updated 01:00 am EST, Tue March 8, 2011
New models handle Bluetooth, internet radio, more
Pioneer is introducing new 5.1- and 7.1-channel AV receivers that will ship later this month which build upon previous models, and that the company says are made for the the iPhone, iPad and iPod generation, featuring an included USB/video cable for both video/audio output as well as charging functions, AirPlay compatibility on the high-end model, an iPad-based interactive user-manual, optional Bluetooth audio streaming and more, including two new iOS apps, internet radio compatibility, and the ability to pair with up to four devices and their music/video libraries.
The receivers also boast traditional and recent innovations as were featured in their immediate predecessors, including automatic Advanced Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration (AMCAC) -- a feature in recent Pioneer receivers, AMCAC is a proprietary technology that analyzes the speaker configuration and adjusts levels and equalization to compensate for acoustic inaccuracies. The 2011 models add 3D time alignment to this technology.
The receivers also feature Dolby ProLogic IIz (and other DTS and Dolby) decoding, auto level control and an Advanced Sound Retriever that tries to compensate for compressed sound files. They all feature HDMI that is 3D Blu-Ray and 3D Broadcast compatible, a remote control, and all have a port for the optional AS-BT200 Bluetooth adapter as well.
The VSX-821 ($349) [website not yet updated -- all links go to similar but earlier models] features an iPod digital audio connection (which also charges all iOS devices), front USB/AV inputs, Sirius radio compatibility, and the included USB/Composite Video cable. This model can also play back MP3, WMA and AAC music stored on memory cards through its USB connection. It sports four HDMI inputs (one output), an adapter port for the optional Bluetooth adapter, two component video inputs (one output), four composite video inputs, three digital inputs (one coaxial, two optical), and seven speaker terminals.
The VSX-921 ($449) adds to the 821's feature list an Anchor Bay 1080p video scaler, video conversion to HDMI and seven assignable speaker terminals.
The showpiece of the lineup, however, is the ethernet-connected VSX-1021 ($549) -- which adds a host of additional features, including drastically reducing the cost of non-Apple device with AirPlay support.
In addition, it is the most iOS-friendly of the entire lineup, bringing DLNA compatibility and vTuner internet radio as well as two free custom iOS apps. The first is iControlAV2, which allows AV receiver and Blu-Ray disc player control, offering extensive controls . The second is Air Jam, which connects via the optional Bluetooth adapter to share music and create playlists from up to four devices. This model also includes an Ethernet port, Advanced Video Adjust technology, Zone 2 AV outputs and FLAC and WAV compatibility in addition to all the features of the other models. Firmware updates can be delivered via either USB or Ethernet ports, and the unit also can also utilize the optional AS-WL300 Wireless LAN Converter. The model also features a full color GUI and a system set-up CD-ROM featuring an interactive user manual.
The apps for the VSX-1021 require iOS 4.2 with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G, iPad, iPod touch (second generation), iPod touch (third generation), and iPod touch (fourth generation). The optional Bluetooth adapter costs $99, while an optional WiFi module is available for the high-end model for about $150 (wireless-N technology). The two entry models are available now (or shortly in retail), while two higher-end models are due later this month and in April (respectively).