Pioneer VSX-832 Review
THE VERDICT
The Pioneer VSX-832 is everything you could want in a mid-range AV receiver at this price point. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are great inclusions, but they do require some sacrifices.

Design8
Features9
Value9
Ease of Use9
Sound Quality8
The Good
  • The Pioneer VSX-832 is one of the first 5-channel AV receivers to include Dolby Atmos & DTS:X. The 832 has a laundry list of features which include Chromecast Built-in, Bluetooth, WiFi and 4K video support.
The Bad
  • In order to use Dolby Atmos and DTS:X you’ll have to sacrifice your surround channels. No dedicated phono input on this year’s model.
8.5Overall Score

 

Pioneer VSX-832 Design

Pioneer VSX-832 Review

The Pioneer VSX-832 is your typical modern receiver. A decade or so ago the front of most AV receivers was chock full of buttons and knobs. Today’s amps are cleaner and sleeker with less button clutter. The face of the 832 is dominated by the large volume and input select knobs positioned on the right and left sides of the receiver.

 

Since Pioneer and Onkyo merged a couple years ago we’ve seen both companies make progress with simplifying their equipment. The one area you notice this the most is with their remotes. They no longer look like scientific calculators. In the case of the 832’s remote, it only has the essential buttons. As an alternative to the remote, you can use the AV control app that Pioneer offers. The app, which is a free download from the iOS and Google Play stores, can be installed on smartphones or tablets. In case the remote falls victim to the cushions of your couch the app can act as a quick and easy substitute.

 

Connectivity

Pioneer VSX-832 Connections

The Pioneer VSX-832 gives you a satisfactory number of input choices highlighted by its four 4K compatible HDMIs. The HDMIs check-off most of the 4K hot buttons such as HDCP 2.2 (4K/60p/4:4:4), HDR 10, BT.2020, and Dolby Vision. Analog inputs are sparse on the amp with only two available. To compensate, the 832 has two digital inputs (one optical and one coaxial). For wired network connections, an ethernet port is also located on the receiver’s rear. One item missing from this year’s model is a dedicated phono input which is a little odd especially with the recent resurgence of vinyl.

 

Audio Formats

The Pioneer VSX-832 is the first 5-channel AV receiver that we’ve come across that supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Typically, the minimum number of channels needed for these object-based surround formats is seven, but the 832 appears to be the exception to this rule. However, there is a drawback to using Atmos & DTS:X on the 832. In order to set it up, you’ll need to sacrifice your surround speakers and use them as overhead height speakers. This may be too much of a sacrifice for some, including me, but I do appreciate Pioneer’s effort to push the envelope a little. In the end, it will come down to your listening preference and if you think the overhead sound effects are worth the sacrifice of your rear surrounds.

 

In addition to the aforementioned object-based audio formats, the 832 also supports the old standbys – Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. On the music front, MP3, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC and WAV files are all playable by the amp.

 

Networking

Even if you removed Dolby Atmos and DTS:X from the equation, the Pioneer VSX-832 still boasts a robust set of features. The amp has both Bluetooth and dual-band WiFi. In addition, there are a multitude of ways to stream music to the receiver. TuneIn, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, Tidal and AirPlay are all available on the 832 as is Chromecast built-in. With multi-room audio becoming more and more popular, the Pioneer VSX-832 has two options to choose from – DTS Play-Fi and FireConnect. Between the two, DTS Play-Fi is currently enjoying a little more support from 3rd parties than FireConnect.

 

Setup

With its rear ethernet port, getting the 832 on your network is as simple as plugging in a network cable. WiFi is equally easy to setup if you have a newer Apple Device. If this is the case, you can copy your WiFi settings over to the amp and have it wirelessly connected in seconds.

 

For speaker calibration, the 832 uses Pioneer’s MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System). This system automatically adjusts your speaker levels and crossovers based on the characteristics of your speakers and your room’s acoustics. With most calibration systems I usually find myself going in and tweaking the settings. With the 832, MCACC did a good enough job that I left the settings as they were. Even so, I still recommend that you double check the settings after you run the calibration.

 

Sound Quality

After calibration, our first test for the Pioneer VSX-832 was Mad Max: Fury Road on Blu-Ray. The 832 uses what it calls a “surround enhancer” when you’re running an Atmos config. Since the surround speakers are assigned to the height channels, the surround enhancer creates virtual surround speakers. This tech is often used in sound bars for the same effect. With Mad Max, the Pioneer 832 did a good job generating overhead effects with the grunts and screams of the Wild Boys soaring high overhead.  The surround enhancer attempted to fill in the gap where the surround channels would be. That being said, when I switched between a standard 5.1 arrangement and the Atmos 3.1.2 setup, my ears preferred the standard 5-channel. The surround enhancer didn’t completely compensate for the missing surround channels which left a noticeable gap in the rear of the room.

 

Wonder Woman was the next test for the Pioneer VSX-832. The amp had no issue tackling the movies Atmos soundtrack. Bullets and Airplanes zoomed overhead. The 832 gave our subwoofer a good work out too as explosions were thunderous. The soundstage was expansive and wide with good detail. When compared to some of the other receivers we’ve tested this year, like the Onkyo TX-NR676 and the Sony STR-DN1080, the 832’s performance didn’t match the dimensionality of those more expensive receivers. However, when used in a standard 5-channel format the 832 was on par with the Yamaha RX-V483 that we previously tested this year.

 

The Pioneer VSX-832 is a competent music performer. In stereo mode, the amp displayed good dynamics. The 832’s penchant for detail makes it an ideal receiver for classical music scores. However, we did feel that the 832’s sound lacked a little depth, especially when compared to higher priced receivers. Overall though, it was solid.

 

The Verdict

Pioneer surprised us this year when they announced that the 5-channel Pioneer VSX-832 was Atmos and DTS:X equipped. While I like the “out of the box” thinking by Pioneer, to get the most out of the amp you’re probably better off using it in a standard 5.1 channel arrangement. That being said, having the option to use Atmos & DTS:X gives the amp good flexibility at its current price point.


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