Kenwood Sovereign VR-5700 A/V Receiver Page 2
With all the options the VR-5700 brings to the table, the first question is where to start. Actually, for me, it's simple—good old two-channel—but those of you who are more in tune with the 21st century may have to give it more thought. I like what this piece does in stereo. It's direct and to the point, producing a clean, well-rounded sound that finishes off nicely. Tonal balance is generally solid, although I did note occasions with the Infinity system when the bass was tubby. The VR-5700's low-frequency performance was more accurate with the Phase Techs, although I doubt that most receiver buyers would find the occasional extra boom that the VR-5700 displayed with the Infinity speakers to be objectionable. Midrange performance was also solid, particularly with Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Tin Pan Alley" from the second Burmeister collection. On this track, the Kenwood delivered crisp notes with a nice sense of air and dimensionality. Texture was readily apparent, as well. Whether it's the D.R.I.V.E. circuitry or the quality internal componentry used throughout that should get the credit, I liked much of what I heard here.
After I warmed up my ears in the standard two-channel mode, I ran the same tracks back through Pro Logic II and some of the DTS multichannel schemes. Having become spoiled by DVD-Audio and SACD, it's naturally easier to hear the shortcomings of simulated multichannel formats; however, considering that the formats are often working with two-channel source material for music, I'm impressed by what they're able to do. They don't give you the separation and pinpoint accuracy of discrete processing formats, but they do give you a satisfactory way to start acclimating yourself to music in multiple channels without having to buy a new player or any new software. In the end, the final nod went to Pro Logic II, based on its higher degree of accuracy in the rear channels, but I also liked the DTS Neo:6 option and even found it to be superior with some source material. These two formats are close enough in performance that the ultimate determinant of which gets more play in your system will boil down to personal preference.
Both the Dolby Digital and the DTS processing were well up to par on this unit. The VR-5700 tossed the dense sonic imagery of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon efficiently and accurately, and it maintained its composure nicely with the gut-wrenching percussions of U-571. There was evidence of compression during U-571's most intense explosions when I pushed the VR-5700 beyond the limits of normalcy, but this effect is hardly unexpected with a receiver. For old time's sake, I gave Jurassic Park a spin and liked what I heard—a well-defined stage (although not as deep as that of most dedicated amps), clear separation, and quick, clean efficiency in effects distribution. The bottom end rumbled along nicely without straining, and the receiver crossed over nicely into the midrange without any major gaps.
The VR-5700's peripherals are solid. As I alluded to before, I prefer to do my interfacing via an onscreen system, which this unit doesn't have, but that's just me. The touchscreen remote covers just about everything an onscreen system would; so, once you get used to its particularities, you may find that you like this approach better. The remote offers several programmable features and macros, as well. The manual is straightforward and helpful, with important points repeated and singled out. The receiver's aesthetics are a plus, with an angular style that keeps the unit from looking like just another in a long line of black boxes. The front-panel display is comprehensive, and controls for several functions are hidden behind a flip-down door.
I've used the word "solid" a number of times in this review; so, in the final analysis, that's the adjective I'll stick with. The VR-5700 does nothing poorly and most everything well, but it does nothing remarkable, either—which is basically what you'd expect from a receiver in this price range. If you happen to have a couple of extra amp channels handy, this unit might be an interesting way to add Dolby EX and DTS ES to your system without having to pay high-end-receiver prices. The power for zone B is a bonus (although I still would've liked to see these channels dedicated to the main zone), and the VR-5700 has you well-covered in terms of features, connections, and processing options. Intense as the competition is in the receiver market, it doesn't surprise me to see a unit with an alternate take on power distribution. To the best of my knowledge, Kenwood is the first to go this route, but I doubt they'll be the last.
• Offers a full array of processing options
• THX Ultra-certified