Pioneer VSX-818V First Impressions
Pioneer shipped the unit directly to my house and it arrived in a standard off-the-shelf retail box. I was a little leery at what I was going to find inside. If you are considering buying the VSX-818V off the Internet, keep in mind that it will most likely be shipped in the same way (ie, not double-boxed - so you won't want UPS leaving this outside your house if you're not home). With all the complaints we have with big box stores, the one benefit is that you can always walk back in and return a damaged unit (assuming you can get any service).
As I opened the box my concerns were not alleviated. The remote, MCACC microphone, and am loop antennae were freely moving around the box right against the single layer of corrugated cardboard. The only thing separating them from the receiver was a thin layer of plastic and the foam packaging.
I unpacked the components and visually inspected them for damage. Luckily everything seemed to be fine.
The unit itself had a clean design. The labels were easy to read and the buttons were arranged in practical groupings. Two rotating knobs are located at either end of the unit. The left one is for changing the input selection, and the right is the master volume. I found the redundancy of an input knob impractical (and likely a holdover form the more complex models) since the buttons for the inputs are clearly labeled in the middle of the receiver. Why scroll through all the selections, when you can simply press a button?
I was excited to see that the VSX-818V came equipped with a front audio/video terminal on the receiver. My 42” Panasonic Plasma TV did not come with front A/V jacks so every time I want to use a piece of portable equipment, I either have to move the display, or leave a length of A/V cable connected to the TV (which doesn’t rate very high on the WAF [Wife Acceptance Factor] scale).
Most budget-minded consumers will be pleased to see that the VSX-818V comes with plenty of inputs for an entry level receiver, including: 2 HDMI inputs, 3 component video inputs, 4 composite inputs, 2 digital optical inputs, and 1 digital coaxial input. This receiver provides a multitude of connections for a receiver in this price range. Outputs include 1 HDMI, 1 component, and 1 composite video connection. There are no S-video connections (good riddance!)
One of the most surprising features are the large binding posts for speaker connections that come with this unit. Many receivers under $250 only provide spring clips for most of the channels. Instead, this unit sports binding post connectors on all the channels with good quality spring clips for the “Speaker B’ connection.
The interior of the unit again provided a clean arrangement of components. Although the receiver’s components weren’t remarkable, the arrangement of parts was well thought out for an efficient use of space. Though we were mildly disappointed that Pioneer used power opamps for the center and surround channels instead of discrete output devices for all channels. This is an understandable sacrifice one must make to get HDMI switching built in at this price level.
Heat issues are addressed through the use of an ultra quiet fan positioned at the front of the receiver. Even during the quietest of intervals in my listening sessions I never did hear the fan turn on.