Test system: Pioneer VSX-D2011 (45tx) receiver B&W DM 602s3 fronts B&W DM 601s3 rears B&W LCR60 s3 centre Velodyne CHT-10 sub Toshiba 520E DVD-V/DVD-A/CD Wharfedale 750S DVD/CD Introduction I used a Marantz SR7300 for a month with my system when I first built it so that will be the basis for most comparisons. I sent it back due to the high pitched which problem that has been mentioned by several people. While waiting for my Pioneer to arrive I used a Sherwood Newcastle r-925 that I borrowed from a friend. It must be about 6/7 years old with few features and poor noise floor. It is not in the same league as the Pioneer or Marantz. I was not able to AB any of the receivers so my comparisons must be taken with a pinch of salt. Build This thing is very well built. WHF got the big and bold looks thing right, that’s for sure. I think it is more stylish than other receivers in its class (3803, 555ES, SR7300). You will need a lot of space for it though and a fairly solid stand, net weight is 19.6 kg. Set-up This is easy to get most of the way there, but for perfection quite some tweaking is needed. The auto set-up routine does a very nice job but the instructions are either wrong or misleading. They seem to say after it has done the calibration I can change the speaker sizes if I think it got them wrong and it will redo the acoustic equalisation. I don’t seem to have this option, just check the settings it has selected or exit. I messed around with large speakers, the plus setting for sub and a couple of crossover frequencies. Most of them gave a far from seamless transition from sub to front for bas frequencies. In the end I settled on 80Hz crossover and small for all speakers. This does give a smooth handover between the sub and other speakers. Of course YMMV. Processing This receiver supports every mode under the sun. I’ve even found some of the DSP settings useful. Drama for example is good for watching dialogue heavy TV shows like ER or the West Wing. DPL2 and DTS Neo 6 are often good but occasionally output strange sounds from the rear speakers. My SR7300 did exactly the same thing so I doubt it has anything to do with the receiver. I assume they are both having a hard time filtering out vocal sounds and so the results are not quite perfect. There is very little delay locking on to a digital signal, it is faster than my SR7300, although I did notice a very small amount of static on occasion when skipping tracks on my Wharfedale 750S DVD/CD player. This only happens when using a digital connection. There is no such problem when using the analogue outputs of my Toshiba 520E (4800 in the US) or the optical output. Sound Quality I am impressed. Switching between direct mode and stereo on a music CD gives a big difference. I tested this using large fronts so that I wasn’t getting sub output on one and not on the other BTW. My speakers are terribly placed. My front right speaker is far too close to the wall and my rears are just a mess. I used to notice that dialogue coming through the centre speaker did not sound natural, far too much bass in the voice. Also the mid to high bass range was a bit on the boomy side. I’m fairly sure this is due to speaker placement as I mentioned. With MCACC turned on though this all goes away. Movie sound is excellent, even at low volumes dialogue is perfectly clear. DRC is available and I recommend people try it unless they listen at or near reference level. Positioning of sounds is also good. I can’t really fault the movie performance at all. I’m not sure it is a massive improvement over the SR7300 as I didn’t AB them but that sounded good in the first place. Music with MCACC turned on is a shock at first. It sounds a little bright and thin as the boomy bass disappears and highs are accentuated (remember the effect will vary hugely between setups). After about 30 minutes of listening to it though I found switching MCACC off to sound awful in comparison. Separation of vocals and instruments is MUCH better with MCACC on. Turning it off let the boomy bass return and the highs sounded muffled. Despite the fact that MCACC is doing a lot of processing to the sound it actually sounds a lot more natural with it on than off. Some people may find it a little too accurate but you can tweak the settings. Just moving them closer to 0 from which ever direction they went will bring the sound back towards what you are used to. Despite the big change in sound in my system I have not found this necessary. Music sounds good. I compare mainly to my Sennheiser HD580 head phone as I think they give a better sound than my speakers can. When I switched from headphones to speaker with my SR7300 I remember thinking it sounded muffled by comparison. The Pioneer has fixed this. It still can’t compete on bass though. The definition and separation is definitely better through the head phones than my speakers. Of course I would suggest the blame for this lies with the speakers rather than the receiver. If I ever get the money together I’m sure some B&W CDM 9NTs would make a big difference here. Remote This is similar to the one that came with my SR7300. It is large and takes 4 AA batteries so isn’t exactly light. It is fairly intuitive to use though. One difference between the two is that with the Marantz you pressed a source once to control it and twice to select the