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  1. #1
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    A quickie report on the Pioneer vsx-516

    Hi forum members,

    I am going to make just a few quick comments after a few hours of farting around with this receiver.

    Considering this receiver got a hancy-fancy chip for decoding Dolby Digital; its decoding leaves a lot to be desired. One of my tests is on Star Wars 3, chapter 6 when General Greivous breaks through the glass on his ship. If I had not ever owned a Sherwood 6090R and a 6095R receiver, I would probably think it was just ok; wonder what might be lacking or thinking that Dolby Digital was not too hot. The Sherwoods have a Yamaha chip. When this scene is played you hear the bits and pieces of the shattered glass most distinctly in the surround field on those two receivers. You do hear the effect but it sounds like only a few pieces of glass shattered. The sound is clean and distinct but that is all I can say.

    This is not only limited to the Pioneer. I tested one of those Insignia 6.1 channel receivers and a Sherwood RD7500. The decoded sound was more in the league of the Pioneer as well.

    Although these are budget receivers, I wonder what kind of decoding may go on in a line of higher cost reciever that may be using a specific processing chip that could really be a real bow-wow not letting the buyer hear what they are supposed to hear.

    There is one thing in common with the above three receivers. They are 6.1 and 7.1 receivers. The Sherwood is a 5.1 unit. Is it possible that the 6.1 and 7.1 units are screwing up the sound even if you set them for 5.1?

    The Pioneer has a quick set-up, but I found that you would need to adjust your speaker levels which does not make it so quick. You do have to spend time with the manual to get the knack of setting up this thingy. Actually, the Insignia was very easy to set up and its longer type remote is better than the Pioneer. Even the Sherwoods 7500 remote was easier to use.

    The surprising thing on all three receivers is the performance of DPL-2 music. It is good on the Pioneer and very good on the Sherwood and Insignia. The Pioneer's DTS Neo 6 mode played better than the other 2 units which IMHO pretty much stunk.

    I will try to update this report in the near future. The replacement for this unit is the VSX-517. This is a 5.1 channel unit using the Freescale chip. My 6095R ain't going anywhere either unless it is blown away in a hurricane, I drop dead or it drops dead which I sure hope it does not.

  2. #2
    I put the Gee in Gear.... thekid's Avatar
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    Kelsci-Nice review. I also purchased a 516 a while back as a low cost temporary unit. I think for the money it is okay but pales in comparison IMO to the Pioneer 815 which is the next level up. The 516 seems to me to be a bit underpowered despite the specs and the decoder and different sound modes also seems weak and does not produce a wide spectrum of sound. Still for around $140 I don't think you can find a better unit unless you are talking about a Sherwood or Insignia and I am not sure they are as reliable as the Pioneer provbably be in the long term
    Last edited by thekid; 06-03-2007 at 03:33 AM.

  3. #3
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    i owned the bigger brother 1016 and it was so bad i sold it as quick as i paid for it. Horrible matrix surround and the direct stereo was just plain bad. Replaced with a Marantz and never looked back.
    I can't help but wonder if Pioneer has cut costs on the VSX models and they can no longer stack up against their competition?
    Run from these VSX models and do so fast!

  4. #4
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    Hi Kid; Your comments are most interesting. The 815 has the Motorola chip in its unit. It is very possible that the Motorola chip is far superior to the Freescale chip being used in the current line of Pioneer units. .

    The power of the 516 is not an issue with me. It seems to be a rather powerful unit. I think the highs and midrange response is quite good in fact, similar to my experiences in the past with Pioneer control amplifiers. The bass response(unit was set to large and main speakers were a 3 way 8 inch KLH 900B) was decent, actually better than a 65 watt per channel SYSCOM Pioneer control amp. I had years back.

    I paid about 100 dollars for this unit refurbished on E-bay.

    I may do a report on the Insignia however in the meantime it does have its faults. I think that whatever decoder is used in that unit is actually a little bit better than the 516.

