When you hear the words home theatre what do you think about? Honking big speakers? A giant screen? Maybe a DVD player? We’re willing to bet that the humble receiver is probably the last thing you think about in this equation, but it is just as important as every other piece of this puzzle. With receivers such as Pioneer’s new VSX-920 and VSX-1020, it's possible to get high-end features for the price of a Blu-ray player.
Pioneer was one of the first companies to include iPod integration, and with the ‘920 and ‘1020 it takes things one step further. Sure, you can still connect an iPod or iPhone and now get cover art on-screen, but the company takes this one step further by providing its first iPhone/iPad control app.
Pioneer’s free iControlAV allows control of several different options including each speaker’s independent volume level . The app takes advantage of the Apple devices’ on-board accelorometers for intuitive left and right or up/down adjustments.
Other features of the receivers include DLNA streaming and internet radio with a choice of thousands of internet radio stations. The receiver even accepts a USB keyboard to simplify station searches.
In addition to decoding all of the HD audio formats, the receivers will provide 1080p upscaling and HDMI upconversion, plus a front-mounted HDMI port. Bluetooth streaming is now possible with the addition of an optional Bluetooth adapter, and the receivers feature “Sound Retriever Air” for improving the quality of Bluetooth audio.
The look is subtly different to last year's — instead of black gloss the front panel is now a matte metal, which to our eyes is definitely more attractive. Build quality appears to be just as sturdy as in previous years.
The VSX-920 and VSX-1020 will be available in July for AU$1099 and AU$1299 respectively. If your budget doesn't stretch this far then Pioneer also makes the VSX-520 (AU$499) and VSX-820 (AU$699), but without some of the A/V features like app control. If, on the other hand, you're looking for something even better then the LX range (LX63, LX73 and LX83) is coming later in the year and promises superior audio quality.