Design and Connectivity
At the rear is a reasonable set of connections, including seven HDMI inputs (eight if you include the one at the front) and two HDMI outputs including one for a second zone. There are speaker terminals for the 7-channels of built in amplification and these have been positioned to aid easier access from above. There are also pre-outs for two active subwoofers. Pioneer have sensibly dropped most of the unnecessary legacy connections, leaving some basic phono in/out, composite video in/out, component video in, optical and coaxial digital in/out and aerial sockets for the built-in tuners. Finally there is an Ethernet port and IR in/out connections, along with a USB charge port for an optional AS-WL300 wireless converter and a port for the optional AS-BT200 Bluetooth adapter.
The provided remote control is Pioneer's standard model which is made of black plastic and comprehensive in terms of the buttons available. There are controls for input selection and volume, along with audio and video parameters, the home menu and navigation. There are also controls for the second zone, the built-in tuners, for controlling a connected iDevice and for accessing other features. The problem is that there are so many buttons, that the remote becomes a bit crowded and despite having a backlight, we still found it difficult use in a darkened room. The remote is also rather unintuitive to use and, compared to Pioneer's free remote app, it looks very dated and in need of a make over.
Setup and Menus
The fourth sub-menu is System Setup and this includes Manual Speaker Setup for those that are more hands-on, allowing you to manually set size, distance and overall balance of the connected speakers. Input Setup allows you to specify what is connected to the various inputs, whilst OSD Language allows you to change the GUI screen's displayed language. The Network Setup covers connecting the VSX-923 to your network, whilst HDMI Setup synchronises the receiver to other Pioneer equipment supporting control over HDMI. Finally, Other Setup allows you to customise other settings such as auto power down, volume, software updates and zones, whilst MHL Setup changes the settings related to MHL.
The fifth sub-menu is Network Information which provides data on your network connection and the final sub-menu is Operation Mode Setup which is designed to help those users who find it difficult to master all the different functions and settings. In this sub-menu you have a choice Expert, where users can set all the functions by themselves and Basic, where only certain basic settings can be operated.
You can connect your iDevice directly to the receiver using the USB connection on the front, allowing you to playback digital audio and video, whilst charging it at the same time. There is support for Apple's AirPlay which allows users to have complete access, control and playback of their entire iTunes library, including song information and album art. The VSX-923 is HTC Connect certified and compatible with Windows 8, whilst AVNavigator allows for easy wiring and setup through your PC, Mac or iPad. There is MHL support for audio/video playback over Android devices and Gapless Playback for AIFF, Apple Lossless, WAV and FLAC.
Pioneer's latest version of their remote app - iControlAV2013 - is not only excellent but freely available for both iOS and Android, offering a simple and intuitive interface for controlling the VSX-923. You can use the app to control every aspect of the receiver and the stylish user interface is easily one of the best we've seen. The remote app certainly puts the outdated menus system and unintuitive remote control to shame.
We found that the audio had a pleasing subtlety to it, delivering a lovely sense of detail and clarity. This made the VSX-923 especially capable of delivering the more subtle soundtracks, creating an immersive surround experience with great placement of effects. In Prometheus, for example, the scenes inside the caves have a lot of atmosphere with echoes and dripping water, all of which were carefully reproduced by the Pioneer. When things kicked up a gear during the sand storm, the VSX-923 was equally capable of handling the complex sound design and whilst the impact wasn't quite as powerful as with others, the steering was precise and refined. The front soundstage, especially with music, felt open and suitably wide, whilst pans were smooth and fluid. When we switched to the sonic assault that is Star Trek Into Darkness the VSX-923 was equally accomplished, resulting in a genuinely entertaining audio experience.
This level of detail and subtlety in favour of raw power means that the VSX-923 proved, for a receiver, to be surprisingly adept at two-channel music. We found that with the more complex orchestral pieces the front soundstage retained the open feel experienced with film soundtracks, whilst also delivered good localisation of sounds and instruments. A record such as Kate Bush's Director's Cut, which is based around female vocals and sparse instrumentation, also benefited from the Pioneer's light touch as did acoustic recordings. When switching to rock or music with a lot of bass, the VSX-923 had slightly less percussive impact, although still found the experience to be enjoyable thanks to the detail and clean delivery. The VSX-923 should certainly prove to be a great all-rounder for anyone looking for a competent surround receiver that can also handle music well.
- Excellent sound quality
- Good connections
- Impressive video processing
- Attractive design
- Robust build quality
- Flexible setup and configuration
- Impressive remote app
- Menus look dated
- Internet functionality is limited
- Remote control is unintuitive
Pioneer VSX-923 7-Channel AV Receiver Review
Setup is relatively straightforward and Pioneer's MCACC room calibration software makes it even easier, although there are plenty of manual options for those who want to get more hands on. However the menu system is beginning to look very dated and Pioneer really should consider giving it a makeover. The VSX-923 has a fairly basic internet platform, with only an internet radio as the main feature, although there is also a built-in AM/FM tuner. The receiver is DLNA certified and there's an Ethernet port but no built-in wireless capability, although there is an optional adapter. Whilst the media player is rather simple in appearance, the VSX-923 does offer a reasonable amount of file support. The Pioneer also includes compatibility with Windows 8, has HTC Connect certification, supports iDevices and includes AirPlay Wireless Audio. The free remote app is excellent and is available for both iOS and Android.
In terms of its video performance, the VSX-923 includes support for ARC (Audio Return Channel) and can passthrough both 3D, Deep Colour, 24p and 4K. The built-in QDEO video processing is excellent and the Pioneer is capable of upscaling to Ultra HD (4K) resolution. On the audio side, the VSX-923 proved to be a very capable performing, delivering a hugely enjoyable surround sound experience. The Pioneer might not be as powerful as some of the competition but it makes up for it in subtlety and charm. There is plenty of detail and clarity to the audio, with some precise placement of effects and pans around the room. Overall it made for an exciting and lively sound field and the more graceful delivery also meant that the VSX-923 paid dividends with two-channel music.
The Pioneer VSX-923 is a very capable all-round performer, with a level of build quality and specifications that defy its modest price tag. If you're looking for a sub-£500 receiver then this accomplished receiver should certainly be on your wish list.
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.