Pioneer VSX-LX504 A/V Receiver Review


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
IMAX Enhanced certified
Nine channel amp for flexibility
Extensive wireless options
Minus
Limited crossover control
Non-illuminated remote

THE VERDICT
Pioneer's first A/V receiver to carry IMAX Enhanced certification offers fine sound and bang- up-to-date technology at a mid-level price.

More than any other category of home theater gear, A/V receivers are subject to an ever-evolving list of "must have" technologies. The required logos for each of these licensed features now forms a long row extending the full width of most receivers, with IMAX Enhanced counting as the latest logo gunning for real estate on any AVR that wants to be up-to-date. But figuring out just what IMAX Enhanced means can be a bit tricky, because it's really more like an ecosystem that encompasses a number of different enhancements and requires the participation of several different product categories.

First and foremost, IMAX Enhanced is a certification program covering both source material and hardware, so along with A/V receivers, TVs, projectors, and even content on Ultra HD Blu Ray and streaming services can carry the IMAX Enhanced logo. Unlike other certification programs—THX, for example—IMAX Enhanced is a bit vague about the technical requirements for certification. One key difference that sets it apart from THX, however, is the way the various components work together when combined in a system. For example, when you play an IMAX Enhanced movie through an IMAX Enhanced A/V receiver, a flag in the disc or stream's metadata will automatically adjust settings like bass management and speaker levels while unlocking an additional cinematic mix that's not available to users of non-IMAX Enhanced hardware. The same automated control can extend to a certified video display, where the picture and other display settings, will be, to quote IMAX, adjusted to "provide the sharpest 4K HDR images...as the filmmaker intended."

IMAX teamed up with DTS to develop the audio part of IMAX Enhanced, and it's built around the DTS:X immersive audio codec with its added height speakers. On the video side, HDR10 high dynamic range enhancement is used rather than Dolby Vision or HDR10+. While IMAX Enhanced sounds pretty cool, the firmware update needed to activate it on the VSX-LX504 wasn't available in time for my test, though it should be ready by the time you are reading this. Furthermore, available content is limited to two older IMAX documentaries on UHD Blu Ray, Journey to the South Pacific and A Beautiful Planet. I grabbed a copy of Journey to the South Pacific just to check it out, and while it looked and sounded great, I eventually realized I wasn't getting the full benefit of the IMAX Enhanced experience. Oh well, a follow up at some point in the future may be required. Streaming will be the other source of IMAX Enhanced content, with FandangoNOW planning to offer movies such as Venom and Alpha in the third quarter of 2019.

Looking beyond its IMAX Enhanced features, Pioneer's VSX-LX504 is similar to last year's VSX-LX503. With nine channels of onboard class-D amplification, you can configure the receiver multiple ways to meet your needs. While you could go with a 7.1.2 setup with rear surrounds and a single pair of overhead speakers, I chose to instead connect a 5.1.4 speaker layout, which allowed me to more fully evaluate the receiver's immersive potential. If you really want to have it all, you could build a 7.1.4 system by connecting an external two-channel amplifier to the receiver's preamp outputs and then add rear surround speakers. Unlike some flagship receiver models, the VSX-LX504 tops out at 7.1.4 processing for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and doesn't include provision for the center height speakers required by surround formats like Auro-3D.

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Connectivity on the VSX-LX504 is up-to-date and comprehensive, with seven HDMI inputs, a host of wireless options, and a smattering of legacy connections including a phono input for a turntable. Onboard apps are provided for many popular network streaming services including Tidal, Pandora, Amazon Music, TuneIn Radio, and Spotify. Other wireless devices can also be connected to the receiver using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast built-in, AirPlay2, DTS Play-Fi, and FlareConnect.

Pioneer's efficient Direct Energy class-D amplifier modules allow the VSX-LX504 to pack a hefty punch while keeping the receiver's size and bulk manageable. With a real-world power rating of 120 watts per channel, it can drive all but the most power-hungry speakers properly.

COMPANY INFO
Pioneer Electronics
844-679-5350
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
utopianemo's picture

Sure it’s 7.1.2? The picture of the back panel was hard to make out, but it looked like it had two discrete sub outputs.

Michael Trei's picture
Yes, it does have two subwoofer outputs, but they are both identical and cannot be configured separately. I still call that 7.1.2
kuatolives's picture

Pretty glaring error for a Sound and Vision Review; this unit does not use class D amplification. The amplification type is listed as "Direct Energy" on Pioneer's spec sheet and website, which is their terminology for their class A/B topology. Class-D driven models have always historically been prefixed with "SC" rather than "VSX."

Michael Trei's picture
This is the description of the Direct Energy Amp from Pioneer. "Direct Energy Amp These stereo components are equipped with high performance Class D technology inherited from our flagship AV receivers and amplifiers." Thanks for your interest!
Pace's picture

That quote is taken from a stereo system spec sold in Europe and does not apply to AV receivers. In AV receivers, only "Direct Energy HD" are class D.

Al Griffin's picture
According to Pioneer, the VSX-LX504 uses class-D amplification.
Eric180db's picture

I find it interesting to give anything a minus or plus from specs as it could have measured 150WPC but rated conservatively. Since we don't test things around here anymore lets compare to receivers that "measure" 150WPC would only be 1db more than 120WPC. These are insignificant changes but considered big in measurements.

Spinozist's picture

I wrote a lengthy commentary about the review and then hit the "Preview" button. It previewed OK, but there was no way to then submit the comments. This time, with this short follow-up note I will hit "Save" and hope for the best. This will be my last comment of any kind to your internet site. It is too hard to deal with.

Rolland's picture

I got a look inside of the lx-504 and the lx-704, the lx-504 is not a Class D amplifier, it's has a similar high current class A/B amplifier system to that of the onkyo tx-rz830, the lx-704 on the other hand is a full on pioneer made class D amp unit.

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