Pioneer Beefs Up Mainstream AVRs

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Pioneer is turning over its entry- to midprice A/V receiver (AVR) lineup with four new models that bring key features, including HDMI repeater functionality and Blu-ray surround decoding, to lower price points.

The four new mainstream-series AVRs, priced from a suggested $199 to $499, bring the opening price of HDMI repeater functionality to $199 from $399, decoding of all Blu-ray surround formats to $299 from $599, 1080p up-scaling to $499 from $599, and video up-conversion to HDMI to $399 from $599. The HDMI repeater capability supports Deep Color, x.v. color and lip sync. Multizone audio starts at $199, and multizone A/V preout starts at $399, down from $599.

A new mainstream-series feature, called "iPod second zone with onscreen display," lets users access and control an AVR-connected iPod from another room, where users can view full-color jacket-art graphics on a TV. The feature appears in the $499 AVR.

Another new feature, Kuro Link, appears in the $399 and $499 models to integrate control of Pioneer's Kuro plasma TVs and the AVRs.

The $199 price point remains the starting price for proprietary two-channel auto level control (ALC) and proprietary two-channel Advanced Sound Retriever (ASR). ALC evens out volume levels when switching between different audio sources and different TV channels, and it also levels out volume differences when a TV program transitions to a commercial. ASR enhances the sound quality of compressed music from such stereo sources as iPods and satellite radio.

This year for the first time, Pioneer brings multichannel versions of ALC and ASR to the mainstream AVR series starting at $399. Multichannel ALC evens out volume levels from multichannel Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 digital sources and uses three volume-control technologies, said audio marketing and planning manager David Bales. Volume Leveling resolves the gap between recorded and playback volume levels. Volume modeling maintains sound quality under low volume conditions, and Dynamic Ambience Preservation preserves surround-channel sound quality.

Multichannel ASR enhances the sound quality of multichannel audio, including Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1.

Like before, $299 is the opening price for iPod-compatible USB ports, which reduce the cost of connecting an iPod because consumers no longer have to buy a dock and cable to control a connected iPod from the AVRs remote or front panel.

In one change, models starting at $299 are Sirius-ready, not Sirius/XM-ready.

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