    My brother thought this Pioneer did sound better than the Insignia. The Insignias sound had a kind of overall compression to it however the unit IMO is very listenable because there is a kind of nice sweetness in its audio. Adjusting the Insignia was far easier to do then the Pioneer; the remote on the Insignia is actually pretty well thought out for remotes. The Insignia also has a torodial transformer, a surprise in a mass market receiver. If you bought the Insignia alone just to use for two channel purposes, it would actally do pretty good. I paid $60 on E-bay for that unit.

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    Hi Tarheel; I remember reading your story about that 1016 and its awful sound quality. I was only able last Xmas time to make a slight test in a store on that model, but the little I was able to do confirms your story on that unit. The 1016, also has the Freescale chip rather than the Motorola chip previously used. The amplication on the 516 is something that I have not found too bad, in fact preliminary opinion is that it is at least fairly good to good. I think that 1016's amplifier system is a little bit different than the 516 or 816 but just because it might be so does not make it necessarily better than a cheaper model. While farting around in the stores last Xmas, the best sounding units IMO were the Elite models 81,82 and 84 though I did not hear those in surround sound. These units also use that Freescale chip, but they also deploy the Sharc processor too. The Elite 80 reciever's audio quality to me was a turnoff.

    My brother has the SR5400 Marantz. The Marantz appears to be a very good unit with good sound and decoding taking place. Since the unit is not on my speakers I cannot judge it as well as I would like to, particulally since my brothers surround sound speaker configuration is IMHO not meeting my criteria for reproducing surround sound correctly.

    There is a store in Fla. here that was selling the Z6001 with the Da Ved thingy for $298. They even had it as low as $248. My brother is friends with the salesmen who said to him that people who buy the unit have trouble setting the thing up because it is a manual set-up receiver, something that would not bother most people experienced with surround sound receivers. My brother's friend bought one of the units and is thrilled with its performance.

    The best advice I could give anybody is that whatever you buy, but it in a place that you can return it for a refund. It is better to pay a little more than to get stuck with a manufacuters pile of electronic junk developed by some "head up their alpha" audio engineer.

  6. #6
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    PIONEER sold out to the mass market years ago, selling little plastic receivers that cut corners as much as possible
    Why waste your time? Might as well "test drive" a chinese HTIB from walfart
    (BTY farting "around " with your receiver could cause a fire)
    All chips arent equal, neither are all amps, when are people gonna learn?
    A decent HT setup (bargain basement) will set you back a few grand AT LEAST.
    And no little toy receivers with plastic knobs and "alumininny" lookin plastic faceplates
    I mean, what were you expecting? If I went out with a gal I found face down in an alley I would'nt be expecting the love of my life, you know
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    Hi Pixelthis; So far,my major complaint is only on the D.D. decoding. It's decoding for DPL-2 MUSIC has done rather well. Surprisingly, the DTS neo has not done too badly either in comparison to the RD7500, the Insignia and even the Marantz SR5400. In particular, the Pioneer seems to maintain the proper bass quotient where the other models have failed to do so. I have to test the DTS decoding and use this unit by changing the bass management to SMALL and using my sub as well as any other tests that I can conjur up. This unit does very well in its high frequency reproduction; in essence it is quite clean with musical instruments rendereing high frequencies sounding quite good. The unit also performs well in stereo IMHO. I do not need to test a HTIB from WALFART which would be comparing apples to figs.

  8. #8
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelsci
    Hi Tarheel; I remember reading your story about that 1016 and its awful sound quality. I was only able last Xmas time to make a slight test in a store on that model, but the little I was able to do confirms your story on that unit. The 1016, also has the Freescale chip rather than the Motorola chip previously used. The amplication on the 516 is something that I have not found too bad, in fact preliminary opinion is that it is at least fairly good to good. I think that 1016's amplifier system is a little bit different than the 516 or 816 but just because it might be so does not make it necessarily better than a cheaper model. While farting around in the stores last Xmas, the best sounding units IMO were the Elite models 81,82 and 84 though I did not hear those in surround sound. These units also use that Freescale chip, but they also deploy the Sharc processor too. The Elite 80 reciever's audio quality to me was a turnoff.

    My brother has the SR5400 Marantz. The Marantz appears to be a very good unit with good sound and decoding taking place. Since the unit is not on my speakers I cannot judge it as well as I would like to, particulally since my brothers surround sound speaker configuration is IMHO not meeting my criteria for reproducing surround sound correctly.

