Denon AVR-5800 Digital Surround Receiver

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.

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, which could make placement tricky. When you include clearance for back-panel wires and front-panel knobs, it might not fit on A/V furniture designed for less expansive components. Otherwise, it presented no special installation challenges. The thicket of connectors in back provides both composite- and S-video jacks for all video paths, and three of these (DVD, TV, and DBS/SAT) are equipped with component-video jacks.

FAST FACTS
RATED POWER 170 watts x 7 into 8 ohms from 20 kHz with 0.05% THD DIMENSIONS 17 1/8 inches wide, 8 1/2 inches high, 19 1/8 inches deep WEIGHT 62 pounds PRICE $3,800 MANUFACTURERDenon Electronics, Dept. S&V, 19 Chapin Rd., P.O. Box 867, Pine Brook, NJ 07058-9777; phone, 973-396-0810; Web site, www.del.denon.com

The rear panel also includes 10 (count 'em!) digital audio inputs, which is plenty even for me. The three coaxial and six optical jacks are freely assignable among 11 inputs, while the one AC-3/RF jack is assigned to a laserdisc player. Optical inputs Nos. 5 and 6 have optical outputs as well, making them usable as digital recording loops. And there are not one but two sets of eight external multichannel analog input jacks - one could be used for a DVD-Audio player and the other for an external decoder.

Given the Hatfield-and-McCoy history of Dolby and DTS, having dual sets of multichannel analog inputs might not be wretched excess after all. Denon also gives you two independent-source, preamp-level multiroom outputs, making the AVR-5800 receiver a plausible controller for a three-zone whole-house system.

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