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THIS IS A PARTIAL REVIEW.
The complete product review (and the whole issue in which it features) is available as part of our full digital edition, available here. This digital edition can be downloaded to your iPad or Android tablet (using the free Zinio app) or can be viewed through your web browser on a PC or Mac. The print edition is in all good Australian newsagents now.

 

Elsewhere in the Oct/Nov edition of Sound+Image we run one of Pioneer Electronics’ flagship AV receivers, the SC-LX86, through its paces. Less than one quarter of that model’s price and half its mass is this VSX-527, the company’s entry-level network receiver. This unit clearly demonstrates that you don’t need to be rich these days to enjoy a fine home theatre experience. And more than that, you get a bunch of cool network abilities, including one that was a somewhat high-end feature last year.

EQUIPMENT
As a budget receiver, Pioneer has culled plenty of non-essentials. You get only get five power amplifiers, but these are proper 100W jobs. And you do get support for 7.1-channel sound because there is a pair of pre-amp outputs. If you have a pair of active speakers (or a separate amplifier to drive passive ones), then you can have rear surround speakers (with either native or Dolby Pro Logic IIx 7.1 sound) or front height speakers (via Dolby Pro Logic IIz).

There are no component video nor S-Video inputs, but there’s a bit of legacy support with three composite inputs (one on the front panel, associated with the USB, for iPod video playback). Instead you get six HDMI inputs, all on the back panel. The receiver supports the Audio Return Channel from a TV.

There are only two S/PDIF digital audio inputs, one optical and one coaxial, but in addition to the USB socket you get Ethernet at the back. There is also a proprietary Pioneer adaptor port at the back, into which you can plug the optional Bluetooth adaptor ($119).

The new media support is remarkably strong here, with Apple AirPlay, high resolution audio format support both via USB and DLNA, and internet radio.

PERFORMANCE
Setting up the receiver is fast and conventional. Fast because there aren’t many connections to be made, and conventional in the sense that new users will need to consult the manual, there being no first-time wizard to guide them through the process.

Not that it’s hard. Once the wiring’s done just hit the ‘Home’ key, select ‘Auto MCACC’, put the microphone where your head will be and plug it in. It runs through a modest selection of test tones and sets speaker distances and levels, and it gathers data for EQ and Pioneer’s ‘Phase Control’ system. This adjusts for timing delays between different frequency bands that are manifested by many speakers. Both EQ and Phase Control are switched on by default, but can be easily switched on and off using specific keys on the remote...

 

THIS IS A PARTIAL REVIEW. The complete product review (and the whole issue in which it features) is available as part of our full digital edition, available here. This digital edition can be downloaded to your iPad or Android tablet (using the free Zinio app) or can be viewed through your web browser on a PC or Mac. The print edition is in all good Australian newsagents now.