source for playback on the receiver. With the Pioneer pressing a source button selects it for playback and control. You can disable the source switch and just control, but then to select it as a source you have to cycle through them as you no longer have direct access. I hope you can understand that! I think I preferred the Marantz method, as I frequently have the DVD and CD player on at the same time and like to control both without switching source. The way around this is to point the remote away from the receiver when I press the button, but that isn’t exactly convenient. I programmed control for my STB, VCR, TV, DVD and CD into the remote and it ran out of memory before I finished. The Marantz didn’t do this. I redid it missing out some nonessential functions and everything fitted. I was only able to use preset controls for my DVD player. There was nothing that worked for my Nokia STB, LG VCR, Wharfedale DVD/CD player or even my Sony TV! Multi-channel input I only have 1 DVD-A, REM – Automatic for the People. I hooked up the 3 sets of analogue connections from my Toshiba DVD player and stuck on REM. This is a bit of a disappointment, although again it is not the fault of the receiver. You can’t do any processing of the sound like applying MCACC when using the multi-channel in so I was back to the boomy, definition lacking sound I had in direct mode. After listening for a while I decided I’d rather have MCACC turned on and so used the full rate DTS track instead of the higher quality DVD-A track. The only time I would use the DVD-A track is in stereo using headphones. Again better positioning and possibly better speakers would probably change this. Power My room is 24’ x 13’ x 10’. The speakers are in about 2/3 of the room towards the end with the TV in it. For music normal listening level is -30 to 50 depending on my mood. For movies -30 is normal, -25 is starting to get loud. At -10 it is very loud and I would not listen to anything at that volume for more than a few minutes and even then I would have to be at the opposite end of the room. I’ve pushed it up to -0. Sound remains perfectly clear with no discernable distortion. My Marantz did the same though. I think the Marantz may have had slightly more power in 2 channel but I also think I’m slightly deafer now than I was then so they are probably about the same. The SR7300 is rated at 105W per channel BTW. Other I don’t use any of the video switching capabilities so I’m afraid I can make no comment on that area. I tried the USB connection to my PC and it worked perfectly first time. It’s great for a no hassle way to get stereo sound from PC to receiver without even needing a soundcard. I also output PCM stereo and AC3 from my PC, both of which the receiver dealt with fine. The tuner serves it purpose. It’s easy to use. There are 5 digital connections, 3 optical and 2 coax. This is enough for me but I would have preferred another of each. You can set levels individually for each speaker for each different surround mode (possibly source as well I’ll have to check). This can come in useful. The noise floor is good. With an analogue source I can turn the volume up to -7 before I can hear any hiss at all (I’m about 3m from the front speakers and 2m from the rears.) Pros: Excellent built quality Very stylish. It really does look very good, expensive too. Lots of features Auto setup is VERY good at compensating for bad speaker placement/room problems Sound quality is good Processing and options are excellent (you can bi-amp your front speakers if you only have 5.1 but I haven’t tested that yet) USB option is all but unique and can be useful Cons: The remote isn’t perfect It is expensive compared to some of its competitors depending on where you live Takes up a lot of space No gold plated connectors on the rear, only the front. I think that is poor given the price of the receiver. Conclusion I highly recommend this receiver. If you can live without the some of the features and can find one without the high pitch problem I think the SR7300 is a good deal. RRPs are £900 ($1400) for the Pioneer and Denon 3803, £660 ($1020) for the SR7300 here in the UK. I think the 3803 has a lower RRP in the US which is annoying. I’ve also heard good things about the NAD 752. Having heard the difference in sound made by MCACC I’m not sure how a receiver without such a feature can compete. I haven’t listened to the Sony 333ES though which is supposed to be very tweakable, even if you have to do it manually. With better speakers & placement I would imagine MCACC would make less difference. I bought this receiver blind and everything has worked out. I only did that because I had no choice. If you possibly can always demo before you buy. Make sure if you do demo the 2011/45tx that it has been setup properly. This difference it makes can be huge. I am not a brand supporter and never try to stuff a product down someone else’s throat just because I like it. Whenever I do a review I try to make it impartial. Believe me if this had been a poor receiver I would have sent it back. I chose my supplier among other reasons because of the fact that I can return the unit within 14 days if I don’t like it. I just have to pay the shipping. I was prepared to try the Denon 3803 and NAD 752 if I didn’t like the Pioneer. I hope this review has been helpful.