Pioneer FH S501BT Review in 2023 – Expert Guide

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Pioneer has a history in the audio industry, and they were one of the first to make in-dash radios. The FH-S501BT is their newest model with Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free calling. It also comes with a MIXTRAX feature, which is a DJ mixing software. We took the FH-S501BT out for a spin to see what it was all about.

Pioneer has always been known for its quality audio products and the FH-S501BT is no exception. It comes with a detachable faceplate, and it feels sturdy and well-built. The controls on the unit aren’t very intuitive at first glance, but after fidgeting around with it for a bit, we were able to find most of the main functions. It also looks quite sexy.

The buttons are big enough to press without too much effort, but they still have that distinctive click when you press them down. This makes them feel higher quality than some other units where you can press several buttons at once by accident. There’s also an eject button for CDs which is convenient if your phone runs out of battery while you’re driving.

Pioneer FH-S501BT comes with a built-in amplifier, so it can power speakers directly through the unit. We hooked up some Sony Xplod speakers to the FH-S501BT and were quite impressed with the sound quality that came out of them.

As expected from Pioneer, this unit sounds great. The MIXTRAX software does affect audio quality, but it’s subtle enough for most people not to care about it. Even if you don’t like how it affects your music, you can turn off MIXTRAX whenever you want.

The FM transmitter doubles as a hands-free calling feature which is kind of cool because there are no cables needed here. You can either pair a phone to the FH-S501BT, or you can use a built-in microphone on the unit. The sound quality of calls was quite good, and there’s enough volume to be heard even on an extremely busy street.

You do have to set your phone into Bluetooth discovery mode before it will connect to the FH-S501BT wirelessly, however. The wireless range is about 35ft which is pretty good if you ask us. It might not work so great inside buildings because of all the interference from other electronics, but out in open areas, we had no problems at all with this unit.

There are some drawbacks here too, such as how long it takes to turn off if you press and hold down the power button. This can be annoying if you just want to turn it off quickly, and we’re surprised they didn’t fix this considering the feedback they’ve received in the past. Also, USB playback is a bit spotty with some devices we tried. These issues might not bother most people, but we thought we should mention them here for completeness.

Overall, Pioneer FH-S501BT is an excellent unit with tons of features and good sound quality. We were able to connect several different types of smartphones wirelessly without any problems whatsoever. Some of the specifications and features will help you to know more about Pioneer FH-S501BT given below. So just have a look:

Image Product Feature Price
Pioneer FH S501BT
Pioneer has always been known for its quality audio products and the FH-S501BT is no exception. It comes with a detachable faceplate, and it feels sturdy and well built. Check On Amazon

Pioneer FH S501BT Review

What’s In The Box?

  • 1 x Pioneer FH-S501BT Double Din Car Stereo
  • 1 x Remote Control with Battery
  • 2 x USB Cable (3m/9.8ft)
  • 4 x Auxiliary Cable (3m/9.8ft)
  • 1 x Wiring Harness for Installation of Radio
  • 1 x iPod Direct Connect Cable
  • 6 x Wire Tie
  • 8 x Panel Screw
  • 8 x Mounting Bolt 1x User Guide.

Key Features

  • Flexible and expandable: FH-S501BT features two AUX inputs and a front USB port so you can plug in and play virtually anything, from MP3 players to satellite radio.
  • Built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming
  • Wireless Audio Streaming: Wirelessly connect to your smartphone or other Bluetooth device and listen to music through the Pioneer receiver.
  • Auxiliary input: The unit’s auxiliary input (3.5mm) allows you to connect almost any portable audio player with a headphone jack output.
  • Wireless Remote: The included wireless remote allows you to control the audio source and view metadata on a connected iPod/iPhone, Android smartphone (3.5mm jack), or USB memory device.
  • MIXTRAX: Pioneer’s proprietary MIXTRAX software analyzes the music in your iTunes library to create custom playlists and non-stop mixes that keep the party going even when your iPhone is powered off.
  • Advanced Sound Retriever: This feature brings back the sound of compressed audio files during playback at high volumes, letting you enjoy dynamic sound from all types of music sources with no adverse effect on audio quality.


  • Maximum Power Output: 50 watts x 4 (at 4 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 1% THD-N)
  • AUX Inputs: Two (one front/1 rear)
  • USB Port: Front panel USB port for playback of MP3/WMA audio files from select Android smartphones and portable audio players (formatted in FAT 16/32). Playable file types: MP3 WMA AAC (8-320 kbps; 8-48kHz). Sampling rates: 8, 11.025, 12, 16, 22.05, 24 , 32, 44.1 , 48 kHz; Stereo mode: MP4 AAC WAV (8 to 320 Kbps). Signal-to-noise ratio: >95 dB
  • FM Tuner Frequency Range: 87.5-108.0 MHz
  • Tuner Presets: 18 FM, 6 AM
  • Dimensions: W=3″ H=6 3/4″ D=1 1/2″ [175mm x 167mm x 44mm]
  • Weight: 1.7 lbs [770 g]

Pros And Cons – Pioneer FH S501BT Review

  • Crisp, auto EQ sound
  • Easy to use and set up
  • FM transmitter/hands-free calling feature
  • Powerful built-in amplifier
  • Wide range of audio file support
  • Build quality is very good
  • Auto EQ feature works great
  • Provides clear, crisp sound from just about any source.
  • Cannot disable USB playback when car is turned off.
  • CarPlay support limited to certain phones.
  • No HD Radio or satellite radio support.
  • Slow power on time when pressing power button.

