Pioneer has always been at the forefront of Apple-focused products. For 2011 it has introduced a new line of home theater receivers described as being “built for the Apple lifestyle”.
Positioned in the middle of the new lineup is the 7.1 channel Pioneer VSX-921-K. This elegantly designed receiver incorporates some of the latest technologies and provides a fun experience for those who own an iPod, iPhone or iPad.
Design & Connectivity
The Pioneer VSX-921-K looks handsome in its shiny black finish. Two large knobs on each side controls the inputs and master volume. The center display is subtly lit and displays current selection and connection status clearly. Controls for tuner and and surround formats are neatly laid out in the center. Below that is a little pop out panel where you’ll find a USB port, jack for MCACC setup mic and a set of video/audio inputs. A USB/video cable is supplied for connecting your Apple gear. Be aware that the pop out panel is not secured and risks getting misplaced.
On the back panel there are 4 HDMI inputs with1 output, 2 sets of component video inputs, 5 composite video in, 2 optical digital audio inputs, a Sirius radio port and a Bluetooth Adapter Port.
The VSX-921-K can be used as a 7.1 channel system or configured to use with additional front height speakers for Dolby Pro-logic IIz surround setup.
The Pioneer VSX-921-K is a 7.1 Channel 3D ready AV receiver that offers the latest features in Pioneer’s line of products. It comes with the latest HDMI ver 1.4a technology that supports 3D video playback. It will also up-convert standard definition and analog sources to 1080p.
It offers users what Pioneer terms as a “Comprehensive Apple® Solution” allowing you to integrate your Pod/iPhone and iPad seamlessly. When connected using the supplied USB cable you will enjoy seamless integration with these devices, select songs from your playlists and it will even charge your Apple device. Also, unlike some other receivers in the market, the VSX-921K allows for the iPhone’s wireless and network features to remain fully functional and mutes music and movies so you will continue to receive calls.
This receiver is wireless Bluetooth audio ready. With the optional new Pioneer AS-BT200 Bluetooth adapter it will connect to any of your A2DP profile Bluetooth device like Smartphones, laptops, and iPhones/iPads etc. The onboard Sound Retriever AIR technology which is created specifically to enhance Bluetooth audio will enhance the playback audio to near CD quality.
With support for the high-definition audio formats, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and the newest Dolby Pro Logic IIz height channel, you will enjoy a true surround experience with high resolution audio from blu-ray discs. It is not always easy to tune all the 7 speakers in your room if you do not have the necessary know-how and experience. However Pioneer has incorporated its own Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration system (MCACC) which makes volume level and frequency equalization a breeze. It smoothens out room acoustics taking into the room’s size and shape resulting in a more balanced surround sound from the 7 speakers.
Interestingly for a mid-priced receiver this Pioneer unit comes with the expensive Anchor Bay video processing chip known for its impressive high definition video quality.
Last but not least there is an Auto Level Control feature that protects your ears from the jarring volume changes between tracks by equalizing volume differences.
To get a clearer picture of the Pioneer VSX-921-K’s performance, we used a new release, Battle: Los Angeles.
Image clarity was exceptional to begin with. Each small piece of debris from the carnage was startlingly prominent. Facial definition was excellent too, with every pore, scar and dirt on the character’s faces highly visible. Color was another outstanding aspect, despite the apparent lack of bold primaries in the film, with grays and blues dominating the film. Explosions and fire demonstrated the impressive reds and oranges, while the clear blue skies were of a natural shade. Black levels were deep, rich and gave a new dimension to the night scenes, with its brilliant shadow outlines. Depth levels and contrasts were great as well
The decoding of the DTS-HD MA 5.1 was a masterpiece of a soundtrack. The gunfire scenes were particularly distinct. Such was the clarity, that each weapon could be identified audibly by the unique sounds that they had projected. The explosion actions were appropriately dynamic and loud with the bass thumping out vociferous reverberations, rounding off an immersive and complete experience. Dialog was sharp and generally comprehensible, except minor parts when it was slightly overwhelmed by the thundering sounds in the background.
Using The Who’s acclaimed album Tommy re-released on SACD, we were able to further test out the audio performance of the VSX-921-K. With the remix in 5.1 surround, the end result was exceptional. For example, such was the clarity of Keith Moon’s drumming that the cymbals, gongs could be heard distinctly apart. Townshend’s fantastic guitar introduction to the song “Overture” also helped set the tone for the rest of the album. Daltrey’s vocals, together with the rest of the band sounded personal, as if they were singing straight to us. Being a rock opera album, the grandeur of it was captured on multiple levels, bringing to life a half century old album with renewed clarity.
The Pioneer VSX-921-K has enough features built-in to satisfy the most ardent home theater enthusiasts and gadget lovers. But most importantly it serves its basic function well as a good home theater receiver by delivering a compelling home movie experience.
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