Onkyo TX-NR807 A/V Receiver Page 3

Beverly Hills Chihuahua in high-resolution PCM has a standard comedy soundtrack, with Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, Placido Domingo, and other luminaries voicing the characters of various members of the canine community. The close-miked vocals were devoid of ambience, which was a minor fault of the soundtrack. And the height channels produced no notable effects when heard from the seating area.

Music with Height
In the Virtue CD, jazz pianist Eldar (last name Djangirov) leads an occasionally augmented trio (he plays both acoustic and electronic keyboards). While he doesn’t break any new ground, he does pleasingly and skillfully explore a succession of moods. I concentrated on the acoustic piano, shifting among several modes. When I selected Pure Audio, it shut down the displays and cut the signal down to its two-channel source, 5.1-channel Dolby Pro Logic II, Pro Logic IIz height, and what the front panel described as PLII Music DSX. (I was informed that if I had enabled the back-surround channels, it would have read PLIIx Music DSX.) With each additional layer of processing, the piano sound became more diffuse and the soundfield larger.

Pure Audio gave the piano the greatest density as well as the most noiseless background. DPLII opened up the soundfield in the way to which I’ve become accustomed; it expanded the piano sound and integrated it into a larger soundstage. The DPLIIz and DSX height modes, which by now I regarded as interchangeable, further enlarged the soundfield. However, with this final layer of enhancement, the piano seemed more synthetic than before. Every increment of enhancement seemed to plunge me further into the piano. I felt like it was all around me, as though I’d stuck my head into the instrument and rested my forehead on the soundboard. How close do you need to get to a piano to enjoy it? Switching from DPLIIz/DSX back to the Pure Audio mode’s stripped-down stereo signal was a healthy shock every time.

The new five-DVD Leonard Bernstein compilation from Medici Arts includes material by Brahms, Franck, Milhaud, Mozart, Beethoven, and Bruckner in DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital, and stereo PCM. I sampled the DTS soundtracks of Beethoven’s and Bruckner’s ninth symphonies. I switched between DSX height and DPLIIz height and as usual found little difference. The autumnal Bernstein coaxed a conciliatory tenderness out of Beethoven’s “Choral Symphony” in the famous performance celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the participation of orchestras and choruses from six nations. The fireworks of the final movement were a pleasure, and the kettledrums cast another spotlight on the MultEQ-sculpted bass response.

I bought my vinyl copy of Wish You Were Here—which David Gilmour has identified as his favorite Pink Floyd album—in a university bookstore in 1975. Although this reverb-light album gave DSX few uncor- related elements to work with, the height mode slightly enlarged the soundfield and provided more consistent off-axis listening than the stereo source material played without enhancement.

The Onkyo TX-NR807 is worth the four figures Onkyo is charging for it. Considering what’s in it, Onkyo’s attention to the user interface, and how well it performs, I’d call it a bargain.

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