    There is a store in Fla. here that was selling the Z6001 with the Da Ved thingy for $298. They even had it as low as $248. My brother is friends with the salesmen who said to him that people who buy the unit have trouble setting the thing up because it is a manual set-up receiver, something that would not bother most people experienced with surround sound receivers. My brother's friend bought one of the units and is thrilled with its performance.

    The best advice I could give anybody is that whatever you buy, but it in a place that you can return it for a refund. It is better to pay a little more than to get stuck with a manufacuters pile of electronic junk developed by some "head up their alpha" audio engineer.
    maybe it's in the chip? I shouldn't accuse all the VSX models since I only listened to the 1016. Plus, if you get a great deal that must be considered as well. Enjoy!

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    Hi Tarheel; The 1016 if I am correct has the same chip as the 516. Forgetting about the atrocious sound that you had with this unit, what did you think of the way that receiver decoded Dolby Digital 5.1 in comparison to the Marantz unit you now possess.

    I am still continuing to experiment with the 516. It is now hooked up to the satellite-sub system that I use on the Sherwood. The receiver overall is not doing too badly. Sound quality is not really a issue with this unit because it is at least good IMO, good enough to use. So far, the bass that it outputs to the sub thru the sub output is quite good. However, the crossover settings in the receiver jump from 100 to 150. I feel if it had a X-over of 120 it would be better. However, the sub is on settings for the Sherwood of which I may recalibrate.

  10. #10
    SuperPoser Rock789's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pixelthis
    I mean, what were you expecting? If I went out with a gal I found face down in an alley I would'nt be expecting the love of my life, you know
    you never know,
    she may have been abducted and was going to be murdered, and you ended up saving her... her parents are loaded, and she is a readheaded supermodel rocket scientist who thinks of you as her knight in shining armor... (or blue jeans...)

    it could happen
    rofl
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  11. #11
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kelsci
    Hi Tarheel; The 1016 if I am correct has the same chip as the 516. Forgetting about the atrocious sound that you had with this unit, what did you think of the way that receiver decoded Dolby Digital 5.1 in comparison to the Marantz unit you now possess.

    I am still continuing to experiment with the 516. It is now hooked up to the satellite-sub system that I use on the Sherwood. The receiver overall is not doing too badly. Sound quality is not really a issue with this unit because it is at least good IMO, good enough to use. So far, the bass that it outputs to the sub thru the sub output is quite good. However, the crossover settings in the receiver jump from 100 to 150. I feel if it had a X-over of 120 it would be better. However, the sub is on settings for the Sherwood of which I may recalibrate.
    from memory, the 1016 decoded all formats fine without problem....I too remember good sold bass through it. Although through my system the sound was always forward and un-natural. Almost as if there was some 'decoding' going on behind the DD or DTS decode. Hard to explain really. I turned off the 'speaker EQ' and it sounded MUCH better, but never 'true' to the original sound track. I ran the usual movies i've watched dozens of times and just could never feel the sound.

    Of course it's mostly personal experience since i've had my speaker setup for years, i know them well so when i place a new piece of gear, i hear the difference.
    Overall, i think some speakers sound better with certain kinds of equipment. My speakers like a more laid back, warm sounding eq. (HK & Marantz) and i think the Pioneer leans toward the other end.

    The Marantz seems to present the sound as intended...nothing added, nothing artifical. Even in matrix modes it stays out of the way and just gives you great sound. Hate to sound like a salesman, but if a piece of gear gets out-of-the-way then you can ask no more of it.

  12. #12
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    Hi Tarheel; I remember you talking about shutting down the equalizer in the 1016. Perhaps you did not feel the sound because the receiver might have lacked some kind of "slam" or "dynamics" although you indicate the bass was quite good. I do feel the bass is quite good on the 516. This description of "not feeling the sound" sounds like the kind of experience I had with the RD7500 and the Insignia. I think the old expression used years back is STRAIGHT WIRE WITHOUT GAIN. I think you are experienceing that feeling with your Marantz(nothing added-nothing artificial) The Sherwood RD6090 and 6095has this feeling to me as well. I hope to post a finsihing post on the 516 after some more testing.

