Pioneer Home Audio Builds More Bridges To Apple - Twice

Pioneer Home Audio Builds More Bridges To Apple

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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.

At a press conference here, the company promised to include the new Apple features in the rest of the AVRs that it plans for spring and summer, citing the high percentage of Pioneer AVR owners who own Apple products.

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. The other two are 7.1 receivers. All will be shipping in March

A fifth mainstream-series AVR at $749 will be announced in June. Elite- series AVR receivers will also be announced later this year.

In the mainstream series, the $549 AVR is the lowest priced Air Play-enabled AVR on the market, the company said.

Like last year, all but the opening-price AVR features a front-panel iPod/iPhone-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, now charges a connected iPad. Last year’s ports could stream content from an iPad but not charge it.

The AirPlay-equipped AVR will be the first of eight models, including Elite series AVRs, coming this year with AirPlay, and it is the first of 12 Air Play-enabled products coming this year, home electronics executive VP Russ Johnston said. The other products will be compact tabletop systems.

In the $549 AVR, the company is adding another first to the line — 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 add or delete songs on the playlist and control 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 iControlAV2 app, consumers can use their iPhone, Touch or iPad to select songs from the networked PC or NAS drive for playback through the AVR.

The $549 AVR features wired Ethernet port that can be connected to an optional $149 Wi-Fi dongle. Is also the company’s first AVR 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 interactive owner’s manual is also included on the disc and app. A consumer who pushes a button on the AVR will have the function explained to them on the iPad or PC.

Also in the lineup, Pioneer:

• brought full vTuner Internet radio capability, which streams more than 16,000 Internet radio stations, down 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.

• brought HDMI standby passthrough down to $249 from $749.

• and brought HDMI output with audio return channel (ARC) down to $249 from $749.

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

Proprietary Front Wide Mode starts at $549, like before, to adds a second pair of horizontalplane front speakers to expand the soundstage.

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