Most manufacturers implement whiz-bang new technologies in their most expensive products first, and then trickle them down to the cheaper products over time. Pioneer stands that practice on its head with its adoption of Apple's AirPlay technology: The $549 VSX-1021-K is Pioneer’s least expensive Ethernet-equipped, DLNA certified A/V receiver, and the company’s higher-end models—including those in its Elite product line—won’t support AirPlay until later this year.
Pioneer's VSX-1021-K is the first A/V receiver we've seen that supports Apple's AirPlay.
As with the Zeppelin Air, AirPlay support enables you to stream audio from an iOS device to the receiver over your wireless network. Alternately, you can use your iOS device as a remote control and stream songs to the receiver from your iTunes library. (You’ll need to hard-wire the receiver to your network or plug in Pioneer’s optional AS-WL300 Wi-Fi client adapter to accomplish this.)
Pioneer also showed off two new iOS apps: iControlAV2 and Air Jam. iControlAV2 converts an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone into a marvelous remote control for the VSX-1021 and its other network-ready receivers. The app replicates all of the receiver’s controls and settings in its graphical user interface and enables you to tweak any of its functions. Beyond that, it also features detailed displays representing the before and after effects of Pioneer’s room calibration software and allows you to customize EQ settings and even designate the room’s sweet spot to locations other than centered between the front channels.
Pioneer's free iControlAV2 iOS app converts an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone into a full-featured remote control for the VSX-1021-K and any attached Pioneer Blu-ray player. The company hopes to eventually expand this functionality into a universal remote control.
Air Jam enables as many as four iOS device users to collaboratively create playlists in real time, streaming tracks from their devices to the receiver’s optional Bluetooth adapter. Each user sees the entire song queue on their device and can save the list for future reference. If they hear an unfamiliar song they like, they can click on a button on their screen that will take them to their iTunes account to buy the song, or they can click a second button that will search for the artist’s videos on YouTube.
Plug in an optional BlueTooth adapter, and up to four people can build, manage, and save collaborative playlists using their iOS devices and Pioneer's Air Jam app.
The VSX-1021-K is very well equipped for an A/V receiver in this price range, with five HDMI 1.4a inputs (but only one output), an amp that delivers 120 watts to each of seven channels, automated room calibration, an integrated iOS port (no need to purchase an optional docking station), a 24-bit/192kHz DAC, and DLNA 1.5 certification.
Stay tuned for our hands-on review.