With the steady piling-on of features and capabilities that we’ve seen in recent A/V receivers, it was only a matter of time, and bravery, before one manufacturer bit the bullet and tried to put all that’s good into one package. That company is Denon, and its not-so-small package is the AVR-5700, one of the most feature-packed and solid-performing A/V receivers I’ve ever tested. That its most advanced, future-oriented, and even revolutionary features are also easy to use only makes the package more enticing.
Not only does the 5700 perform Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic, and DTS decoding, but each set of the resulting multichannel signals can receive the full panoply of THX 5.1 post-processing for optimized cinemalike sound quality. This is the first A/V receiver to offer DTS decoding and THX 5.1 processing together. The surround decoding, the post-processing, and the receiver’s eight adjustable ambience modes are all executed by two Analog Devices SHARC digital signal processing (DSP) chips. These perform their rapid and complex mathematical calculations using “floating-point” arithmetic, so they are far less likely to run out of dynamic range than the usual less-expensive “fixed-point” DSP chips.
The promotional literature for the 5700 makes a great deal about …
At some future date, someone, somewhere, will come up with a bigger, heavier, more powerful, and more fully featured A/V receiver than the one reviewed here. But until then we’ll just have to make do with Denon’s AVR-5800 all 62 pounds, 1,190 watts, and seven THX Ultra-certified channels of it.
You read that right seven channels. The AVR-5800 incorporates THX Surround EX decoding and includes outputs for two back surround speakers, as THX recommends for reproducing the matrix-encoded sixth channel in Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks. Consequently, there are seven discrete power-amplifier channels, each rated at 170 watts, making it the first receiver I’ve seen that can deliver more than 1,000 watts in all.
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In the Lab
This is also the first A/V receiver to decode DTS ES-Discrete, a 6.1-channel system in which the sixth channel is individually encoded rather than matrixed onto the regular left/right surround channels. And it’s the first receiver with DTS Neo:6 processing, an all-purpose decoding algorithm that derives 6.1-channel surround sound from any two-channel source, including plain stereo and matrixed Dolby Surround.
The AVR-5800 is deeper (19 1/8 inches front to back) than it is wide, …
Ever looked at the pile of remote controls on your coffee table and wondered if they were breeding when you weren’t watching? I’ve got a receiver for you, Kenwood’s second-from-the-top model, the VR-4700. It brings a new weapon to bear in the fight against coffee-table clutter.
I’ve seen touchscreen remotes with LCD panels before, so the receiver’s PowerTouch handset wasn’t too surprising at first. But finding out that it controls the receiver via radio-frequency (RF) commands instead of the usual infrared (IR) flashes struck me as a valuable innovation. The use of RF signals not only promised correct operation regardless of where I pointed the remote but also let me use it through the walls of neighboring rooms – it doesn’t need a direct, line-of-sight path to the receiver. As the early draft of the manual that came with our preproduction test sample so vividly puts it, the VR-4700 will receive the PowerTouch commands even when it is installed “in a position where the IR remote signal can hardly access, for example, behind a tree.”
Touchscreen remote controls are, in general, really cool. The best ones, like Kenwood’s, are two-way devices that show the operating status of the receiver on …
Not only is JVC one of Japan’s oldest names in consumer electronics, but as the developer of the VHS format it’s also one of the most successful. So you might expect its take on the A/V receiver genre to be conservative stodgy, even.
It’s not. The firm’s latest A/V flagship, the RX-1028V, boasts snazzy looks, lots of extra features some quite useful and a nicely compact chassis. One of its three big control knobs is a master volume control, and another performs source selection. The third is a “multi-jog” wheel depending on the mode selected by one of the nearby pushbuttons, it tunes the radio, adjusts setup parameters, or tweaks the equalizer or surround-mode settings.
JVC RX-1028V rear panelA front-panel set of convenience jacks includes an S-video input. Around back the receiver is fully equipped, with connections for four A/V components, including two record loops, and S-video jacks for all save VCR2. Four auxiliary audio inputs (for the center, surround, and subwoofer channels) enable it to accept the decoded 5.1-channel output of a DVD player or another outboard processor say, a DVD-Audio or SACD player. (You’d have to use the “regular” DVD input’s left/right analog jacks as well.)
JVC’s digital …
Although it has taken some time, the benefits of THX-compliant receiver specifications have finally arrived in a big way. Marantz’s SR-18 is the second THX-Ultra 5.1 receiver I’ve tested in three months, and I am told by THX that the present trickle is about to become a flood, though most of the new models will be of the lower-power THX-Select variety. If those future models perform half as well as the SR-18, Marantz’s first THX-Ultra receiver, home theater enthusiasts will be inundated with top-performing equipment.
Like earlier THX-Ultra receivers, the SR-18 is a powerhouse. Its 140-watt-per-channel rating means that it can drive an 8-ohm speaker to play 21 dB louder than its rated sound-pressure level (SPL) with a 1-watt input. With a speaker whose sensitivity spec is, say, 89 dB, the SR-18 will generate peak levels of around 110 dB at 1 meter, which is extremely loud.
