Pioneer VSX-84TXVi recreational receiver for $1500.

Music listening has reached a new recreational level. This gizmo may look like an old school apparatus but that is no reason to chip away at its competence. Coming your way from Pioneer is a new line of high-end receivers that can do some sweet tricks with high-definition video and your iPod’s music library. The flagship model, the Pioneer Elite VSX-84TXVi, is a 980-watt beast that features four HDMI inputs on the back for connection to one of those fancy new Blu-ray or HD DVD players. It can also upconvert other video signals — like whatever’s coming out of your DVD player or cable box — to HDMI, meaning you only need to have one cable running to your TV for both your digital and analogue signals.

In addition to all the high-def fun, it comes with built-in iPod support via a proprietary cable that lets you browse your iPod playlists on a TV screen. Unfortunately, the onscreen menu looks like the system font from an Apple IIe, making your $1,500 receiver look like a 25-year-old computer. But just because of derisory looks you cannot shun this super cool receiver. After all, it’s rightly said that looks are deceptive.

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