Could the best iPad accessory be a Pioneer receiver?

Well, that’s what I was thinking when I drove up to San Francisco for a briefing yesterday about Pioneer’s new receiver lineup.

It was kind of a treat for me because my favorite in-car stereo system when I was in my early teens had been a Pioneer floor mount cassette deck with auto-reverse. As such, the firm managed to earn quite a fond place in my heart.  

Up until recently though, Pioneer hasn’t been at the top of their game and had to exit the TV business due to poor sales which is going to be problematic for them long term. 

To be sure, TVs, DVD players and receivers are increasingly being integrated into various next-gen platforms. 

However, I was extremely impressed with Pioneer’s new VSX-1021 A/V receiver with Airplay because of its iPad connection.

In fact, I’ve placed it on my own personal short list of things I want to buy. Yes, it doesn’t ship until early next month but I’ll share with you what was impressive. Here’s a hint, it was the smooth integration with Apple’s iPad.

iPod/iPhone/iPad Integration

If I were to suggest a few years ago that folks might want to buy a $550 tablet as a remote control for a $550 receiver you’d have called me nuts.

Well, until you see this receiver, you might still call me nuts. 

Still, Pioneer has done an excellent job of creating an app that works with an iPhone or iPod Touch, but shines particularly with an iPad – by turning the receiver into an advanced music device.

From the iPad you can power up the unit, link multiple receivers and sync them to provide “whole house” audio via Apple’s AirPlay. 

You can also configure the audio environment and even dynamically place yourself in it so that no matter where you sit you get perfect sound. 

You can, of course, manage your audio and video sources – with a particular emphasis on sources that are DLNA complaint. 

Setup is a virtual snap with a PC based (iPad version coming – though I thought the PC keyboard was handy) dynamic manual which walks you step by step through each connection until you are done.   

In effect, and I’m just skimming the surface here, you can turn your iPad into the most amazing remote control on the planet short of a $1,000 + custom unit.   

And even some of these high end custom remote controls won’t do what the iPad can when connected to this receiver.

Oh, and one more thing.

When you change the name on a remote control feature it changes on the remote itself.  

Sure, most receivers have programmable remotes but virtually none in this price class have the ability to change the name on the button which can be rather frustrating if you don’t remember which button your changed. 

This was guy heaven, if only for the few moments I got to play with the VSX-1021.

Other Features

The receiver is one of the first full featured HDMI 1.4 based products and, as a result, boasts some interesting new options on top of the expected 3D support.

For example, the VSX-1021 can pull audio off of the TV if you want to use it as a media source. 

And, as you would expect, the apps integrate with Pioneer’s new BluRay players making for a nice integrated solution. 

But one of the coolest aspects: you don’t have to turn on the receiver to watch TV from a receiver connected source. 

It boasts passive pass through so the TV can see whatever the receiver was last connected to. 

Wrapping Up: iPad’s Best Use – Super Remote

The iPad without Flash is OK on the web, it is kind of large to carry for movies and it doesn’t work well outdoors making it a poor eBook reader. Yes, an iPhone is better at communications and an iPod better at music, as well as portable video).

But as a remote control, the iPad is amazing and I think we are just touching the surface here.

The real killer app for the iPad may be a remote control. So, you should definitely check out the new Pioneer VSX-1021-K in action, as it is a product that really showcases one of the iPad’s greatest strengths.  

Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently, he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.