Pioneer VSK-527-K review

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Verdict
  • We really wanted to like this Pioneer, but it just doesn’t do enough in its core areas
For
  • Low price
  • detailed sound
  • good effects steering
  • Airplay and Bluetooth
  • easy to use
Against
  • Sound lacks body and punch
  • dynamics not great

Who says home cinema amps have to be expensive? The Pioneer VSX-527-K is a stripped-down 5.1-channel amp aimed at the starter end of the market, but it also does AirPlay streaming out of the box and Bluetooth via a £50/$75 dongle.

Its socketry is fairly basic: terminals for five speaker channels, plus preamp outputs for surround-back or front-height channels, six HDMI inputs and one out, a smattering of analogue ins and outs, a couple of digitals and an Ethernet port.

Sound quality

After a simple set-up, we set a Blu-ray of Star Trek spinning and are met by an immediately attacking sound that’s quite detailed at the price. Speech is clear, and the myriad of sci-fi beeps are steered atmospherically around our cinema room.

But we can’t help wanting more authority. The Pioneer struggles with large dynamic shifts, with its bass in particular feeling far too restrained. While the amp can go loud with relative ease, it doesn’t do so with the cinematic oompf we want.

Moving to AirPlay, a listen to Boards of Canada’s Roygbiv flags up more of the same. It’s a warm-sounding track, but has a fast, attacking drum sound – something that isn’t quite done justice here.

Specifications

Main Features VSX-527-K
HD Audio Formats Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio
Audio Return Channel Yes
On-Screen Display (GUI) via HDMI only in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch and Russian
Firmware updates Yes (via USB)
Internet Radio Yes
vTuner Yes
DLNA Certified Yes (v1.5)
Windows 7 Certified Yes
Input & Output connections VSX-527-K
Bluetooth Adapter Port Yes
Composite Input/Output 2/1
Digital Optical Input/Output 1/- (assignable)
Digital Coaxial Input 1/- (assignable)
HDMI Input/Output 6/1
Headphone Input Yes
Large speaker terminals Yes
Pre-amp Output Yes
Apps VSX-527-K
Control App Yes
Apple Compatibility VSX-527-K
Works with iPod Yes
Works with iPhone Yes
Surround Sound Formats VSX-527-K
Dolby Pro Logic II Yes
Dolby Pro Logic IIx Yes
DTS-Express Yes
Audio Features VSX-527-K
Auto Level Control Yes (2 channel)
Auto Surround Yes
Headphone Surround Yes
Front Stage Surround Advance Yes
Loudness Yes
Midnight Listening Mode Yes
Power Output VSX-527-K
Power Consumption (in use / standby) 450 W / 0,45 W
Auto Power Down Yes
Construction VSX-527-K
Design Discrete Amplification Type
Main Features VSX-527-K
Output Power per Channel 130W
Impedance at Output Level
Number of Channels 5
Input Connections • 6 x HDMI
• 3 x Composite
• 1 x Coaxial
• 1 x Digital Optical
• 1 x USB 2.0 host
• 1 x iPod/iPhone Digital via USB
• 1 x Ethernet
• 1 x Bluetooth adapter port for AS-BT200
Output Connections • 1 x HDMI
• 1 x Composite
• 2 x pre out (Subwoofer & Surr Back/Front Height)
Plays Via LAN/USB: MP3, WAV, AAC, WMA, FLAC
192 kHz/24-Bit Audio playback: WAV, FLAC
Remote Control Glow-key, preset remote control
Input & Output connections VSX-527-K
Ethernet 1
Apps VSX-527-K
Air Jam Yes
Apple Compatibility VSX-527-K
Works with iPad Yes
AirPlay Yes
iPhone Control Button Yes
Compatible Generations iPad,iPad2, iPhone 4S,iPhone 4,iPhone 3GS,iPhone 3G,iPhone, iPod touch 4G/3G/2G/1G, iPod nano 6G(Audio only)/ 5G/4G/3G
Supported Functions • Audio & video playback
• On-screen album art
• Charging
Surround Sound Formats VSX-527-K
Dolby Digital Yes
Dolby Digital EX Yes
Dolby Digital Plus Yes
DTS-HD High Resolution Audio Yes
DTS-HD Master Audio Yes
Surround Modes 9 + 1 for Phones
Audio Features VSX-527-K
AM/FM Tuner with RDS Yes
Tuner Pre-set Stations 30
DSD-to-PCM Convertor Yes (2 channel)
Dynamic Range Control Yes
Phase Control Yes
MCACC Yes
Sound Delay (LipSync) Yes
Advanced Sound Retriever Yes (2 channel)
Sound Retriever AIR Yes
Stream Direct Yes
Symmetric EQ Yes
Video Features VSX-527-K
Deep Colour Yes
3D Ready Yes
x.v.Colour Yes
Power Output VSX-527-K
Power output per channel 130W
Condition 1 kHz, 1 % THD, 6 Ω
Rated Power Output 130W per channel
Power Requirements 220–230 V AC / 50/60 Hz
Main Features VSX-527-K
Control with HDMI Yes
Surround Sound Formats VSX-527-K
Dolby Pro Logic IIz Yes
Dolby True HD Yes
DTS Yes
DTS-ES Yes
DTS Neo: 6 Yes
DTS 96/24 Yes
Amplifier Specifications VSX-527-K
Digital Signal Processor Texas Instruments AureusTM TMS320DA788
D/A Converter 192 kHz / 24-bit
A/D Converter 96 kHz / 24-bit
Dimensions (W x H x D) 435 x 168 x 342.5 mm
Weight 8.9 kg

Pioneer KIT AV VSX-527-K + S-HS100

Verdict

It’s a shame, really, because there’s no denying this amp’s value. You really can’t not be tempted by the idea of a quality £300/$450 home cinema amp. The shame is this Pioneer just isn’t as absorbing as we’d expect, even at this money.

(whathifi.com)

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