It's been a period of adjustment for the Pioneer brand. Two years ago, Pioneer Japan announced it was selling its AV division to competitor Onkyo. This resulted in a number of changes, including the loss of speaker designer Andrew Jones to ELAC America.
The 2016 line of gear is the first that's been fully assimilated into Onkyo, but the VSX-831 is still recognizably a Pioneer receiver. This "Ponkyo" offers audio features that the Onkyos at the same price don't, including an upgraded digital converter (DAC) and internet streaming features.
Although its sound quality is very good overall, like Pioneers of the past, the VSX-831 is voiced more towards movie playback than music. That's not a bad thing, as it's certainly capable of exciting home theater bombast, but if you are looking for a receiver with melodic chops then you may find that Sony's STR-DN1070 (yes, Sony!) or Marantz's NR1506 might suit you better.
On the other hand, both cost more than this well-priced Pioneer. The VSX-831 is available now for a list price of $449.99, £449.99 in the UK and AU$999 in Australia.
The Pioneer VSX-831 offers a familiar fascia design with two main knobs -- one for each source selection and volume -- and a bunch of feature buttons between. Unlike Onkyo receivers and even some older Pioneers, there are no direct input buttons, sadly. Gone are the days of orange LEDs for Pioneer receiver displays. Like all its modern brethren, the VSX 831 features a pale blue LED.
The remote is stripped down to the essentials and is very usable as a result. You could almost say it's "good looking" for a receiver remote, but that's about the lowest possible bar.
Speaking of low bars, the onscreen display of a receiver is not usually something to crow about, but the VSX-831 offers a full-color interface which is actually kinda fun to navigate. For us, at least.
The Pioneer VSX-831 is a 5.2 channel receiver that boasts 80 watts of power and a wealth of inputs for the money. Most impressive is the provision of six HDMI inputs, three of which offer 4K (60P) and HDCP 2.2 support.
As you'd expect now that Pioneer is now part of Onkyo, there are some technological similarities between the two brands' receivers. One is the FireConnect multiroom system, based on BlackFire as used in Harman Kardon products. FireConnect is a multiroom platform that offers playback across both Pioneer and Onkyo products and includes services such as TuneIn, Deezer and Tidal. The feature will be coming in a future update.
If multiroom and cross-brand compatibility are your thing, the receiver also offers Google Cast, which will work with other brands including Sony, LG and Raumfeld, as well as Google Chromecast devices. It's essentially Google's answer to Apple AirPlay, but it works with both iOS and Android devices (and if you do want AirPlay, the Pioneer has that, too). If all else fails, at least you have Bluetooth. If you collect hi-res files, the AK4458 DAC is capable of reading up to 11.2MHz DSD files natively.