Actual in home demo: Pioneer Elite VSX-53TX vs. H/K AVR 525


Let me preface this posting by stating that I have found that how a receiver performs is entirely dependent upon the accompanying equipment, speakers, room configuration, and cables being used. For my in home test, these receivers powered my Infinity Intermezzo 2.6 bookshelf speakers (see for speaker details). I firmly believe that, with a different pair of speakers, my preferred receiver could easily have been the receiver that lost this contest.

I must admit, I was pulling for the Pioneer Elite XSX-53TX to be the winner. It is a beautiful looking receiver; it has every imaginable feature I could want (including MCACC); it has a very solid feel and seems to be very well built (I was especially impressed with the binding posts and solid feel of the volume knob); the remote is fantastic, and it runs very cool.

On the other hand, The H/K AVR 525 has a rather poor rear panel layout; has fewer speaker connections; has flimsy binding posts and very light weight volume knob, an ugly / awkward remote; has far fewer features than the Elite, and runs very very hot.

I compared the two by listening to a number of the same cd tracks by Seal, Jack Johnson, Xavier Rudd, and Mozart on each receiver. Much to my surprise, it's the Elite that I'll be returning. To my ears, and on these Infinity speakers, the Elite produced a dull, muffled sound when compared to the crisp and detailed sound produced by the H/K. Interestingly, even though the H/K is rated at 85 watts per channel, versus the 100 watts per channel of the Elite, the H/K was noticeably louder at the same decibel level. For example, -40 on the H/K was equally as loud as -36 on the Elite. Maybe someone knowledgeable in the Elite, like EliteFan, could tell me if I had the Elite set incorrectly? My cd player is rather rudimentary and only allows for a left and right channel rca connection, so I had the Elite set on CD, stereo, and analog. Switching between direct and stereo didn't make any difference.

Of course, had I not compared the two side by side and just purchased the Elite, I'm sure I would have been very happy with it. I don't want to give up the wonder features of the Elite, but I just cannot get around the much better sound of the H/K.

I also want to try out a NAD T752, but of the two dealers near me, neither allows for an in home demo and each has a very unfriendly return policy. I imagine that the dealer who sold my the Elite will try to get me to try out the Denon AVR2803, and if I do, I'll be sure to post how I thought it compared to the H/K.

I can't answer your question about the volume level and it really is no an indication at that setting about the comparative power reserves of either receiver. Both have very good power supplies. You are lucky in that you were able to compare two good receivers in your home with ypur own speakers. That's a rare case these days. If you feel the H/K is a better match with your Infinity's then by all means keep it. I love H/K sonically but they don't have enough inputs for my system even in their top units. Try as many as you can but I think you'll find the H/K as better match with your speakers than the Denon.

Thanks elitefan!

It could be quite possible that the cd output is livlier with the HK cd input. In other words, the cd input could have a higher gain on the HK, thus boosting the input and having a dramatic effect on the volume settings.

I never trust the numbers on volume controls, nor am I usually concerned about them. As long as I can listen to the music as loud as I want without clipping I don't care if the volume number on one receiver is 50 and the other is 25. If I want to compare the possible effect of receivers on the loudspeakers I use an SPL Meter on the speakers (let's say when the receivers get the speakers using pink noise to have an output of 80 db's +/- 0.5 db's) with both receivers, regardless what volume numbers are on the receivers.

This way you compare the sound at the same volumes once it is set. It is tough to do accurately without a switch box for a couple of reasons. One--it is tough to remember the sound between hooking up the receivers. Two--with a pink noise generator through each receiver you can get both to output the speaker at 80 db's regardless what the volume numbers say on the receivers.

This way you know you are comparing both receivers when each is set to make the pink noise at 80 db's. Then you just play your favorite cd's without changing the volume controls and you can get a far more accurate comparison.

Admittedly--this is time consuming and tough to do.

But the HK is a fine receiver anyway ( a close friend of mine that owns two audio salons sells HK's and NAD's)--can't speak of the PE 53TX, never heard it or seen it. I have a PE 49TXi which has a much bigger power supply than either--of course it costs considerably more than either receiver too.

