct" feature, the Pioneer's ability to use MCACC on the 8 channel input, as well as engaging your rear centers either as a new created channel, or as emulating the surrounds, make the decision easily go to Pioneer. Should you plop down four grand on this beast? Most definitely if you are in the market for a high-end piece that rivals, if not outdo, most separates today. Pioneer has raised the bar for Denon; next year should be interesting!"