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Pioneer VSX-819H hits the sweet spot for AV receivers

Pioneer announced a full line of new AV receivers, but the VSX-819H's low price and solid feature set make it stand out from the pack.

AV receivers are always part of full product lines, so making your pick usually comes down to finding the model that offers all the features you want for the least amount of money. (And hopefully it sounds good, too.) All of Pioneer's new AV receivers at CES 2009 score pretty well on the price-to-feature metric, but the VSX-819H hits the sweet spot. Here's the full rundown:

Key features of the Pioneer VSX-819H:

  • Three HDMI inputs
  • Two component video inputs
  • Three digital-audio inputs (two optical, one coaxial)
  • Onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding
  • Automatic speaker calibration
  • Auto Level Control (keeps commercials from being louder than programs)
  • Connect your iPod via USB and browse your songs with an onscreen interface
  • Sirius-ready, with onscreen interface
  • April release date, $300 list price

The connectivity and decoding options already make the $300 price tag look good, but when you throw in more unique features like Auto Level Control, and the ability to browse both Sirius and your iPod onscreen, it jumps out as a great deal. The biggest missing feature is the lack of analog video upconversion--which is available on the step-up VSX-919AH ($400)--but with almost all new home theater gadgets using HDMI (and everyone looking to save money), its absence doesn't bother us as much as it used to. It will be interesting to see how the VSX-819H stacks up when competitors release their new 2009 lines, but right now it looks like a top contender for those looking to maximize their home-theater dollar.