By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Long Beach, Calif. — Pioneer is expanding connectivity options and adding some new features to its 2013 series of mainstream A/V receivers (AVRs), the first four of which will ship in March.
Additional models will be announced at a later date.
With the four new SKUs, Pioneer is bringing 4K by 2K Ultra High-Definition passthrough to an everyday $249 from about $1,599, and HDMI inputs with Mobile High-definition Link (MHL) technology start at an everyday $599 from about $1,599. For the first time, the series gets 4K up-scaling, which starts in the $599-everday model, and second-zone HDMI output, which starts at an everyday $599.
In another change, the company is adding new audio codecs to the list of codecs playable from a front-panel USB or from a networked-audio source. The new codecs, starting in the $399-everyday model, are AIFF (Apple’s uncompressed PCM format) and Apple lossless (MP4a or ALAC).
Features such as Apple AirPlay, DLNA 1.5 networking and Internet music streaming start at an everyday $399, up $20 from 2012.
The four new models are the $249-everyday, $279-suggested VSX-523, $399/$429 VSX-823, $499/$529 VSX-1023, and $599/$629 VSX-1123. The two lowest-priced models are 5.1-channel receivers, with the VSX-823 stepping up to 7.1 channels and the VSX-1123 stepping up to 7.2 channels.
The $249-everyday VSX-523 features 5x80-watt RMS amplification into 8 ohms with 0.08 percent THD, Made for iPod/iPhone front-panel USB that captures iPod/iPhone output in PCM form, 192/24 DACs, Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS HD-Master, and two-channel DSD (SACD)-to-PCM conversion.
The $249 AVR also features four HDMI 1.4a inputs, one HDMI 1.4a output with audio return channel, HDMI standby passthrough, and two-channel auto-leveling control, which ensures consistent volume when changing TV channels, when switching audio sources, and when TV programs transition to a commercial. Two-channel advanced sound retriever improves the sound quality of compressed music transferred via USB. The $249 model also decodes WMA, AAC and 48kHz/16-bit MP3 files sent through its front USB port from USB storage devices.
At an everyday $399, the VSX-823 adds networking, DLNA 1.5, AirPlay, vTuner Internet radio, Pandora and front MHL-enabled HDMI input, which enables Android phones to stream HD video with up to 7.1 channels of surround-sound multichannel sound to the receiver while simultaneously charging the phone. The receiver features the latest MHL 2.0 technology to support 3D content, 1080p 60Hz video and faster smartphone charging.
The VSX-823 also adds six HDMI input (including the front-panel input); Made for iPad USB; remote control via Pioneer’s Apple and Android apps; and decoding of Apple lossless, 192/24 WAV, FLAC and AIFF music files via USB and networked sources.
The VSX-823 also steps up to HTC Connect, which is designed to simplify the Wi-Fi streaming of music from select HTC phones to the DLNA-networked AVR and ensure reliable performance. The HTC device will also stream album art and metadata through the AVRs to a connected TV, control the receiver’s volume, and let HTC smartphone users use the phone for other functions while streaming to the AVR.
The VSX-823 also adds a port for an optional $99 stereo Bluetooth module, and it is compatible with AirJam, a Pioneer app that lets iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad users jointly create a master playlist of songs to be streamed to the AVR via stereo Bluetooth.
At an everyday $499, the 7.1-channel VSX-1023 also delivers 80 watts per channel but adds display of iTunes album art, Dolby Pro Logic IIz post-processing to drive a pair of front-height speakers, biamping of the front left and right channels, proprietary wide-surround post processing to add front-wide channels without adding speakers, and a port for an optional AS-WL300 Wi-Fi dongle.
At an everyday $599, the VSX-1123 adds 4K up-scaling from composite-, component- and HDMI-connected video sources; eight HDMI inputs, including the front-panel MHL-enabled HDMI input; and virtual surround-back, front-height and front-width channels. The AVR also adds such features as virtual depth channels for 2.1 sources, multichannel DSD (SACD) decoding via HDMI, multichannel automatic level control, multichannel advanced sound retriever, and advanced video adjust, which optimizes video signals by the type of connected display.
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