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Pioneer VSX-1021-K Receiver First Look Preview

Pioneer VSX-1021-K

Pioneer VSX-1021-K


  • Product Name: VSX-1021-K Receiver
  • Manufacturer: Pioneer
  • Review Date: March 11, 2011 02:30
  • MSRP: $549
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!


120W x 7 (1 kHz, THD 0.05% @ 8 ohms)

90W x 7 (20 Hz – 20 kHz, THD 0.08% @ 8 ohms FTC)


Dolby® TrueHD / Dolby Pro Logic IIz / Dolby Digital EX / Dolby Digital Plus

DTS-HD® Master Audio / DTS-ES / DTS Neo:6

Digital Core Engine with Texas Instruments AureusTM DSP

192 kHz/24-bit DAC(S)

96 kHz / 24-Bit PC Audio playback(FLAC)

192 kHz / 24-Bit PC Audio playback(WAV)

Pioneer Advanced MCACC Room Calibration

  • 3D Time Axis Measurement

  • Polarity Check

  • Automatic Crossover Detection

  • Reverb Before and After Calibration Results (OSD or AVNavigator)

  • Standing Wave Control

Pioneer Sound Enhancements

  • Phase Control

  • Phase Control Plus

  • PQLS Bit-stream

  • Sound Retriever (Multi-channel)

  • Sound Retriever AIR Wide Surround Movie & Music

  • Front Stage Surround Advance Wide & Focus

  • Virtual Height & Surround Back

  • Auto Level Control (Multi-channel)

  • Advanced Surround (16 + 1 Modes)

  • Headphones Surround


HDMI Latest Features

  • 3D Ready (Blu-ray Disc® and Broadcast)

  • Audio Return Channel

  • Deep Color and x.v.Color

  • 1080p Compatible

Anchor Bay® 1080p Video Scaler

Video Conversion to HDMI

Pioneer Advanced Video Adjust



DLNA Certified® (1.5)

Internet Radio with vTuner

Pioneer iControlAV21

  • A/V Receiver and Blu-ray Disc player control from iPad, iPhone, iPod touch

  • Free via the App Stores

Pioneer Air Jam App

  • Connects via Bluetooth to share music and create playlists
  • Free via the App Store (Optional AS-BT200 Bluetooth Adapter Required)

Firmware Upgrade via Ethernet or USB


Compatible with iPod, iPhone, iPad Front USB Input

  • Charges iPod, iPhone, iPad
  • Combination USB / Composite Video Cable Supplied

HDMI Terminals (5 In / 1 Out)

Ethernet Port

Wireless LAN Converter Ready (Optional AS-WL300)

Front AV Inputs

Bluetooth® Port (Optional AS-BT200 or AS-BT100 adapter required)

Component Video Terminals (2 In / 1 Out)

Digital Inputs (2 Coaxial, 2 Optical)

Analog AV Inputs (5 AV, 2 Audio)

Sirius Satellite ready2

Zone 2 AV Outputs

Subwoofer Pre-Out

Large Speaker Terminals (FL/FR/C/SR/SL/SBR/SBL)


AVNavigator System Set-Up CD-ROM

Full Color Graphic User Interface (GUI)

Album Art Via USB/Ethernet

Auto Power Down

Power Save for HDMI Standby Through

Sleep Timer

Learning Remote Control

VSX-1021-K_iPad_CableManufacturers are jumping on the AirPlay bandwagon like Apple was handing out BBQ sauce at a rib cook-off or free golf shirts on day three of CES. They literally can't get the products out of the door fast enough. Pioneer is the latest to hop on board the Apple iWagon with their latest round of receivers. The new '21 series consist of the VSX-521 ($249), VSX-821 ($349), VSX-921 ($449), and the VSX-1021. We'll be taking a close look at the $549 VSX-1021 today.

Pioneer was quick to support Apple with their receivers and, in many cases, they are still very much ahead of the curve. While other manufacturers will require the purchase of a dock for full iPod/iPhone/iPad support, Pioneer has been providing a free cable and out-of-the-box Made for iPhone certifications with their receivers. Adding AirPlay, the ability to stream content from your Apple iWhatever to the receiver wirelessly, was a no brainer... and inevitable from our standpoint. But that's not the only tool in the VSX-1021 chest.

