Pioneer VSX-531-B Review: Entry-level AV Receiver that fits into any home
AV receivers are not only a completely new sound for all home electronics, but also first-class video. Absolutely all Pioneer receiver models can receive and transmit 4K Ultra HD video, as well as support 3D output.
The Pioneer VSX-531-K entry-level 5.1-channel AV receiver features a redesigned design that integrates seamlessly into the home. On the front panel of the device there is the necessary minimum set of controls, as well as a large and very informative display. The cutout at the bottom of the panel gives the receiver a less bulky look and serves to create an overall attractive appearance. Exterior trim Pioneer VSX-531-K can only be black.
The rear panel of the AV receiver looks no less interesting. Here, the company’s engineers applied the zoning of the input and output connectors in accordance with their purpose, which ensures error-free system switching even for novice users. In addition to this, all connectors are clearly marked and easy to read. The Pioneer VSX-531-K is equipped with four HDMI inputs and one output with support for HDCP 2.2 and 4K video transmission and lower resolution video up-conversion. One of the HDMI inputs is supplemented with a USB power connector, which allows convenient connection of multimedia streamers. The receiver also has two stereo inputs (represented by analog and optical inputs) and five inputs for AV devices (one of which is located on the front panel). Equipped with Pioneer VSX-531-K and built-in Bluetooth receiver with audio enhancement technology for compressed recordings. Screw connectors are used to connect the front stereo pair speakers, while the rest of the surround speakers are connected using spring terminals. You can also use the high-quality built-in AM / FM tuner as a signal source.
The receiver is equipped with discrete power amplifiers using WRAT technology (broadband signal amplification). The Pioneer VSX-531-K uses a Burr-Brown DAC to convert the signal. To adjust the character of the sound of the system, you can use the tone controls in the area of low and high frequencies; there is also a flexible adjustment of the frequency of the subwoofer filter in the range from 40 to 200 Hz. The entire receiver setup procedure can also be controlled using the menus displayed on the screen of the connected TV.
The first thing that catches your eye: fashionable networking functionality is cut to a minimum – there is only a built-in Bluetooth adapter. Most likely, your old receiver didn’t even have this, so you won’t have to grieve about the lack of Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Is a “blue tooth” necessary at all, is it not an excess? In my opinion, no, this is a very useful interface, at least for a person who regularly listens to music from a smartphone. True, the VSX-531 has version 3.0 interface without aptX support – we will check how this affects the sound a little later.
A clear economy can be seen on the rear panel: the only analog output (not counting the speaker jacks and headphone output) is for the subwoofer. Speaker terminals are of two types: screw terminals for the front channels (accepting bare wire or “bananas”) and spring terminals for the rear and center. There is no bi-amping connection – this is perhaps the most painful loss if the old receiver had such an opportunity and you used it.
The only digital output is HDMI, and as you might guess, it will be constantly busy with the TV. I am glad that it has a return audio channel – the old receiver most likely did not have it, so we had to use the Toslink digital input. There is also a composite output, on which you can hang a small LCD screen for displaying a graphical interface, so as not to turn on a large TV when playing files from a USB flash drive.
You can be upset that there is no linear analog output (preferably adjustable) for connecting an external power amplifier. But a person with limited financial capabilities most likely does not have it. At least of a higher class than the amplifier in the receiver. So the logic of the developers is clear. But if you started building a system with stereo (as your humble servant) and first got a decent amplifier and speakers, and then added a receiver, then the lack of an analog output can be frustrating. The input interfaces are better. Four HDMI ports are more than enough. Two composite videos are even overkill – for me, neither is needed.
The functional simplicity of the receiver is reflected in its on-screen menu. In fact, there are two of them: the first is for multi-channel acoustics calibration (automatic MCACC and manual settings), the second is for playing music files from USB drives. The auto-calibration of acoustics is certainly simplified here: there is no measurement memory, no graphs can be viewed, etc., but it successfully fulfills its task. There is even a phase control and automatic detection of the cutoff frequency of the speaker crossovers. The video path is absolutely modern and at the same time free from frills: Ultra HD signals, and in 4K / 60p / 4: 4: 4, as well as 3D and HDR, are passed through, and the HDMI interface supports HDCP 2.2. This means you can connect the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray players to your receiver.
There is no upscaling to 4K resolution, so okay: have you ever seen a 4K TV or projector without such a scaler? I am convinced that Full HD signals should be scaled to 4K only in the last link of the path, that is, in the display.
About the audio DAC, the documentation says that it is capable of receiving signals up to 192 kHz / 24 bit, which is quite enough for any application. And now about the most important thing, which in no case should you sacrifice to a person who already understands a lot about technology – about the amplifier. Typically, receivers in this price range are equipped with relatively low power terminals, here 5 x 130 watts. Most likely, this parameter was measured when loading one channel, this is a common practice, but the receiver will be able to fully sound a room of an average area without straining too much. The attributes of the model are also of a fairly high class – Direct and Pure Direct modes for turning off the tone block and all digital processing.