Denon AVR-5805 A/V Receiver
Unless you've been in a cave for the last decade, you already know that audio is rapidly steamrolling toward multichannel forms. Evidence is abundant on both the software and hardware fronts. These days, you'll be hard-pressed to find a modern movie in stereo on any medium outside of television. Music probably has years to go before its stereo form becomes esoteric, but the writing may be on the wall. As for hardware, try finding any electronics that don't support some multichannel form or another—if not several—anywhere but the smallest specialty shelves. Whether stereophiles like it or not, multichannel is as embedded in audio's future as digital coding itself.
In fact, multichannel audio is so well entrenched that it's getting a multi treatment of its own already. As usual, it is an A/V receiver that is setting this multi-multi trend, in the form of Denon's new AVR-5805. At first glance, it simply appears to be another Denon flagship receiver. But, if its size doesn't tip you off that something else is afoot, a look at the back panel will. Some of you may recall our teaser of the AVR-5805 in these pages back in our April 2005 issue (and, thus, we ask that you tolerate some minor rehashing of features). We also made promises of a review to come—so let it not be said that HT is not a magazine of its word.
Adorned with truly impressive features, internal components, and connections, the AVR-5805's real hook is its ten fully configurable amplifier channels (rated at 170 watts each) and all the possibilities that they present—particularly the option of simultaneously running two entirely independent 5.1 systems with fully powered main channels. Dual-5.1 zones obviously represent several intriguing options—like playing a movie in one area and multichannel/
high-resolution music in another, or playing your favorite movie in the area you're in, while the kids, in-laws, or whoever indulge their questionable tastes elsewhere in the house. These possibilities clearly aren't new in principle, but they have never been this simple and consolidated from a logistical perspective.
Dual-5.1 powered output may be the headliner, but that's far from all that those channels can do. You could also biamp all of the main channels in a single 5.1 system—another unique opportunity, at least for a receiver. You can even do a powered 9.1-channel main system if you choose. Various combinations of 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 systems with either stereo or mono secondary zones are possible, such as a 5.1 main system with two extra stereo zones and a mono zone, or a 7.1 main system with a stereo zone and a mono zone elsewhere. This receiver can support up to four zones at the same time.
Facilitating all of these options is a rear-panel collection of jacks like you've never seen before. There are several digital inputs, including standard coaxial and optical Toslink connections, as well as HDMI, DVI, IEEE 1394, and proprietary Denon Link 3 connections. DVD-Audio is available through HDMI, IEEE 1394, and Link 3 connections, and SACD is available through Link 3 (although the receiver only supports two channels at this point). There's also an Ethernet port that offers TCP/IP control capability and future software/firmware upgrades. Analog inputs include no less than a 10-channel analog input, a separate six-channel analog input, and more stereo pairs than you'll ever be likely to find a use for. With 22 total line-level output channels, the AVR-5805 can actually support two independent 7.1-channel systems operating simultaneously, although you'd need to add some extra amplification.
Processing is fully covered with all available Dolby and DTS formats, as well as THX Ultra2 certification. The peripheral features and tricks that this model offers are far too numerous to mention here. Internals are first rate with high-quality DSPs, converters, and video processing. The AVR-5805 offers various room-correction and equalization options, as well, in both automatic and manual forms.
Expectedly, the AVR-5805's setup is a unique process, given the multitude of options that this receiver offers. But the process is not nearly as daunting as you might expect, thanks to an excellent, intuitive onscreen menu system and a quality remote, which is one of the better attempts at a hybrid touchscreen system that I've seen packaged with a receiver in a long time. The manual, like the AVR-5805 itself, looks intimidating because of its size, but it is easy to use. Besides coming up with some extra speaker wires for whatever extra zones you employ and dusting off an additional source unit or two, setting up the AVR-5805 isn't much different than setting up any other high-end receiver. I went straight for the dual-5.1 setup, with an Energy Veritas 2.4 speaker system in the main area and a rock-solid Phase Technology Teatro speaker system in the secondary area. I also worked with the B&W 803D speaker system (reviewed in our October 2005 issue) when I really wanted to see how well the AVR-5805 would handle two big systems at once. The Marantz DV8300 universal disc player and Philips SACD 1000 SACD/DVD-Video player delivered the source material.
Despite the myriad of available options, my assessment of the AVR-5805's musical abilities would still start with good, old-fashioned stereo. It handled stereo just as well as, if not better than, I expected it would. Even with all of the various audio and video elements stuffed onto this chassis, it was impressive to hear that two-channel music was still clean, natural, and infused with the same warmth and approachability that characterize most Denon receivers, particularly the high-end models. The top end was smooth and balanced, the bottom end was bold and well defined, and the midrange drove the entire presentation with a distinct impact and immediacy. With all of the available options, I don't know how much time straight two-channel playback will get on most people's AVR-5805s, but it's more than ready to impress.
Multichannel music may get more attention, especially as the years go on, and the AVR-5805 is no less impressive in this department. The preamp stages passed high-resolution/multichannel signals through cleanly, and the amplifiers empowered them with a strong sense of body, boldness, and believability. Possibly the most impressive part, though, was that, even with two 5.1 zones going at once, each zone maintained these attributes. Despite its impressive power ratings, I may have forgiven the AVR-5805 some drop-off in staging and purity with both zones firing, as driving ten channels at the same time is a daunting task for any amplifier. But, even with dense material at high volumes, both zones retained an impressive composure that was only challenged when the volume reached levels that were well beyond comfortable.
The same was true of movie soundtracks. I cued up two of the better combat sequences that movies have to offer—the cannonade that precedes Pickett's Charge from Gettysburg and the assault at Omaha Beach from Saving Private Ryan—and drifted from zone to zone in an impressed state of mind. The AVR-5805's display of raw power wasn't the only thing that impressed me; it was also its simultaneous display of agility and attention to detail that grabbed my ear. Considering that there are receivers that can barely get one zone right, it's clearly impressive to hear a receiver get two zones right at the same time, down to the smallest and most subtle of surround effects.
Again, though, there's more to this receiver than dual 5.1 zones. I dosed up Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (a questionable movie, but it has great sound) with a full THX Ultra2 7.1-channel treatment, and I even biamped the B&W 803Ds in front. After having handled the demands of two hard-charging 5.1 zones, a single 7.1 zone seemed like child's play for the AVR-5805—and the resulting sound was indeed effortless. This was one of the most impressive reproductions of a soundtrack that I've ever heard from an A/V receiver. Dialogue was pure, and large events, such as explosions or the thrust of starship engines, were forceful. Even small events were crafted with an unmistakable delicacy.
An abundance of options is always a good thing, no matter what world you're talking about. And, when it comes to the A/V world, I don't know of any single piece of equipment that currently offers more options, flexibility, and operational freedom than the AVR-5805. But even more impressive is the fact that this receiver is far from being all trick and no treat. The fundamentals that drive any high-quality audio product—sonic performance, along with design and build quality—are abundant here. The AVR-5805 doesn't just do a lot; it does a lot right. When all is said and done, that's what matters the most.
• Warm, natural sound
• A features list that doesn't quit
• Ten fully configurable amp channels