AV receiver manufacturers generally have a yearly update cycle where minor features and spec bumps are added to the newer models. Unlike other types of equipment and gadgets, newer models don’t instantly make the predecessors obsolete. AV receivers are meant to last for years due to their good build quality. The prices of most receivers are generally high compared to most other home theater components such as DVD players and even Blu-ray players. Therefore, you should have a really good reason to replace your AV receiver with a new one unless it is broken or you wish to add more speakers or zones. But the current trend right now is to push features found in high-end models to the lower-end models. The Pioneer VSX-822-K is a perfect example of such an evolution as it is now possible to enjoy a network-ready home theater receiver for under $400. Some competitors may have similar offerings at this price point but the VSX-822-K is a very healthy upgrade over the older Pioneer VSX-820-K model.

Pioneer-VSX-822-K

Pioneer-VSX-822-K

Design

The Pioneer VSX-822-K is part of the 2012 family of AV receivers and one of the things that all of these models share is the design. The VSX-822-K now has the same brushed aluminum finish that other models in the family has so the overall product looks great and feels premium. It also looks familiar as it doesn’t sport any fancy button layout. It has that typical layout where the input selector and volume control knobs are placed on the left and right respectively while there is a large display accompanied by thin buttons just below it. Other than the phones jack, the ports are hidden beneath a panel which you have to push to open. The ports found behind this panel include a video jack, USB port and setup mic jack for calibration purposes. Considering the healthy number of HDMI ports on the back, it would have been nice if Pioneer added one on the front too.

The rear side of the Pioneer VSX-822-K is understandably minimal since this is the second most affordable AV receiver in the Pioneer 2012 family. But what is interesting is that the back looks more minimal than its predecessor. You can forget about bringing any component cables when setting up the VSX-822-K because there is nowhere to plug them in. This goes to show that the world is finally moving towards mainstream interfaces like HDMI and the Pioneer VSX-822-K is solid proof as there are 6 HDMI inputs and 1 output present. That is 2 HDMI inputs more than the previous model so the VSX-822-K is well equipped to handle bigger setups. A couple of composite inputs and outputs still remain though.

Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.

Pioneer VSX-822-K Back Panel

Pioneer VSX-822-K Back Panel

Features

The Pioneer VSX-822-K also has the necessary power to make some serious amplifications to the audio quality. The 400 watts of power that the VSX-822-K uses may not be enough for hardcore audiophiles to appreciate but it can drive home theater performance to today’s home theater equipment and portable devices. Modern Blu-ray players can pair well with the Pioneer VSX-822-K thanks to DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD support. Although the VSX-822-K is focused on 5.1-channel setups, it is possible to add height channels to form a 7.1-channel setup because Dolby Pro Logic IIz is supported as well.

No AV receiver is complete with a calibration system because configuring the settings manually can be tough since the locations of the speakers need to be taken into consideration. Pioneer’s approach to automatic calibration comes in the form of the Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration system (MCACC). This system not only measures the distance between the listening area and each speaker through the microphone but it also notes the size of the speaker.

There is also a unique feature called the Front Stage Surround Advance which opens up more possibilities in speaker placement. This technology can create a virtual surround sound effect even if the speakers are placed up front. While surround sound setups are still recommended, this is a great fallback solution if wires are an issue.

Pioneer also has a few technologies that attempt to improve the sound quality of digital music. MP3, WMA and AAC file formats can utilize Pioneer’s Advanced Sound Retriever technology for CD-like quality even for the low bit-rate tracks. iPhone, iPad and iPod devices can connect directly to the front USB port so this enhancement technology is great for people with large music collections. Loseless fans will also appreciate the support for 24-bit FLAC music files. Just put them in a USB flash drive and the AV receiver can play them immediately.

The LAN port is a huge addition for a low-end AV receiver like the Pioneer VSX-822-K. The networking features are not so focused on the Internet but it does offer plenty of modern functionality including AirPlay support. AirPlay is an Apple standard that eliminates the need for docks and cables as long as the devices support it. All current iPod, iPad and iPhone models can utilize this feature to wirelessly stream music to the home theater receiver. It is also smart enough to play back where the device left off. Turning on the TV connected to the AV receiver while music is playing back through AirPlay also reveals the track information. Pioneer also released an update that adds HTC Connect support so HTC One owners can stream music as well. In addition to that, the VSX-822-K can play nice with DLNA-certified devices and computers and can connect to vTuner for those that like Internet radio. There is also an Android and iOS app that lets you control the Pioneer VSX-822-K through the supported device over Wi-Fi.

Bottom Line

The Pioneer VSX-822-K is a great AV receiver with up-to-date technologies that home theater enthusiasts should enjoy. The extra network features provide an even greater incentive for people to finally upgrade their aging home theater systems. There are plenty of HDMI ports available for media players and gaming consoles too. If a full 7.1-channel setup isn’t a serious consideration, the VSX-822-K is a great budget and energy efficient option.

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