I’ve mentioned several times the problems I’ve had with my Sony reveiver. When Tweeter sent me a flyer for this weekend’s private sale and had this Pioneer receiver discounted to $199, I had to check it out. I looked at it on Wednesday and liked it. That night I made a last effort to clean up speaker terminals and wiring on the Sony receiver to try and get the center channel working — to no avail. I purchased the Pioneer receiver yesterday and set it up this morning.

The first thing that scared me was that it was a few inches deeper than the Sony; in an already-constrained entertainment center, that was bad. However, once I made all the connections and moved it back (carefully!) its face was flush with the front of the shelf it’s sitting on. That worked fine for me.

Being a Pioneer like my DVD player, I was able to take advantage of the proprietary inter-component link between it and the receiver. I moved it down to a shelf with a door and verified that the receiver passed its remote’s signals to it when the door was closed. This helped me create a little more airflow up top, with just the receiver and the Comcast HD box on the exposed shelf. I finally cut a 1″ square dowel I had bought for the job into spacers; the HD box sits on top of the reciver via the spacers, creating some breathing room.

Besides giving me a working center channel, this upgrade allowed me to use a line-level connection to my subwoofer and let the receiver handle bass management. The Sony receiver’s bass management never worked consistently for me, so I was using its “B” speaker terminals and the crossover on my sub to manage bass. Also, the Sony receiver produced noticable hiss at low volume levels, and only had 30 increments of volume, of which we usually only used the bottom 12. The Pioneer has very low hiss (I will check it out more tomorrow morning when it’s quiet again) and starts at 94dB below unity gain and increments every dB. Quite a bit more control.

One thing that pleasantly surprised me about the Pioneer was the quality of its remote. It’s the first “learning” remote I’ve ever had and once I figure it all out it should make a great command center.