The iPod is the most popular audio gadget of the decade, which is why it's incredibly frustrating that it's not easier to use it with your AV receiver. Either you're stuck using a patch cable and getting up from the couch to make playback changes, or you have to shell out for a pricey proprietary iPod dock.
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That's why we were so excited when we saw the Pioneer VSX-1019AH-K (and its step-down cousins) at CES 2009; just plug your iPod into the front panel USB port using the included iPod cable and you can navigate your music using your TV screen. That's a unique feature in this price range and the VSX-1019AH-K also has a full suite of standard features, such as four HDMI inputs, 1080p analog upconversion, and multiroom functionality.
Even better, we were blown away by the sound quality of the VSX-1019AH-K for a $500 receiver, despite our initial worries that it weighs significantly less than last year's VSX-1018AH-K.
At this point, the VSX-1019AH-K is the clear front-runner for our Editors' Choice award in the midrange AV receiver category, but we're holding off on making the designation until we've reviewed the latest models from Sony and Denon.
That being said, with the street price of the VSX-1019AH-K creeping as low as $400 online, it's hard to imagine that there will be a better AV receiver value in 2009.