Well I got my hands on the 74TXVi very recently and decided to put it up against my 54TX. First off, a lot of people were worried, from the research that I've done, that the lighter weight and also the smaller capacitors (compared to the 56TXi) would ultimately make the receiver hurt, sound quality-wise. My comparison/review today is not quite comparing the 56TXi which the 74TXVi is supposed to be closer related to but, rather the 54TX. I've heard the 56TXi and marginal improvements over the 54TX, but not worlds better. The differences, in fact were minimal or very slight. That being said, let me kick off this review saying that the 74TXVi is QUITE different sounding than that of the 54TX's sound. But more on that in a little bit. Getting started I unpacked this receiver. And it was slightly lighter than that of even the 54TX. The 74TXVi is 35.3lbs, whereas the 54 is 39.7lbs and the 56 is 44.8lbs. Looks like Pioneer got rid of some excess weight. Not to mention what people were worried about that extra weight also came off the capacitors as well. So not as beefy as last years models but, oh well. Dimension-wise, it’s roughly the same size as it’s predecessors (very slight variance). Hooking it up, I noticed I liked the layout of this receiver’s input/outputs better than that of the 54TX. I had a huge problem with the component in/outs and trying to get them in with the limited viewing space of the rear of my entertainment rack. The important connections are more towards the bottom which, suits my needs just that much more. Not to mention, the 74 has one extra component in, 2 more Optical in’s, HDMI, plus a plethora of more connectivity variances than the 54TX. The binding posts use the same connectors as that of the 56TXi and the 54TX. So after all that’s said and done, I’m finally hooked up. Next, I move on to tweaking the settings. I like the feel of the OSD on the 74TXVi more than I do of the 54TX. Things seem a bit better laid out for me and menus seem slightly easier for me to navigate (also more self explanatory). I set everything up and am ready to move on. I finally get this thing ready to calibrate. One of the biggest selling points on this latest model of Elites is the Advanced MCACC. It builds upon an already outstanding Auto Acoustic Calibration system. Major key points that I was looking forward to testing out was the 9 band EQ as opposed to a simple 5 band EQ, X-Curve (which does the same thing as THX room curve), Phase Control, and Standing Wave Control. After letting the MCACC do its thing and calibrate my speakers, I popped in the AVIA disk and also the DVE disk to check to see how accurate it was. Surprise to me, it was actually very close! I think I had to adjust the center speaker about .5 db in one direction, but other than that, the rest of the speakers were right on the money! Of course, some odd reason, the sub is always (and has always come out) hot whenever I do the acoustic calibration, so I dialed it down to my preference of flat with the rest of the speakers (2-3dB lower on the SPL meter). So it’s time to test out a couple of demo disks. One that I really like using for surround sound usage is the THX Ultimate Demo DVD. There’s a jungle demo that has very nice panning effects. Not to mention the SW: Episode I Pod Race in DTS-ES. So first thing I notice with the surrounds is that they are more detailed! Also, panning across speakers seems to transition better than they used to. Smoother panning overall and not to mention more clarity. This receiver seems not to be brighter in sound, but more detailed. The warmth that I’ve grown accustom to with the 54TX is still there, but there’s just a level of clarity that has been heightened. The surrounds especially are more detailed than I remember. The surrounds still don’t call attention to themselves, but rather, the sound has a better sense of realism. The sound stage also seems to have opened up even more. Need I not forget to mention HOW much better the bass sounds. With the Phase Control and also Standing Wave Control, the bass seems tighter, quicker, and more transparent. Might I also mention that I have EQ’ed my sub already to a pretty flat response, probably give or take +/- 2 to 3dB. But even with the new addition in features for the sub, it even helped the sound that much more! Next I moved to The Incredibles. Yet another great movie to test out surround sound. Like I mentioned before, details that I didn’t notice before came alive. Music soundtrack seemed to open up and also again… smoother panning. Now, I move onto Diana Krall’s Live in Paris DVD. This is one great sounding DVD, might I add. Anyway, it sounded great with the 54TX, but the realism is just THAT much better with the 74TXVi. The clarity now is incredible. Instruments can be better picked out from the sound stage as well. Vocals seem clearer. Overall, a VERY nice improvement! I tested a couple of CDs very briefly and then had to take care of some business. But overall, I am loving the sound of the 74TXVi. Like I mentioned it’s quite different than the sound of the 54TX and from what I recall of the 56TXi. Now, onto a couple of bad points… There aren’t many, but every receiver has them… I do not like the remote. First of all, it’s not backlit, which could make things hard. The layout is kind dumb as well. The buttons are small and the overall feel of the remote itself is pretty cheap. After initial set up I haven’t really used it all that much since I have a universal remote, but if you are planning on using different remotes to control different things, look out for this remote. I’d suggest investing in a universal remote or something just better than the one they provide. I also want to mention the front of the receiver itself. One thing I don’t really agree with is the addition of blue lights. It uses a bright blue light on the power button whenever the unit is on, and also uses a bright blue light right in the dead center of the unit. I turn the front panel dimmer down all the way anyway, so it turns most of the lights off, but still, I’m not a fan of blue lights. The Oppo I own uses blue lights and there’s also a single blue light on my Monster Power Conditioner that stands out pretty abnoxiously. If you like blue lights, then you probably won’t mind at all, but to me… I’d rather have orange lettering, red lights, yellow lights, or even green is okay too, blue just stands out too much. Aside from the blue lights, though, I like the improved faceplate of the Elite series. Although, dimensions aren’t any bigger than they were before, the front just looks slightly beefier. Concluding, I’d just like to say, if you are worried about upgrading and you were looking at the 54TX or the 56TXi, try considering the 74TXVi. HDMI upconversion, more inputs overall, better Auto EQ, better features, ESPECIALLY with the phase control and the Standing Wave Control, and not to mention the (subjective) better sound quality. Whether it’s worth an upgrade from the 54TX or 56TXi to the 74TXVi is entirely up to you. In my situation it would be. The sound and the features wins hands down for me. And not to mention, if I ever go separates, this will serve as a WONDERFUL pre/pro. Several people elsewhere have also mentioned going from the 56TXi to the 74TXVi was a pretty big improvement so you’ll have to take their word on that. But judging from my comparison from the 54TX to the 74TXVi, I’d say it’s pleasantly different!