Receivers

Pioneer VSX-1020K 7.1 A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

iPod Control

The iPod control feature of the Pioneer is fairly straightforward. Personally, I am more inclined to have my computer connected directly to the receiver, but it seems by now the market demands iPod connectivity. Direct control of the iPod (or iPhone) is possible using the receiver's remote, with basic information provided through the front panel as well as a connected display. A screenshot of the playback screen is shown in FIGURE. I did run into some issues with the receiver being able to access the entire song catalog on the iPod. Both the artist and song filters returned a partial catalog. I had to go through the genre filter to access the remaining albums. The iPod dock connector connects to the receiver via USB there is the added benefit of being able to use the higher quality DACs in the Pioneer, provided the songs are encoded at a higher quality to take advantage.

Pioneer AS-BT100 Bluetooth Adapter

I had a few gripes with the Bluetooth adapter, most of which are indirectly related to the Pioneer itself. I will get the first one, which is directly with the Pioneer, out of the way. The Bluetooth adapter seems to only provide an A2DP connection. Put simply, the Bluetooth adapter acts as an additional audio input like any of the RCA or TOSLINK connections. Given the additional features and capabilities of the receiver and the iControlAV software, which I will discuss in a moment, it would have made sense to enable some level of control through the Bluetooth connection.

The other issues with use of the Bluetooth adapter are related to the audio protocol and to the implementation of Bluetooth on the iPod. The audio quality using the Bluetooth adapter leaves a lot to be desired. While A2DP specifies a respectable sampling and bit rate for high quality audio (44.1/48 kHz and up to 512 kb/s), there seems to be something lost in the "translation". For general listening, playback using the Bluetooth adapter is perfectly acceptable, but anything beyond that quickly exposes the limits of the technology. The resultant playback is harsh and sounds overly digital, which leads one to question whether the full bandwidth available is being utilized.

The last issue with the Bluetooth adapter has to do with the persistence of the connection. The effective range between the receiver and my iPhone was much better than I expected. I was able to roam through most of my home without interruption. However, for reasons which I will assume are related to device power conservation, the Pioneer Bluetooth adapter does not maintain the connection with the iPhone once the input is changed. The upside being the iPhone battery does not drain due to the Bluetooth antenna running, but the downside is that the connection needs to be re-established each time from the iPhone settings menu. The Pioneer does not initiate the connection, for example like a Bluetooth headset.

iControlAV

It seems every other week a manufacturer is announcing a remote app for iOS. As may be apparent by this point in the review, I spent a good deal of time getting the iPhone working with the Pioneer. Aside from the one grip already listed, iControlAV will not function through the Bluetooth adapter, I consider this to be the piece de resistance of the feature list. Compare the bundled remote with the home screen presented by iControlAV.

It is a rather innocuous home screen, but there is a tremendous amount of functionality that is revealed beneath. The Control screen in FIGURE 2 provides a large volume knob, and buttons to access the inputs and any of the sound modes as shown in FIGURE 3 and FIGURE 4. A small icon to the right of the sound mode indicates the recommended sources for the sound mode. There are also the Optimum and Other screens which filter the complete list into abbreviated lists depending on the source being played through the receiver.

If iControlAV had stopped at that point, there would have only been praise. The additional features shown below seem a bit more on the gimmicky side than being truly useful. Balance and Emphasis use the various sensors in the iOS device to adjust the output from the speakers. I did not have a compatible device, so I cannot speak to the impact of the Precision feature.

In general usage, I found the Pioneer to perform well. I spent a good deal of time watching HD shows and playing the occasional game. The vast majority of my source material these days is in HD. It seems a shame since the Pioneer uses a video processor from Anchor Bay, which is arguably one of the class leaders in video processing. Quality video processing becomes widespread just as the source material no longer requires it. The few SD clips I had the chance to watch were fairly clean in terms of noise and compression artifact reduction.

In terms of audio the Pioneer performed adequately. I would say the clarity and depth isn't quite the same as higher end models, but the tradeoff is that higher end models typically have nowhere near the usability and feature set of the Pioneer. The biggest impact, from an audio standpoint, the Pioneer has is through the application of the MCACC. My room does have a tendency to sound quite "boxy" so the calibration definitely helped to alleviate that characteristic. The end result is a less muddled sound both through the mids and the bass region. I think the addition of a few more sample points would have provided a more robust system calibration, but even with the single sampling point, there is a marked improvement over the uncalibrated system.

The benefits were pronounced when I listened to the vocals and dialogue in the show Glee. A wide range of music, and vocal styles make for a good audition of the system. Watching the critically acclaimed Mad Men with the Pioneer provided a clean reproduction of the throwback dialogue.

On the whole, the system did a good job in playing back the effects laden and at times bass heavy soundtracks from both the video games a few movies that I watched. The size of the listening room limited the power necessary to reach a reference volume level, but I expect in most average rooms the Pioneer should provide more than adequate output. Pitch Black was released back in 2000 before Vin Diesel embarked on his brand of stardom, but I spent a bit of time watching the movie as I put the PS3 Netflix client through its paces. I am not aware of what the selection on Netflix in the USA is like, but the selection in Canada could definitely use a bit of beefing up.

Pioneer VSX-1020K receiver

Pioneer VSX-1020K receiver

Pioneer VSX-1020K receiver

Pioneer VSX-1020K receiver