Experts are more than pleased with the performance of the Pioneer VSX-821-K home theater receiver, especially considering its budget price. Critics say music, television, movie soundtracks and more all sound good on this receiver. Surround performance is convincing and enveloping.
At this price, some features found on higher-priced receivers are missing, but there's still plenty packed inside. For one thing, you'll only get five amplifier channels, but that's plenty to create a realistic surround-sound field. The receiver allows you to expand to 7 channel surround -- and even includes Dolby Pro Logic IIz support -- if you feel like adding a separate two-channel amp. The four HDMI inputs conform to the HDMI 1.4a standard, which means they can handle 3D content. They also support audio return channel (for getting audio back from your TV set without having to run a separate analog audio cable) and standby pass-through, which transfers signals even when the receiver is off. You won't find advanced networking features at this price, but you will find Pioneer's helpful Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration Control (MCACC) automatic speaker setup program as well as the ability to listen to music from your iPod or iPhone via an included cable. If you have a little more to spend, the Onkyo TX-NR509 also is well regarded and includes the ability to stream audio from the Internet or from a computer on your home network.
Few critics review budget receivers, but we found three that take a look at the Pioneer VSX-821-K; About.com's Robert Silva, BigPictureBigSound.com's Rachel Cericola and the anonymous editors at HomeTheaterGears.com. Cericola delivers the most in-depth review, covering all aspects of the receiver in detail. HomeTheaterGears.com covers the basic technical details before delving into usage impressions. Silva's write-up is brief -- only a paragraph -- and seemingly based only on specifications, but he uses his considerable experience to render an opinion. A small handful of user reviews can be found at Amazon.com.
Rachel Cericola's critique of the Pioneer VSX-821-K continues BigPictureBigSound.com's tradition of detailed reviews. She bemoans the inability to convert analog video signals to digital for output over HDMI, and mentions that at least a composite cable is needed for both MCACC auto setup and viewing iPod menus on the TV screen. Nevertheless, she awards the receiver a commendable 3.5 out of 4 stars, calling both the video and audio "flawless." "Overall, we weren't just pleased; we were actually impressed," Cericola concludes.
Review: Pioneer VSX-821-K Receiver Review, Rachel Cericola, April 2011
The editors of HomeTheaterGears.com take a quick look at the technical features of the VSX-821-K before jumping into usage details. They report fantastic video and audio performance while watching "Twilight: Eclipse" and listening to David Bowie's "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars." In conclusion, they say "The Pioneer VSX-821-K offers exceptional value for a modest price."
Review: Pioneer VSX-821-K, Editors of HomeTheaterGears.com
The Pioneer VSX-821-K receiver lands in the fourth spot on Robert Silva's list of the top receivers under $399. The write-up is exceptionally brief, however -- just a paragraph. Silva does a decent job of talking about the notable features of the VSX-821-K, but doesn't conduct any testing or a hands-on examination. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Best Home Theater Receivers - Priced at 399.00 or Less, Robert Silva
While there aren't a substantial number yet, user reviews are beginning to accumulate at Amazon.com. Most reviewers seem pleased, and to date no 1- or 2-star ratings have appeared. Happy users love the Pioneer VSX-821-K's performance, but some concerns are raised over the retro, blocky look of the iPod interface. Overall, the Pioneer VSX-821-K earns a rating of 4 (out of 5) stars.
Review: Pioneer VSX-821-K 5.1 Home Theater Receiver, Glossy Black, Contributors to Amazon.com