Integra DTR-50.2 A/V Receiver Page 2
The first things you’ll notice on the front panel are the darkgray volume and power controls against a black background—the gray is a longtime and characteristic Integra touch. Of course you’ll find the usual buttons for source select and listening modes. Like few other manufacturers, Integra provides a full set of navigation controls, so you can burrow deep into menus even if you’ve lost the remote. More unusual are several buttons, located below the power button, that turn zones two and three on and off and regulate their volume levels. You can also control the dimmer and monitor-out settings from the front panel.
Although it’s unremarkable looking, the remote control offers a few subtle pluses. You can toggle among zones two and three using a button that’s strategically placed at the top alongside the power on and standby buttons. The button glows red for zone two, green for zone three, and amber for zone four. (The Integra doesn’t have a fourth zone, but the remote also serves two step-up models that do.) The bottom of the remote has an indentation that cradles your top two fingers when your right thumb is in volume-adjust position. This makes it easier to find the lozenge-shaped volume up/down key by feel. Backlighting also helps, and when activated, it highlights the selected remote mode in a brighter shade of green than the rest of the buttons.
Audyssey MultEQ setup ran flawlessly. It always surprises me how much more Audyssey can accomplish with a small set of relatively subdued test tones than other room-calibration systems can with a lengthier and more raucous assortment. In the first measuring position, an onscreen graphic diagrammed a theoretical 11.2-channel speaker configuration with the full monty of height, width, and back channels. In the second and later positions, the system displayed only my five connected speakers (correct) and two subs (the only error—I only use one sub). As is typical for Audyssey, the resulting settings were reliable. No revision was necessary aside from my usual preference for the THX Select2–approved speaker/sub configuration: speakers small, crossover to subwoofer at 80 hertz, that’s all she wrote.
Associated equipment included five Paradigm Reference Studio v.4 speakers, the Paradigm Seismic 110 sub (without its built-in EQ), and an OPPO BDP-83SE universal disc player.
Learning to Trust
Before the movie demos began, I considered how to approach the low-volume listening modes. I chose not to use THX Loudness Plus. Don’t interpret that as a slam: I’ve used THX Loudness Plus in the past and found it useful. But in this case, I concentrated my attention on Audyssey Dynamic EQ (on) and Dynamic Volume (at the lightest of three settings). In several past reviews, I’ve come to trust Dynamic EQ/Volume. So for the first time, I left these settings in place, with no A/B-ing, allowing them to consistently shape my impressions of every movie I watched. I only turned them off once I started my music demos.
Robin Hood—the version with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett—arrived on Blu-ray Disc in DTS-HD Master Audio. Audyssey Dynamic EQ fostered strong surround envelopment, as it is designed to do. I wasn’t surprised to hear consistent all-channel effects in battle scenes—with whizzing arrows, anguished cries, the ringing of unsheathed swords, and the thuds of falling bodies. But low-intensity moments, like the spooky movement of air in the forest, were just as enveloping. In this and other demos, the subwoofer level was just slightly on the high side. The distinction was small enough to be a matter of taste, so I didn’t fiddle with the sub level.
Cop Out (DVD, Dolby Digital) exploits the comic interaction of Bruce Willis, here playing the straight man, and Tracy Morgan, who gushes comic energy and goofball charm. Audyssey Dynamic Volume throttled back the loud parts only a little—gunplay, crashing cars, and shattering glass were still mildly shocking. A moment of electronic percussion seemed a little on the fat side. This reinforced my previous perception of an overstated sub volume, but the effect was fleeting. Either Audyssey Dynamic EQ was momentarily boosting the bass beyond my admittedly conservative preference or a setup anomaly had tripped up MultEQ. I’m inclined not to blame MultEQ, because the perception didn’t recur in the music demos, when MultEQ operated without the low-volume modes.
Extraordinary Measures (DVD, Dolby Digital) doesn’t contain any slam-bang effects, but it did show off the Integra/Audyssey combo’s prowess with dialogue—I didn’t miss a word. Orchestral textures were sweet and vague, which I’ve found to be characteristic of both Dolby Digital and the default mixing preference for movie soundtracks in general. Brief passages with drums were well balanced, and my previous brief impressions of high sub volume didn’t recur.
Two-Channel Has Its Revenge
For my music demos, I switched off Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume but left MultEQ in the circuit. My days of anxiously turning MultEQ on and off may be behind me. As with Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume, I’ve come to trust Audyssey’s room correction.
Over a four-day weekend, I came to grips with Deutsche Grammophon’s seven-DVD set of Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven’s symphonies and piano concertos, along with several overtures: Missa Solemnis, Choral Fantasy, and String Quartet Op. 131 arranged for string orchestra. Given a choice between DTS 5.1 and PCM stereo, I surprised myself by consistently preferring the latter (in a mode that allows for bass management and room correction). Surround levels in the DTS mix were way too high, which made me feel like I was sitting in the last row of the balcony among a bunch of fidgeters and heavy breathers. On the other hand, the stereo mix put me in the middle of the hall, the prime spot, with the action coming from the stage. With or without the Dolby Pro Logic II Music mode, the stereo mix beat the surround mix consistently in tonal balance and musicality, showing Integra’s amplification at its most refined. In five piano concertos with soloist Krystian Zimerman, the Polish firebrand’s nimble yet powerful touch nestled in the heavenly textures of the world’s finest orchestra, and I was borne away.
Blue Öyster Cult’s Agents of Fortune—yes, the one with “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”—got the 5.1-channel treatment in a non-hybrid SACD release nine years ago. Once again, surround and stereo fought for my soul, and once again, stereo won. The high-resolution stereo mix had a kind of miraculous density that the high-resolution surround mix lacked. While the surround mix was less speaker-bound, it lost focus when even minor elements moved into the surround channels. The more prominent those elements were—say, the raga guitar solo in the middle section of “Reaper”—the more they broke the spell. In an A/V receiver with less resolution than this one, stereo would have had less of a chance. This is why you pay four figures for an AVR. Listening modes aside, higher overall performance gives you more choices.