Pioneer VSX-520-K - Performance and Verdict

By Danny Phillips



Our Score:


At least the Pioneer’s performance assuages some of this operational frustration. With 5 x 130W of audio horsepower in the tank, the VSX-520 musters a muscular and engaging sound with movies, particularly when you’ve got a raucous actioner like Avatar in the tray.

During the 'Eywa' chapter, its DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is sharp and zesty, with precisely placed surround effects, terrific steering and an expansive soundstage. Crisp top-end detail emanates from every speaker and clear dialogue cuts through the cacophony of battle. On the downside, it’s a little harsh in places – especially the banshees hissing in chapter 16 – and that lack of smoothness puts it down a peg or two compared with Onkyo’s latest offerings.

But during the movie’s quieter scenes the Pioneer displays an impressive deftness of touch. As the camera follows Jake on his first sortie into Pandora’s jungle, a rich sonic tapestry surrounds you. From the crinkling leaves on the floor to creatures howling in the distance, the Pioneer fashions a layered, believable atmosphere that holds the attention throughout. It’s utterly engrossing.

Bass output is also solid too – thumping footsteps and the sound of exploding helicopters have satisfying heft without bludgeoning the other speakers into submission. Overall, the Pioneer is a solid movie performer but not the best you’ll find at this price point.

We also tried out some music and although it doesn’t sparkle in the way we were expecting, failing to eke out delicate detail and reproduce vocals with the same finesse as some rivals, it’s still an enjoyable performance for the money.


In its own right, the Pioneer VSX-520 is an impressive AV receiver. With its attractive looks, future-proofed 3D-ready HDMI sockets, a wealth of audio processing and decent sonic performance, it has a lot to offer. It’s not perfect – some harshness to the sound and an awkward operating system being the two main problems – but otherwise it’s a sound choice.

The trouble is, you can pick up receivers like the Onkyo TX-SR308 and Yamaha RX-V467 for a similar price, both of which offer more features and slightly better performance.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Value 8


September 10, 2010, 2:22 pm

Any chance you'll be getting any of the higher end models in this line in for testing? I'm specifically looking at any of the following: VSX-920-K, VSX-1020-K and VSX-2020-K, and the SC-LX73 and SC-LX83


September 11, 2010, 12:05 pm

Can't they make it smaller?


January 4, 2011, 10:36 pm

Im not sure which vsx 520 you guys reviewed...because the vsx 520 does NOT have the Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration (MCACC) mode.that is only on the vsx i cant TRUST these trusted you wont publish this comment either!


January 6, 2011, 4:25 pm

@John McLean:

Hopefully we should be, though I couldn't say when.


Don't you know bigger is better?

Seriously though, aside from all the large components inside, not to mention all the connectivity on the back panels, cooling is one of the reasons these machines tend to be as big as they are.


That's odd, because if you look at Pioneer's official spec-page, it lists MCACC as one of the primary features... {}

So do trust our reviews - and you lost that bet :)


July 7, 2011, 1:51 am

Hi Folks,

I own one in the States and it doesn't have MCACC. Maybe the Euro version does. I also looked at the link you provided and I can't find it. I was going buy to another brand that did, and I stumbled upon the 520 at a reduced price because it was an open box item.


November 30, 2012, 2:18 pm

@kraig: i never undestood why people who don't posses a certain object comment upon them. i have this receiver and can confirm that it has MCACC!!!!!!!!!!!!
i have to specify that i am not autistic and i don't have any mental illnesses that could influence my way of perceiving reality

Harrison Ford

July 10, 2016, 5:03 pm

For guys with BD players and a surround system, I suppose this is a fine amplifier - for music it is pathetic. The hoops one has to go through just to get almost *almost* the actual sound from the sound source is hilarious and then you'll never get it untouched, because it's "advanced surround" effects will *never* turn off.

This dumb product is only for people who think HDMI is an important feature on an amplifier, and then only those who don't have much money. You get what you pay for, steer clear of this one. Pathetic.

comments powered by Disqus