Of course, as a THX receiver (Ultra or Select), the SR-18 not only delivers equal power to all five speaker-level outputs, but it also contains such trademarked THX processing functions as Timbre Matching, Re-equalization, and Adaptive Decorrelation. Timbre Matching is intended to make the surround speakers sound more like the fronts, and Re-equalization …
We’ve tested a veritable fleet of flagship Onkyo A/V receivers over the last few years. Each has gone straight to the top of the audio order of battle by virtue of its versatility and audio quality. The latest, the TX-DS989, is no exception. Having both “7.1-channel” facilities as well as the high-quality circuit performance, surround sound processing, and bass management virtually guaranteed by its THX Ultra certification makes it unique among high-end receivers.
For playback using THX Surround EX (see “Eye on EX”), Onkyo has provided two separate, full-capability amplifier channels to drive either one or two back surround speakers. THX recommends two, hence the 7.1-channel designation. While you won’t get 7.1 discrete channels from any signal medium available today, the receiver also incorporates discrete, line-level analog inputs for 7.1 channels and a corresponding set of preamp outputs to help forestall obsolescence when new formats arrive.
This receiver is chock full of other advanced and interesting features and circuitry – too many to go into much detail about here (see the “Key Features” listing). But starting with the 7.1-channel facilities, the abundant features make this the most future-proof A/V receiver I’ve yet encountered (past-proof too, with its phono and AC-3/RF …
Outlaw Audio is an aptly named new company. You won’t be able to track down any of its products in so public a place as a dealer showroom. Instead, you’ll have to hunt for them on the Internet, where the company does its direct marketing to consumers at www.outlawaudio.com (not www.outlaw.com, a Web site selling duck-hunting decoys and bird-shaped kites). At the moment there are two Outlaw Audio products, a well-regarded multichannel power amplifier and the new Model 1050 “6.1-channel” receiver. Don’t let the newness of the company or the receiver’s low, $600 price mislead you. The 1050 ain’t no decoy, bubba.
What audio decoy would provide that most trendy of new receiver features, 6.1-channel decoding, which extracts a back surround signal from a 5.1-channel or Surround EX-encoded 6.1-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack (see “Home Theater,” page 43)? The 1050 even has a power amplifier for its sixth channel, equivalent in performance to that of the other five onboard amplifiers.
All the other key features of the receiver are listed in the box on the next page. As you can see, they represent a typical complement for a store-bought A/V receiver of around this price or higher, plus the 6.1-channel facilities. …
A decade has now passed since Lucasfilm Ltd. began certifying home theater components under its THX program, which gives a stamp of approval to gear that meets its stringent requirements for performance and design. Last year Lucasfilm divided the program into THX Ultra, which continues the existing high-end orientation, and THX Select, which certifies components capable of meeting THX performance standards in smaller rooms and at more modest cost.
Pioneers VSX-24TX is the first THX Select A/V receiver to come my way, and in most respects it appears to validate Lucasfilms efforts. The specs for this hefty, full-featured five-channel receiver suggest a pretty high design standard. The chassis, which is both very deep and quite tall, accommodates a flip-down front-panel door that conceals secondary controls, a convenience A/V input, and a headphone jack.
The receivers back panel is unusually well equipped, with facilities for four A/V components, all with full S-video ports, and with two record/play loops. There are also connections for four audio sources, including a turntable and two recorders. As for digital source components, there are two coaxial and two optical inputs, plus an optical output for a CD or MiniDisc recorder. The optical output is handy, and …
Sunfire’s Theater Grand II is the Ginsu knife of preamp/processors. For $3,300, you get everything you’d expect from a high-end preamp and surround processor, including Dolby Digital, DTS, and Pro Logic decoding, five ambience-enhancement modes, a six-channel input, gold-plated jacks, and 96-kHz/24-bit playback.
But wait, there’s more! Sunfire also throws in an AM/FM tuner, a touchscreen learning remote, signal-sensing automatic operation, and a phono stage. But that’s not all! For the same low, low price (at least by high-end standards), you also get balanced outputs for all six channels, component-video switching, a generous complement of digital inputs, Holographic Image sound-enhancement processing, and a Seven Axis mode that lets you add two more surround speakers to your system.
Bob Carver’s designs have always had a big “Gee whiz!” factor. His Cinema Grand Signature multichannel amp delivers an ungodly 405 watts per channel, continuous, into 8 ohms without even breaking a sweat, and his True subwoofer crams 2,700 watts of power into an 11-inch cube.
Here the challenge was to create a preamp/processor that could satisfy the most discriminating audiophile, pack it full of features, and make it as easy to set up and use as any receiver you could pick up …
At 61 pounds plus, Yamaha’s flagship RX-V1 easily qualifies as the new A/V-receiver size and weight champ also the A/V-connection champ. The RX-V1 presents the most awesome array of audio and video jacks I’ve seen on the back panel of any receiver. The “key features” box tells the whole story, but the total of 11 digital inputs (including a laserdisc-ready AC-3/RF jack) and eight analog A/V entryways is mighty impressive.
Among the forest of connectors is an output for a back surround speaker – the RX-V1 includes a matrix decoder for deriving a centered rear surround channel from any 5.1-channel recording. That gives you 6.1-channel reproduction, but you could have as many as 8.1 channels since there are also outputs for two front-effects speakers, a proprietary Yamaha feature.
And there’s plenty more: three component-video inputs that can be assigned among the eight A/V sources, a six-channel analog input for DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD, remote-zone A/V line outputs, preamp outputs for the five primary channels plus front L/R amp inputs, and even an RS-232 serial port for connection to a home-automation system. To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, if it won’t connect to the RX-V1, you can probably get along without it.…