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New Toys

For the past few months I have been considering upgrading some of my home theater components to stay current with technology. Specifically, I wanted to upgrade my receiver and DVD player. My current receiver (Sony STR-DA333ES) and DVD player (Toshiba SD-9100) were decent, but they lacked some of the features and technologies found in more recent products. I really wanted a DVD player that could handle more disc formats, especially DVD-A and Super Audio CD. From the receiver standpoint, I wanted more control over my video sources, since my Sony receiver was fairly limited from that standpoint.

After spending a great deal of time researching the subject, I decided to go with Denon for both components. Denon have been receiving excellent reviews on their mid-range and high-end products, so they seemed like a good choice. Originally, I had planned to purchase Denon's AVR-4802R receiver. However, its considerable size would have required extensive modification to my media racks. So, I opted for the Denon AVR-3805 receiver instead. It turns out that thefeature set of the 3805 was significantly better than the 4802R, which I will detail later. For the DVD player, I chose the Denon DVD-2900 Universal DVD/CD player.

Both items arrived from Crutchfield a few weeks ago. I could have purchased both products locally at Ultimate Electronics, but I have always been satisfied with Crutchfield. They have good prices, free shipping and installation support if one requires it. Plus, they were running a 10% off special, saving me a couple hundred bucks.

Setting up the receiver was very slick. Everything can be done via an on-screed display (OSD), assuming you have the receiver hooked up to your TV (I did). You can assign ports, set your crossover frequency, set speaker size and location and more through this interface. It makes things VERY easy and painless. The AVR-3805 also has a component video switch that upconverts any video signal, regardless of input type (composite, S-Video etc.) to component output. The switch also automatically changes video sources on the fly, so you don't have to fumble around with matching audio and video sources. The receiver also comes with an easy-to-use universal remote with learning and macro functionality.

However, the most amazing feature of the AVR-3805 is the Auto Room Setup. If you place the optional omnidirectional microphone at the listening position, the receiver will calculate the optimal speaker distances and volumes for that position. No guesswork is required. The feature alone is worth the price, in my opinion. With my previous receiver, I had spent countless hours tweaking my room parameters to get the right sound balance and never quite got it right. Now, my media room has impressive equalization. Coupled with the higher accuracy of the Denon receiver, DVDs sound amazing now.

While not as feature-rich as the receiver, my new DVD player is no slouch. Its color fidelity and picture accuracy is markedly improved over the Toshiba (which is still a good player - one of the first progressive-scan models). I can more easily distinguish between an average digital transfer and a really good one. I really like the player's ability to play pretty much any disc format. So far, I've tried DVD (duh), DVD-A, CD, VCD, SVCD and DVD+R without a hitch. The player will also read MP3s from CD-Rs, which is a nice touch. I haven't tried SACD yet, as I don't have any SACD discs yet. I also don't have the analog 5.1 outputs hooked up, so I can't listen to DVD-A or SACD natively yet.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the purchase. Not only am I enjoying the performance of the two products, but I am also very impressed with the build quality of both. They both have a robust, weighty feel to them, with a solidity that really emphasizes the high quality.


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