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Pioneer Floats Mainstream AVRs

1/07/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Pioneer's quartet of new mainstream-series A/V receivers (AVR) is singing at International CES.

They include the first mainstream-series AVR, the $599-suggested VSX-1018AH, with embedded decoding of all mandatory and optional surround codecs authorized for use on Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. The introductions also include the first three mainstream AVRs with iPod-compatible USB ports to reduce the cost of connecting an iPod.

In these three models, the USB port lets consumers use the USB cable that came with their iPod to plug in their iPod. As a result, consumers no longer have to buy Pioneer's optional $100 dock/cable package to play iPod content through the receivers and control the iPod through the receivers' supplied remotes.

All four models are also the brand's first with auto level control, which evens out the volume levels when switching between different audio sources and different TV channels. It's also said to level out the volume differences between TV shows and TV commercials.

All four units incorporate Windows Media Audio 9 Professional and Advanced Sound Retriever technology, which improves the playback quality of compressed music delivered by iPods, MP3 players and satellite radio. The four also include proprietary Front Stage Surround Advanced, which enables consumers to place four speakers up front to deliver surround sound via DSP and by reflecting surround-speaker content off side walls.

Three of the receivers are also Sirius- and XM-ready. Last year, Pioneer and Onkyo were the first companies to offer Sirius/XM-ready AVRs.

The series starts with the $199-suggested VSX-518-K 5x120-watt model with 192kHz/24-bit DACs, three component-video inputs and subwoofer pre-out. The $299 VSX-818V, due in March, adds the iPod-friendly USB port. It's XM/Sirius-ready and features large display screen, Neural Surround decoding of XM surround broadcasts, HDMI video switching (two in/ one out), and multichannel acoustic calibration (MCAAC) room-acoustics correction.

The $399 VSX-918V, due March, adds multiple HDMI enhancements, including HDMI Repeater function and HDMI Lip Sync, which ensures the audio and video of an HDMI-connected source are synchronized.

At the top of the mainstream series, the $599-suggested 7x130-watt VSX-1018AH adds embedded decoding of all Blu-ray and HD DVD surround formats streamed through one of its two HDMI 1.3a inputs. Previously, embedded decoding appeared in Elite-series receivers starting at $1,000.

The HDMI connection supports HDMI Deep Color and HDMI CEC, which coordinates the operation of any brand of components in a home theater as long as they're also equipped with HDMI CEC. The device's iPod-friendly USB port also controls other-brand MP3 players.

The 1018AH, due in June, also adds SR+ cable, a proprietary cable connection that runs to Pioneer plasma TVs to display the receiver's status and controls.

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