Shootout: Three Mid-Price A/V Receivers Page 8

and the winners are ...

If I were in the market to buy a receiver in the $1,000 to $1,500 price range, selecting from among this troika would be a tough task. Each streets within a C-note or two of a thousand bucks, so price doesn't factor in greatly. The Integra DTR-7.6 is the least powerful on the test bench, and the least heavily featured (and frankly, the lightest-duty build quality) of the three. But you know what? In terms of real-world sonics, dynamics, straight-multichannel surround, or video performance, the DTR-7.6 in my system proved nigh-on indistinguishable from the others, and I found its simplicity and ease of use quite winning. This is a fine A/V receiver, and if you're not interested in HDMI upconversion and just want a unit that will deliver excellent sound regardless of what source you feed it and not be a challenge to use every day, you won't be disappointed.

The Denon AVR-3806 would win going away on paper - and for many, in the gear rack, too. Its intrinsic performance was impeccable, and its Audyssey auto-EQ processing is a potential plus in some rooms. But the AVR-3806 was for me hindered by its aggravating remote, a somewhat complex menu-and-features structure, and the lack of video upscaling on its convert-to-HDMI feature. If these two items don't trouble you - say, for example, you don't intend to use HDMI/DVI hookup (or your display's own scaling satisfies you and accepts 480i through its HDMI input) and you already have a pleasing universal remote - then no worries: Move the Denon right up near, or even to, the top.

Still, it is the Yamaha RX-V2600 that gets my palme de silicon among this group - for its stellar surround and superior music-DSP modes, excellent audio quality, good-performing and versatile video-scaling/HDMI conversion, and for its all-around ease of use. It ain't perfect - I've yet to see one of these things that is - but it's an excellent piece of kit that gets the job done with thoughtful design and complete, balanced performance.

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