I should have known that I couldn't just replace a broken TV. Once the new plasma was in my den, I couldn't help but pine for AV receiver features. My new Panasonic GT30 has ARC, Internet TV, etc. etc. that my older, very good Marantz unit cannot take advantage of. The Pioneer was a bit of an impulse purchase for me when I saw Amazon drop the price by $150 one night. Of course, once I placed my order, Newegg dropped it $5 lower, no tax or shipping. Sigh.
I have to say I'm impressed with the variety of features this receiver has, and the quality of the audio output. With some work and reading the large printed manual that came with the unit, I have managed to get all of the functions working, and they work as advertised to the extent of the maturity of the technology (AirPlay). Very rare on a consumer electronics device, especially for the mid range segment.
I have the receiver set up as 5.1 in the main zone, and driving two outdoor speakers in zone 2. This works to allow my kids to watch TV in the family room while we listen to Airplay streaming outside in zone 2.
The Panasonic TV has Internet TV via VieraCast. Originally, I had optical out from the TV to the older receiver on a separate input (which is limited to PCM stereo). The HDMI ARC feature of the Pioneer makes the extra connection unnecessary. The only difference I noticed is that with optical out, there's a bell tone sounded each time you move the cursor. With ARC, that sound is missing, but Netflix, etc. has correct sound.
I've been able to stream audio via HMG from iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows Media. It's extremely easy to do. The DLNA client finds my media server, and plays audio. I haven't had the chance to set up the Internet Radio stations, but looking forward to trying that out. AirPlay is very cool, but your home network must be up to the task of streaming. Even if your device stays perfectly still, WLAN "weather" can cause skips and buffering. If the stream is interrupted, AirPlay stops and must be restarted. Again, this is not a Pioneer problem alone, but receiver + switch + AP + iDevice must all act in harmony without interruption. If you're using the main zone, this is barely noticeable. If you're streaming in Zone 2 and listening to something else in the main zone, you'll sometimes need to interrupt the main zone listeners to restart the stream, as AirPlay will only start up in the main zone.
Some of my favorite features:
- MCACC setup worked very well for my default listening position. It detected a polarity problem on one of my speakers immediately.
- The iPad/iPhone application is a fantastic way to control the unit, and is well written and easy to use. So many toys.
- Dialogue emphasis in the iOS application! This is a godsend! Can't believe I survived so long without this feature I just discovered.
- Always displays useful information on the front panel, including song title from AirPlay. Very well thought out display.
Some less liked "features":
- It's difficult to configure the connections for each input, and the procedure is not well documented in the manual. Got good information here on AVS Forum, though - don't forget the INPUT SEL button after changing the input.
- Don't bother with the wiring navi application, in fact, go ahead and toss the CD-ROM that comes with the unit. It's also Windows only, needing ActiveX. There's a version on the iPad app too, just as useless.
- Remote is so crowded with tiny buttons, so overloaded with 6 functions per button. Useless. Get a Harmony.
Overall, I'd give the Pioneer VSX-1021 a 9/10. Slight points off for level of difficulty of setup and completeness of documentation of such a complex device. Very impressive feature set, performance, price, cool factor. A great match for the Panasonic plasma display, works with the advanced HDMI features from the set.