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Pioneer VSK-527-K review

Inexpensive surround amp has AirPlay and Bluetooth, but lacks punch Tested at £300

Our Verdict

We really wanted to like this Pioneer, but it just doesn't do enough in its core areas

For

  • Low price
  • detailed sound
  • good effects steering
  • Airplay and Bluetooth
  • easy to use

Against

  • Sound lacks body and punch
  • dynamics not great

Who says home cinema amps have to be expensive? The Pioneer VSX-527-K is a stripped-down 5.1-channel amp aimed at the starter end of the market, but it also does AirPlay streaming out of the box and Bluetooth via a £50 dongle.

Its socketry is fairly basic: terminals for five speaker channels, plus preamp outputs for surround-back or front-height channels, six HDMI inputs and one out, a smattering of analogue ins and outs, a couple of digitals and an Ethernet port.

Pioner VSX-527-K

Pioner VSX-527-K

Pioneer VSX-527-K: Sound quality

After a simple set-up, we set a Blu-ray of Star Trek spinning and are met by an immediately attacking sound that’s quite detailed at the price. Speech is clear, and the myriad of sci-fi beeps are steered atmospherically around our cinema room.

But we can’t help wanting more authority. The Pioneer struggles with large dynamic shifts, with its bass in particular feeling far too restrained. While the amp can go loud with relative ease, it doesn’t do so with the cinematic oompf we want.

Pioneer VSX-527-K

Pioneer VSX-527-K

Moving to AirPlay, a listen to Boards of Canada’s Roygbiv flags up more of the same. It’s a warm-sounding track, but has a fast, attacking drum sound – something that isn’t quite done justice here.

Pioneer VSX-527-K: Verdict

It’s a shame, really, because there’s no denying this amp’s value. You really can’t not be tempted by the idea of a quality £300 home cinema amp. The shame is this Pioneer just isn’t as absorbing as we’d expect, even at this money.

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, New York and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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