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Pioneer’s Elite AVRs Connecting With New A/V Content Sources

Pioneer’s Elite series A/V receivers (AVRs) will be right at home in a market where new surround sources, new music sources and 1080p video are emerging market factors.

New technologies appearing for the first time in one or more Elite series models include HDMI 1.3a inputs and outputs, 1080p up-scaling, internal decoding of all HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc mandatory and optional surround formats, HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) technology and Neural-THX surround decoding.

The $1,600 Elite model is the series’ first AVR that streams Internet radio or downloaded music from a PC and plays back music from a connected portable USB device. Artist and song information can be viewed through an onscreen display, and songs can be selected through the AVRs’ remote.

All four receivers are also the first Elite models with dual XM/Sirius-ready capability for control of optional outboard XM and Sirius satellite-radio tuners. They join several Pioneer-series AVRs launched at International CES and new Onkyo AVRs recently (TWICE, May 7, 2007, p. 12).

HDMI 1.3 and internal decoding of all HD DVD and Blu-ray surround formats appear in the VSX-91TXH, VSX-92TXH and VSX-94TXH A/V at a suggested $1,000, $1,300 and $1,600, respectively. They’re among a handful of AVRs publicly announced to date with internal decoding, joining models from Onkyo starting at a suggested $599 and from Sherwood Newcastle starting at a suggested $1,000.

The $1,300 and $1,600 models add Faroudja 1080p up-scaling and HDMI CEC technology to simplify the turn-on of multiple brands of CEC-enabled components in a home theater system, including Pioneer Elite’s new Blu-ray player. The two AVRs are also two of the industry’s first AVRs with Neural-THX Surround decoding. The other two AVRs offer previous-generation Neural Surround.

The $1,000 VSX-91TXH features an interlace-to-progressive (I/P) signal converter up to 480p.

In the past, Elite receivers controlled outboard XM tuners but not Sirius tuners, some up-scaled video only to 1080i, and some featured Neural Surround decoding, the predecessor the Neural-THX decoding. They also lacked HDMI 1.3, which carries the optional uncompressed DTS HD Master and Dolby TruHD surround formats in native form from HD DVD and Blu-ray players. On some HD DVD players, the two formats would be transcoded to PCM for transport over earlier HDMI versions, which could transport all other surround formats in native form.

Because of wider bandwidth compared to earlier HDMI versions, HDMI 1.3 inputs and outputs pass through 1080p with accelerated refresh rates, deeper color bit depth and more viewable colors if supported by the source and display.

All four new receivers, including the $650-suggested VSX-90TXV, are THX Select2-certified, and all control iPods through the AVR’s control panel and remote when the iPod is docked in an optional docking station. All offer such custom install features as multiroom, multisource capability, second-zone XM and Sirius listening, LCD preset/learning remote, and Pioneer’s advanced room-tuning feature. The top three feature RS232 port for PC and control connectivity.

The $650 and $1,000 models ship in June, while the $1,300 and $1,600 models ship in August.

The $1,000-suggested BDP-94HD Blu-ray player ships in May bundled with two Blu-ray Disc titles that would be among the first with Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. Initial Blu-ray Discs mainly featured Dolby and DTS 5.1 soundtracks, but multichannel PCM was included on some, the company has said.

The BDP-94HD features losslessly compressed Dolby Digital TrueHD decoding, and losslessly compressed DTS-HD Master Audio and lossy DTS-HD High Resolution Audio decoding might be available later as an upgrade loaded via disc, a spokeswoman said. That would enable the player to decode all Blu-ray and HD DVD mandatory and optional surround sound formats.