Shootout: Three Mid-Price A/V Receivers Page 5

MUSIC PERFORMANCE Integra opted for simplicity on the DTR-7.6, and that's a decision I'm pleased to applaud. The unit offers a handful of proprietary surround modes of the "Orchestra" and "Unplugged" variety that are unusually subtle in their effects (and therefore quite listenable), as well as the full complement of Dolby and DTS options (and their THX variants). This includes my favorite, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, used for deriving multichannel sound from stereo tracks, which produced pleasing clarity and dynamic spaciousness on clean studio material. In common with each of the other two receivers, the Integra showed plenty of power for serious listening, even on live-concert recordings played at nearly lifelike levels - such as a set by the Flaming Lips that I caught in HD on an episode of PBS's in-concert series Austin City Limits.

MOVIE PERFORMANCE The Integra DTR-7.6 displayed ample power to deliver the full Steven Spielberg/John Williams sonic experience from War of the Worlds. Admittedly, when I cranked it to ridiculous volume settings during the movie's really big scenes (Chapter 22, for example), I didn't hear the same crispness and palpable, chest-thumping impact that I got from the Denon and Yamaha models. But I'm no great fan of ridiculous volume anyhow, and the Integra pumped out genuine, in-cinema levels (or anything less) without so much as a hiccup. The DTR-7.6 also offers the new THX/Select2 Cinema surround mode, which I found quite effective at bringing out subtle ambience effects, such as the various soft (and not so soft) dripping and rattling off-screen sounds in the creepy Tim Robbins basement sequence in Chapter 18. (Is it me, or is Tim getting better and better at doing creepy?)

EASE OF USE Integra's onscreen menu system for the DTR-7.6 is a clear, text-based layout that I found easy and self-explanatory. (It's also quite quick to respond and to return the screen to the regular video image when canceled.) Integra's remote controller is cut from the same cloth as the onscreen system: It has a lot of keys, but for the most part, they're well laid-out, nicely illuminated, and quite legible. The remote also features an always-available trio of "Channel" and + and - keys, which yield immediate access to channel-level trimming - a real boon to an inveterate twiddler like me. True, the remote's stubby "joystick" controller for left/right/up/down and push-in-for-enter proved to be a little touchy on occasion. However, my technique seemed to improve over time, so I think this would be no problem with a bit more practice. Overall, the Integra DTR-7.6 qualified as the easiest and least intimidating device to use among this group of receivers.