Entry level……those words my friend are fighting words. Any self respecting home theater enthusiast wouldn’t be caught dead with a (GASP!) “Entry Level” receiver. Well, maybe the Pioneer VSX 523 is one of the few entry level receivers that even a true home theater enthusiast can love.


Pioneer 523 Looks

Pioneer hasn’t changed their design philosophy much the past few years and the Pioneer 523 is proof of that. As far as looks go, it basically looks identical to last years models. Truth be told, Pioneers receivers are similar to Onkyo’s in the looks department. Denon, Marantz and Yamaha receivers have a much better aesthetic, but you don’t buy a receiver based on looks.

Pioneer VSX 523 Connectivity

Pioneer 523 Rear

As you’d expect from an entry level a/v receiver, the Pioneer 523 is a little limited in it’s connectivity options. The Pioneer VSX 523 incorporates 4 HDMI ports, 1 digital optical, 1 coaxial, 3 analog audio inputs, 2 analog video inputs and 1 subwoofer pre-out. The one connection type missing from this is a component connection. For most entry level home theater setups this will provide more than enough connectivity options.


Pioneer 523 Features

For an entry level receiver the Pioneer 523 serves up a pretty extensive set of features. It supports the main HD audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. On the front of the receiver, you’ll find a USB port that allows you to plug in your Apple or USB device and play your MP3, WMA and AAC files directly thru the receiver. Something that’s surprising to find on the Pioneer VSX 523 is that it supports both 3D and 4K pass through. Most people know what 3D  is, but 4K is something new. For those of you that aren’t aware, 4K is a resolution that is roughly 4x the resolution of the current HD standard (1080p). Currently, there aren’t many 4K TV’s available (unless you can afford to drop about $30,000 on one) but in a few years it most likely will become an HD TV standard. It’s surprising to find an entry level receiver at this price point that offers 4K pass through.


The Pioneer VSX 523 is rated at 140 watts (1 kHz 1 % THD @ 6 Ohms 1ch Driven) or 80 Watts (20Hz-20kHz .08% THD @ 8 Ohms). The later number is probably more accurate for most real world applications. So all in all, 80 watts per channel is pretty good. Another surprising thing is that the Pioneer 523 includes MCACC room calibration. Many entry level receivers don’t include any type of calibration software so this is a big plus, especially for someone who is just starting to delve into the home theater world.



The Pioneer 523 shows lots of promise. For an entry level receiver it definitely offers a good amount of features some of which, you’d only expect to see on more expensive receivers. That being said, although the Pioneer VSX 523 has decent power, it probably wouldn’t be a good match for a high-end home theater. However, if you’re building your first home theater the Pioneer 523 is a good first step, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

Where to Buy:

See Price on Amazon


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