SURROUND PROCESSOR REVIEWS

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Daniel Kumin Posted: Jan 30, 2012 1 comments

How long have Integra’s A/V preamplifier/processors been around? Long enough to become a bit of an institution among home theater insiders. If you were assembling a serious system and demanded legitimately audio/videophile performance in every aspect but were unable or unwilling to pay the sometimes absurd prices asked for “seriously high-end” gear, an Integra pre/pro is what you bought.

Fred Manteghian Posted: Jan 27, 2012 2 comments

Cinema 12 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
Model 7.125 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $8,990 At A Glance: Excellent detail and resolution • Music jumps alive • No video processing

Over a decade ago, while writing for a now-defunct audio magazine, my editor shipped me a pair of monoblock Cary tube amps he’d never gotten around to reviewing. Something must have shook loose during transit, because instead of music, all I got when I powered them up was a wisp of smoke as one monoblock sadly committed hara-kiri! The Cary Cinema 12 and Model 7.125 are an eternity of light years away from those fragile forays into bottle socketry. They exude an air of quality and reliability that physically and musically justify their significant price.

Call me weird, but I get excited when I see XLR connectors on my audio gear. Time spent in my fledgling home studio has taught me why pros prefer them. The Cinema 12 offers both single-ended RCA and true, differentially balanced XLR outputs, an arrangement and circuit design mirrored on the Model 7.125 amplifier. The Cinema 12 even offers a pair of stereo analog XLR inputs and a single balanced digital input beyond the roster of seven single-ended analog input pairs. Audio purists will appreciate the fact that you can bypass all digital conversions for your analog sources, including the 7.1 analog input you might use with an SACD player.

Kris Deering Posted: Dec 29, 2011 4 comments

DHC-80.3 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
DTA-70.1 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $4,400 At A Glance: 4K scaling • Reference-quality video processing • Audyssey MultEQ XT32 ups the ante for room EQ • Nine channels of THX Ultra2 amplification

I don’t know what’s more impressive, the fact that Integra can produce a new state-of-the-art surround processor each year, or that the company can find new audio/video processing modes to add to its already ridiculous list of features. The Integra DHC-80.3 is the latest home run from Integra, with some of the most future-proofing features the company’s delivered yet. I can’t imagine adding much more to a surround processor, but I’m sure Integra will pull some new surprises out of the bag next year.

I’ve reviewed several of the past incarnations of Integra’s A/V processor, but this time up, Integra also sent out its nine-channel THX Ultra2–certified amp, the DTA-70.1. This monster delivers 150 watts per channel and sports balanced inputs and a gorgeous solid-aluminum front panel that matches the DHC-80.3 perfectly.

Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 04, 2011 9 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,700 At A Glance: Receiver priced, separates performance and power • Next-gen Internet connectivity and versatility • Sophisticated sonics, simplified setup

Everybody’s Been Burned

Are you weighed down by a boat anchor of an expensive, powerful, but obsolete A/V receiver that doesn’t have HDMI inputs or processing for the latest lossless audio formats? You’re not alone. Everybody’s been burned by fast-moving technological change. You could unload your boat anchor for a few hundred dollars on eBay or AudiogoN and start over. But should you? Consider that today’s cost-conscious race-to-the-bottom A/V receivers and even some separates seem to be getting cheaper but worse sounding, not better. But if Marantz’s AV7005 surround processor and MM7055 amplifier are as good as the hype suggests, this could be the way to go. And in case of future obsolescence, at least now you’re into separates, which makes upgrades a less pricey proposition.

David Vaughn Posted: Feb 08, 2011 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,200 At A Glance: THX Ultra2 Plus certification • Seven HDMI inputs • Dual HDMI outputs • Home network and Internet audio streaming

Four years ago, Integra rocked the A/V world when it released its well-reviewed DTC-9.8 surround processor (HT, May 2008) for an unprecedented price of $1,600. It boasted a bevy of cutting-edge features and was one of the first processors on the market that could decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Since that time, the company hasn’t rested on its laurels. It’s offered yearly upgrades with the DHC-9.9 (HT, July 2009) for $2,000 and DHC-80.1 (HT, May 2010) for $2,300. Each subsequent year, the processor has offered additional improvements to justify the price increase. However, those seeking out separates on a budget were being left behind.

Michael Fremer Posted: Oct 20, 2010 2 comments
Price: $4,998 At A Glance: Superior surround processor sonics • Excellent ergonomics • Cool-running ICEpower amp lacks definition

The Ladder to the High End

You’ve got to have sympathy for sound- and build-quality-oriented A/V electronics manufacturers like Rotel. You can go online, and for four hundred bucks and change buy a “630-watt” 7.1-channel AVR from a big-name manufacturer with all the latest lossless audio decoding from Dolby and DTS, video processing, 1080p HDMI switching, upconversion, and more. Since many people these days don’t care about good sound and because they’ve never actually heard it, they think, “Everything sounds the same.” And they think they should get it all for a pittance.

