With more and more HDTVs and Blu-ray players coming with Internet connections (though, sadly, usually a wired one), it's about time that the humble A/V receiver graduate to network readiness as well. Pioneer is leading the charge with its new 7.1-channel units, two of which have long-overdue support for Internet radio.
Pioneer has three new receivers, ranging in price from $399 to $749, though the cheapest, the VSX-920-K lacks some of the more notable features of the two pricier models. All three, however, possess multiple HDMI v1.4 inputs, which means you can route the signal of 3D components through the receiver. They're all iPhone Certified and support Bluetooth audio streaming (with a $99 adapter, of course).
Things get more interesting with the $549 VSX-1020-K and the $749 VSX-1120-K. For starters, these receivers handle Internet radio via their Ethernet port, which the $399 unit does not, and provide 24 presets so you don't have to type in those lengthy URLs each time. (Support for Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker, and Sirius XM streaming services aren't mentioned, however.) They also interact with Pioneer's new iControlAV App for the iPhone, letting you control the receiver from your Apple smartphone, and also sport the Sound Retriever AIR feature, which replaces data lost from compressed digital audio files (like lower-bitrate MP3s) to improve their sound quality. Finally, the VSX-1120-K carries a THX Select2 Plus certificationwhich means it's optimized for medium-sized rooms.
After getting out of the plasma TV game last year, Pioneer appears to be funneling its innovations through its A/V receivers instead. You can test out the latest features on these 7.1 receivers when they hit stores in May, though you might want to wait until they figure out that more people will want wireless connectivity instead.