Denon S-5BD Blu-ray Receiver Page 2

Denon has ported the graphic user interface from its AVR line. It’s beautiful and functional and makes a wealth of settings available to the knowledgeable user. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword for those who may buy a Blu-ray receiver to avoid having too many options. But I think Denon was right to err on the side of functionality, especially at this price.

In keeping with the product’s dual nature, the GUI has two setup menus. Press the Setup button once, and you get Blu-ray/DVD setup. Press it again for amp/speaker setup. One more press turns off the GUI. I didn’t need to adjust any of the Blu-ray/DVD settings—the S-5BD played well with my 1080p display right out of the box.

The remote control is brilliant. It’s a two-sided affair. On the front side, it gives pride of place to the volume, transport, input, and navigation controls. The volume and play buttons are huge, and other transport controls are organized in an interestingly irregular layout. I was a little nonplussed to note the absence of some other controls I needed—until I turned the remote over, flipped open a door on the backside, and found them.

Also on the back are dedicated buttons for Audyssey Dynamic Volume and MultEQ, which should come in handy if you prefer different low-volume listening settings at different times of day and don’t want to wade through the GUI. This is also where you’ll find numeric keys and additional controls for adjusting the disc player’s resolution, audio track, and subtitles. A frequent guest invariably asks me to switch on English subtitles, so that button is a popular one at my place.

One helpful remote-related feature is a One Touch Play button. Press it, and the unit turns itself on, along with your HDTV, selects the BD/SD input, sets the HDTV to the appropriate input, and starts disc play. For this to work, you must use an HDMI connection, and the HDMI control function must be activated on both the Blu-ray receiver and a CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) enabled HDTV. This is unlikely to work if anything else is connected between the Blu-ray receiver and the HDTV.

Audyssey’s auto setup is a breeze. It’s hard to imagine a user who would be intimidated by placing the setup microphone in one of the seating positions (up to six in this version of MultEQ) and pushing a button (and repeating for the other seating positions, of course). The splat! tones do their job, the unit does its calculations, and then you’re ready to roll. I did note one quirk I haven’t seen before: My five speakers are identical, but MultEQ identified the front three as large and the back two as small. I went into manual setup to identify them all as small and also set the subwoofer crossover to 80 hertz.

Those speakers were the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4. I also used an NHT Ten subwoofer because it happened to be in the room at the time (it did the job with aplomb). All music selections were on CD. I could have run high-resolution PCM into one of the unit’s HDMI inputs or a phono preamp into one of its analog inputs, but that would have undermined the unit’s self-contained, I-can-do-it-all spirit.

Audyssey Superheroes
The unit took a while to boot up, displaying a “please wait” message for 45 seconds. The review unit locked up several times but always came back to life when I pulled the plug for a full reboot.

With a dozen randomly chosen Blu-ray Discs, loading time from the internal drive was an average of 99 seconds from pressing Play to pre-content (logos, previews, etc.). Once I’d skipped all of the preliminaries, the disc drive took an average of 17 seconds to get to the disc menu. It would take 20 seconds or more to load CDs. The front-panel display identified them as BDs until they were fully loaded.

The Final Destination, with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, was mastered super-loud. I backed off the master volume to 30 out of a total of 99 increments. The opening racetrack scene threatened to shear off many of my inner-ear hairs—this was clearly a case for those two superheroes, Audyssey Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ. I turned on the latter and set the former to the most stringent of its three settings, Midnight (more moderate settings include Evening and Day). The story, a generic plot about twenty-somethings being systematically hunted and killed by some sinister force, then unfolded in a relatively civilized manner. I watched the 3D/2D disc in 2D but noted a scene in which characters sit in a theater with 3D glasses, making this perhaps the first self-referential use of 3D in a movie.

Denon Electronics USA
(201) 762-6500