CNET First Look
Pioneer VSX-823-K hands-onThe Pioneer VSX-823-K offers a lot of HDMI connectivity and built-in AirPlay for its price, but most buyers will be better off spending a little more for the wireless features on Sony's competing STR-DN840.
Hey, I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET and we're gonna take a look at the Pioneer VSX-823-K. This is a midrange 5.1 AV receiver with built-in Airplay and is currently selling for around $400. Like most AV receivers, the Pioneer is big and boxy, so you're gonna need plenty of space in your TV cabinet to hold it. There are two large knobs, one for volume and one for input selection, and that gives it a symmetrical feel. Altogether, though, the looks are just middling. So, if you're looking for something better looking, check out Marantz's Slim Line AV receivers. The included remote is about as confusing as most AV receiver remotes are. There are just a ton of tiny buttons, most of which you'll never use. Plus, there are all these confusing secondary labels that require you to hold down the "Shift" key. It will be fine for home theater enthusiasts, but it's a pain for anyone else to use. The Pioneer offers six total HDMI inputs including one front-panel HDMI input and that's the most you're gonna find at the $400 price level this year. It also has built-in networking functionality which includes smartphone control, DLNA compatibility, Pandora, and internet radio. To use the networking features, you do need a wired Ethernet connection as the Pioneer doesn't have Wi-Fi. Now, Pioneer does sell accessories to add Wi-Fi or bluetooth, but both of those accessories are unreasonably priced at over $100. That's especially pricey when Sony's competing STR-DN840 offers built-in Wi-Fi, bluetooth, and Airplay for $450 and that ends up looking like a much better deal if you want that wireless functionality. Sound quality on the Pioneer was above average. We had resident audio file, Steve Guttenberg, give the system a listen and he was impressed with its well-balanced sound and then it really held together well when we cranked the volume. He even preferred it to the more expensive Denon AVR-E400 when we had head-to-head comparisons. He found that it offered a clearer, more detailed sound. Now, differences between AV receivers are small, but the Pioneer sound did stand out. So, overall, it really comes down to what features you need. The Pioneer VSX 823-K does offer a lot of HDMI connectivity and built-in Airplay for its price, but I feel like most buyers will be better off spending a little more for the wireless features on Sony's competing STR-DN840. I'm Matthew Moskovciak and this is the Pioneer VSX 823-K.