Denon AVR-5308CI A/V Receiver Page 2

Finally, with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, we have sound quality that makes it worthwhile to add surround sound and video, both in terms of what the discs deliver and in the way the Denon decodes and amplifies it.

I’ve watched sections of concert films in Dolby Digital and DTS before, but I’ve never sat through a whole one. That all changed when I popped in the David Gilmour Blu-ray Disc. I sat through the entire concert, immersed in and mesmerized by sound I’d never before associated with picture. On good recordings, compressed cardboard-like textures, hashy sheen, and hard edges give way to shimmering transients, satisfying midband bloom, and natural sustain and decay.

Problems and Solutions
Until I contacted a Denon representative for help, I couldn’t get the AVR-5308CI to connect to my Wi-Fi network, even though I’m reasonably computer savvy. He informed me, “If there are spaces in your SSID [the network name], it won’t connect.” Why didn’t the instructions just say that?

Closing the single space allowed access to Internet radio, podcasts, and a free 30-day Rhapsody trial. These Internet-based features proved to be among the AVR-5308CI’s most enjoyable secondary offerings. I particularly enjoyed the migration of Internet radio from the computer to the home theater environment. Trust me, you’ll love it, especially if you use it with Denon’s Restorer function, which claims to uncompress compressed audio. Whatever it did, it made Internet radio sound better than I’ve ever heard it.

A mysterious operating-system glitch caused a complete loss of sound when I accidentally hit the remote’s Monitor Select button instead of Mute. Nothing restored the sound, not even a complete microprocessor restart, which meant I had to reconfigure everything again. This was a two-day drain of time and energy (and of course no movie or TV watching). I solved the problem when, in desperation, I plugged in headphones and got sound. When I unplugged the phones, it signaled the receiver to route sound to the speakers. This is a serious software glitch that Denon needs to examine, although I couldn’t cause it to repeat. I feel bound to report this, although it doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this benchmark product.

But What About Sonics?
The Audyssey program produced genuine sonic benefits, and its actions were subtle yet significant. I turned it on and off to perform direct A/B comparisons. These indicated that the Audyssey program can turn an adequate speaker system into a very good one. It can also do the same for a room.

The program tamed my room’s low-bass bump without destroying the bottom-end whomp. But I was even more impressed by the way it smoothed out my Tannoy speakers’ overall response. The Denon subjectively filled in a midrange trough and gently dipped a high-frequency peak.

These design choices give the Tannoy speakers a pleasingly laid-back quality, which is fine, given the brashness of many soundtracks. The Tannoys also have a touch of added glisten for some sparkly excitement. But the Audyssey processing produced smoother overall response that created a far better speaker with greater vocal intelligibility and a cleaner, more pleasing top end. I’m sold on the Audyssey system based on this experience. It’s transformative.

The 150 watts per channel of THX-certified amplification should be sufficient for most consumers. The AVR-5308CI’s amplifier section produced smooth, detailed performance. It was also free of the metallic aftertaste found in cheap receivers, where cost cutting tends to gut the power supply’s juice flow. Given the AVR-5308CI’s features, excellent-sounding digital decoding and DACs, and its state-of-the-art video processing, the amplifiers Denon included in this $5,200 receiver are easily up to the task of fulfilling the front end’s promise. However, don’t expect the power and punch that only a separate, more powerful bank of amplifiers can provide.

When I ran some audiophile-quality 5.1-channel SACDs into the analog inputs and bypassed all of the AVR-5308CI’s DSP, the sound was not just “hard to fault,” as the audiophiles say when they damn a system with faint praise. Actually, it was downright seductive, particularly on top, where cheap electronics can add etch, grain, and other hardening ingredients.

Conclusion
This receiver’s $5,200 price is considered expensive in the cheap plastic computer world, and even among some sophisticated videophiles. I come from a world where $5,200 buys you an outstanding phono cartridge and decent analog cables. Given all that the powerful AVR-5308CI can do and how capably it does it, its asking price makes it a genuine bargain. Problems, instruction manual complaints, and minor quibbles aside, Denon’s ambitious, high-performance, sophisticated-sounding AVR-5308CI redefines the A/V receiver category and is easy to recommend.

Highlights
Links your home theater to the Internet wirelessly
Decodes everything
Audyssey MultEQ XT auto setup and room correction

COMPANY INFO
Denon
(201) 762-6500
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