The remote control that Pioneer supplies with the VSX-60 is an undistinguished (and unilluminated) black stick crowded with buttons that are not particularly well shaped, sized, or grouped by function. Consequently, doing much beyond volume/mute and play/pause means bringing the glasses out and the house lights up. It’s also one of those designs that, if you switch inputs by keying, say, BD, you have to remember to again key Receiver before the handset will do anything much to the VSX-60 itself beyond volume and mute. An irritation in my book, albeit a depressingly common one with A/V receivers.
This remote would be rather less onerous if the VSX-60 had any onscreen navigational aids, but it does not: There are no onscreen displays other than the full-screen setup menus. I realize that a lot of folks don’t care one way or another, but I have grown quite dependent on the volume, surround-mode, and input tell-tales my everyday pre-pro flashes onscreen. And since the Pioneer’s front-panel display, bright though it is, is not very readable at 12 feet — the distance from my listening position — I missed them.
On the other hand, Pioneer’s latest iPhone/iPad app, iControl2012, delivers another control option, and a truly valuable one at that. Most of its screens are useful; some, like the tilt-to-adjust four-axis balance control, are merely fun. But the basics are easy to find and work via familiar iOS “gestures,” and I rated as priceless having the full lists of all inputs, listening modes, and video- and audio-processing options available on my portable’s screen. Equally cool, there’s visual feedback for input/output status, as well as Internet-radio and streaming track/folder info, which makes using these sources without the big screen fired up not just possible but easy. And all this goodness is also available for a Zone 2 setup. (Like many receivers in its price range, the Pioneer has second-zone stereo-audio outputs.)
I’m usually a little put off by heavily featured new A/V receiver models that are designed to fit a price point, but not here. Pioneer’s latest midrange AVR is praiseworthy enough even if you never enable anything beyond “straight” Dolby Digital processing and Pandora. Sure, some of its fillips are more techno-bauble than necessity, but many merit serious application. I’d hazard that almost anyone willing to sort through them all, from rank newbie to old-hand ’phile, will find a pearl or two, and very likely more.
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