Fred Manteghian Posted: Sep 21, 2010 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $18,000 At A Glance: Audio is smooth yet highly detailed • Amp has power to drive cattle • Great ergonomics • Spartan video

HT editor Shane Buettner laughed at me when I told him I spent two months strength training before the Revel Salon2 speakers arrived at my home last year.

Kris Deering Posted: May 03, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,300 At A Glance: Bleeding-edge surround sound processing includes 9.2 Audyssey DSX • State-of-the-art video processing • Internet and home network streaming

Third One’s a Charm

In the separates world, we seldom see a lot of change within a short period of time. With A/V receivers, manufacturers almost customarily update their lines yearly, introducing new features and aesthetics that beckon for your dollar. On the other hand, surround processors are usually a slow burn. New versions hit the shelves every few years. Plus, manufacturers offer upgrades to existing models, so you don’t have to buy new equipment every time there’s a new whiz-bang format.

Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 12, 2010 0 comments

Cinema 11a Surround Processor
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
Model 7.125 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $8,000 At A Glance: Minimal video-switching capabilities • Maximum sound quality • Amplifier made in America

Core Audiophile Values

During the last decade or so, specialty audio manufacturers have seen the marriage of home theater and high-performance audio become contentious at best and life threatening at worst. These days, companies have fewer financial resources and longer R&D lead times. Relatively small audiophile-oriented companies that sought the A/V path have been overwhelmed. Sometimes, fast-moving, shelf-life-shortening developments­—such as the adaptation of new audio and video formats—have burned these companies outright.

Kris Deering Posted: Jul 27, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $15,000 At A Glance: State-of-the-art video and audio performance • Customizable amplifier • Sets the bar for connectivity • Tedious GUI and remote

Both Guns Blazing

The separates market has long been the pinnacle of audio performance for high-end home theater setups. But you’ve always had to pay a price for that performance: the lack of bleeding-edge features. While standalone processors typically set the bar for pure audio performance, many of them lack the latest features that A/V receivers offer. I’ve been guilty of envious glances at the latest high-end receiver designs, wishing that those cutting-edge features would find their way into a reference-level surround processor. But unfortunately that hasn’t been the reality—until now, that is.

Kris Deering Posted: May 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Outstanding video processing • All of the latest audio flavors • Dynamic EQ offers exciting experiences at lower volumes

More Bang, Less Buck

Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Integra DTC-9.8 surround processor (HT, May 2008). The DTC-9.8 was one of the first processors to offer full decoding abilities for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and it included state-of-the-art video processing. But one of the DTC-9.8’s best features was its price. Seldom do we see a feature-rich processor that’s south of the $2,000 price point.

Michael Fremer Posted: Oct 13, 2008 0 comments
An Antidote to the AVR

With flagship A/V receivers approaching apartment building size and black-hole heft, there’s a great deal to be said about separating the brains of the operation from the brawn. If you choose separates, it means you never have to borrow a construction crane to hoist a feature-laden, mega-watt seven- or eight-channel receiver onto a tall equipment rack.

Fred Manteghian Posted: Oct 06, 2008 0 comments
Separates Are What Keep Us Apart

Back in the days when CRT front projectors roamed the earth, any serious home theater required a separate surround processor and amplifier. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to find a Tri-Amplisauri from Parasound, Proceed, and others covering those three all-important front channels. Of course, technology has advanced significantly in the past decade. These days, unless you have some very special needs, you can’t go wrong with today’s powerful and reasonably priced one-piece receivers. Many have more amplified channels than Hillary Clinton has pant suits. Rotel makes a number of A/V receivers. I even reviewed one for UltimateAVmag.com a few years ago. But the separates I reviewed here are not simply a case of cutting the baby in half. This here is a new species.

Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 22, 2008 1 comments
Worthy of a sequel.

When we first reviewed Anthem’s Statement D2 in the December 2006 issue, HDMI switching was just emerging. But it wasn’t as crucial as it is today, now that next-gen audio and video applications are firmly established. There’s a story to be told in how the Statement D2 increased its utility in the connectivity tumult of these last two years. And there’s another story in its ability to stand tall even now, as onboard decoding of the advanced audio formats is now emerging in AVRs and pre/pros. The Statement D2 has adapted to the evolving standards and features that HDMI carries. Now at $7,499, the Statement D2 offers an advanced auto-setup and room-calibration system that furthers its value. It’s worth a fresh look.

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