Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver

Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver
Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing the excellent Pioneer AVH-P8400BH multimedia receiver. For 2013, Pioneer has updated the unit with some cool features, resulting in the AVH-X8500BHS. The new model is a virtual multimedia powerhouse, featuring a high-quality 6.95-inch touchscreen display, and includes all the cool stuff: Bluetooth, Pandora, SiriusXM, Pioneer’s innovative MIXTRAX “DJ emulator” and an HD Radio tuner. But what many users will find very handy is Pioneer’s Advanced App Mode, which allows you to control a variety of smartphone apps right from the screen.


At the heart of any good AV receiver is the display. The AVH-X8500BHS is equipped with a razor sharp 6.95-inch TFT touchscreen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The backlit LED display has resolution of 2400x480 and anti-glare coating for outstanding picture quality in any lighting conditions.

The unit is equipped with two rear-mounted USB ports and an HDMI input, making the AVH-X8500BHS compatible with most iOS devices and Android-based smartphones. When connected to my iPod Classic, the interface is excellent and fast. I can scroll through over 5,000 songs in a matter of seconds using the display’s handy scroll bar.

AppRadio Mode works via Pioneer’s AppRadio application, which must be installed on your smartphone. Once connected, you have control and connectivity for every compatible app on most iOS and Android devices. When you've connected your iPhone with Pioneer's CD-IU201S cable (or CD-AH200C cable for Android, sold seperately), you'll be able to control apps like Pandora, MotionX GPS Drive, INRIX traffic, and Rdio, and more as they're developed.

The Pioneer MIXTRAX feature plays a continuous mix of your musical library with nightclub/DJ-style audio and visual effects. By adding transitions between songs and other effects, the MIXTRAX function makes your music sound like there’s a virtual DJ in the car with you. To use the MIXTRAX feature, install the MIXTRAX PC software to your computer so it can analyze your music library. The software analyzes the BPM, bar, beat position, vocal position and mood for each song and adds the data to the music file. When you playback these tracks on the AVH-X8500BHS, you experience full, non-stop mixes complete with dancing album art! You can also experience MIXTRAX as an app for the iPhone 5/4S/4 or iPod Touch, using Advanced App Mode to control the MIXTRAX right from the receivers touchscreen.

As you’d expect from a feature-laden receiver such as this, the built-in Bluetooth connectivity provides complete hands free telephony with caller ID. It will store all of your phone contacts as well as the last 80 calls in the units memory. Bluetooth connectivity also provides streaming audio from your phone using any of the typical HFP/A2DP/AVRCP/SSP modes. The safety and convenience of Bluetooth hands-free calling is something you don’t want to be without. If you are an iPhone user, you can also activate voice control for complete phone operation.

For radio and SiriusXM, the HD tuner is a joy to use. Along with all the normal added features and improved sound quality of HD radio, you can tag songs for iTunes from either tuner. Another feature that will be appreciated by satellite radio listeners is SiriusXM Tune Start, which allows you to start a song from the beginning if you go into the car halfway through it.

On the safety side, the AVH-X8500BHS can be connected to a rear view camera (sold separately) and will automatically switch views when you put the car in reverse. For additional convenience, you can connect your steering wheel controls using an optional adapter.

For audio, the unit sports excellent performance and features that have made the AVH series a hit with audiophiles.

From the built-in CEA-2006-rated four-channel 18 watt amplifier, to the front, rear and subwoofer RCA outputs with four volts of output, the AVH-X8500BHS is excellent as a cornerstone for any serious audio system. The powerful DSP processor and eight-band equalizer comes with five EQ presets and two user-customizable presets. The EQ is a tuners dream, with plus/minus 12 dB of boost, as well as high- and low-pass crossovers each with five selectable frequencies. There are controls for woofer phase and level, as well as a bass boost control that is separate from the built-in EQ. You can also use the DSP to level match various input sources, making volume adjustments from each device a thing of the past.
Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver
Controls and Ergonomics

This is one area where Pioneer does very well. I can operate the unit and regular functions without opening the manual, so I give the unit high marks for logical design. I especially like the center-mounted “Home” button, which allows you to quickly and simply navigate to any source or control set you want to access. The AVH-X8500BHS is very easy to use, with a combination of button and touch screen controls. The unit has large, hard key-type buttons that are clearly marked, have good tactile feel and are easy to find without taking your eyes off the road. The visuals can be adjusted to display a wallpaper image and color of your choice. Illuminated button colors are also fully customizable. If your dashboard isn’t at the optimum angle, the front panel can be set to five different angles for the perfect position. DVD playback is permitted on the main screen by grounding a parking brake wire, but of course should never be attempted while driving.


After testing Pioneer AVH units for several years, I expect class leading audio performance; the AVH-X8500BHS was very good. Just as I’d seen from last year’s AVH-P8400BH, the sound of the CD section is pleasing, if not ruler flat. Bass is warm and natural sounding with excellent detail and dynamics, while the top end also has a bit of extra output. DVD and DiVX movies are reproduced excellently. Very critical listeners will note the small boost in bottom end and 6 kHz region with the CD mechanism. My iPod sounds great and interestingly does not have the same frequency response issues as the CD section. As usual, the Pioneer tuner performs with excellence, regardless of AM, FM, or HD Radio mode.

Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver
Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver

On the Bench

In testing, I can confirm the frequency response of the disc mechanism. The response has a gentle rise in the bass region from about 40 Hz to 180 Hz and a distinct rise from about 3 kHz to 15 kHz. This is certainly audible, but I actually think many people will find this curve pleasing, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. And as I suspected from listening, the USB and Aux inputs measured almost ruler flat (like the previous unit), confirming that the response anomaly is restricted to the CD section. Signal-to-noise measured good, as did output impedance and crosstalk. The built-in amp met it’s rated power numbers and provided a flat response. THD+N is also low, at 0.05% at 1 watt.


Don’t let a dB or two of fluctuations in the frequency response deter you from considering this for your next headunit. The result is pleasant and virtually inaudible for all but very experienced listeners. At only $650, you get a top-quality product, excellent display, full compatibility with your iPhone or Android device, very good tunability, intuitive and easy-to-use controls and very good audio performance. That works for me!

Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver
Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS Multimedia Receiver

Actual Measured Specifications


CEA-2006A Power per channel (all channels driven, @ 4 ohms)    18.3 watts/ch x 4
A Wtd S/N Ratio (ref to 2V/1W @ 4 ohms) Amplified output…    -81.2 dBA (CD)
THD+N @ 2 V/1 W @ 4 ohms 1 kHz ……………………………………….    0.05%
Frequency Response (-3.0 dB) ………………………………………………     20 Hz – 16.0 kHz (CD) | 20 Hz – 20 kHz (Aux)                                       

Preamp Section

Max Usable RCA Output Voltage ………………………………………….    4.0 Vrms
A Wtd S/N Ratio ref to full output voltage……………………………    -88.0 dBA (CD)
Output Impedance ………………………………………………………………    .    35 ohms
Frequency Response (-3.0 dB) ………………………………………………     20 Hz – 16.0 kHz (CD) | 20 Hz – 20 kHz (Aux)

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