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Pioneer Elite Adds Network, iPod Features

Pioneer stepped up the networking, multizone and iPod-docking features in its latest Elite series A/V receivers (AVRs).

First-time features for the series include Works with iPhone certification, available on all four new models, and access to Internet music-subscription services, available on two networked models through Rhapsody and Sirius. With iPhone certification, the receivers will mute iPhone-stored music when a call comes in.

Two of the four new models are Elite’s first to offer three-zone output of iPod/iPhone music with onscreen display, whereas last year’s models offered only two-zone iPod output with onscreen display. The two other new models offer two-zone iPhone/iPod output. Second-zone display of iPod/iPhone cover art and iPod/iPhone video is also new and available on all four models:

The four AVRs, all seven-channel models, are the $700-suggested VSX-21 and $900 VSX-23, which ship in July, and the $1,700 SC-25 and $2,000 SC-27, which ship in August. They join a carryover flagship model, the $7,000 10-channel SC-09. The new $2,000 model is THX Ultra2 Plus-certified, and the other three new models are THX Select 2 Plus-certified.

The top two new models, plus the carryover flagship, access free Internet radio stations and feature PC networking. That number is down from four networked models last year, pushing up the opening price for the features to $1,700 from $1,300, the company said. This year, however, the two networked models add three-zone output of Internet radio and networked-PC music, whereas networked AVRs last year featured only two-zone output.

The two networked models feature Class D amplification, making them the only THX-certified audio products on the market with Class D amplification, the company noted. Elite also offered THX-certified Class D AVRs in 2008.

Both networked models are compatible with Windows Vista and Windows Media Connect for streaming music, including protected WMA downloads, from a PC. They’re also certified by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) as being compatible with other DLNA-certified devices on the network.

Also new in the series: three-zone video output, up from two-zone video. One model, the $2,000 SC-27, features HD component-video output for its second zone.

Like last year, all models feature a front-panel USB-iPod connection, making it unnecessary to use an add-on dock to connect iPods. The models are also packaged with a USB-iPod/iPhone cable.

Also like last year, all models decode all Blu-ray surround formats, offer 1080p up-scaling of analog video sources, and support x.v.YCC, Deep Color and dialog synchronization via HDMI.

The top three models feature three-zone video output and dual HDMI outputs to drive two video displays. The top three also feature Precision Quartz Lock System (PQLS) multichannel technology to deliver jitter-free audio via HDMI from a similarly equipped Elite BDP-23FD Blu-ray Disc player. A two-channel version of PQLS was available in Elite AVRs for the first time last year and became became available in Pioneer’s mainstream AVR series this year.

All four are the first Elite AVRs to get detachable power cords. All four are also Sirius/XM-ready.