In a home theatre world where sound bars dominate many setups, it’s comforting to see that manufactures continue to cater to those who want far more from their setup. Pioneer has long been at the forefront at crafting devices of exceptional quality and value, and their latest line of receivers is no exception. One of these, the Pioneer VSX-935 AV receiver, borrows many of the features from its premium Elite line, allowing those on a budget to experience exceptional sound and connectivity when you have speakers that are efficient enough to drive with its moderate power output. Let’s see how this model stacks up!
Specifications for the Pioneer VSX-935 receiver
- HDMI Ports: 6 in (3 with 8K passthrough) / 2 out
- RCA Inputs (including pre-amp for turntable)
- 7 assignable channels (@80W/ch)
- Two RCA Subwoofer outputs
- 192kHz/24bit DAC
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DSD
- MCACC Room Correction
- AppleAirplay2, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Spotify, Tidal, DTS PlayFi, and Sonos support
- Ethernet and WiFi networking
Setting up the VSX-935 receiver
There’s a myriad of logos screened onto the top of the unit, illustrating its capacity to decode Dolby Atmos, DTS-X, DTS Virtual X and Dolby Vision.
As someone who has grown used to a capable but now aging pre-amplifier from another manufacturer, it’s almost shocking to see what well-designed setup screens can look like. From the opening screen you feel like you’re getting a premium product, and the menus are clear and extremely easy to navigate. Even the MCACC room correction screen was easy to understand, and the majority of people will be able to dive in without ever cracking the manual.
Speaker configuration options
With 7 channels of built-in amplification (80w@8ohm), you have many ways of configuring the receiver using a very intuitive graphical interface to dial in the setup. This includes traditional 7.1 surround, 5.1.2 Atmos/DTX-X setup, or even height channel setup similar to Auro 3D. You simply have to tell the system where your speakers are physically located and the rest is done automatically, including during room correction analysis. A pair of subwoofer connections are provided via RCA connection, requiring self-powered subs to operate.
Build quality of the VSX-935 receiver
Despite its ability to drive 7 channels of audio the unit feels relatively light, making it easy to shift around on your equipment rack. The front panel is large and bright, and the back speaker connectors are made of hardened plastic and accept either bare wire or banana plugs (spade connectors, unfortunately, cannot be accommodated).
Plugging in components to the VSX-935 receiver
There are two HDMI outputs on the top left of the unit, both providing HDCP2.3 and 8K passthrough capabilities to ensure compatibility with any modern equipment. Three HDMI inputs allow for 8K, while three others are “limited” to 4K signals. There’s both USB and Wi-Fi network connections, as well as a USB power outlet for use with streaming sticks.
There are four regulate level analogue inputs that are assignable, as well as the welcome addition of a built-in phono pre-amp input for turntables with moving magnet cartridges. A single coax RCA and toslink optical input is also tucked in, as well as an FM radio coax connector and AM loop for use with the provided antenna. There are a pair of RCA outputs for connection to one or two subwoofers, depending on your preferences, as well as an assignable stereo RCA audio pre-amp output for multi-zone use.
The front panel includes a ¼” headphone jack, 3.5mm input for the room connection mic, and a USB and mini-jack analogue input for connecting additional devices.
The remote control is functional, if a bit pedestrian, with the rubber buttons that will let you control most of the major functions of the unit without ever having to leave the couch.
Home networking with the VSX-935
Thanks to its robust network capabilities, the VSX-935 can truly be the home for all your audio needs. With the Pioneer Music Control App (available for both Android and iOs) you can easily control all the major streaming services including Spotify, TIDAL, Amazon Music and more. TuneIn internet Radio, Apple AirPlay2 with Siri, Google Chromecast and Alexa are also compatible. A real pleasure is to see full HD audio playback over network, including 24-bit/192 kHz FLAC/ALAC/AIFF/WAV files, and even DSD files (!)—fantastic to see implemented on this model.
Room correction on the VSX-935
With an included microphone you can dial in the sound to your specific room, thanks to the MCACC setup process. While less robust than DIRAC on the top-end elite models, MCACC does a decent enough job for even the most challenging of room layouts. While I usually disable these corrections, particularly for stereo listening, I was pleased to see how quickly and effortless you could dial in the system, and even the custom EQ curves were extremely simple to adjust to dial things even further to your taste.
How the Pioneer VSX-935 receiver sounds
With 80w/channel the VSX-935 is not going to be sufficient for the likes my usual front channel speakers (which traditionally need 300w monoblocks to drive sufficiently!), but I was pleased to see that the receiver did a very capable job with a wide range of speakers, from my SVS Prime Elevations that I use for Atmos, to Definitive Technology PM700s, right through to my highly revealing and slightly power hungry B&W 805 Diamonds. At moderate volume the VSX-935 did a good job at providing a wide soundstage and ample mid-range reproduction. When cranked up, you could hear a bit of harshness as the unit strained to deliver the impact from robust soundtracks such as the 4K Atmos track on Dune or a stream of The Mandalorian on Disney+.
For streaming music, the built-in Spotify application sounded significantly better than when connected via Bluetooth, no surprise given the relatively paltry implementation of the wireless standard. Given the robust networking support built into the VSX-935, you’re going to get the most by letting its internal decoding handle all of your music and movie needs.
Final thoughts about the VSX-935
The Pioneer VSX-935 receiver does a fine job at providing great music and movie soundtrack playback for the vast majority of consumers looking to go beyond a sound bar solution. With technology shared with its high-end Elite cousins, this model fits a sweet spot for many looking for a robust, capable, reasonably priced model that will make the most out of your listening experience. It’s easy to see the VSX-935 becoming the heart of your home theatre setup, and thanks to its ease of operation, robust functionality and multi-channel prowess, you’re sure to get plenty of years out use of such a capable product.
Shop the VSX-935 and more receivers for your home theatre at bestbuy.ca