The last time I reviewed an AV receiver for AppleTell—also a Pioneer—it was the first I’d tried with any sort of iPod/iPhone connectivity. The connection was handled via USB and composite video inputs on the front of the receiver. You young ones can read that again, but it won’t change the fact that, yes, you had to plug your iPhone into your receiver in order to hear anything.
With the bulk of desktop and shelf speaker systems going wireless, it makes sense that your home entertainment center would do the same. And it makes sense that your receiver would support AirPlay. So, when it comes time to either upgrade your current AV receiver or invest in your first, a great place to start your search is with Pioneer’s VSX line. There are four models available, and the feature comparison at Pioneer’s website breaks them down pretty clearly.
I’ve been trying out the VSX-823-K, a 5.1 channel system which offers 140 Watts (1 kHz 1 % THD @ 6 Ohms) 1ch Driven or 80 Watts (20Hz-20kHz .08% THD @ 8 Ohms) per channel.
It features 6 HDMI inputs—five in the back and one in the front—which I came close to filling up pretty quickly with the BluRay player, DirecTV box, Wii U and Apple TV. I like that the inputs are lined horizontally along the top of the back of the unit, making them easy to locate without having to the remove the receiver from the shelf.
The VSX-823-K also comes with a 10/100 ethernet port so you can connect it to your home network. The network is DLNA 1.5 certified, allowing for music playback from a networked DLNA server or any DLNA application on your Mac or smartphone that’s connected to the network. Pandora and vTuner are directly supported.
The big highlight for iDevice users, however, is the AirPlay support. Once the receiver is on your network, you can select the receiver on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to stream the music onto your home entertainment system. A nice touch from Pioneer is that you can set the VSX-823-X to automatically turn on when you start streaming music, so you don’t even need to bother with the remote. HTC Connect music streaming is supported, as well.
If you have an older iDevice that doesn’t support AirPlay—such as my trusty iPod classic that houses my entire music collection—you can still get audio streaming via the AS-BT 200 Bluetooth adapter, sold separately. This device plugs into the back of the VSX-823-K to provide wireless streaming from any Bluetooth device that supports A2DP. Although, at $99, you may be better holding off until you upgrade your iDevice. Plus, you can always still connect your iDevice to the receiver via the USB port on the front, which is compatible with the Lightning adapter and which will charge your device while it plays.
The functionality doesn’t end with the hardware. Pioneer also offer the Pioneer ControlApp to give you a degree of control you simply can’t get from a standard physical remote or the front of the unit, at least not in such an intuitive way. If you’re using the VSX-823-K for basic video/game playback, you may not need the app. But when you start adding Internet radio, playback from USB devices, etc., having all of that functionality in a clean touchscreen interface is a huge help.
Now, there are many other features I could discuss here, but a trip to Pioneer’s website will take care of that for you. The one I do want to highlight, though, is the auto multi-channel acoustic calibration setup (MCACC). Pioneer includes a microphone with the VSX-823-K that you connect to the receiver to configure your personal audio settings. Selecting Auto MCACC from the Home Menu setup screen, the receiver will use the microphone to test the audio settings and adjust them accordingly based on your speaker setup. It’s a wonderful feature for those who otherwise wouldn’t bother calibrating their audio settings, or simply don’t know how to. And it’s very convenient to run each each time you upgrade your speakers or rearrange your living room settings. Audio purists will likely still want to tweak the settings, but I was happy with what Pioneer chose for me.
I’m a bit surprised at and disappointed by the loss of component video inputs; I think it’s a bit too early for that). I also wish there was a separate set-up for standard stereo speakers. My surround sound system isn’t the best for stereo music playback.
Audio and video technology are not slowing down. The way they’re sent to your receiver and they way the receiver kicks them back out to you will grow and change quickly. But with the Pioneer VSX-823-K, you’re getting a system that’ll accommodate most everything you throw at it. If you’re considering a jump to a 7.1 surround sound system, you’ll want to bump up to the VSX-1023-K. If you’re looking at a 3D Blu-ray player or 4K Ultra HD system, the VSX-823-K will pass through both (although the high-end VSX-1123-K also features 4K Ultra HD upscaling). No matter which way you go, you’ll be amazed just how much you’ll pump through your home entertainment system once you have a receiver that will accept it.
Buy the Pioneer VSX-823-K AV receiver