Replacement for trusty-but-ancient Pioneer AVR needed?


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Aug 10, 2019
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Hi all,

I've got an ancient (10 years!) Pioneer VSX -AX3 AVR, which I bought from new for around £700.

It still works fine, but I'd like to improve on the sound quality as well as getting all the new features like Airplay, HDMI switching etc.

I mainly use my system for TV and music (films only occasionally).

My sources are an Apple TV 2 using icloud (optical out) and Virgin Media V+ box (optical out).

My speakers are Monitor Audio Radius 270s mains, 225 centre, 90 rears and a REL Q150 sub.

I'd like to get a fuller sound for music ( 2 channel on the AX3 is dire) as the pioneer/MA is a quite lean.

Airplay would be nice, but is not essential. I'm not too worried about HDMI switching, as I feed HDMI direct to my Plasma.

My question is:

Can I get a big improvement for only £500?

Could I acheive better results in another way? I even considered going back to 2 channel - is that silly?

Any help would be much appreciated.



Well-known member
Hi Martin,

I would consider how important surround sound is to you. I used to have the same receiver and eventuaally changed the set up for a Cyrus/Monitor Audio combo as I too wanted better stereo sound. I have since changed that system too but the point is I am very happy with the changes I have made and do not really miss the surround.

If you decide to go dwon the stereo route then the centre and rears can be sold to add to the budget. If that is the case then I would expect an improvement can be made.

You can go down the traditional amp/speakers route but I would also consider Active/powereed speakers as you get a lot of value from them.

As for Airplay, can you not use the ATV2 for this?


Hi Messiah, thanks for that.

I do like the surround sound for tv and tend to listen to music in 7 channel stereo mode, as the std. stereo and direct modes don't sound good to me. I also have the tone control on with a bit of bass lift to give it a bit more warmth.

I can't remember the last time I put a film on, so I guess that I wouldn't miss the surround too much...

I had a chat with the chap at our local Sevenoaks HiFi today and he reckoned that a £500 AVR wouldn't be good enough. He said that I'd need to spend around £800 to get a worthwhile improvement.

he's going to give me a demo of a £500 AVR and an £800 one tomorrow afternoon, so that I can judge for myself.

Another alternative could be to get a used Arcam AVR350 or similar from eBay, as they are supposed to be great with music and tv.

Yes, I do use my apple TV for music streaming, so built-in AirPlay is not necessary.

If I went 2 channel, I guess I'd need a decent DAC with several inputs to connect the apple tv, DVD and V+box to. I notice that you have a Beresford - any good? Do the DAC inputs auto select or do you need to control that manually?

Cheers, Martin


Well-known member
Ultimately I guess it depends how you like your music. Music is mixed in stereo so 7 channel music is not ideal but if it sounds good to you then that is what matters. (For the record I used to play some music like that when I had the Pioneer and quite liked it!)

I would also ask the guy at Sevenoaks to demo a stereo set up for you as well so you can see how that sounds. Try this with oth music and movies, you may be suprised! I used my Pionneer with some Mission 750LE speakers and went and demod a Cyrus amp/cd combo with MA RS1s and it blew the socks of the receiver. I guess the general consensus is that a dedicated stereo set-up will beat a similarly priced surround set up for stereo. The demo will help you decide.

I would also see if you can demo some gear in your own home before you commit to any purchase as it will sound different.

I have sold the Beresford now but it was good. No automatic switching i'm afraid but I used the TV as the switch box. I had most items connected to the TV and then that was connected to the DAC.


Thanks for the advice Messiah.

I'm just off the Sevenoaks HiFi now, so will report back.

I'm thinking that if I went back to 2 channel, I'll probably be looking to sell everything except the Apple tv and the REL, as the Monitor Audios are definitely more A/V orientated.

Interestingly (for me anyway!), I've got a 30 year old 2 ch amp (Cambridge Audio P55) in my office playing Radio 2 all day through a pair of Mordaunt Short Avant 905i centre speakers and EVERYONE who hears it says that it sounds fabulous. My source is my PC with an M-audio PCI audiophile card fitted inside. I'm thinking of taking it home for the weekend for a test in my lounge!

I've remembered to NOT take my wallet with me to the HiFi shop!




Well that was interesting.

I auditioned the Pioneer LX55 £800 AVR with the latest version of my radius speakers and a small REL sub and... sounded very similar to my current setup.

Probably more muscular and dynamic, but tonally very similar - not surprising really.

The sound is very dynamic and lean (not thin) so great for movies but not so good for music.

Definitely not worth upgrading to a new pioneer.

They suggested listening to speakers with a fuller sound and swapped the MAs for some kef q500s.

Much, much better for music I think.

So, they are going to get some £500 -700 floor standers together for another demo next week.

These are:

Monitor audio bronze and silver, the kefs and a couple of others.

they will also connect up a £500 stereo amp - the arcam fmj a18 to show what a good stereo amp can do.

All in all, very impressed with Sevenoaks service so far.



Just to give an update, I now have a pair of MA Bronze BX5s on loan from Sevenoaks HiFi.

When I went back for a second demo, I listened to my existing radius 270s and the BX5s (anything bigger won't fit in my space or pass the wife test).

They were driven by an arcam fmj a18 and then an audiolab 8200a.

Comparing the bx5s with the radiuses showed that the radius is not a full range speaker. It absolutely needs the sub to sound good. Even then it has a leaner sound that's better for movies.

The bx5s can work with or without the sub and, having tried them at home, are 100% better for music.

The Arcam/bx5 combo was great, as I'm after a more laid back, mellow and richer sound.

The Audiolab had a much bigger soundstage, was more dynamic, less laid back - more "hi-fi".

Oh, and it's £250 more than the Arcam.

I've been listening to the bx5s at home and am delighted with the new sound. Maybe it's a side-step from the radiuses, but the tonal balance is the issue for me.

I just need to decide between natural oak or walnut finish - walnut finish looks better (looks more expensive) but oak fits better in my room!




Well-known member
I would agree that the Radius definitely need a sub. Good to see that you have found an improvement.

So are you sticking with the Pioneer?

Personally I favour the Walnut finish but if the oak fits better...


The bx5s in oak are now on order.

As to the amp, i'm going to stick with the pioneer for a bit.

Going 2 channel is going to cost lots, as I then need a dac as well as the amplifier.

Ive got an arcam avr350 on loan from a mate to try out, so this may be an option too.

As it stands, my system sounds great now - just listening to radio 2 via the apple tv and it's very good indeed.

Here's how it all looks:


Radiuses are going on eBay this week.



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