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Pioneer Bolsters $1,000+ AVR Selection

Pioneer’s New Elite-series A/V receivers (AVRs) will expand the high-performance repositioning that the company began with its Kuro display initiative, said marketing and planning manager David Bales.

The company expanded its Elite-series selection, ratcheted up price points, and expanded the use of technologies previously available only in its $7,000-suggested flagship AVR to encourage sales of AVRs priced more than $1,000. The introductions will also capitalize on an industrywide sales trend in which average selling prices rose dramatically to deliver double-digit dollar-sales increases despite flat unit sales, he said.

In related introductions, the company launched its first two Blu-ray players that will decode all surround formats authorized for Blu-ray discs, though the reproduction of DTS HD High Resolution and DTS HD Master Audio will require a future firmware upgrade. The two models are the $799-suggested BDP-05FD in the Elite series and the company’s first mainstream-series player, the $599-suggested BDP-51FD. Both are due in the summer.

In Elite AVRs, the company launched four new 7.1-channel models, due in late spring and summer at a suggested $750 to $2,200. The introductions expand the Elite selection from four SKUs to six, including one carryover model and the previously announced flagship SC-09TX, a 10-channel receiver unveiled in September and shipped in April. With the new models, Pioneer is adding the $2,200 and $1,800 price points, having previously topped out at $1,600 for models other than the flagship.

“AVRs must be the hub of all living room entertainment, including HDTV and games,” said Bales. However, HDTV-related features such as HDMI connections and decoding of all Blu-ray Disc surround formats have reached commodity price points, he noted. As a result, Pioneer wants to encourage sales of AVRs at $1,000 and higher by adding flagship-receiver features to more Elite series models and expanding the availability of other features to more models.

Flagship features trickling down to the $1,800-suggested SC-07 and $2,200 SC-05 include Direct Energy HD amplifier section, based on Bang & Olufsen ICEpower Class D technology to deliver Blu-ray surround sound at “extraordinary output levels with extremely low distortion and virtually no wasted energy,” the company said. Class AB amps are used in the remaining Elite AVRs.

Another trickle-down feature in the 05 and 07 is 192kHz/24-bit up-conversion of up to 7.1 channels of surround sound, enabling the AVRs to deliver surround-sound performance exceeding the 7.1-channel 96kHz/24-bit maximum residing on Blu-ray discs. Elite AVRs down to the $1,000 VSX-03TXH get the flagship’s jitter-reduction technology.

With the introductions, Pioneer is expanding the following features to all Elite-series AVRs, including the $750 VSX-01TXH:

  • decoding of all authorized Blu-ray surround formats. The feature started in the previous lineup at $1,000.
  • HDMI 1.3 inputs and outputs with support for x.v.YCC, Deep Color and dialog synchronization with the picture. The feature previously started at $1,000 in the Elite series.
  • HDMI up-scaling of analog video sources to 1080p. The feature previously started at $1,300.
  • Neural-THX Surround, which enables two-channel analog or digital audio encoded with 7.1-channel Neural-THX Surround to be played in multichannel. Sources of such content include planned videogame software encoded in Neural-THX 7.1. The AVRs will also decode XM stations encoded in 5.1 Neural Surround.
  • front-panel iPod-USB inputs, also available on the Xbox. With the inputs, consumers no longer have to buy Pioneer’s optional $100 dock/cable package to play iPod content through the receivers. The inputs also control other-brand MP3 players.
  • the advanced version of Pioneer’s Multichannel Acoustic Calibration (MCAAC) room-acoustics correction technology.
  • THX’s Loudness Plus technology, which lets home theater users turn down the volume without missing the deep bass, ambient sounds and surround effects typically heard only at higher listening levels.

In addition, the new Elite series expands the availability of such features as Home Media Gallery networking, enabling select AVRs to stream content from PCs and stream Internet radio via a broadband modem.

The SC-05 and SC-07 ship in August. The VSX-01TXH and VSX-03TXH ship in June. All are THX Select2 Plus- or Ultra2 Plus-certified.