Your new A/V receiver's front panel seems friendly enough with its softly winking LEDs and ergonomic layout of buttons and knobs. But turn that sucker around, and you'll find a menacing thicket of jacks, terminals, and other connectors - some familiar, some not.
Back in hi-fi's golden age, there used to be hot debates over "East Coast" vs. "West Coast" sound - no doubt a tame forerunner of the hip-hop wars of the '90s. East Coast speakers were thought to be smooth and mellow, with "concert-hall" sound best suited to classical music and jazz.
The "trickle-down" economics theory didn't work, but it sure seems to describe what's happening in the world of home theater electronics. Take one of the latest multichannel refinements, those 6.1- and 7.1-channel surround modes that require adding one (or two) back surround speakers to the standard five-speaker-plus-subwoofer array.
Each generation of A/V receivers brings at least a few new features — one of which will prove useful while others stick out as head-scratchers that nobody asked for. You could hardly find a better illustration of this natural law than Pioneer’s new VSX-52, the sub-penultimate model of its latest Elite A/V receiver range.