Pioneer VSX-823 REVIEW | Agile Performer at a Reasonable Price
Chris Murray | On 20, Aug 2013
The Pioneer VSX 823 is one of Pioneer’s latest offerings for 2013. It doesn’t have the robust feature set that some competing receivers do such as the Onkyo 626 or the Sony STR-DN1040, but it does come equipped with 6 HDMI inputs and AirPlay support. The biggest thing it’s missing is built-in WiFi and Bluetooth which the aforementioned receivers do have. If these aren’t features that you’re looking for though, then the sound quality may make it worth investigating.
Pioneer VSX-823 Appearance
The Pioneer VSX-823 is what you’d expect from an a/v receiver. It’s your run of the mill big black box. The button clutter is kept to a minimum and the front panel has a brushed aluminum appearance. The remote that comes with the 823, like most a/v remotes, is overly complicated. Although, it’s not as bad as some that we’ve seen. A recent trend we’ve seen in a/v remotes is the utilization of the “shift key” in order to operate secondary functions of the remote which makes using it even more cumbersome. The Pioneer VSX-823′s remote follows this trend. Your better off tossing this remote in the drawer and getting a good universal remote like the Logitech Harmony 650 or 700.
Pioneer VSX-823 Features
Although there are receivers on the market with more features, the Pioneer VSX-823′s no slouch. The 823 is rated at 140 Watts (1 kHz 1 % THD @ 6 Ohms 1ch Driven). In the real world with all channels being driven you’re probably looking at about 60 – 80 watts per channel which is in line with most mid-range receivers.
Turn the Pioneer VSX-823 around and you’ll see it does offer a fairly good variety of connectivity options headlined by it’s 6 HDMI inputs and 1 output. One of the HDMI inputs is actually on the front of the receiver and is MHL 2.0 compatible. MHL 2.0 supports 3D and 1080p content. Therefore, if you have any MHL compatible device such as a smart phone you can play back your media in full HD with multi-channel sound. The 823 also has 3 analog audio inputs, 2 analog video inputs, 1 ethernet, and 1 each optical/coaxial. The one thing you’ll notice, is that it doesn’t include any composite video inputs which are slowly starting to disappear from a/v receivers. However, being that most modern equipment include HDMI connections, the absence of the composite video inputs probably won’t be missed by most.
This year Pioneer’s been touting their smart device integration. The Pioneer 823 is Airplay compatible which means you can push music from your apple device directly to the receiver. The Pioneer VSX-823 is also one of the first receivers to be HTC Connect certified which, like AirPlay, allows you to stream media wirelessly from your HTC compatible device. In addition, Pioneer offers a ControlApp which allows you to control some of the basic functions of the a/v receiver. While this is fairly cool, it still feels a little gimmicky. Nothing can really replace the tactile feel of pressing buttons.
The one area of weakness for the Pioneer VSX-823 is the fact that it does not have built-in WiFi or Bluetooth. In order to enjoy either of these functions you have to purchase a separate pricey adapter for each. This can be a tough pill to swallow especially when competing receivers like the Onkyo 626 and Sony STR-DN1040 include these features.
For calibration the Pioneer 823 uses Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration system (MCACC) which works surprisingly good. Place the included microphone in your listening area and the receiver does the rest. The Pioneer VSX-823 accurately set our speaker distances however, like most receivers it did set our speakers to large. Being stubborn, we set our speakers to small and set the crossover to the THX recommended 80Hz. Truth be told, we couldn’t hear any discernible difference with the speakers set to large or small. The on-screen display of the Pioneer VSX-823 will definitely not be confused with the Sony 1040s. It’s a basic black screen with white text. Even though it’s boring to look at, it’s organized and functions well.
As far as video processing is concerned, the Pioneer 823 does not do video upconversion to 1080p. However, it is 3D ready and allows for 4K pass through. Currently there’s only a handful of 4K TVs on the market so this feature isn’t essential, but its nice to know that 3 years down the line the 823 will still be relevant. On the other hand, 3D tech is nearly irrelevant at this point since demand has waned and some 3D broadcasters such as ESPN and the BBC have dropped their 3D television stations. However, it’s a definite plus that the 823 can handle both.
Pioneer 823 Performance
The area where the Pioneer VSX-823 really excels is in the sound quality. When listening to movies, the 823 proves itself to be an agile performer. Even though the MCACC calibration set our speakers to large the sound quality was still great. The Pioneer 823 was able to create a very convincing and enveloping sound field. It also produced authoritative amounts of bass. Transformers 2 – Revenge of the Fallen, while the movie itself was underwhelming, the complicated sound mix will put any av receiver to the test. The Pioneer VSX-823 passed with flying colors, however the one thing we did note was the sound, while detailed, did lack a bit of warmth. This was a little more apparent in music playback. This really boils down to personal preference more than anything else though.
Despite its few shortcomings, there’s a lot to like about the Pioneer VSX-823. It sounds great and has an ample amount of features for most people. Its lack of WiFi and Bluetooth is unfortunate, especially since competing receivers from Sony, Onkyo and Marantz are beginning to offer these features. Despite this, it still excels in the most important category for any a/v receiver…sound quality!
Pioneer VSX-823 Overview
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