Pioneer Home Audio Builds More Bridges To Apple Ecosystem

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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.

 The company promises to include the new Apple features in the rest of the A/V receivers that it will launch in the spring and summer, citing the high percentage of Pioneer AVR owners who own Apple products. More than 62 percent of Pioneer AVR owners own an Apple product, with 49 percent owning at least three Apple products, the company said. Twenty-six percent own an iPhone.

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 available now. The other two models are 7.1 receivers shipping later this month.

The $549 AVR is the lowest-priced Air Play-enabled AVR on the market, compared with an opening price of $1,000 from Denon, the company noted.

 Like last year, all but the opening-price AVR features a front-panel iPod-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, adds iPad connectivity to stream audio and video from an iPad.

The $549 VSX-1021 will be the first of eight AVRs, including Elite series AVRs, coming this year with AirPlay, and they are the first of 12 Air Play-enabled products coming from the company this year, home electronics executive VP Russ Johnston told TWICE. The other products will be compact tabletop speaker systems.

 In the $549 AVR, the company is adding another first to the line. That's 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 shuffle, select, and control the playlist and control playback 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 addition of the iControlAV2 app, consumers can now also use their iPhone, Touch or iPad to select audio content from the networked PC or NAS device for playback through the AVR.

The $549 AVR features wired Ethernet port that can be connected to an optional $149 Wi-Fi dongle with WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) to simplify setup.

 The $549 AVR is also the company's first 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 owner's manual is also included, but on networked AVRs starting with the $549 model, the owner's manual becomes interactive.  A consumer who pushes a button on the AVR, for example, will have the function explained to them on the iPad or on the PC on which the CD-ROM is playing.

Also in the new mainstream-series lineup, Pioneer brought HDMI standby pass-through technology down to $249 from $749.

Pioneer also brought HDMI output with audio return channel (ARC) down to $249 from $749. And it brought vTuner Internet radio, which streams more than 16,000 Internet radio stations, 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 via a USB-connected keyboard.

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

Up-scaling of analog and digital video to 1080p starts at the $449 price point.


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