HDTV Magazine
Welcome, Anonymous  •  Sign In  •  Register  •  Help
Pioneer VSX-820-K Audio/Video Receiver

Pioneer VSX-820-K Audio/Video Receiver

Manufacturer: Pioneer
List Price: $299.00
Street Price:
Amazon.com: Unknown

Today’s Show:

Pioneer VSX-820-K Audio/Video Receiver (Street Price $280)

Every Fall, just before Christmas, we do a receiver buying guide to help our audience decide on what to buy. Last Fall our value receiver was an Onkyo SR607 which sold for $320. After spending time with the Pioneer VSX-820-K ($280) we have a new king! The VSX-820-K is a 5.1 system that has 4 HDMI inputs and does next generation audio. Here are some key features of the low cost solution from Pioneer:


  • Channels: 5.1 surround sound
  • Power: 110×5 watts
  • HDMI Specification: v. 1.4, 3D, Deep Color and X.V. Color
  • HDMI Ports: 4 in, 1 out
  • Component Ports: 2 in, 1 out
  • Audio Codecs Supported: DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Pro Logic IIz with pre-out
  • Automatic Calibration
  • Video Modes Supported: 1080p and below
  • Digital Formats Supported: JPEG, MP3, WAV, WMA
  • Certified – “Works with iPhone”


The first thing you notice is that the unit is light, it weighs just under 20 pounds (9 Kg) . Like all receivers you connect your speakers, input sources, power and turn it on. This unit does not have an Ethernet connection so there are no network setup steps involved. Our system came with the optional AS-BT100 Bluetooth Adapter ($100) for connecting Bluetooth enabled sources like cell phones, iPods and even iPads. To use these devices you have to pair your device with the receiver and that step took us about 10 minutes – eight minutes to try and figure it out without a manual then an additional two once we gave in and read it.

The auto calibration was quite simple to use. Plug in the included mic to the front of the receiver and then place it where you want the audio optimized, hit go and wait. We found the calibration to be accurate however we like our surrounds a bit hotter than standard so we went into the manual settings and increased the gain a bit. One irritation we have with the unit is that the onscreen display is not visible with HDMI. You need an analog connection to the TV for onscreen feedback. As a result we stuck with the front panel. Note: Banana plugs are your friend!


The 820 did a great job reproducing Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio. Actually we were pleasantly surprised how good the audio sounded when mated to our Aperion speakers. For most home applications (not theater rooms) this receiver will be all that you need. There is plenty of power to fill any family or living room. The 820 does support Dolby Pro Logic IIz but you’ll need an additional stereo amplifier. This is one way Pioneer was able to cut costs on the device. Its actually a smart move. Most of us won’t use the additional speakers. Your other option is to move up to the 7.1 920 which will cost about $100 more than the 820.

The 820 also comes with a cable to integrate your iPod Touch, iPhone, and even your iPad. The cable has a USB and RCA video connector on one end, which connects in the front of the unit, and 30 pin dock connector on the other. Typically when you dock your iPod like this, say in a car, you can not control the iPod from the device itself. Control is passed to your car stereo. When connected to the 820 you still control the iPod through the iPod interface which makes selecting your music simple. You can play videos through the 820 as well but only through an analog connection to the TV. The 820 does not convert analog to digital or vice versa. Your input and output must match to see anything on screen.

If you want to free yourself from cables you can use the Bluetooth adapter to play music off your idevices, as long as you are in range of the Bluetooth receiver. The operation is similar to other Bluetooth devices like the Ford Sync system. Audio sounded good and we could not notice any degradation in quality when compared to the wired connection. Our range was decent, pretty much anywhere in the media room (15 X 25 feet). Once we went beyond that the audio quality degraded quickly.


The pioneer VSX-820-K is now our new go to receiver for value. But don’t let the word value scare you, the 820 is very capable and will fill any family room with glorious HD audio. The iPod connection cable is a great touch and if you want to go wireless the Bluetooth adapter is a nice feature. The only complaint we have is that there is no onscreen menu and no video from your iPod if all you have is a digital connection to your TV.

Download Episode #430

Posted by The HT Guys, June 17, 2010 11:50 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.