Long Beach, Calif. - Pioneer is launching new 7.1-channel A/V receivers (AVRs) that substantially lower the price of Internet radio and give consumers the ability for the first time to control a Pioneer receiver via an iPhone or iPod Touch app.
Two 7.1 AVRs offering these features are the VSX-1020-K, priced at $549 and VSX-1120-K, priced at $749, which adds THX Select 2 Plus certification. A new 7.1 AVR lacking these features is the $399 VSX-920-K. The $399 and $549 AVRs ship in March to April, and the $749 model ships in late spring.
All three models, appearing in the company's mainstream series, join two mainstream-series 5.1-channel AVRs announced earlier this week.
All five mainstream models are the company's first AVRs with 3D-ready HDMI 1.4 inputs/outputs, Dolby ProLogic IIz post processing, proprietary Pioneer Front Wide post processing and a stereo Bluetooth option. These features start at $229 in the 5.1 VSX-520-K. None of these features, nor the ability to use an iPod or iPhone as a remote, has appeared yet in the company's high-end Elite series of AVRs.
To these features, the $749 VSX-1120-K adds HDMI 1.4's audio return channel function.
Coinciding with the launches is a new distribution policy in which Pioneer is making a greater selection of mainstream-series AVRs available to authorized Internet retailers, who are now eligible to sell AVRs up to $749, compared with last year's $499. All five models in the mainstream series can now be sold by authorized Internet retailers.
With the 7.1 launches, Internet radio is available at $549 and $749, having been available previously only in the high-end Elite series at $1,700, marketing manager Dave Bales said. To make Internet radio more affordable, Pioneer dispensed with the vTuner chip that accesses thousands of stations and deleted Rhapsody's music service. Instead, the AVRs feature 24 station presents into which consumers store Internet-radio URLs entered via a USB-connected computer keyboard, which plugs into the AVRs' Apple-certified iPod/iPhone USB input.
To access Internet stations, the AVR connects to the home network via wired Ethernet connection. The Ethernet port also makes it possible in homes with a wired/wireless router to control the receivers from Wi-Fi-equipped iPhones and iPod Touches on which a free downloadable iControl app has been installed. The app breaks up the portable devices' touch screen into four quadrants, each controlling different sets of functions. Touching one quadrant lets users adjust bass and center-channel output by tilting the iPhone/Touch forward or backward. Another quadrant lets users control the front-back and left-right balance of a home-theater system by tilting the iPhone forward, backward, left and right. The app also features a moving-graphics tutorial that explains the benefits of subwoofer phase control and Precision Quart Locking System (PQLS), which delivers a jitter-free HDMI connection between the AVRs and Pioneer Blu-ray players.
The $549 and $749 models also migrate the company's proprietary Advanced Sound Retriever (ASC) technology to stereo music streams entering the AVRs from a back-panel $99 stereo-Bluetooth dongle. ASC enhances the sound quality of compressed audio sources.
All three new 7.1 models feature PQLS, Apple-certified iPod/iPhone-controlling USB port, and included USB-to-iPod/iPhone cable. The port eliminates the need to buy an add-on $99 dock to dock an iPod or iPhone to an AVR to play back its stored audio and video content. The USB port also delivers playback of audio and video stored on USB sticks and other-brand MP3 players.
The $399 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, with second-zone video coming from a composite-video output. The top model adds RS-232 port for custom-install applications and remote control of basic AVR functions from the Web browser of a Wi-Fi equipped laptop.
With the three, Pioneer is also reducing the opening price for 1080p up-scaling to $399 from $499.
New Elite series AVRs are due from June through August.