Pioneer’s new AVRs go high, wide, and deep

Spring must be around the corner again, folks, ‘cause Pioneer has just announced a bunch of new receivers. The company’s new lineup consists of 5 models that range in price from $299 to $749. All deliver height channels courtesy of Dolby PLIIz, along with Audyssey DSX-style front wide channels courtesy of Pioneer’s proprietary processing. The entire lot is also equipped with HDMI 1.4 connections that can pass 3D video from a new 3D Blu-ray Disc player to a 3D-capable TV.

Two 5.1-channel receivers occupy the lower end of the price range: the VSX-520-K ($229) and VSX-820-K ($299). Both of these 5 x 110-watt models come with preamp outputs for connecting an external amp to drive height and width channels, and they can be outfitted with an optional $99 Bluetooth module to stream audio from an iPhone or other Bluetooth device. The 820 is also “Works with iPhone” certified (apparently a strong selling point for Pioneer receivers in 2009), letting users plug an iPod or iPhone directly into a front-panel USB port to listen to music and display menus, video, and photos on their TV.

Three new 7.1-channel Pioneer models are also on their way: the VSX-920-K ($399), VSX-1020-K ($549), and VSX-1120-K ($749). The 920 and 1020 feature everything found on the 5.1-channel models but add Anchor Bay video processing (including upconversion of lower-rez signals arriving via HDMI). The 1020 also has an Ethernet port for streaming Internet radio over a home network, while the 1120 pumps the power up to 120 watts x 7 and adds Marvell Qdeo video processing pretty sweet for a $749 receiver.

Last but not least, the 1020 and 1120 can both be controlled via Pioneer’s free iControl app for iPhone/iPod touch. With so much stuff packed into the lower-end models, you gotta wonder what’s left for the Elite lineup that Pioneer plans to unveil in June.

Al Griffin