Pioneer has announced the new VSX-1021-K this afternoon, the first midrange AV receiver we've seen with built-in support for AirPlay, Apple's new streaming audio platform. For iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad owners, we expect it to be one of the easiest ways to browse and listen to your digital music collection, allowing you to stream music directly from your device to your receiver--even from digital music apps like Pandora and Rhapsody. AirPlay also allows you to stream music directly from iTunes on a PC or Mac.
The VSX-1021-K needs to be connected to your home network for AirPlay to work, and it features an Ethernet port on the back panel. If you don't have Ethernet in your living room, you can also purchase the AS-WL300 Wi-Fi adapter ($150 list price). In additional to AirPlay network connectivity, the VSX-1021-K is also DLNA compatible and has built-in Internet radio support via vTuner.
The rest of the Pioneer VSX-1021-K's feature set is solid, too. There are five HDMI inputs, all of which support advanced HDMI features such as standby pass-through, 3D video pass-through, and audio return channel. The front-panel USB port is iPhone/iPod compatible, so, in addition to AirPlay, you can connect your device directly via USB without the need for a pricey USB dock. Like last year's VSX-1020-K, the new Pioneer will have a color graphical user interface capable of displaying album art for your digital music.
The list price of $550 is relatively high compared with some of the other models we've seen announced so far this year, but we wouldn't be surprised to see the street price dip significantly below $500 toward the end of 2011.
While both Sony and Onkyo have announced midrange AV receivers with networking this year, the Pioneer VSX-1021-K is the first we've seen to feature AirPlay at this price level. That's going to be a tough feature to beat, especially given the ubiquity of iOS devices.
Pioneer also released the details of the rest of its full 2011 AV receiver line, all of which will be available later in March. We'll be following up with more in-depth coverage of the VSX-1021-K and the rest of the line soon.