by Joe White
February 7, 2012
For the past few weeks, we've been playing around with the Pioneer 7.1-Channel VSX-1021-K AV Receiver: a home theater receiver designed with Apple products in mind. Below, we put the product through its paces in one of our famed AppAdvice product reviews - read on, and find out if the Pioneer 7.1-Channel VSX-1021-K AV Receiver really can be the perfect addition to your own hi-tech home.
OverviewThe Pioneer VSX-1021-K 7.1 is a state-of-the-art home theater receiver. It's currently available in one color - glossy back, as you can see in the above image - and retails online via Pioneer's website for $549.99, though you can grab the receiver from Amazon for just under $400 (the price goes even lower if you're happy with a second-hand receiver). It's aesthetically pleasing and comes with its own remote control - though owners can also adopt a Pioneer remote iOS app (which is available for free in the App Store), and use their own iOS device to control the receiver, which is handy. The home theater receiver ships with support for AirPlay - one of its best features - allowing users to "AirPlay" content from an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to the receiver. You can connect the VSX-1021 to your home network either via an ethernet cable, or using Pioneer's AS-WL300 wireless adapter - however, this will set you back an additional $150. It's also possible to connect an iOS device to the VSX-1021 using a USB cable: not only does this allow users to access content on their mobile device, but the receiver will also charge the product while connected. Besides support for AirPlay and Apple's USB cable, the Pioneer VSX-1021 is also Bluetooth-compatible: this does require another adapter, which costs $100, but once connected the home theater receiver can interact with users' mobile devices - including laptops, Android and BlackBerry devices, besides iOS devices - via Bluetooth, which is an impressive feature. Furthermore, the free Pioneer Air Jam iOS app allows up to four iOS devices, paired via Bluetooth, to collaborate on an interactive playlist. Because the Pioneer VSX-1021 is able to connect to the Internet, users can listen to Internet radio via the receiver or even stream music (MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and FLAC files) from a desktop computer or laptop. Furthermore, besides all of the above impressive features, the VSX-1021 also supports high-definition audio formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio), meaning the music you listen to via the home theater receiver is going to be of excellent quality. Alright, now we know what we're dealing with, let's take a look at the pros and cons of Pioneer's VSX-1021. First up, we're going to talk about the features we like.
The GoodThe first thing we noticed when reviewing the VSX-1021 is that it's incredibly easy to use. This might not sound like a big deal, but there are a lot of home theater receivers out there that are overly-complicated, and impossible for anyone save the technically minded to get away with. Fortunately, we're pleased to report that this isn't the case with the VSX-1021: not only is it easy to set up, but its seamless support for Apple's iOS devices means you'll be listening to music through the receiver in no time at all. And if you do run into trouble, there's a copy of the owner's manual online. However, the thing we liked most about Pioneer's VSX-1021 was its support for AirPlay. Since Apple launched the feature, we've seen countless receivers and speakers gain support for AirPlay - and the results haven't always been impressive. But we're pleased to report that Pioneer's receiver handles the feature perfectly: just connect your VSX-1021 to the Internet (either via a wired ethernet cable, or using the aforementioned wireless connector), and you'll be up and running in no time at all - inside the Music app, touching the AirPlay icon will reveal the receiver's name; select this, and music played from your iOS device will be streamed, via AirPlay, to your Pioneer receiver. The receiver also ships with a microphone, which monitors the conditions of the user's room and adjusts the volume of played music accordingly - ensuring that users always enjoy the perfect level of volume. This is another feature we absolutely loved - we were also happy to see that we didn't have to pay extra for the microphone, too. As Apple fans, the support for AirPlay - as mentioned - is definitely something we love, but Pioneer's two iOS applications (ControlApp and Air Jam) are also brilliant. ControlApp is rather like Apple's own Remote app, allowing users to control the receiver from an iOS device. However, AirJam - though it does require a Bluetooth adapter - is a very impressive service, and is something which would suit any party perfectly. Just download the app and connect to the receiver via Bluetooth, and up to four users can start creating and collaborating on playlists via their iOS device. The VSX-1021 ships with lots of inputs, which we were glad to see, and the quality of audio played through the receiver is brilliant. However, for us, it's the Pioneer VSX-1021's support for Apple's iOS devices that truly sets it aside from other receivers on the market. But, as with any product review, we're not just going to tell you about the good ...
The BadYes, we did run into a few problems while reviewing Pioneer's receiver - we'll outline them for you here. Though AirPlay is our favorite feature, it does have its fair share of flaws: first, though we might be asking for a little too much here, it would be nice to have wireless support without having to drop an additional $150 on an adapter. However, as the price of the VSX-1021 isn't astronomical, spending a little extra on accessories is doable. Unfortunately, though, connecting to a wireless network proved to be quite problematic - it's incredibly easy to set up the receiver, and even to configure a wired connection, but when we attempted to get the VSX-1021 connected to a wireless network using the adapter, we ran into a few issues. Perhaps our advice to potential customers would be to reserve a space near an ethernet access point for the receiver, though this isn't always possible. Once the receiver was connected to the Internet and we were ready to AirPlay, tracks did stream over to the receiver without any issue. However, after the AirPlay-ed track had finished, we were disappointed to see that the VSX-1021 didn't resume playing the track our AirPlaying had interrupted. Instead, there was silence. It would have been nice for the receiver to fall back on whatever track, artist or album was being played before users AirPlay a song, though this is only a minor qualm.
The VerdictThe Pioneer VSX-1021, as you can see, is a fully featured receiver and is indeed a very impressive device. Its support for AirPlay, Bluetooth and its iOS applications are all things we love - and the issues we encountered with the receiver are, after all, only minor. If you're an iOS device fan, we're sure you'll appreciate the VSX-1021 as it is made with Apple fans in mind. For more information, head over to Pioneer's website or view the product's webpage at Amazon. Below, we've included some more images of the Pioneer VSX-1021 for you to check out. If you already own the receiver, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments! [gallery columns="5"]
Pioneer Air Jam