The Pioneer VSX-521-K is Pioneer’s entry level receiver and comes with 5.1 channels of output. As with all the new generation receivers this one also supports 3D video playback so it is are future proofed. Do not expect bells and whistles, but if you are looking for a basic receiver to go with your TV this one will basically do the job.
Design & Connectivity
The Pioneer VSX-521-K has a clean sleek look and finished handsomely in black brushed aluminum. Front face is neat and tidy. Two large knobs on each side controls the inputs and master volume. The center display is subtly lit and has all the information you need. Controls for tuner and and surround formats are neatly laid out in the center.
Connectivity options are pretty basic as you would expect from an entry level receiver. You get 4 HDMI inputs and 1 output that supports HDMI ver 1.4a specification for 3D compatibility. Do note that for the On-screen display (OSD) is not outputted from the HDMI as there is no video format conversion circuitry built-in. You will need to run a separate component video to the TV to view the OSD.
In addition there are 2 sets of component video inputs, 4 composite video in, 2 optical digital audio inputs, and a Bluetooth Adapter Port.
The VSX-521-K can be configured to drive front height speakers, but you will need to use an external amplifier from the pre-outs to use this option.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
- 4 HDMI 1.4a Inputs with Audio Return Channel for 3D compatibility.
- Power output of 110 Watts into 5 Direct Energy Amplification channels.
- High quality 192kHz/24-bit DACs.
- Wireless Bluetooth – With the optional AS-BT200 Bluetooth adapter you can obtain audio from virtually any A2DP profile Bluetooth device, including iPod/iPhone/iPad, smartphones and laptops.
- Compatibility for iPod, iPhone, and iPad – Easily connect Apple devices with the included USB/video cable. Charges Apple devices automatically when connected.
- Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoders deliver blu-ray soundtracks with high resolution audio. Also includes Dolby Pro Logic IIz height channel (separate amplifiers required).
- Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration system (MCACC) provides easy calibration for multi-channel listening experience tailored to your listening environment.
- Advanced Sound Retriever – enhances compressed audio such as WMA, MP3 and AAC.
For one the cheapest home theater receivers in the market, how did the Pioneer VSX-521-K fare? Using the 2010 blu-ray release, Sherlock Holmes, we put in to the test.
The VSX-521-K did excellently to capture the essence of the Victorian era in England, with an intentional dark and grimy look. Quality of the images was brilliant, from the meticulous detail of the cobbled roads to the century old age Victorian style buildings. A close-up on Holmes’s and Watson’s face showed off some of their facial imperfections in high clarity. Colors on the other hand, were spectacular as well. Skin tones were warm and natural, while the gold themed hotel room was eye catching.
With the DTS-HD MA 5.1 on board, audio performance was a fitting complement. From the adrenaline laced action scenes to Holmes’s hurried dialog, every sound effect could be identified audibly. Special mention should be reserved for the exemplary background audio effects, such as the clattering carriages and the stomping of the horse’s hooves. This gave an immersive audio experience that took us back to the 19th century. Dialog, particularly important in this witty film was sharp and lucid.
Using Elton John’s self titled album on SACD, we challenged the VSX-521-K in the audio department. The impressive audio performance of this SACD breathed new life into this 1970 album. In the iconic track “Your Song”, John’s unique voice was the main highlight, focused on the center channel. John made use of a myriad of instruments, ranging from the use of percussion to the harp, all of which were given their chance to shine. For example, in the track “Sixty Years On”, the harp solo was astoundingly lucid and beautiful, while the orchestra was hauntingly epic.
The Pioneer VSX-521-K offers a good option for those who does not want to splash out extra bucks for the frills and just want a basic receiver for watching blu-rays and DVDs. It suits a small to medium sized room and will provide a good enough movie experience in a 5.1 channel setup. It is even future proofed if you decide to invest in a 3D display later.
Discontinued by Manufacturer