Evoking fond memories of Pioneer's once-great plasma televisions like the Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX609A, the VSX-LX52 home theatre receiver is finished in the deep glossy black typical of Pioneer's high-end LX series components. The front of the unit is finished quite simply, with volume and input jog dials taking pride of place and various supplementary buttons clustered around the front display.
The Pioneer VSX-LX52 is exceedingly well constructed - it feels as heavy as a high quality home theatre amplifier should, with no flex in its chassis. The buttons and dials are smoothly milled and convey a sense of class. Even the speaker connectors on the rear panel spin smoothly when connecting bare wire.
All the connections you could hope for are abundant on the rear of the Pioneer VSX-LX52. Four HDMI inputs (and two outputs), two component input banks, six S-Video connectors and three optical digital inputs (and an output for an additional receiver), seven individual stereo analog RCA inputs. Unless you're running an extremely high-end digital cinema room, the Pioneer VSX-LX52 has everything you'll need. The inclusion of a fifth, front-mounted HDMI input means that temporarily connecting high-definition devices is easy - you won't need to fumble around at the back of your A/V rack.
Almost any setting can be adjusted for individual speakers on the Pioneer VSX-LX52. Three individual zones can be defined, so you can theoretically set a pair of speakers up outside, in your living room and in your cinema room, running off a single all-in one receiver/amplifier. There's also the usual auto room calibration, phase adjustment and equalisation options, so if you're a fan of tweaking sound minutely the Pioneer VSX-LX52 should have you covered.
The days of optional iPod compatibility in A/V equipment are finally gone - instead of a proprietary port requiring an idiotically expensive cable, the Pioneer VSX-LX52 has an iPod-compatible USB port on its front; a cable is included. This may not seem like much to crow about, but it's the little things that make the Pioneer VSX-LX52 an impressively complete package.
Video quality when running a source through the Pioneer VSX-LX52 home theatre receiver is excellent. Connected to a Pioneer PDP-LX609A home theatre plasma television and playing The Dark Knight off Blu-ray via a Samsung BD-P3600 Blu-ray disc player, we saw no degradation in quality versus direct connection. Even low quality content looks great. We upscaled a 480p DVD source from composite to HDMI, with a resulting image that was smooth without sacrificing too much detail or introducing any artefacts.
The Pioneer VSX-LX52 is an expensive investment — we've seen 50in plasma televisions cheaper than this receiver. You can certainly get more powerful and equally versatile products from different manufacturers at lower prices, but if you're serious about home entertainment you'll see the reason why products like the Pioneer VSX-LX52 exist. Apart from its price tag, it's a seriously impressive piece of audio equipment.