THE GOOD: The Pioneer VSX-530 with it’s inclusion of HDCP 2.2 is well prepared for 4K video. Even though the 530 isn’t networked, it’s Bluetooth capabilities give you an additional method to stream music to the receiver.

 

THE BAD: The Pioneer 530 doesn’t include an auto calibration system. Getting the best out of the 530 takes some effort. It’s sound quality is a notch below the competition’s.

 

SUMMARY: The Pioneer is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand it has a compelling set of features for an entry-level amp. On the other hand, it’s lack of an auto calibration system and so-so sound quality means it lags behind it’s closest competition, the Yamaha RX-V379 and Denon AVR-S510BT.

 

Pioneer VSX-530-K 5.1 Channel AV Receiver with Dolby True HD & Built-In Bluetooth Wireless Technology

Price: $193.83

4.0 out of 5 stars (338 customer reviews)

18 used & new available from $155.06

 

Pioneer VSX-530-K 5.1 Channel Review

On the surface, the Pioneer VSX-530 looks the same as last year’s 524. However, once you dig beyond its aluminum facade you’ll see that the 530 is more equipped for the onslaught of 4K video than its predecessor. Unlike last year’s model, the VSX-530 is HDCP 2.2 compliant which makes it well prepared for the Ultra-HD format.

Pioneer VSX-530 Review

The Pioneer VSX-530 has an unassuming appearance. It’s boxy frame is basically identical to last year’s 524 model. Embedded on the front is a slender display with small unobtrusive buttons for the tuner, surround modes etc. underneath. On the far left of the receiver is an input select knob. On the far right is a large volume knob. Missing from the front is a mic input that would typically be used for calibration. I’ll touch upon that a little later in the review.

 

The remote packaged with the VSX-530 is serviceable however, the buttons are a little on the small side. The on-screen interface of the 530 is your basic text-based interface. Overall, it’s easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for without too much hassle.  While it certainly gets the job done, it could definitely be spiced up a bit.

 

On the back of the Pioneer VSX-530, you’ll find a limited number of inputs. Three analog, two digital (an optical and one coaxial), and one subwoofer pre-out round out the majority of the rear connections. On the front you also get one USB input for connecting a flash drive or USB compatible device. These connection options by themselves are pretty standard for an entry-level amp, but the highlight of the show are the Pioneer VSX-530’s HDMI inputs. The 530 has a total of 4 HDMI 2.0 inputs and 1 output with HDCP 2.2 compatibility.

Pioneer VSX-530 inputs

 

If you plan on upgrading to a 4K TV, HDCP 2.2 should be on your short list of requirements for an AV receiver. Only amps that are HDCP 2.2 compliant will pass through UHD video that uses this encryption. Most of last years entry-level receivers lacked this feature, so the fact the 530 can do this is a definite bonus.

 

Features

The VSX-530 makes it easy to stream music wirelessly to the receiver since it has Bluetooth with aptX. AptX is said to be able to raise compressed music files to near CD quality audio levels. Pairing my iPod with the VSX-530 was a painless process that only took a few seconds. Sound quality wise, there is a notable improvement in sound quality with aptX. Whether or not it’s “CD quality” is debatable.

 

Along similar lines as aptX the Pioneer VSX-530 also has a feature called Advanced Sound Retriever which is designed to restore the audio quality of compressed audio files such as MP3’s. Other AV receivers have similar features and this has always been hit or miss with me. In the Pioneer’s case, compressed music did have a slightly fuller more dynamic sound with the Advanced Sound Retriever active.

 

Setup

Setting up the Pioneer VSX-530 can be a bit of an ordeal. Unlike competing receivers from Yamaha and Denon, the 530 doesn’t include any type of built-in calibration system. In order to get the best sound out of the VSX-530, be prepared to take some time to manually setup the amp. Speaker distances, levels, and crossovers all need to be setup through the Pioneer’s setup menu.

 

If you don’t have access to an SPL meter be prepared to use a lot of trial and error to get your speakers dialed in. Last year’s Pioneer VSX-524 included Pioneer’s MCACC calibration system, so it’s disappointing that this year’s 530 doesn’t include it.

 

Pioneer does include a feature called phase control which is designed to ensure that sound reaches a listening spot “in-phase” so that there is little distortion or coloration. Getting this set properly can take some time as you’ll need to have your subwoofer and speaker distances set accurately. Again, this is an item that most calibration systems do for you.

 

Performance

Getting the Pioneer properly dialed in is going to take some time and I fear that most people won’t take the time or have the necessary equipment to do it.

 

I decided to take the Pioneer 530 for a spin with The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. Right of the bat it was clear that the 530 was capable of very crisp and clean sound reproduction. When Thorin’s in the golden hall battling his inner demons, voices echoed convincingly around the room. Sound moved seamlessly from the left surround channel to the right. However, in the beginning of the flick when Smaug attacks the fishing village the dragon’s usual booming voice lacked the depth and power that I’ve heard with other receivers.

 

Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow is a good test for any AV receiver. As with Battle of Five Armies the sound track lacked the depth that I’ve come accustomed to with other amps. Also, while the rear channels transitioned smoothly from one to another, the Pioneer VSX-530’s transitions from front to rear weren’t quite as seamless.

 

Music playback was a little so-so. Hozier’s normally soulful voice lacked emotion and power on the 530. The 530’s performance didn’t improve with other genre’s either. Across the board the 530 lacked depth and excitement. Overall, the VSX-530 is just an average to above average musical performer which is a tough pill to swallow considering how  well most Pioneer receivers normally test out.

 

The Verdict

Pioneer’s dropped the ball with the Pioneer VSX-530. The lack of an auto calibration system forces you to manually set-up the speakers to get the best out of the receiver. The main competition of the 530 are the Yamaha RX-V379 and the Denon AVR-S510BT. These receivers cost $20-$30 more than the 530, but their included calibration systems make it well worth it in the long run. After spending some time with this receiver the audio quality also lags behind the competition this year making it hard to recommend.


Where to Buy:

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