Denon AVP-A1HDCI Surround Preamp/Processor and POA-A1HDCI 10-channel Power Amplifier Comparisons & Conclusion
A few months back, I reviewed the Marantz AV8003 pre/pro and companion MM8003 power amp. I enjoyed them very much and still consider them fine components. They are certainly a good alternative to these Denon pieces, especially given the $10,000 price difference.
The Marantz AV8003 uses an Anchor Bay Technologies chipset to transcode all incoming analog video signals to HDMI, but the processor's scaling capabilities are limited since Marantz took a strict purist position, leaving the video processing to other devices in the user's system. Denon could have done the same and shaved a few dollars off the price of the AVP.
My tests indicated that the HQV video processor in the Denon AVP isn't as good as the Gennum VXP processor in my JVC projector. Granted, the Gennum chipset is considered one of the best, but given the price of the Denon AVP, I was hoping that the HQV chipset would outperform anything I already had.
MultEQ XT is Audyssey's most sophisticated circuit and also provides access to Audyssey Pro services. The fact that the Marantz AV8003 only incorporates MultEQ makes little sense given its expense. It really should have the same Audyssey circuitry as the Denon AVP.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to A/B the two systems. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Marantz pieces, the sonic characteristics and high-end audio attributes that I liked about them were multiplied in the Denon duo.
When we get away from the basic visual and audible differences, the Denons far surpass the Marantz combo in sheer functionality and features. They are more powerful, offer more channel configurations, access more sources, provide six HDMI ports, connect to a wired or wireless network, and provide a graphically pleasing interface that is easy to navigate.
The AVP-A1HDCI and POA-A1HDCI are about as state-of-the-art as you will find, and that is sure to be the case for some time to come. Yes, they are pricey, but they should last a lifetime. I can't image what could be coming down the road from any manufacturer that would make these products obsolete anytime soon. So, from that perspective, you should consider this a long-term investment.
I absolutely considered purchasing these components based on their sonic quality alone. However, I bought a car and solar panels for my house last year and was having trouble justifying the cost. Ultimately, I decided against it because I would be buying a lot more features than I need. For instance, I don't need a 10-channel amp or a pre/pro with all the I/Os and custom install features of the AVP-A1HDCI. The video processor is no better than what I have in my JVC projector. Sonically, I can get something pretty darn close for a lot less. It's times like these you have to remember the law of diminishing returns.
On the other hand, for the ultimate home-entertainment system capable of controlling a dedicated theater and three other rooms with distributed audio and video, the AVP-A1HDCI and POA-A1HDCI really can't be beat. Only you can determine if the cost of these two products has enough value for you. I can assure you that you won't ever be disappointed by their performance and capabilities if you decide to make the investment. If you are in need of the extra functionality these pieces bring to the table, the price starts to make financial sense.
Coming full circle, products like these make the job of an A/V reviewer worthwhile. I suspect the Denon design team had a great time, and they really thought of just about everything. I don't know if "everything" had a pre-defined price tag or if "everything" just added up to $15,000. But one can only imagine what it's like working on a product with no limitations.
In the words of Ferris Bueller, "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking [them] up."
Exceptional sonic performance and extraordinary coherency
Internal decoder for all codecs
Simple setup and comprehensive room EQ with Audyssey MultEQ XT
Listen at low volumes without sacrificing channel separation with Audyssey Dynamic EQ
6 HDMI inputs/2 HDMI outputs for multiple displays
Transcode from any analog video source to HDMI
Extremely powerful and clean amplification
HQV Realta video processor
Larger than average
Heavy, requires stationary installation and lots of circulation for amp