The Pioneer VSX-S510 home cinema receiver replaces the Pioneer VSX-S500 and is a slim-line Class D model able to deliver 6×110 Watts at 4 Ohms. It is 3D and 4K compatible and is equipped with an iPhone / iPod compatible USB port. It can also read MP3, FLAC (24 bits/ 192 kHz) and Apple Lossless files.
Who is this receiver aimed at?
It is aimed at those who want a compact and aesthetically discreet device and one which is energy efficient, functional but relatively easy to use. It has been designed for people who want to use it to power compact or small floor-standing speakers, in order to obtain a clean and coherent sound in a living room measuring up to 30 m².
Is it better than the Pioneer VSX-S310 ?
Yes, if only for its more generous power supply – the guarantee of a better structured and more solid sound, especially at high levels. The VSX-S510 offers network audio streaming (AirPlay, DLNA) and features a USB port to read many audio files, including MP3, AAC, FLAC or ALAC (Apple Lossless), as well as Internet radio support. The addition of a sixth amplification channel is a major asset.
What is its real power?
Like most receiver manufacturers, Pioneer states that its products’ power are at 4 Ohms, 1 kHz and have a distortion rate of 1 %. In these conditions, the Pioneer VSX-S510 delivers 110 Watts. When we read the list of features, we see that with standard 8 Ohms impedance speakers, ranging from 20 Hz to 20 kHz (from bass to treble) and with a distortion rate of 0.5 %, the VSX-S510 delivers 65 Watts per channel.
When you look closer (you have to look for it), you can observe that, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with a distortion rate of 0.08 % (hi-fi value), the VSX-S510 delivers 33 Watts per channel.
To be absolutely clear, Pioneer is not cheating, the company is just simply expressing the power of its receiver in accordance with current international standards. 33 Watts per channel is adequate power in most living rooms measuring between 20 and 30 m².
Contents include a power cable, a microphone for MCACC autocalibration, a remote control with batteries, an AM loop aerial, an FM wire aerial, a quick guide and a CD-Rom manual (PDF format).
Taking a closer look
It was already a positive aspect of the VSX-S300 and VSX-S500 and like them the VSX-S510 has a relatively simple front panel, despite its slim design. The Pioneer VSX-S510 does however, feature additional knobs, enhancing its ease of use.
Beside the power button, is a 3.5 mm mini-jack headphone output as well as an input reserved for the calibration microphone. Yes, it’s just the same as the previous models. However, to the right of the LCD screen, which we’ll talk about later, the layout has been completely revamped. The source selector button has been replaced with a small notched rotating knob which is totally responsive. The USB port is even better, as it allows you to connect and play files from iPhones, iPods and iPads, and can also deliver a stronger current (2.1 A instead of 1 A) to charge tablets and smartphones at an even faster rate. The HDMI MHL port allows music to be played or videos to be watched with a compatible Android smartphone.
The central display is a standard LCD digital model with large font. It can be easily seen from the listening point, at least the main information: active entry and setup menus. Additional information is in small font at the side, as with the DTS and Dolby formats being decoded. Below the LCD display, there are 5 large buttons which allow the listening setting to be defined (Auto Surround, Stream Direct, Advanced Surround, ALC, etc.) and the Eco mode or iPod, iPhone or iPad (connected to the USB port on front panel) direct control to be activated.
The rear panel of the Pioneer VSX-S510 has been significantly rearranged. Let’s start with the features which have disappeared in relation to the VSX-S500. The composite video input and output have been removed as well as the second optical digital Toslink S/PDIF input. On the other hand, 2 additional HDMI ports have been added (including the MHL on the front panel), as well as a second output for a subwoofer (LFE pre-out). The banana plug-compatible screw terminals are identical.
A specific feature is that the Pioneer VSX-S510 home cinema receiver is fitted with 6 pairs of terminals, one more than any 5.1 receiver. This sixth amplified channel, if used, can be allocated to a passive subwoofer or a centre surround back speaker. This is a rather uncommon model and we recommend the use of this sixth channel to increase the back surround sound using a sixth speaker. Subwoofers will lower the overall performance.
Almost identical to the one delivered with previous slim-line models from the Pioneer range, the remote control isn’t particularly difficult nor instinctive to use. The good news is that once installation settings have been carried out, you can forego the remote control and simply use a smartphone with the Pioneer ControlApp application. This will make more sense when reading audio files from the local network or for listening to Internet radio.
We used the Pioneer VSX-S510 home cinema receiver with different compact and floor-standing speakers both in stereo and multi-channel configurations. Connecting speakers with cables fitted with banana plugs (Viard Audio, Audioquest). The terminal caps are easily removed with a small flat screwdriver or the blade of a knife…rather than with your fingernails. Unlike the Pioneer VSX-S310 whose OSD menu (on the television) is only displayed via the composite video output, the VSX-S510 uses its HDMI output.
The OSD menu is plain and simple, with a white text on a black background. The setup menu allows you to easily select the device’s autocalibration. This only takes a few minutes. In this main menu, we can find the manual setting for speakers, the assignment of inputs (to match up the analog audio input to an HDMI video input for example), the auto power off and the HDMI, MHL and network configurations. We activated the CEC control and audio management from our television (ARC) so that the Pioneer VSX-S510 can be switched on automatically when the television is switched off. We also activated the network standby to enable the VSX-S510 to be switched on with a smartphone or tablet using the Pioneer ControlApp application.
