The World's First 7.1-Channel A/V Receiver Revisited
Denon AVR-5800 AV Receiver The AVR-5800 may be the most iconic Denon AV receiver of all time. It debuted in 2000 to commemorate Denon's 90th anniversary and was the world's first 7.1 channel receiver, the first with DTS-ES Discrete 6.1, DTS-ES Matrix 6.1, and THX Surround EX (the forerunner of Dolby Digital Surround EX). Before the AVR-5800 arrived AV receivers, including the biggest flagship models, were all strictly 5.1 channel affairs. DTS ES and THX EX were the first six-channel codecs, with a single rear channel, but that surround channel was split to provide two rears and thus the need for 7 channel receivers. The AVR-5800 was a 7 x 170 watt design, and featured an IR and RF touch screen LCD remote, so you didn't have to point the remote towards the receiver to use it!
It was also the first receiver to sport twin Analog Devices SHARC Dual 32-bit Floating Point DSPs, which the AVR-5800 needed for the new DTS and THX codecs number crunching. The older Motorola chips that were commonly used in receivers didn't cut it anymore.
Beyond the specs and numbers it was the AVR-5800's sound quality that elevated the receiver to iconic status. Denon's Chief Engineer Hirofumi Ichikawa postponed the launch of AVR-5800 to devote extra development time to make a substantially better sounding receiver than the AVR-5700. The AVR-5800 not only had a turntable input, it shut down the receiver's digital processors when phono was selected, and the receiver had separate analog bass management circuitry for the analog inputs!
The U.S. retail price was $3,800 ($1,000 more than the AVR-5700), so it was the most expensive receiver on the market, but dealers couldn't get them fast enough, and their original allotments sold out within a few weeks. The AVR-5800 was the best selling mega receiver in the company's long history, and it went on to spawn the AVR-5803 and 5805.
Thanks go out to David Birch Jones, Denon's Marketing Manager in 2000, for helping me prepare this report.