Spotlight On The Pioneer VSX-531 Home Theater Receiver

Pioneer VSX-531 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver
Pioneer VSX-531 5.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver. Image provided by Pioneer Electronics

If you are looking for that home theater experience, but really don't have the cash, Pioneer's VSX-531 is not only a very affordable home theater receiver option, but provides solid basics that might fit your needs.

Channel Configuration and Power

To start, the VSX-531 provides up to a 5.1 channel speaker configuration (left, center, right, surround left, and surround right, and a subwoofer output), with a stated power output for the five main channels of 80 WPC (measured using 20 Hz to 20 kHz test tones, 2 channels driven, at 8 ohms, with 0.8% THD).

For more details on what the above-stated power ratings mean with respect to real-world conditions, refer to our reference article: Understanding Amplifier Power Output Specifications.

However, to put it simply, the VSX-531 provides enough power output to fill a small or medium size room (12x13 to 15x20 feet).

Audio Decoding and Processing

The VSX-531 includes decoding and processing for most Dolby and DTS surround sound formats, up to Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

Additional audio processing includes Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6, 6 preset surround modes (Action, Drama, Advanced Game, Sports, Classical, Rock/Pop), as well as extended stereo and front-stage virtual surround using only two speakers. For private listening, Pioneer also provides headphone surround sound processing the works with any pair of headphones.

Video Connectivity

For video connectivity, the VSX-531 provides 4 3D and 4K/HDR pass-through HDMI connections, with HDCP 2.2 copy-protection. However, no video upscaling. Also, no S-video or Component video inputs or outputs are provided.

NOTE: If you have a video source connected to one of the two provided composite video inputs, you need to connect the composite video output to your TV in order see that source content displayed on your TV screen - there is no analog-to-HDMI conversion provided.

Audio Connectivity

Audio connectivity (in addition to HDMI) includes 1 Digital Optical, 1 Digital Coaxial, and two sets of analog stereo inputs (one RCA and one 3.5mm), as well as two sets of analog stereo inputs, each of which I paired with a composite video input. A Subwoofer preamp output is also provided for connection to a powered subwoofer.

Also, the VSX-531's HDMI output is also Audio Return Channel-enabled for compatible TVs.

Speaker connections include standard screw-on terminals for the front left and right speakers, and clip terminals for the center and surround channels.

Additional connectivity provided includes a front-mounted USB port for flash drives or other compatible USB devices. Playable music files include 48kHz/16-Bit MP3, WMA, and AAC.

Additional Features

In addition to physical audio and video connectivity, the VSX-531 also has built-in Bluetooth, which enables direct streaming from compatible smartphones and tablets.

Control Options

To provide setup and control of the VSX-531 a standard IR remote is included. Unfortunately, control via smartphone or tablet is not possible.

What Is Not Included

It is also important to note what is not included in the VSX-531. Although there is a built-in there is a built-in AM/FM radio tuner, the VSX-531 does not provide access to internet radio or other internet or network streaming content. Also, Pioneer's MCACC automatic speaker setup system is not included - which means you have to set your speaker size, distance, and levels manually. Since this receiver is targeted for the novice user, it would have been nice to include the MCACC speaker setup system instead of having the user to perform the speaker level setup manually - However, there is a built-in test tone generator to assist.

The Bottom Line

Although the Pioneer VSX-531 doesn't provide many of the features and conveniences of most mid-range and high-end home theater receivers, it does provide the necessary basics that might just the right solution for those on a budget - or even someone that has higher-end setup in one room, but would like a more modest setup in a second room. In fact, you might even consider using the VSX-531 as part of an Outdoor Home Theater Setup

Other Pioneer "31" Series Home Theater Receivers To Consider are the mid-range VSX-831 and VSX-1131.

Also, if you want something a little more high-end? Consider Pioneer's Elite VSX-LX101, 301, and 501 Home Theater Receivers