Though Pioneer has been in home theater since its very beginnings, last year's Pioneer VSX-831 ($449.00 at Amazon.com) still took us by surprise. Despite its brutal looks the receiver was one of the year's best offering excellent movie performance and enjoyable music replay.
This year's VSX-832 looks to take up the mantle again, but we wonder whether an overabundance of features could work to its detriment. The new receiver adds Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and even more streaming features, which is nice, but there are several caveats.
The VSX-832 is still only a five-channel amplifier and the first we've seen that supports Atmos -- and we wouldn't be surprised if it's also one of the last. Why? Adding optional heights to your system means you will lose you a pair of surrounds, which is kind of weird. Sure, you could potentially place the heights at the rear (if the receiver lets you, that is) or you could just put your normal surrounds up high. Or you could just run the Pioneer as a straight 5.1 receiver if you wish.
Another Pioneer casualty is the number of HDMI inputs, which are down from six to four. While they all have 4K/HDR support, most people would struggle to have even one device that needs this. We'd rather have six inputs with one or two supporting 4K if we must. Be aware that other companies such as Yamaha are also cutting corners in the same way.
Like other Pioneer and Onkyo products this year, the VSX-832 will offer the most comprehensive number of streaming systems of any their competitors including Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, DTS Play-Fi and Chromecast built-in.
At $479 (April 2017) the feature count is crazy high, and if the company hasn't tampered with the sound it should perform well. We are interested to see whether some of the sacrifices made -- fewer HDMI ports, wacky Atmos implementation -- will ultimately affect its value proposition though.
Meanwhile, the company has also announced the VSX-532, a 5.1 receiver which eliminates some of these extra features -- Atmos and streaming -- but keeps Bluetooth for $379.
Australian and UK pricing and availability of these two models is yet to be announced, but the US price converts to about £385 and AU$625 for the VSX-832 and around £300 and AU$495 for the VSX-532.