Denon AVR-5700 THX 5.1 Receiver Review

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 its extensive use of high-resolution digital conversion circuitry. All the multichannel outputs, including the subwoofer, are driven by 24-bit digital-to-analog converters (DACs). Analog signals are converted to digital, for Dolby Pro Logic decoding or ambience generation, using 20-bit analog-to-digital converters (ADCs).

To me, however, all of this high technology pales in user significance compared with a relatively low-tech feature that sets the 5700 completely apart from rival receivers – its two separate pairs of surround-channel amplifier outputs (the set of eight binding posts at the far right in our rear-panel photo on page 42). These outputs allow you to actively participate in one of the most contentious debates in surround sound – whether dipole or monopole surround speakers are better.
With the 5700 you can have your cake and eat it, too, by connecting a pair of dipoles to one set of surround outputs and a pair of monopoles to the other set. You can then assign each pair to a specific surround mode – say, the dipoles to 5.1 decoding plus THX processing and the monopoles to 5.1 without THX processing. For even more fun, and instant comparisons, you can use the remote to select either or both pairs of surround speakers at any time. (When both pairs are on, they are driven in parallel as the 5700 has only two surround-channel power amplifiers.) Much more on this feature later.