Let's start with the basics. The Pioneer VSX-1021 is a 7.1 channel receiver boasting 90 watts per channel or 120 watts if you don't mind your measurements being flimsy and artificially inflated. Don't worry, 90 watts will be plenty for most consumer applications and speakers. The VSX-1021 supports all the latest HD audio decoding, sports HDMI 1.4a connections, and has high quality 192kHz/24-bit DACs. The receiver will pass all the latest 3D formats and also supports Deep Color and Audio Return Channel. Noticeably absent from the feature list is HDMI pass-thru. But we've learned that just because a feature isn't listed doesn't mean it isn't included. It's like a manufacturer Easter egg. We'll have to wait and see on that one since it seems like it should be included. Edit - Found it. HDMI Standby Pass-thru is listed under "Convenience" rather than "HDMI Latest Features."

Anchor Bay will provide scaling duties up to 1080p on the VSX-1021 and all video sources can be upconverted to HDMI. Along with AirPlay, DLNA 1.5 certification is present which allows you to stream from compatible networked computers and drives (for you Mac guys, check out an application for Mac OS X called Playback). The Pioneer will stream Internet Radio with VTuner and can be updated over the Internet. Pioneer, like just about everyone else, has released their own remote control app called iControlAV21 (it just trickles off the tongue, doesn't it?). With it you can control not only the receiver but your Pioneer Blu-ray player. It, of course, is free. Pioneer as also added a second app called Air Jam. With it you can connect via Bluetooth to share music and create playlists. For this to work, however, you'll need to buy the optional AS-BT200 Bluetooth Adapter. With Air Jam, up to four devices can be paired via Bluetooth. Once connected, each user can cue songs from their music libraries to create a collective playlist to play back on their A/V Receiver. Each connected device will display the list of songs added by all users and the device each song will play from. The Air Jam App will also keep the list of songs from each session on each device for future purchase through the iTunes Store.


But we digress. There are five HDMI inputs (all on the back) and one output. While there are only seven channels of amplification, there are nine pairs of five-way binding posts on the back for easily changing configurations in the menu system without switching out cables. The VSX-1021 has two component video inputs and one output plus two each coaxial and optical digital audio inputs. Of course there an a slew of analogue audio and video inputs including RCA outputs for Zone 2. Absent are any analogue inputs or outputs for integrating legacy gear or external amplifiers. This isn't really all that much of a knock against a receiver at this price point. Now the setup menu... that we can knock (Pioneer's menu systems are atrocious and notoriously anemic at this price).

Pioneer has their own MCACC auto-calibration system which is included in the VSX-1021. It supports Dolby ProLogic IIz height channels which you can allocate your rear channels to if you're planning on running a 5.1 system. The included iPod/iPhone/iPad cable streams video as well as audio and charges the device at the same time. One of the more unique features is an AVNavigator System Set-Up CD-ROM. Designed to simplify the physical and software setup of the receiver, AVNavigator is a suite of PC applications, consisting of two key applications, Wiring Navi and the Interactive Manual.

  • Wiring Navi – Users simply answer a series of questions about the hardware connected to the system and the application will automatically update the receiver with all of the correct settings.
  • Interactive Manual – Once the receiver is connected using the Wiring Navi set up, the Interactive Manual application provides a linked two-way interactive manual giving users a way to quickly learn about all of the new features of the AV receiver (i.e. a push of the ALC button on the front of the receiver will take the user directly to the portion of the manual that explains the Automatic Level Control feature). Alternately, users can click on a section of the owner’s manual and the feature of the receiver will automatically activate (i.e. when the user clicks on the FL Dimmer section of the owner’s manual, the Front Panel Display of the receiver will dim).


The Pioneer VSX-1021 is definitely full featured for its price point. Like other recent Pioneer offerings, the VSX-1021 is pushing hard to connect to your hand held and portable devices. At the same time they are providing the buzzword features that consumers are expecting. As a budget offering, the VSX-1021 is very attractive. With Apple AirPlay, Made for iPhone certification, Dobly ProLogic IIz, and streaming of Internet Radio and networked sources, the VSX-1021 should turn heads. Add to that seven channels of amplification, Anchor Bay video scaling, 192 kHz/24-bit DACs, and MCACC room calibration not to mention an interactive manual for setting up and learning your new receiver, and there is a lot to be interested in. We're looking forward to getting our hands on one of these when they ship sometime this month.

For more information, please visit www.pioneerelectronics.com.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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