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Pioneer VSX-520 review

Three 3D-ready HDMI sockets are part of the decent spec list for the Pioneer VSX-520 Tested at £280.00

Our Verdict

A solid performer, but sounds a little underwhelming compared to its rivals.


  • Solid build
  • automatic speaker calibration
  • focused, direct sound
  • three 3D HDMI inputs.


  • Lacks the punch, scale and dynamics of the top amps at this money
  • speaker terminals detract from the build quality

Pioneer has already impressed us with its VSX-920 and VSX-LX53 surround sound amps over recent months. Now it's time to get to grips with the ultra-affordable, five-channel VSX-520.

As you'd expect from a budget amp, the feature count isn't especially high, but all the basics have been accounted for.

There's onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio high-def audio formats. No new amp can afford to ignore the emergence of 3D technology, so the Pioneer equips you with three, 3D-ready HDMI sockets, together with component video, digital coaxial and digital optical ins.

It's a great all-round provider

On the rear of the amp you'll notice that the front left and right channels are the only ones to use standard-issue speaker terminals – rather disappointingly, the surround and centre channels have to make do with cheap-looking spring-loaded connections.

The Pioneer does include a socket for attaching its optional Bluetooth adaptor (AS-BT100), but it's a shame that there's no iPod connectivity via USB (an excellent feature found further up Pioneer's range).

Video upconversion and upscaling are also absent, but that's hardly a punishable offence when you take into account the amp's price tag.

Thankfully, the ‘520 still features Pioneer's accurate and thorough MCACC automatic speaker calibration system, so your speaker package will be up and running with minimal fuss.

Faced with Robin Hood's DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, the Pioneer produces a very focused, precise surround field.

Action sound is not vague or messy
As everyone's favourite mythical villain battles the French on Dungeness beach, the action sounds solid and controlled, not vague or messy. As swords clash, the Pioneer impressively resists the temptation to sound bright or hard.

When you're listening to movies, we'd recommend hitting the amp's Stream Direct button. This bypasses the machine's tone controls, thus allowing it to produce the purest sound possible.

Our only reservation concerning the VSX520 is that real sonic punch and dynamics are in relatively short supply. Even at this money, the current class leaders produce a more invigorating and involving sound, a performance of more verve and power than the Pioneer can manage.

It's a solid enough option for an entry-level system, but there are better home cinema amplifiers out there, even at this price.

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General Information

Manufacturer Website Address
Brand NamePioneer
Product SeriesVSX
Product TypeA/V Receiver
ManufacturerOnkyo & Pioneer Corporation
Manufacturer Part NumberVSX520BLACK
Product NamePioneer VSX-520
Product ModelVSX-520-K


Package Contents
  • VSX-520-K A/V Receiver
  • 1 x Remote Control
  • 1 x Microphone (for Auto MCACC Setup)
  • 2 x Dry Cell Batteries (AAA Size IEC RO3)
  • 1 x AM Loop Antenna
  • 1 x FM Wire Antenna
  • 1 x Power Cord
  • 1 x Warranty Card
  • Operating Instructions
Country of OriginChina
Environmentally FriendlyYes
Environmental CertificationWEEE


Number of HDMI Inputs3
Number of Digital Coaxial Inputs1
Number of Digital Optical Inputs2
Number of HDMI Outputs1
Number of Analog Audio Inputs6


RMS Output Power130 W
Sound SystemDolby Digital
Audio Channels5.1

Physical Characteristics

Width420 mm
Depth348 mm
Weight Approximate8.90 kg
Height158 mm
Dimensions158 mm (H): 420 mm (W): 348 mm (D)

Power Description

Operating Power Consumption240 W

Technical Information

3D Type3D Ready
Impedance6 Ohm
Maximum Frequency Response1 kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion THD1%


Frequency BandAM