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Pioneer Home Audio Builds More Bridges To Apple

3/21/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

SAN FRANCISCO — Pioneer is building more bridges to
Apple products in its mainstream A/V receiver (AVR) series.

Four new mainstream-series A/V receivers include the
company’s first three AVRs certified by Apple to connect
and charge an iPad (starting at $349), first A/V receiver with
Apple’s Air Play wireless audio-streaming technology (starting
at $549), and first model (at $549) compatible with the
new iControlAV2 app, which turns iPads, iPhones and iPod
Touches into full-function remotes that control all features of
the company’s networked A/V receivers and Blu-ray players.

At a press conference here, the company promised to
include the new Apple features in the rest of the AVRs that
it plans for spring and summer, citing the high percentage of
Pioneer AVR owners who own Apple products.

The four new models are the $249 VSX-521, $349 VSX-
821, $449 VSX-921, and $549 VSX-1021. The $249 and
$349 models are 5.1 models. The other two are 7.1 receivers.
All will be shipping in March

A fifth mainstream-series AVR at $749 will be announced
in June. Elite- series AVR receivers will also be announced
later this year.

In the mainstream series, the $549 AVR is the lowest priced
Air Play-enabled AVR on the market, the company said.

Like last year, all but the opening-price AVR features a
front-panel iPod/iPhone-compatible USB port, making it
unnecessary to purchase an add-on dock to stream audio
from a connected iPod or iPhone (and photos, video and app
content with an included composite-video cable). This year’s
port, however, now charges a connected iPad. Last year’s
ports could stream content from an iPad but not charge it.

The AirPlay-equipped AVR will be the first of eight models,
including Elite series AVRs, coming this year with AirPlay,
and it is the first of 12 Air Play-enabled products coming this
year, home electronics executive VP Russ Johnston said.
The other products will be compact tabletop systems.

In the $549 AVR, the company is adding another first to
the line — the ability for up to four people at a time, via free
AirJam app, to connect their iOS 4.2-equipped iPod Touch,
iPhone or iPad to the AVR to jointly create a master playlist of
songs to be streamed to the AVR from their Apple devices.
The AVR must be connected to an optional $99 stereo-Bluetooth
adapter. Each user can add or delete songs on the
playlist and control volume.

Like last year, all of the AVRs in the mainstream series connect
to the Bluetooth adapter, with the $549 AVR adding
AirJam compatibility.

The $549 receiver, like its predecessor at that price point,
also adds DLNA certification, enabling it to stream audio,
video and photos from a networked DLNA-compatible PC or
network attached storage (NAS) device. This year, however,
with the iControlAV2 app, consumers can use their iPhone,
Touch or iPad to select songs from the networked PC or
NAS drive for playback through the AVR.

The $549 AVR features wired Ethernet port that can be
connected to an optional $149 Wi-Fi dongle. Is also the
company’s first AVR to come with setup instructions on a
CD-ROM and – soon — an iPad app. The CD-ROM and app
talk consumers through initial product hookup, asking consumers
the type of products they want to connect and the
types of outputs the products have. The program then shows
the customer which cables to use and where to plug them in.

An interactive owner’s manual is also included on the disc
and app. A consumer who pushes a button on the AVR will
have the function explained to them on the iPad or PC.

Also in the lineup, Pioneer:

• brought full vTuner Internet radio capability, which streams
more than 16,000 Internet radio stations, down to an opening
price of $549. Last year, the mainstream series
offered limited Internet radio capabilities in its
$549 and $749 models, which featured 24 Internet-
station presets whose URLs could be input
by consumers.

• brought HDMI standby passthrough down to
$249 from $749.

• and brought HDMI output with audio return
channel (ARC) down to $249 from $749.

Like the models they replace, all four feature
Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master decoding,
3D-capable HDMI 1.4a ins and outs, and Dolby
Pro Logic IIz to create front-height channels.

Proprietary Front Wide Mode starts at $549,
like before, to adds a second pair of horizontalplane
front speakers to expand the soundstage.

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