By the way--how do you like the Infinity Intermezzo 2.6's? Do you have the self-powerd woofered ones or the passive ones? This is one of Floyd Toole;s initial speaker engineering work after he left the National Research Council of Canada and got stolen away by Harman Int'l.

I've never heard them--but they look cool and knowing Floyd Toole I am sure they have very low distortion and play very flat. Many people like a more "colored" speaker with boosted frequencies, such as in the lower midrange (gives the impression of better bass) and boosted higher frequencies (can make the sound seem hot and more alive).

I've often thought of getting the Infinity Prelude MTS speakers--but I haven't heard them yet. I need to find a dealer that carries them--and as this is Charleston, SC and not NYC--that could be tough.


It hadn't occurred to me, but yes, a switch box would be ideal. The question would be, is it worth it to spend the money on such a thing for a temporary project like this? I was also unaware of the pink noise generator, any more info you can lend would be appreciated.

I am very happy with the Intermezzo 2.6's, which are the active ones with the powered woofers. I was initially intrigued by the great reviews they've received and the fact that they can now be purchased for 50% of what they initially sold for (I purchased mine from During my search for speakers, I heard the Paradigm Reference Studio 20's at a local dealer, and was very impressed. The clincher for me was when I drove to the closest dealer (1.5 hours away) that carried both the Paradigm and the Infinity speakers; unfortunately, he had just the 2.6p's (the passives). I first listened to the Paradigms. Then, within about 10 seconds after switching to the Intermezzo's, I knew that I had found my speakers.

Actually, when you said "...I am sure they have very low distortion and play very flat", that is how I'd describe how the Intermezzo's sounded with the Pioneer Elite. It was the H/K that brought them to life.

Thanks for the advice!

I am not suprised that the HK made the Infinity 2.6's sound better if there was a 4 db difference. The human ear is usually very sensitive to 3 db and higher and all speakers will pretty much sound better.

How did you determine the db levels of the receivers?

Without going through the above difficulties, the next best and far easier method, is to using a $35 Rado Shack SPL Meter to turn the volumes on each receiver until (for arbitrary reasons) the loudspeakers at the same music passage (if you can;t borrow a pink noise generator or get a cheap one from Radio Shack) hit 80 db's.

Only when the loudspeakers are playing at the same db's can you tell if the receivers are effecting the sound.

If one is playing at 76 db's through the speakers and the other at 80 db's--the 80 db will always sound better--even if the 76 db amp is a Krell.A 4 db difference will always sound more alive and kicking.

That was the only point I was making.

But as I said--the HK is an excellent receiver anyway.


Yes, I was aware that a higher volume would sound better, so I did attempt to set the volume for each receiver such that speakers were producing the same db level. Each of the receivers display the db's in negative numbers, so when I found my self setting the volume on the PE to -37 to get the same speaker output level produced by the HK at -40 to -41, that's how I assumed the HK was louder.

However, based on your advice, I am going to run down to Radio Shack tomorrow morning and pick-up the SPL meter for further testing.

Also, as long as your receiver can play your speakers as loud as you ever want to listen to them without clipping, they will be fine--no matter what number is listed.

Too bad you don't have a switcher. Then you could have another person switch which receiver is playing without you knowing. They could play them both loud and soft--sometimes 3 times in a row--sometimes not.

Then he can write down which receiver was playing when you guessed "A" or "B". If there is a significant difference---go with the one you liked best. The critical point is the switching person must not give any vocal or visual clues---but they can lie. They can say I am playing B when it is A, etc. Because it really isn't a lie--you want to hear if there is a REAL difference.

John A.
dB is a relative unit. The value displayed is with reference to an arbitrary internal level. I do not think you can compare displayed dB values between receivers, they are just telling you how much you have turned their own gain control up or down.

That was a very interesing report, Michael. Thanks. I personally like an amp that gets hot, a power stage should be designed to dissipate heat.

I remember years ago the Stereo Review (which later became Sound & Vision) engineer/reviewer was asked--"How do you now when the receivers outputs are balanced?"

His reply--"I turn up the volume on the other receiver until they both sound the same"---Love It.
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