Design and Appearance

The unit has a very sleek appearance with a slightly curved front face and larger volume control knob, while the auxiliary input is conveniently located on the front.

The Pioneer FH-S501BT is a great stereo for anyone who wants quality sound without breaking the bank. It’s got plenty of features, and expandability options, and sounds great. The only downsides are a few small software quirks that might not bother most people. Overall, we think this is a great option for anyone looking for a new car stereo.

Even though it’s a fairly large unit by double-DIN standards, it has a slender profile that will fit into almost any dashboard opening. The auto EQ feature works great and provides clear, crisp sound from just about any source.

Overall build quality was excellent, but we did notice that when pressing the power button on our unit, there was an unusually long delay before anything happened (about five seconds). This could be because this particular review sample was a preproduction unit, but we weren’t able to confirm either way with Pioneer.

Sound Quality

Pioneer FH S501BT Review

Our biggest complaints were actually about the sound quality. The overall volume, especially in the lower frequencies, was really low (despite our best efforts to turn it up) and the tone controls seemed to make things worse when we turned them on. This unit would be great if you’re looking for a head unit with lots of bells and whistles but just okay if pure audio quality is what you’re after.

Configuring the unit was a breeze, but we couldn’t figure out how to turn off the USB playback when the car was turned off since there’s no dedicated AUX-In port. This may be a dealbreaker to some, but then again this is a stereo that has Bluetooth support and aux input as well as other features that might make up for its lack of iPod support.

Even after talking with the Pioneer representative about this issue, our thoughts on it still stand- it would have been nice to have an AUX-In as it would provide audio playback even if you forget to plug your phone or MP3 player into the dedicated USB slot before turning on your car.

On top of this, even though it’s advertised as having CarPlay support for “select phones,” iOS 7.1 was unable to recognize it even though Pioneer said it would work with their AppRadio 3 smartphone- it showed up as incompatible despite these assurances from Pioneer. There are also limitations to which devices will work with Dash Express in terms of the USB port, but this is an issue beyond the scope of this article.

Our final note would be that even though it’s a popular model among car stereos today, we still have yet to see one that isn’t susceptible to heat-related issues when installed under the sun–the Pioneer was no exception and we felt a noticeable increase in performance after moving it into a cooler area.

FAQs: Pioneer FH S501BT Review

1. What is a “line array” and how do I hook up speakers to a Pioneer FH-S501BT Double Din receiver?

Ans- A line array setup consists of two sets of speaker wires- one going to the front channels, and another going to the rear channels. This particular model’s amplifier can handle either configuration just fine so it’s just a matter of preference.

2. Can I use an FH-S501BT Double Din receiver with a car amplifier?

Ans- Technically, yes. However, the FH-S501BT can only provide enough power to run 4 speakers at peak performance (at 2 ohms).

3. Does it have Bluetooth?

Ans- Yes. The FH-S501BT has built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling as well as streaming music from your phone to the receiver.

4. How many watts does it put out?

Ans- It can output a maximum of 50 watts x 4 channels and an RMS of 22 watts x 4 at 2 ohms with no more than 0.9% THD+N. This is pretty typical for car stereos in this price range, but if you want something that puts out a bit more power check our list of the top-rated car stereos here.

5. Can I use CarPlay with this Pioneer FH-S501BT Double Din receiver?

Ans- In theory, yes, Pioneer’s website says that it is compatible with their AppRadio 3 smartphone which comes with support for Apple’s CarPlay as well as their Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) update software.
However, we tested it with Pioneer’s AppRadio 3 and iOS 7.1 and the head unit came up as not compatible- we were told by Pioneer that this was due to an error on Apple’s end and that future updates will allow it to work properly.

6. What is CarPlay?

Ans- It’s a new feature from Apple that allows you to control your iPhone while driving without having to pick it up or look at it while you’re behind the wheel.


The Pioneer FH-S501BT Double Din head unit is a good choice if you’re looking for something with built-in Bluetooth and aux input as well as Apple CarPlay support.

However, we feel that the lack of an AUX-In port and less than stellar audio quality (when directly compared to other models we’ve reviewed here at Top Ten Reviews) make this model a bit difficult to recommend without caveats. You can check out our list of the best car stereos for another option if this Pioneer doesn’t catch your eye.

While this model comes with the convenience of being compatible with Pioneer’s Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) update software, for some reason it doesn’t seem to be able to connect when we tried even though they advertise that it will. We were told by a representative from Pioneer that this was due to an error on Apple’s end and future updates should allow it to work properly.

Pioneer has created a car stereo that not only looks great, but also sounds fantastic. Overall, the features and sound quality of the FH S501BT are sure to please anyone who is looking for an upgrade to their current car audio system. If you’re in the market for a new car stereo, be sure to check out the FH S501BT from Pioneer.

Hope you enjoyed our Pioneer FH S501BT review. Do you have any questions about the Pioneer FH-S501BT Double Din stereo? Have you used it before or do you plan to use it in your car? Comment below and let us know.

William R. Keen

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