If you are serious about landing a quality upgrade to your stock car audio system, but don’t necessarily need the most advanced or the most usual rich head unit on the market, there’s a lot to like when the Pioneer FH-S501BT.
A pretty simple, straightforward, and super easy to use head unit that provides CD playback capabilities as well as Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio compatibility, and some of the slickest mobile device integrations of any unit at this price point.
Best of all, you won’t have to spend a mountain of money to get your hands on the Pioneer FH-S501BT, either.
In the rest of this in-depth review we cover (almost) everything you need to know about this receiver.
We shine a light on everything it does really well, let you know what’s included in the box, highlight key features that might make or break this purchase for you, go over the core specifications, breakdown the pros and cons, and then give you our final verdict.
You might be surprised to learn just how much we like the Pioneer FH-S501BT by the time you’re done.
But if you decide to get your hands on this head unit/receiver, don’t be surprised if you find yourself writing your own glowingly positive FH-S501BT review sooner rather than later.
(Spoiler Alert – It’s just that good!)
Let’s jump right in.
As we alluded to just a moment ago, no one would ever argue that the Pioneer FH-S501BT is filled to the brim with “bells and whistles”.
This isn’t a touchscreen dedicated unit with a flashy, high definition super responsive screen that’s going to cause your jaw to drop.
This isn’t a media receiver for your car that includes DVD/Blu-ray playback capabilities.
No, you’re not going to find onboard GPS or a reverse camera capability tucked right into this unit.
Instead what you are getting is a significant upgrade over the audio experience in your vehicle all while enjoying some next generation smart phone compatibility thanks to the Bluetooth and USB connections on board.
All of this is tucked inside of a super compact, super sleek, and really minimalist kind of form factor that fits most every modern vehicle out there. Pioneer has always had a legendary reputation for build quality and reliability.
This unit is no exception.
On top of that, the Pioneer FH-S501BT receiver is designed to totally overhaul the audio experience in your vehicle straightaway.
This is done in a couple of different ways.
For starters, you get a bit of an “old-school” CD receiver that is really easy to use – including native playback for CD-R and CD-RW discs that have been burned with MP3 files.
That’s going to let you fit a lot more music on your CDs, making it a whole lot easier to navigate your library without having to feed new CD after new CD back into the player itself.
Secondly (and maybe most impressively) you get to take full advantage of the Pioneer Sonic Shaping technology that this company has become known for over the last few years.
This audio technology gives you complete access to a dedicated and totally custom soundstage that you can configure to your hearts content. A 13 band equalizer (with seven individual equalizer presets), three different pairs of 4 V pretty amplified outputs, and a whole host of other proprietary sound shaping elements make this technology a game changer.
Add in the fact that you get native support for satellite radio, full support for streaming applications on your Apple or Android device, and the ability to use volume in multimedia control buttons built directly into your steering wheel (as well as some other core features) and this receiver becomes a no-brainer.
The last thing we want to touch on here before moving on is the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity.
Bluetooth 4.1 support is native right out of the box.
That means you’re going to be able to quickly and easily connect to your smart phone or tablet on the go, using those devices to navigate via GPS, to stream music for media, and to make calls or send texts.
The Pioneer FH-S501BT does not have native support for Apple Car Play or Android Auto (something we talk about in depth in just a moment), but it does have basic support for both Apple and Android devices that lessen the blow a little bit.
All in all, this is a rock solid receiver at a decent price point.
In the box you’re going to have everything you need to get up and running with Pioneer FH-S501BT, including (but not limited to):
You won’t need anything outside of the Pioneer FH-S501BT box to get your new unit installed aside from a handful of tools and maybe a little bit of patience.
Best of all, this is one of the easiest units to install even if you don’t have a lot of experience.
You don’t have to worry about running to someone else and having them overhaul your receiver for you.
A couple of really key features stand out from the rest of the pack with the Pioneer FH-S501BT, especially:
As far as specifications go, this unit is going to fit right into all Double DIN dashboard openings.
This is the standard configuration for the overwhelming majority of modern vehicles out there. You’re not going to have to fight with this unit to get it into your dashboard, assuming that you are replacing a Double DIN set up.
A 13 band equalizer (with seven presets), three different levels of loudness, the integrated low-pass and high-pass filters, full ARC control via your smart phone, and music/media playback through Bluetooth and USB connectivity help to separate this inexpensive receiver from the rest of the pack quite a bit.
Unfortunately (as mentioned above), the Pioneer FH-S501BT does not have full support for Apple Car Play or Android Auto.
The receiver itself is not designed with a touchscreen in mind, and the folks at Pioneer didn’t spend a lot of extra time or a lot of extra energy trying to find a way to make either Apple or Android automotive software work in a non-touchscreen interface.
But that doesn’t mean that your smart phones are going to be useless when you slide behind the wheel.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the Pioneer FH-S501BT has dedicated support and controls for all Apple and Android devices made within the last few years.
You can connect over Bluetooth 4.1 wireless wavelengths but can also connect via USB as well. Either way you can use the integrated ARC mobile application for your phones to control the receiver with your devices, too.
Music playback and media playback from your phone through the receiver is possible, not only over Wi-Fi but also over USB (with certain modern Android devices, anyway).
Yes, it’s unlikely that the Pioneer FH-S501BT is going to go toe to toe with any of the flagship media receivers on the market today anytime soon.
It is lacking a couple of the “creature features” people have come to expect with modern vehicles – we are talking about touchscreens, reverse cameras, DVD player capabilities, etc.
That can’t be argued.
At the same time, though, we are still talking about a fantastic media receiver from the people at Pioneer here.
If sound quality is important (you want to hear your music as clearly and as crisply as possible, even over terrestrial AM/FM radio signals) and you want something that isn’t going to break your bank account into tiny pieces, the Pioneer FH-S501BT is definitely going to be right up your alley.
For the right people (and the right budget) this is a no-brainer kind of choice for sure.
The odds are pretty good you’ll love all that the Pioneer FH-S501BT has to offer.
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