In terms of connectivity, this AVR is up to date with one HDMI 1.3a output and four inputs (three of which are assignable). For more HD, you can connect an additional display and two sources via component video. Lossless surround decoding (Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, et al.) is present. Faroudja video processing is on board, and that includes “true 24 fps” capability, complete with its own little logo, plus a flicker-reduction circuit. For audiophiles—for whom affordable surround may be the forbidden fruit—the HDMI interface includes a Precision Quartz Locking System (PQLS) borrowed from Pioneer’s Elite line. It should minimize the effects of jitter in CD playback when used with a Pioneer Blu-ray player. This receiver is iPod compatible and Works With iPhone certified, meaning you can plug the cable Steve Jobs sold you (or the one kindly supplied with the Pioneer) into the receiver’s USB input, concealed behind a tiny front-panel cover with assorted other jacks. You can then control the iPhone or iPod using the receiver’s GUI and remote. There’s no need to plug in a cumbersome dock—the receiver and the white cable do the trick at no extra cost. The GUI displays cover art for iPhone, iPod, and Sirius satellite radio, and there’s a text-based onscreen display in the second zone. And the receiver will mute music or movies for incoming iPhone calls. Pioneer also throws in an Advanced Sound Retriever (ASR) listening mode to sweeten compressed audio files. In addition to the X-curve treble trim, other sound adjustments poke their heads above the parapet. To deal with standing waves—the tendency of bass to bounce and bloat or cancel out between parallel walls—there’s a three-setting filter that applies to the main, center, or sub speakers if needed. You can set a specific master volume level for power-on. There’s also a volume limiter, which is a good thing to have in a budget AVR, which may strain a bit toward the top of its power output capability. And there’s an Automatic Level Control (ALC) to even out volume variations among input sources. Associated gear for this review included five Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v4 speakers playing full range, a Panasonic DMP-BD35 Blu-ray player, and an old but neglected friend, my Luxman PD-289 turntable, with the usual Shure V97xE cartridge. The Luxman is automatic—the tonearm picks up at the end of a record—and therefore lets me play vinyl without paying much attention to it. That’s necessary because I’m breaking in a Bellari VP530 tubed phono preamp, whose USB and headphone outputs might make my life more interesting someday. Its line outputs are doing that already. Gran Viejo Gran Torino stars Clint Eastwood as an old man as mean as a bad oyster. He reluctantly befriends a gang-beleaguered Asian family and becomes the unlikely moral center of a chaotic and violent world. Just listening to Eastwood deliver his lines—harsh, lots of chest and throat, but with subtle actorly enunciation—was a pleasure, abetted by this receiver’s dark-toned voicing. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is light on shock effects, but there is some gunplay, rain, and thunder, all vividly directional. This little gem may be the greatest achievement of Eastwood’s autumnal filmmaking and acting careers. Fred Claus is an offbeat Christmas vehicle with Vince Vaughn as Santa’s disaffected brother, Paul Giamatti as St. Nick, and Kevin Spacey as an evil efficiency expert. This Warner Blu-ray title is scantily clad in old-school Dolby Digital 5.1, but that didn’t prevent a superbly chosen set of holiday songs from bursting out of the speakers. Thanks to the receiver’s solid low end, those with rhythm sections fared exceptionally well. Take a look at what’s on the soundtrack CD: “Sleigh Ride” by the Ronnettes, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by the Jackson Five, and “Silent Night” by Sinead O’Connor.