Review: Integra DHC-80.3 A/V Controller
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.
That situation is unlikely to change with the DHC-80.3, the latest flagship preamp/processor from Integra (sister brand of Onkyo). The Integra DHC-80.3 raises the performance bar with a few choice new tech nuggets, and it holds the value bar fairly fast with a substantial but un-ridiculous price that’s some $400 less than the company’s equivalent A/V receiver model, the DTR-80.3. (Absent the onboard power, the two are virtually identical.)
The lead story for the 80.3 is video processing. The new Integra is the first mainstream A/V component to incorporate “4K” video processing. Or, at least, 4K-ish: The Integra can upscale high- and standard-def video to the 3,840 x 2,160-pixels QFHD (Quad Full HD) format. This simple quadrupling of 1080p video is one of the formats (along with 4,096 x 2,160-rez Digital Cinema 4K) that come under the general “4K” heading.
There’s no shortage of online chatter about whether QFHD is the real deal or simply “faux-K,” as some wags would have it. In the meantime, neither I nor you (probably) can display any 4K flavor at home (though this is now changing, with a very few high-dollar projectors arriving from Sony, JVC, and others), so it is currently a moot question for us mortals. But Integra’s inclusion of 4K video scaling in the DHC-80.3 was a forward-thinking move.
The new Integra proved no more daunting to set up than any high-line A/V receiver, though the process was a bit lengthy due to its many options. One such is its inclusion of Audyssey MultEQ XT32, the flagship version of the firm’s built-in auto-calibration/room-correction processing, which uses data acquisition from as many as 8 calibration-mike positions to deliver greater digital-EQ precision.
Before diving in, I first linked up HDMI and other necessary cables, including a tangle of seven audio interconnects to my power amps: a 5 x 200-watt unit supplemented by my ancient (but still hale) 2 x 100-watt Apt One for the front-height channels. For the front LCR channel trio, I chose to use the Integra’s balanced-line (XLR) outputs — which are supplied for all 9.2 channels — mostly because this is virtually the only distinction between the DHC-80.3 and the DTR-80.3 A/V receiver, which lacks balanced outs. (I don’t feel strongly about balanced connections for short-run, line-level hookups since the balanced line’s principal virtue is rejection of induced hum and noise over long-length, very low level microphone cable runs. But hey, it was there, so I used it.)
My “long version” Audyssey setup took a full 30 minutes to complete, but the results were hard to dispute. MultEQ XT32 set the Integra DHC-80.3 pre/pro for a 40-Hz main-channels crossover, and 50 Hz for center and surrounds, all of which reflect honest assessments of my speakers’ abilities. It’s the first cal-bot I’ve found to be quite so accurate. The Room EQ results were recognizable from many a previous Audyssey setup in my room: incrementally “clearer” and “quicker” midrange, smoother treble, and tighter, more articulate bass. It works, and, I have to say, it works well.