The World's Most Gifted Home Theater Receiver?

Denon calls it their "flagship" receiver; but if you want to fully carry out the nautical metaphor, you'd have to refer to the new Denon AVR-5805 as the biggest, baddest, boldest combination battleship/aircraft carrier/submarine/destroyer/frigate/(throw in some secret stealth technology reference here) ever to have floated on the home theater seven seas. Denon claims it's "the world's first A/V receiver with 10 built-in amplifiers and 16-channel output...[and] unprecedented multi-source and zone capabilities with perhaps the most comprehensive analog and digital audio/video switching configurations ever offered."

So what the heck are you going to do with a receiver that includes 10 fully assignable, discrete amplifiers? Well, for starters, you could set up a totally kick-you-in-the-rear 9.1-channel surround sound system in your main home theater. Or, if you live in a house where the family just can't agree on what to watch, you can use the AVR-5805 to power and control two discrete 5.1-channel home theaters (preferably in two different rooms, unless your family is really dysfunctional). Another alternative is to use the AVR-5805 to run a 7.1-channel system in your main theater room and configure the remaining power capacity to provide a 2.1-channel system in a second room with a mono system in a third room (such as a bathroom or a hallway, for example). Yet another option would be to use the configurable amplifiers to run an audiophile-oriented five-channel system in which all the speakers are bi-amplified. (Speaker wire manufacturers take note: the home theater gods are smiling on you.) In all of these zones, of course, the volume is independently controlled and the sources are independently selected - and when a particular zone is not in use, the power for that zone is shut off to conserve power consumption and reduce heat output.

Further adding to the "world's first" list, the AVR-5805 includes "the world's first discrete 2-zone video conversion capability and HDTV switching." Composite and S-video input sources are automatically up-converted (with Time Based Correction) to component video. Interlaced 480i sources (non-progressive-scan DVD players, VCRs, camcorders, etc.) are up-converted to 480p, 720p, or 1080i thanks to the AVR-5805's built-in scaler that uses a Faroudja integrated processor with DCDi (Directional Correlational Deinterlacing) technology and 12-bit/216 MHz video digital-to-analog converters.

All ten amplifiers in the AVR-5805 are rated by Denon at 170 watts each for a total power output of 1,700 watts. (Electric utility companies take note: the home theater gods are smiling on you.) Denon also assures us that the AVR-5805 is "compatible with every popular 6.1- and 5.1-channel surround sound format, from Dolby, dts and Dolby Pro Logic IIx to THX Ultra2 Cinema and Music, and THX Surround EX decoding" and includes THX 4.0/5.1/6.1 post processing. The AVR-5805 also has an incredible array of connections for a total of 14 audio/video inputs, including 3 HDMI and 1 DVI-D digital video ports, 6 high-bandwidth (100 MHz) HDTV-compatible component video inputs (with dual component video monitoring for the main zone), IEEE-1394, multiple RS-232 ports, Ethernet, and more (although I'm not quite sure what "more" there could be).

Another potential "world's first" is the implementation of a new room correction and calibration technology called Audyssey MultEQ XT from Audyssey Laboratories. MultEQ XT is kind of like having a super-smart sound-engineer-in-a-box. During the Auto Set-Up mode, MultEQ XT "automatically determines how many loudspeakers are connected, whether they are connected in phase, and whether they are satellites or subwoofers. It then analyzes and calibrates speaker level, size, and distance. In addition, MultEQ XT detects the proper crossover point and determines correct frequency response for up to eight listener positions simultaneously." While other room correction technologies have appeared in receivers before, this is the first to optimize and compensate the system for more than one listening location at the same time giving nearly every listener in the room a "sweet spot" no matter where they're sitting. (I heard a prototype demonstration of Audyssey's MultEQ technology earlier this year, and I was blown away by what a good job it does.) Although Denon's implementation of MultEQ XT uses multiple Texas Instruments' Aureus DSP processors with high-end digital-to-analog converters, both the Room EQ and Auto Set-Up features can be disabled for purists, installations using more esoteric room correction equipment, or people who just don't know any better.

There are a ton of other features, like assignable trigger outputs and the latest version of Denon Link 3 (for direct digital connection of high-resolution, multichannel digital audio sources), but you'll just have to find your nearest Denon dealer to discover them all. We will tell you the two things you're probably dying to find out but that we haven't mentioned so far: the price and the availability. Denon suggests a retail price of $6,000 (quite cheap, really, when you consider all that you're getting for the money). Barring any increases in the gravitational constant (which would increase the shipping weight and slow things down a bit), the AVR-5805 is expected to be available in November.