All OSD menu headings can be displayed on the receiver’s LCD screen. This is extremely convenient. Certain settings can only be accessed on this display, it is the case, for example, of dynamic range compression.
A few key functions of the VSX-S510
We said it earlier, the HDMI output is CEC and ARC compatible in order to switch on and control the receiver with a television (ARC) and its remote control. The Pioneer VSX-S510 switches itself on and reacts quickly to volume control commands coming from our LG television’s remote control.
The Pioneer VSX-S510 is AirPlay audio compatible, which means that it can be used as an audio receiver from the iTunes software, a Mac, an iPhone, an iPod touch or an iPad. The amplifier must be connected to the local network and the network standby activated. From this point on, our iPad has always detected the presence of the amplifier on our local network. Watching a Youtube video on your tablet and listening to its sound on the receiver is allowed, just like listening to any audio or service file such as Deezer, Spotify or Qobuz for example. It’s the iDevice which controls the volume even though the remote control remains operational.
DLNA, Internet radio and Spotify
There are no problems to report when reading audio files stored on our Synology NAS, be it FLAC or MP3 files. We recommend the use of the Pioneer ControlApp application to browse through lists or Internet radio stations. Everything runs smoothly and the receiver starts reading the files very quickly. The iOS and Android apps suggest creating shortcuts to files or radios, which is very convenient. We didn’t test the integrated Spotify function.
The Pioneer VSX-S510 reads USB storage devices containing audio files, as well as iPods, iPhones and iPads. There are many supported audio formats: MP3, WAV, AIFF and FLAC (up to 24 bits / 192 kHz), ALAC (up to 24 bits / 96 kHz) as well as WMA and AAC. Hard drives and memory sticks formatted in FAT and FAT32 are supported but not those in NTFS.
This is one of Pioneer’s key concerns. Even though the Pioneer VSX-S510 home cinema receiver has a switch-mode power supply using up to 96 Watts, two ECO modes are proposed to reduce this energy consumption without necessarily affecting performance. These eco modes are convenient when listening to televised programmes and when listening at a low volume. Dynamics shrink slightly but sound remains consistent.
Apart from a pass-through of HDMI video signals, no quality setting is offered by the Pioneer VSX-S510. The standby pass-through mode (transmission of HDMI signals from one source during standby mode) must be activated manually.
We listened to the Pioneer VSX-S510 with several HDMI sources: HD television (Mpeg audio and Dolby Digital programmes), Mede8er X6003D and PopCorn Hour A-410 (which we’ll soon be reviewing) and used Klipsch RB-51 compact speakers, Q Acoustics 2050i, Focal Chorus 716V floor-standing speakers as well as the Highland Audio Aingel 320C centre speaker. We used the following cables – HDMI Norstone HDS540, Audioquest Vodka optical cables, and Viard Audio Premium HD HP, Audioquest Rocket 88 and NorStone Silver 150.
NB: We deactivated enhancements (equalising, compressed audio file optimisation, stereo surround mode) which operate by default and greatly influence sound.
The sound signature of the Pioneer VSX-S510 seemed slightly dry to us, similar to that of the Pioneer VSX-S500. The treble range is well in place and if you like rising balances in home cinema, you should use speakers with an expressive tweeter. This restraint at the top of the sound spectrum favours a convincing sound localization, as well as pleasant depth. Despite modest power, the Pioneer VSX-S510’s sense of scale is enjoyable.
Watching Star Wars Episode 3, the Revenge of the Sith, and in particular the opening scene, is a fun, bright festival of stereo and multi-channel sound. Bass levels obtained with our speakers are satisfactory – an impact in upper bass has been preferred to too low a frequency response, which is intolerable at a high volume.
This impression is confirmed with Pacific Rim and its crushing LFE track is: low frequencies are convincing but is no match for the range offered by a Pioneer LX-57 (which we’ll be reviewing in the near future).
The Pioneer VSX-S510 generates a level of bass which can easily support the upper end of the spectrum, in other words, listening is never unbalanced.
Pioneer clearly masters Class D amplifiers and entry level switch-mode power supply, meaning that only two or five speakers need to be connected.
For stereo listening, the Pioneer VSX-S510 proves itself to be less dynamic, lacks density but is nevertheless not harsh. Listening to Internet radio or MP3 files via AirPlay isn’t unappealing but neither does it completely enthrall you, apart from activating one of the upscaling modes such as Dolby Pro Logic Iix or DTS Neo:6 Music. The mix on 5 stereo signal channels is convincing and is definitely the best way to enjoy authentic listening with this receiver.
To sum up then, the Pioneer VSX-S510 home cinema receiver is a real success and it meets current requirements concerning music, smartphone or tablet use. We particularly liked its relative ease of use and its responsive mobile application. Its aesthetically discreet design makes it a highly recommended slim-line home cinema receiver.
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Don’t hesitate to send us any questions you may have regarding the type of speakers and cables you could use with this receiver.