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.
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.
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.