Denon AVR-4310CI A/V Receiver Page 2
The Denon AVR-4310CI’s feature roster would deserve more ink under different circumstances. Its power is rated at 130 watts times two—see HT Labs Measures for all channels driven. The front panel includes both an iPod-friendly USB input (no dock needed, although Denon offers an optional one) and a sixth HDMI input. On the back panel, composite and S-video are both present in quantity, although some other receivers have eliminated the latter. Satellite radio connectivity is Sirius, not XM, and you can stream Internet radio, Napster, or Rhapsody. Dolby Virtual Surround will coax surround-like effects from stereo signals either from a pair of speakers (potentially in your second zone) or from headphones. Two remotes are supp- lied: a fancy one whose top half is dominated by an LCD touchscreen, and a more conventional one for second-zone use.
In addition to DSX’s debut in this receiver, Denon is also rolling out height-enhanced Dolby Pro Logic IIz in all of its receiver models.
Preparations, Part I
Associated gear included the Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v4 speakers for the main five channels and two Paradigm Cinema 70 v3 speakers for the DSX width channels. All of the speakers ran full range, although the Cinema 70 is very small and has minimal bass output. Signal sources included the Panasonic DMP-BD35 Blu-ray player, Luxman PD-289 turntable, and Shure V97xE cartridge. The receiver has a phono input that’s compatible with the Shure, so my phono preamps gathered dust. All movies were on Blu-ray Disc.
The first thing I did was run the Audyssey MultEQ XT auto setup from three listening positions. MultEQ XT tossed out a quick full-spectrum “splat” from each speaker. I checked the settings and found that they were impressively accurate in things like speaker placement and size.
As my listening sessions got underway—as always, starting with movies—I had to adopt a strategy for evaluating the Audyssey features that have such a profound influence on perceived sound quality. To quickly review, these include MultEQ XT room correction, plus the Dynamic Volume, Dynamic EQ, and DSX listening modes.
Actually, I might have counted DSX as two separate items, since it allows width or height enhancement. However, as I’d recently agonized over the newly introduced Dolby Pro Logic IIz height-enhanced listening mode, I decided I wouldn’t deal with Audyssey’s height enhancement or the possible contrast between DSX height and DPLIIz height. Those concerns are postponed for a future review.
I also decided to leave the MultEQ XT room correction on (nearly) all the time. You can’t manually set up the width channels without it, and Audyssey says MultEQ XT lays the groundwork for the other modes. So while MultEQ XT influenced what I heard, I wasn’t constantly A/B-ing it.
I focused primarily on the DSX width channels—a totally new experience—and secondarily on Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ, which I have used only once before and find intriguing. The latter two items are separately switchable but designed to work with each other, so I switched them on and off together.
Each review started with DSX width on and Dynamic Volume/EQ off. DSX stage width is adjustable, but I left it at the maximum position. I switched DSX on and off to evaluate the effect of width. This left me exposed to the dynamic extremes of movie soundtracks, which often require repeated master-volume adjustments. This is always an annoyance. About halfway through each movie, I switched on Dynamic Volume/EQ, usually leaving the width channels on as well, and quit fiddling with the controls.
Toggle Fest, Part I
Valkyrie, in DTS-HD Master Audio, stars Tom Cruise as the real-life German officer who participated in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler. Cruise is unusually somber and restrained, befitting both the role and the movie’s emphasis on ensemble acting. For the first half hour, I repeatedly bounced out of my seat to put an ear to one of the width speakers. With DSX on, all-channel effects in battlefield scenes seemed as prominent in the width channels as in the main ones. Dialogue rooted in the center channel didn’t leak into the width channels at all. In a nightclub scene, the width channels strengthened the soundfield at the sides of the room. This effect was most apparent by its absence when I switched DSX off.
It was difficult to determine bass content in the width channels versus the main channels because the satellites I used for width were much smaller than the main-channel monitors. However, the one time I switched MultEQ XT off, it became clear that the room correction significantly enhanced the bass, bolstering the movie’s thundering kettledrums.
My overall enjoyment increased considerably when I switched on Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ and moved the master volume closer to the reference level. This precluded the need for any further master volume adjustments, made it consistently easy to catch dialogue, and let me get more immersed in the story. While I could perceive a different relationship between dialogue and background sounds, and this changed from moment to moment, it was not an unsubtle pumping of level. Therefore, it wasn’t distracting. The use of Dynamic Volume/EQ didn’t diminish the width enhancement.