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Pioneer Adds 1st AVRs With 3D HDMI, ProLogic IIz, Bluetooth, iPhone App

3/10/2010 08:22:00 AM Eastern

LONG BEACH, CALIF. — Pioneer
will make 3D-ready HDMI 1.4 inputs/
outputs, Dolby ProLogic IIz post processing,
proprietary Pioneer Front Wide
processing, and a stereo Bluetooth option
available for the fi rst time in its A/V receivers
(AVRs).

The capabilities will appear in all five
models in the company’s 2010 mainstream
series at prices from $229 to $749
street price. The features don’t yet appear
in Pioneer’s Elite AVR series.

The introductions also include the first
two Pioneer AVRs capable of being controlled
from an iPhone or iPod Touch app.
The introductions also bring down the
price of Internet radio to $549 and $749
from $1,700 in the company’s Elite series.

In the $749 model, Pioneer is also adding
HDMI 1.4’s audio return channel (ARC)
function for the first time to an AVR.

The full lineup includes two 5.1-channel
AVRs: the $229 5x110-watt VSX-
520-K and $299 5x110-watt VSX-820-
K. Three other AVRs, all 7.1-channel
models, are the $399 VSX-920-K, $549
VSX-1020-K, and $749 VSX-1120-K,
which adds THX Select 2 Plus certification.
All models ship in March-April except
for the $749 model, which ships in
late spring.

The new technologies in the series will
help Pioneer maintain the momentum
it enjoyed last year, when its AVR sales
grew in units and dollars despite industrywide
double-digit unit declines, said
marketing manager Dave Bales.

Record growth in sales of Pioneer receivers
priced less than $500 “was a direct
result of our enhancements to convenience
and connectivity options expected
from Apple users,” he added. The enhancements
included the 2009 addition
of iPhone certifi cation to its front-panel
iPod-controlling USB ports.

Like last year, the iPhone/iPod USB
port starts at $299, with included USBto-
iPod/iPhone
cable. The port,
which captures the
digital PCM output
of an iPhone
or iPod, eliminates
the need to
buy an add-on
$99 dock to play
iPod/iPhone audio
and video content
through an AVR.

The USB port also delivers playback
of audio and video stored on USB sticks
and other-brand MP3 players.

All five models connect to an optional
$99 stereo-Bluetooth adapter to stream
and reproduce music from MP3 players
and smartphones with stereo Bluetooth.
Bluetooth connectivity will “be
big from here on” because of the popularity
of the iPhone 3G S with embedded
stereo Bluetooth and other smartphones,
Bales said.

3D-ready HDMI 1.4 ins/outs will also
become a must-have feature now that 3D
content and 3D-ready displays are becoming
available, he said.

Dolby ProLogic IIz, which adds two
front-height speakers to a typical 5.1-
speaker setup, will be especially popular
with gamers, but for any consumer, it
will deliver a more life-like surround experience
and offer an easier installation solution
than many back-surround speaker
installs, Bales said. For the same reason,
the inclusion of proprietary Pioneer Front
Wide technology may prove popular with
consumers, he said. Front Wide adds an
extra pair of horizontal-plane front speakers
to expand the
width of the front
soundstage, where
adding additional
speakers is often
more practical,
Bales said.

Among the two
5.1 models, the
$229 model features
front-panel
minijack input and three HDMI 1.4 inputs.
The $299 5.1 AVR adds a fourth
HDMI input, Sirius-ready port, textbased
on-screen display, four HDMI inputs,
and the iPod/iPhone USB port.

For the first time, Pioneer is adding
front-panel iPod/iPhone control button to
its iPod/iPhone-controlling AVRs. The
button, near the port, lets users choose between
controlling their iPod/iPhone from
the portable devices’ controls or from the
AVR’s front panel controls and AVR remote.
The control-button function was
previously available only on a harder to
find remote-control button.

The $299 AVR model also adds the
company’s automatic multichannel
acoustic channel calibration.

With the 5.1 launches, Pioneer is reducing
the price of decoding all Blu-ray
surround formats to $229 from $299.

With the 7.1 launches, Internet radio
becomes available at $549 and $749, having
been available previously only in the
high-end Elite series at $1,700.

To make Internet radio more affordable,
Pioneer dispensed with the vTuner
Internet-radio chip that accesses
thousands of stations, and the company
deleted Rhapsody’s music service. In
their place, the AVRs feature 24 station
presents into which consumers store Internet-
radio URLs entered via a USBconnected
computer keyboard.

To access Internet stations, the AVRs
connect to the home network via wired
Ethernet connection. If the port is connected
to a wired/wireless router, users
could also control the receivers from Wi-
Fi-equipped iPhones and iPod Touches
on which a free downloadable iControl
app is installed. The app breaks up the
portable devices’ touchscreen into four
quadrants, each controlling different sets
of functions. Touching one quadrant lets
users adjust subwoofer and center-channel
output by tilting the iPhone/Touch
forward or backward. Another quadrant
lets users control the front-back and leftright
balance of a home theater system by
tilting the iPhone forward, backward, left
and right.

The $549 and $749 models also migrate
the company’s proprietary Advanced
Sound Retriever technology to
Bluetooth stereo streams.

The $399 7.1 model features four
HDMI inputs, and the two step-ups feature
six HDMI inputs, including one
front-panel input. The $549 and $749
models add two-zone A/V.