The Ides of March approach, and for us AV geeks, that means a big-ass ball bursting with AV receivers is about to drop. Yamaha has already unveiled some of its new lineup, Denon just sent out word on its new user-friendly E-Series, and now Pioneer is taking the wraps of its new affordable, standard line of receivers. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Pioneer may have stopped making HDTVs (which was a colossal loss for home theater enthusiasts), but the company has pushed forward supporting the home theater market with a number of quality AV receivers, Blu-ray players, and surround sound speaker systems like the SP-PK52FS 5.1 package we favorably reviewed last week. Pioneer also offers an Elite product line-up which includes the over-achieving SC-57 AV receiver, a beast that offers tremendous sound quality and video scaling for under $2,000. For 2013, Pioneer has just announced 4 new AV receivers in its standard line including the top VSX-1123-k 7.2 model, priced at a highly-affordable $630.
The VSX-1123 7.2 looks like a genuine bargain if you factor in all of its features along with Pioneer’s penchant for good sound quality. The VSX-1123-k offers 90 watts per channel into seven channels and support for 2 subwoofers – a feature that doesn’t always show up on more expensive competing models. The top model also offers 4K/Ultra HD pass-through and upscaling of analog and HDMI video signals to that $20, 000 4K/Ultra HDTV you’re dying to pick up on Black Friday. Three of the new receivers – the VSX-1123-k, VSX-1023-k, and VSX-823-k – also include support for Apple AirPlay, which means that you can stream music from your Mac or PC, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.
The top three models include support for Mobile High Definition Link 2.0 (MHL), a feature that is starting to show up on select HDTVs, Blu-ray players, and AV receivers. MHL allows you to connect a smartphone or tablet to your device and transmit 1080p video content along with 7.1 channels of audio via a single cable. The format also allows you to charge your phone or tablet at the same time. MHL 2.0 supports 3D, 1080p/60Hz and faster charging.
All four of the models include expanded support for iOS devices and enable iPhone, iPad and iPod users to enjoy audio playback stored on their devices as well as display album art and metadata when connected to a television or monitor. The top three models allow playback and charging of all versions of iPad. The AV receivers will also charge connected iPhone, iPad and iPod devices via corresponding cables, including the new Lightning or 30-pin cable.
The flagship VSX-1123-K also features Pioneer’s AVNavigator (now available for the Mac), an interactive owner’s manual that provides a linked two-way interactive manual, giving users a quick way to learn about all of the new features of the AV receiver. For instance: A push of the ALC button on the front of the receiver will take the user directly to the portion of the manual that explains the Automatic Level Control feature. Smart!
If you are not part of the Apple cult, Pioneer has not left you holding an empty Kool-Aid pitcher. A new ControlApp in now available for Android fans at Google Play (there is also a new iControlAV2013 App for iOS users available at Apple.com) with expanded control over the receivers and their home theater settings from the convenience of a smart device. Ideal for music lovers, both apps offer a new feature that enables users to access the music libraries stored on their devices and create playlists that can be streamed wirelessly to the receiver, all from within the app. ControlApp, available for use with the VSX-823-K and VSX-1023-K, offers features available in the previous version of the app, including management of inputs, audio adjustments and modes, and streaming content.
Pioneer also has support for HTC smartphones as the first consumer electronics manufacturer with HTC Connect certification. HTC Connect allows you to stream music and control specific receiver functions via your HTC device while maintaining the ability to speak on the phone and surf the Internet at the same time.
Streaming high-resolution digital audio is growing in popularly, so kudos to Pioneer for making it a standard feature on these non-Elite models. The top 3 models mentioned here now support Apple Lossless, AIFF, FLAC, AAC, WAV, MP3, and DSD (VSX-1123-K only) via USB connection. That’s right, you can playback DSD files via USB or through your network and the built-in 24/192 DAC will handle the rest.
The AV receivers are also DLNA 1.5 certified and offer Pandora and vTuner for access to tens of thousands of Internet radio stations.
Pioneer continues to expand connectivity options on its receivers, offering eight HDMI inputs on the VSX-1123, 6 HDMI inputs on the VSX-1023-K and VSX-823-K, and 4 HDMI inputs on the VSX-523-K . To distribute audio/video to the rest of the house, the VSX-1123-K offers what it calls HDZone, a Zone 2 HDMI output which can either mirror the main zone’s signal or deliver a separate source to a remote area via HDMI. A third, audio only zone can also be powered by the receiver and controlled through Pioneer’s iControlAV2013 App.
The new Pioneer receivers will be available at authorized Pioneer retailers in March at the following suggested retail prices:
- $280 (VSX-523-k)
- $430 (VSX-823-k)
- $530 (VSX-1023-k)
- $630 (VSX-1123-k)