Integra DTR-9.9 A/V Receiver Real-World Performance
All of my listening tests were done using the Integra's digital inputs—coaxial for 2-channel playback, HDMI audio for surround sources.
A/V receivers have received a bum rap from audiophiles over the years as sonically inferior to separates. While that is true to a degree, an important qualifier is missing—price. There are very few separates available at the DTR-9.9's price, even fewer with its lineup of features, and none that are likely to produce better sound with a good, mid-priced speaker package.
Well-recorded 2-channel music sounded very sweet on the Integra. A trace of excessive low treble occasionally joined the party, but never enough to spoil the fun. Its bass and midbass were tight and detailed as long as the main speakers and the powered subwoofer were properly blended. I initially thought the receiver sounded slightly bloated, but turning the subwoofer down by no more than 2dB completely eliminated this issue. The receiver produced a superb soundstage as well, both in width and depth.
I listened briefly to multichannel music from SACD. It was played on a Pioneer DV-58AV universal DVD player connected to the Integra via HDMI, activating the receiver's DSD mode, and it sounded superb. At one point, the receiver refused to lock onto the incoming DSD datastream for unknown reasons. (The lock-on is automatic; you can't select DSD mode manually.) But this could just as easily have been a player or HDMI issue. Most of the time, player and receiver linked up perfectly for DSD playback.
On to the movies. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Blu-ray, DTS-HD Master Audio) sounded a bit on the bright side. This could be tamed with Re-EQ, but at the loss of high-end openness—one reason I prefer to avoid Re-EQ in listening evaluations. Despite this, the movie was a wild ride, with solid bass and active surrounds. The Integra gave its all to make the movie tolerable, though no one will ever call Brendan Fraser's third plunge into mummy-madness a classic.
I obviously have a high tolerance for really bad popcorn flicks, which also includes Eagle Eye (Blu-ray, Dolby TrueHD). Its plot is one long, incredibly paranoid, privacy-intrusion delusion and so ridiculously over the top that it just might be (unintentionally) one of the best comedies of the year. No matter. The audio on this soundtrack is explosive, with gunfire, shorting and sparking high-tension power lines, shattering glass, jets taking off, car chases, and powerful bass. In short, it has stuff blowing up, shorting out, taking off, running amuck, and breaking up. As Stereophile magazine's founder, J. Gordon Holt, has often said (sort of), the worse the movie, the better the soundtrack. For me, as heard through the Integra receiver, it was a two-star film, but the audio was a four-star guilty delight.
No less pleasurable, and for better reasons, were two much better films and an animated short. Transformers (Blu-ray, Dolby TrueHD) also offers more than its fair share of mayhem, but my favorite demo sequence in this movie is much quieter, starting from the beginning of chapter 11 and extending through the flashback showing the discovery of Megatron in the ice cave. The soundtrack here is full of both overt and subtle sonic details, deep bass, and, most impressively, a superbly cinematic score. The Integra didn't disappoint me on any of it.
Nor did it fail to make the most of the title sequence from Serenity (chapter 3, Blu-ray, DTS HD-Master Audio). This scene starts out with a shot of the tramp steamer—er, spaceship—Serenity, accompanied by a superbly sweet-sounding and poignant string score. But the peaceful scene is quickly broken by a tremendous musical crescendo underscored by the raucous sound of rocket engines under full thrust. Through it all, the Integra retained both the clean integrity of the music and the combined dynamism of the music and engines.
For a music recording on Blu-ray, it's hard to beat the soundtrack to "One Man Band" on the Pixar Short Films Collection. Ranging through a wide variety of instrumental sounds, both individually and in combination, this selection, mastered with an uncompressed 24-bit/48kHz PCM soundtrack, tells a lot about a system's ability to do a great job on surround music. The Integra handled it beautifully.
All of the above observations were made with the Audyssey and THX enhancements turned off. I also tried them both, separately. Audyssey MultEQ XT tightened up the bass still further, and Dynamic EQ subtly but noticeably enhanced the sound without adding artificial-sounding coloration. Below a certain sound level, of course, Dynamic EQ's preservation of fully balanced audio can't completely compensate for the sheer visceral thrill of higher SPLs. But you can back off the volume somewhat and retain the same impression of loudness as before—which might make a worthwhile contribution to domestic tranquility.
THX Loudness Plus decreased the sound's transparency, even with Re-EQ defeated, to the point where it sounded a little bland and homogenized. But your preferences for any or all of the Integra's features, and which to use or not, will depend on the program material as well as your room, system, and personal preferences.