  13. #13
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    funny you mention Sherwood..when i sold the Pioneer 1016, i replaced it with a $120 Sherwood AVR i bought at CC.
    I swear, the Sherwood sounded 90% as good as the 1016. Only during loud DVD play i couldh hear the difference and with pure music, i'd take the Sherwood. I think the model was 7500.
    Anyway, i've since let go of name brands and try to demo what i can. My Revel dealer always had the top of the line Marantz receiver with the Revel Performa line and he preaches their synergy.
    Now, I have to agree.
    Let us know what you find after running the 516 through the paces!
    It's great we really work the equipment...and hard.

  14. #14
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    Hi Tarheel; I mentioned in my first post that I tested a RD7500. I do not know if this unit was defective because I found it delivered poor plus sound quality by exaggerating the overall sound it produced. I also did not care for its decoding of dolby digital 5.1. The only thing that worked well was the DPL-2 music function. I did get the unit to "sound better" buy reducing the audio levels across the board, for example, the left and right main channels were set from 0 to -8 and the other channels set reduced appropriately.

    I do plan to make final comments on the PIoneer VSX-516 when I can get all the things organized in my head to put on paper and make those final comments in this thread. From there I will probably post a report on e-pinions and audioreview itself.

  15. #15
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    My Final Random Comments on the VSX-516

    1. I do not have the facility to try 6th and 7th center back surround channels.

    2.Has a virtual center back mode. It can only be turned on/off at receiver and not remote(disadvantage). Test tones on THX optimizer indicated it does function by presenting a kind of "wide range" sound in phantom center back. I would need to do further testing to make a determination.

    3. I did not like the loudness function on this unit.

    4. Remote is small but satisfactory to use.

    5. ADV.SURROUND; stinko DSP modes like most receivers

    6. Unit plays ok in two channel stereo mode.

    7. I did not care for dialogue enhancer.

    8. Remote will control a Pioneer dvd player but does not display "display function" of the player( a disadvantage).

    9. I did not test the am-fm radio.

    10. Receiver holds consistent bass response in all DSP modes: other receivers varied in holding the bass response in dsp modes; a major advantage.

    11. I would call the sound quality of this receiver neutral, perhaps a very tad brite in highs. Sounds ok at normal listening levels: clean andclear. Exceptions are that certain sounds of a STOCCATO(rapid brief,clipped in sound) nature like bullets, shattering glass and applause sound "unatural". I have not heard this in other receivers. Sound to satellites make satellites seem smaller than they are. Bass response to sub was excellent. Overall frequency response-midbass-midrange to lower highs are fine. Dolby Dital decoding is good +. I need to listen to more DTS dvds; I was not impressed with what I heard initally. DPL-2 MUSIC was fine. If you crank up this unit, it will overload like on max or near max sound level. Normal listening levels were powerful and loud enough for me with this unit.

    12. Crossover lacks 120hz setting which I personally deem important to have.

    13. Set-Up function on remote difficulty will vary by the individual user. I would rate it "convenient" once understood. Some novices to surround sound receivers may get frustrated setting this unit up manually.

    14. Receiver has dynamics and "slam" to its overall sound. Has what I call a "straight wire without gain" feeling which is what a receiver should have.

    CONCLUSION: I paid $100 for this refurb unit and that is what it is worth. LIke all things, it is best to pay a little more and have a money back option.

  16. #16
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    I have the 1016 and its playback in audio is fantastic! All movies in dvd are the greatest.
    What people expect in a player sometimes overwelms me. Playing back mp3's gets my old bod jumpin! Just enjoy your setup for what it is and go for it !!

    Dave

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    Hi Dave; "What people expect in a player". You mean "what people expect in a receiver". A Pioneer Elite dvd player at least in my brother's DV-37 unit does put out better digital audio then a lower end Pioneer dvd model.

    Usually in the past, I have found Pioneers quality control on audio quality to be very consistent from unit to unit of a same model. However, it is possible that Tarheel did have a "lemon". I am glad you are very satisfied with your 1016 Dave and that is worked out well for you.

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