Not the most expensive Pioneer car receiver on the market today, the FH S501BT is absolutely loaded top to bottom with advanced technology, top-tier media playback capabilities, and plenty of room for accessorizing and customization like the higher end Pioneer options – giving you maybe the most bang for your buck across the board.
Designed from the ground up to offer you a clean, easy to use physical button interface (moving away from the touchscreen interface that a lot of other high-end receivers use), you’ll be in complete and total control of your automobile entertainment set up when you choose the Pioneer FH S501BT as your aftermarket upgrade.
Through the rest of this quick Pioneer FH S501BT review we are going to dig into everything that makes this model special, highlighting its pros and its cons, and helping you decide whether or not this is the right way for you to go.
Let’s dig right in!
Right out of the box, the Pioneer FH S501BT is designed around a Double DIN form factor which means it’s going to fit most modern vehicle dashboards.
This is a pretty common configuration (maybe the most common in the modern automobile world), allowing you to essentially “drag and drop” the Pioneer FH S501BT into your dashboard by swapping out your stock radio set up.
Super sleek and easy to use, the front of this media receiver revolves around a digital display that uses LED technology to give you information about the media your listening to, the settings you are manipulating via the physical controls, and other details like how your phone is interfacing with the receiver itself.
Unlike a lot of other receivers out there today (including high-end options from the folks at Pioneer) there is no touchscreen device. Instead, everything is going to be dictated by the physical controls or the remote control that you’re able to use with this receiver.
Some people really like the inclusion of physical controls versus touchscreens (especially in the car when you don’t want to have to stare at your touchscreen every time you want to change a setting) whereas others are going to find this a little bit limiting.
Only you’ll know whether or not this is an issue for you.
We can tell you in this Pioneer FH S501BT review that the physical buttons are easy enough to reach, easy enough to maneuver and manipulate, and the inclusion of the remote as well as support for steering wheel media controls were pretty neat features.
All in all, the overall design and aesthetic of this Pioneer receiver is pretty much “industry-standard”. 10 different brightness levels and the ability to customize the way your new receiver looks with more than 210,000 different color choices add a little bit of flair and flavor – but there’s nothing wild about the way the design of the Pioneer FH S501BT looks, really.
From a media standpoint, almost all of your favorite audio playback options are going to be included with the Pioneer FH S501BT.
For starters, this receiver handles terrestrial AM and FM radio (as well as terrestrial HD radio) with absolutely zero issue whatsoever. In fact, a lot of you’ll find the experience listening to traditional radio with this receiver tribute one of the best experiences in your mobile entertainment world.
The receiver also provides full support for satellite radio right out of the box. You don’t have to buy other accessories, you don’t have to buy another dongles, and you don’t have to buy other hardware to take advantage of a satellite radio subscription when you roll with the Pioneer FH S501BT.
Thanks to both Bluetooth and USB connectivity you’re going to be able to open up a world of other audio options as far as media playback is concerned.
You can connect your Apple or Android smart phone directly to the receiver and play media that you have stored on that device, but you can also stream from popular services like Spotify and Pandora – and whole bunch of other apps – without any issue, either.
Of course, if you format a USB stick and put media on it you will be able to plug it right into the USB slot and play files from that storage, too.
Unlike touchscreen devices that offer video playback options, though, the Pioneer FH S501BT does not feature that kind of technology. You won’t be able to watch movies, TV shows, or videos on your car receiver with this particular model.
The sound quality of the Pioneer FH S501BT is really top-tier, thanks in large part to the same foundational sound shaping technology that Pioneer include in pretty much every one of their car audio receivers.
You’ll be able to fine-tune and tinker with equalizer settings (a 13 band equalizer) to create the kind of soundscape you are looking for inside of your vehicle, or can shortcut the process a little bit by using seven different presets that can be further optimized to your liking as well.
Three different pairs of 4v preamplifier outputs give you plenty of opportunity to expand your car’s stereo set up from a hardware perspective, adding new speakers and subwoofers that can take things to the next level.
All in all, you aren’t ever going to be disappointed with the quality of sound that this unit puts out. Most every Pioneer FH S501BT review out there (including this one) feels like the unit knocks this right out of the park.
As highlighted above, you have multiple connectivity options available to take advantage of when you leverage this car receiver.
Bluetooth wireless connectivity (Bluetooth 4.1) lets you connect to your smart phone and your tablets with ease, allowing for media streaming capabilities as well as push to talk phone calls and text messaging directly through the receiver itself.
An included microphone allows you to dial, call, talk to, and dictate text messages or emails through your attached device (though you’ll have to install the microphone up separately).
USB connections are available as well, not only allowing you to stream media from your phone or your tablet but also allowing you to enjoy the same kind of controls we highlighted above – and charging your device all at the same time.
Full support for Apple Car Play and Android Auto can be taken advantage of with this head unit, though you’ll have to use the device of your smart phone or your tablet to take advantage of these solutions.
From an installation standpoint it’s not a bad idea to hand this kind of job off to experts if you haven’t fiddle around with installing Pioneer head units in the past.
Figuring out how to bypass the wiring for your emergency brake and getting your included microphone attached so that you can reliably call, text, or voice control your Pioneer FH S501BT are all things that you don’t necessarily want to learn on the fly.
Add in the extra wiring necessarily use your steering wheel media controls (when applicable) and it’s easy to get in over your head in a hurry.
At the end of the day, you could certainly watch a couple of YouTube videos and probably figure out how to install the Pioneer unit all on your own – but expect to spend a little bit more time knocking out this project than you might have with other receiver units in the past.
When you get right down to it, there is a lot to like when it comes to the Pioneer FH S501BT digital media receiver.
Very affordable (especially for all of the technology that you get to take advantage of), very accessible, and flexible enough to feel like you are always in control and command of your media – something that you might not feel with a lot of other higher end and more expensive options – it’s not hard to see why so many people love this Pioneer unit.
This is not to suggest that this receiver is without shortcomings or pitfalls.
There is no touchscreen (which most people are expecting these days), there is no media playback for video files, TV shows, or movies, and navigation units aren’t going to easily interface with everything that the Pioneer FH S501BT brings to the table.
Combine that with an installation process that can be a little bit finicky and this may or may not be an ideal option for you.
All in all, though, we are still talking about a Pioneer unit here.
The company has a legendary reputation (and for good reason) for making high-quality audio receivers for cars, for a top shelf build quality across the board, and offers a top-notch warranty that protects your purchase for years.
If you don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles that touchscreen enabled receivers provide, and if you aren’t all that interested in tying your navigation directly into your receiver but are comfortable running it from your phone or tablet, the chances are good that you’ll love this set up.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself writing in glowingly positive Pioneer FH S501BT review after you get a chance to try out yourself!