After rolling out its Elite receivers with the latest HDMI 1.3a connections late last month, Pioneer figured it might fill in the midrange of its AV amplifier line with a couple of nice-looking units that can pump out Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio for some mind-boggling 7.1 sounds. Yeah, that's going to work well with HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.
What else can these babies do?They bring some serious connectivity to the game, that's what. Sure, these are amplifiers, so they don't have all that satellite radio stuff or AM/FM tuners, but who really needs that in a serious home theater, anyway? You can plug pretty much any audio or video into them and they'll spit it out digitally, including composite and component video, S-Video, optical digital audio, and of course, there are a couple of HDMI 1.3a inputs, too. It's iPod friendly, too, with a USB port. And if it matters to you, these are both THX certified.
First out of the gate in June will be the VSA-AX1AH at $1153, and that's considered midrange for an amplifier like this. Its feature set is almost the same as its $774 VSA-1017AV brandmate which will ship a couple of weeks later, except the more-expensive model has 180 watts per channel (and there are seven of those), 10 more watts than its lesser brother.