The Pioneer VSX-821-K is among Pioneer’s 2011 range of entry level receivers and offers an affordable entry into a 3D home theater setup. Integration with Apple devices seems to be a top priority among manufacturers this year and the VSX-821-K is no different. This 5.1 channel receiver is also the industry’s first AV receiver designed for iPad.
Design & Connectivity
The Pioneer VSX-821-K sports a clean design and finished 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 displays current selection and connection status clearly. Controls for tuner and and surround formats are neatly laid out in the center. Below that is a little pop out panel where you’ll find a USB port, jack for MCACC setup mic and a set of video/audio inputs. Just be aware that the pop out panel is not secured and risks getting misplaced.
Connectivity options are adequate. You get 4 HDMI inputs and 1 output that supports HDMI ver 1.4a specification for 3D compatibility. In addition there are 2 sets of component video inputs, 4 composite video in, 2 optical digital audio inputs, a Sirius radio port and a Bluetooth Adapter Port. With the optional Pioneer AS-BT200 Bluetooth adapter it will connect to any A2DP profile Bluetooth device like Smartphones and laptops.
Do note that it comes with an analog On-screen display (OSD). You will need to run a separate component video from the receiver to the TV to view the OSD.
The VSX-821-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 for each of the 5 channels.
- High quality 192kHz/24-bit DACs.
- Compatibility for iPod, iPhone, and iPad – Easily connect your iPod/iPhone/iPad with the included USB/video cable and use the onscreen interface to select songs and playlists. Charges Apple devices automatically when connected.
- Bluetooth ready – With the optional AS-BT200 Bluetooth adapter you can connect to any A2DP profile Bluetooth device, including smartphones, laptops, etc.
- Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoders deliver high resolution surround blu-ray soundtracks for an immersive movie experience. Also includes Dolby Pro Logic IIz height channel.
- Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration system (MCACC) provides easy equalization of surround speakers to suit your home theater room.
- Advanced Sound Retriever – enhances compressed audio such as WMA, MP3 and AAC.
Using The Twilight Saga: Eclipse blu-ray release, we put the VSX-821-K to the test. Details were excellent and vivid, such as the clothing and especially the textures on skin and fabric. This added a touch of realism to the film. Colors were spectacular, in particular the lush green background of the forest, and the dull color palette of the film. The pale shade of Cullen’s skin tone was also perfectly in line with his vampire character. Black levels were inky and maintained stability throughout the film. Overall, the transfer created an authentic cinematic texture that made for a deeply satisfying experience.
The decoding of the DTS-HD MAS 5.1 was an ideal partner for its video performance. Sound effects were fantastic in setting an immersive listening experience, such as when the rain seemingly falls around the soundstage, while the thunder roared in the background. Even subtler scenes like water flowing gently off a beach were clearly audible. Bass was powerful, but not to the point of overshadowing the other sound effects. Dialog is sharp, crisp and centered.
To further test the VSX-821-K’s audio capabilities, we used the SACD version of Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars by David Bowie. Clarity was stunning and the guitars, keyboards could be distinctly separated audibly from one another, while not being isolated. It felt akin to actually being in the studio, hearing it live. The acoustic guitar track on “Suffragette City” could be heard clearly on the rear-surround channels. Yet another timeless classic album given a fresh new lease of life.
The Pioneer VSX-821-K offers exceptional value for a modest price. If you have a small to medium sized theater room this receiver has ample power to provide a really good movie experience and functions well as a musical system. It is also 3D capable so you need not worry in case you want to go the 3D route in future.
Discontinued by Manufacturer
Update: There is a newer model > Pioneer VSX-830-K