Pioneer's Elite A/V Receivers Adding Apple Connectivity

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Pioneer’s 2011 lineup of Elite series A/V receivers (AVRs) adds an array of new connections to Apple’s mobile devices.

The connections include AirPlay capability and the ability to use Apple’s mobile devices as a remote to direct music from a networked PC to the receivers, the company said.

Other features appearing for the first time on Elite AVRs include compatibility with a free AirJam app and a free iControlAV2 app. AirJam enables up to four people at a time to connect an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad to an AVR to jointly create a master playlist of songs to be streamed via Bluetooth from the Apple devices to the AVR, which must be connected to an optional $99 stereo-Bluetooth adapter. Each user can shuffle, select and control the playlist and control playback volume.

With the addition of the iControlAV2 app, consumers can use their mobile Apple device to select audio content from a networked PC or network-attached storage device for playback through the AVR. Like an iControlAV app available last year for mainstream and Elite series receivers, the iControlAV2 app controls the AVR’s volume, bass, balance and room settings; selects Internet radio stations via the AVRs’ Internet radio feature; and controls Pioneer Blu-ray players.

Via Apple’s AirPlay technology, the AirPlay-compatible receivers stream music via Ethernet connection or via optional $149 Wi-Fi dongle from a handheld Apple device or from a PC’s iTunes application.

AirPlay and the other new Apple-related features will appear in Elite receivers due sometime this summer at prices of $600, $700, $900 and $1,100. Earlier this year, AirPlay and the other Apple-connected features appeared in select mainstream-series AVRs.

A $450 Elite series model was also introduced without the Apple-related features, bringing the series’ opening price point to $450 from a previous $550. In 2008, the Elite series opened at $750.

Two more additional Elite AVRs at higher prices will be announced later this summer.

This year’s line also adds new cosmetic touches, mainly a combination of matte black and glossy black on the front panel compared with the all-glossy finish that has marked the series for a decade. A front door that hides front-panel controls to present a cleaner look starts at $900, down from $1,600.

Like before, all of the new mainstream and Elite models, except for an opening-price mainstream 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 included USB cable with compositevideo cable). This year’s port, however, now charges a connected iPad, whereas last year’s port only streamed content from an iPad.

Other Elite changes include:

• DLNA 1.5 certification starting at $600, down from $2,200 in last year’s Elite line, to stream audio from a networked PC;

• a compressed-video enhancer feature, putting it in the $900 and $1,100 models to improve the picture quality of video streamed from the Internet through such sources as connected Blu-ray players;

• an advanced video-adjust feature, starting at $600, to optimize video settings individually for each connected video source as well as optimize the video output for plasma, LCD or frontprojector display technologies;

• expanded Internet music service capabilities by bringing the Pandora, Rhapsody and Sirius Internet music services to the $900 and $1,100 price points, having only offered the Rhapsody and Sirius Internet Radio music services last year at $2,200; and

• vTuner software, which streams thousands on Internet radio stations, continues to start at a suggested $600.

In another change, Pioneer brought an interactive owner’s manual on CD-ROM to the series, starting with the networked $600 model. The CD-ROM talks 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. After setting up a networked AVR, consumers can push an AVR button and have the function explained to them on a networked PC while the CD-ROM is playing.

In other features, Pioneer starts 1080p video up-scaling at a $450 price point.


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