If you have a PC that's running Windows 98 or later--sorry, Mac users--you can digitally send audio from your computer to the 9010VBK, which is great if you're occasionally going to hook up a laptop to listen to MP3s or stream audio from the Internet. In our tests, the USB audio quality was far superior to the analog output of a Dell laptop. The improvement in stereo imaging and detail was dramatic and easy to hear. Still, we question why the USB port is on the front of this receiver; if it were around back, you could leave it permanently plugged into your desktop with the cable hidden.
The rest of the features are bit more commonplace. The amp section delivers 100 watts of power into each of five channels. For surround sound, the 9010VBK decodes the usual Dolby Digital and DTS formats, although it doesn't have Dolby Pro Logic II processing. Oddly, JVC's step-down model, the RX-8010VBK, does have Dolby Pro Logic II processing. You'll find plenty of conveniences on this model, though, including two levels of Midnight Mode, which normalizes dynamics.
The 9010VBK is blessed with a host of connectivity options, including two component-video inputs, eight S-Video ports, three optical inputs, one coaxial digital-audio input, one optical digital-audio output, and a six-channel analog-audio input for connecting a DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD player. Analog audio connections include a phono input and two tape loops, among others.
This receiver is especially well suited for multiroom and multisource operation, meaning that you can hook up a pair of speakers in a second room. Plus, you can listen to the radio in one room while a CD plays in another. You'll find both an extra set of speaker connections and a line-level output on the back for the second zone.
The included programmable remote control emits both infrared (IR) and radio-frequency (RF) signals so that you can control all of your other equipment, even from the second room. This is due to the fact that RF signals can pass through walls, while IR needs a line of sight to work. Unfortunately, the remote isn't backlit and is cluttered with lots of small buttons, making it a bit difficult to use.