The VSX-520 is one of three 5.1-channel receivers at the lower end of Pioneer’s current range, sandwiched between the cheaper VSX-420 and higher-specced VSX-820. Naturally, the VSX-520 adds a few extra features not found on the VSX-420, chief among which is the ability to pass through 3D signals thanks to its HDMI v1.4 sockets.
Aesthetically the VSX-520 offers few surprises but it is effortlessly attractive, sporting an eye-catching gloss-black finish, large informative display panel and bulky black dials in the lower corners for volume and input selection. Despite being covered in buttons (controlling sound modes and the built-in radio features) the overall darkness of the front panel keeps them concealed and makes the unit appear uncluttered. Unfortunately, this minimal look is also brought about by a lack of front-panel connections, except for a headphone jack and input for the auto calibration microphone.
On the back, you get three HDMI v1.4 inputs and one output, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for expansion if you’ve already got a PS3, Blu-ray deck and Sky box hooked up, but at this price it would be greedy to expect more. As mentioned these will pass on any 3D signals it receives from Blu-ray players and Sky+HD boxes, and is a pleasing feature to find on such an affordable receiver.
Elsewhere the rest of your components are well catered for. Audio connections comprise two optical digital audio inputs and one coaxial, six sets of analogue stereo inputs and three outputs (one of which can be used as pre-outs when adding surround back or front height speakers), and a subwoofer pre-out. On the video side, you get four composite video inputs and two outputs, plus two sets of component video outputs and one output.
The speaker terminal arrangement is unusual. For the front pair you get banana plug compatible plastic binding posts but the surround and centre channels connect to springclip terminals. This mix 'n' match approach is no doubt a cost-cutting measure but the springclips make it a tricky task to connect thick speaker cables.
Completing the line-up are FM and AM antenna sockets and an adapter port for connecting Pioneer’s AS-BT100 Bluetooth adapter, which allows you to stream music wirelessly from Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones, PCs and so forth. This gizmo will set you back between £60 and £100.