- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 27 October 2008
Introduction and Design
Denon's A1HDCI is a surround sound processor (SSP) that a lot of people have been waiting for, including me. It turned out to be everything I was anticipating, and more.
The processor has twelve channels for the main zone (there are two additional zones for other rooms). The basic configuration is Front Left, Front Right, Center, Surround A Left, Surround A Right, Surround B Left, Surround B Right (Surround A speakers are direct to the side of the listener, while Surround B speakers are to the side and rear), Surround Back Left, Surround Back Right (Surround Back speakers are placed on the rear wall), Subwoofer 1, Subwoofer 2, and Subwoofer LFE.
Each one of these channels is fully balanced with a 24/192 stereo DAC (one channel of the DAC handles the + portion of the signal, and the other channel handles the - portion).
There are six individual power transformers for maximum noise attenuation and separation of the audio and video circuits. The video circuit will de-interlace and scale all video signals through a Silicon Optix HQV Realta video chipset. Those six transformers, plus an overall massive build quality, result in the A1HDCI weighing almost 60 pounds. That is more than the average receiver with all its power amplifiers.
Built-in 80211b/g network capabilities will let you stream music from your network server or PC, and also your iPod. You can do this wirelessly or with an Ethernet cable.
The A1HDCI handles just about every audio processing algorithm out there. Here is a graphic from the Denon website showing what this processor will do.
Notice in particular that it has Audyssey processing, which will adjust the loudness and frequency response of each speaker, and adjust the time delay depending on the distance of each speaker from the listening position. This is all done automatically through the use of the included microphone which you place in several (usually six) different positions, and the processor collects data from each position, finally calculating the most appropriate sound overall. Audyssey also includes Dynamic EQ which adjusts the relative volume of the surround channels and the LFE channel at a different rate than the front left, center, and right channels. This is because when we turn down the main volume, the rear channels get so quiet that we lose the sense of a surround space. Audyssey Dynamic EQ takes care of that problem.
- AVP-A1HDCI SSP
- Design: Digital Surround Sound Processor with Video Processing
- Channels: 12; RCA and XLR Outputs for All Channels
- Codecs: All Dolby Digital Codecs including Dolby TrueHD, All DTS Codecs including DTS-HD Master Audio
- THX Ultra2 Certified
- THD+N: 0.08%, 0.005% in Direct Mode
- DACs: Differential (Balanced ) 24/192 on All Channels
- Three Additional Zones
- Inputs: Six HDMI (1.3a), Firewire, Coaxial Digital, Stereo Analog Audio Pairs (RCA/XLR for CD Player), Optical, S-Video, Component Video, Composite Video, USB
- Outputs: RCA and XLR Audio, Two HDMI, Coaxial Digital, Optical, S-Video, Component Video, Composite Video, Trigger (to turn on other equipment)
- Ethernet Connection for Playing Music from Home Network Server or PC
- Dimensions: 8.5" H x 17.1" W x 19.25" D
- Weight: 59.5 Pounds
- MSRP: $7,500 USA
- POA-A1HDCI Power Amplifier
- Number of Channels: 10
- Power Output: 150 Watts RMS into 8 Ohms, 20 Hz - 20 kHz; 300 Watts RMS into 4 Ohms
- THD+N: 0.05% at 8 Ohms, 0.7% at 4 Ohms
- MFR: 10 Hz - 100 kHz, Minus 3 dB
- Configurable for Bi-Amping and Bridging (Two Channels Bridged Output 300 Watts RMS into 8 Ohms)
- Dimensions: 11.1" H x 17.2" W x 20.7" D
- Weight: 132 Pounds
- MSRP: $7,500 USA
The Denon Link is another noteworthy feature. Because of copyright protection issues, it has been difficult to develop a method of sending SACD bitstreams (DSD) from players to processors. Denon simply designed their own connection, called the Denon Link, where DSD signals are encrypted, sent via the link to a Denon processor that has a Denon Link jack (the A1HDCI has it). The DSD signals are unencrypted, decoded, and played through the processor. With HDMI version 1.3a, SACD bitstreams are allowed, but I have found difficulties in getting it to work properly. The Denon Link, on the other hand, worked perfectly when I connected a Denon DVD-2930CI DVD player to the A1HDCI processor. Since that point, I have been catching up on all the multi-channel SACDs that I have accumulated over the years never had the chance to listen to them in full multi-channel DSD bitstream mode (dedicated SACD players are two-channel only, and for other systems, the DSD is converted to PCM before decoding and playing). Using the Denon Link, DSD bitstreams from an SACD remains DSD all the way through the processor until it is finally converted to analog for output to the power amplifier.
In terms of processing, I don't think Denon left anything out. It handles every codec out there, and has multiple post-processing features such as Timbre Matching (matches the sound of the rear surrounds to the front speakers which are usually bigger speakers), Advanced Speaker Array (coordinates the sound between the side and rear speakers), and Boundary Gain Compensation (adjusts the bass depending on how far out from the wall the speakers are located). It also has the standard requisite features such as Cinema EQ (reduces the harshness that movie soundtracks tend to have because they are designed to be played in commercial theaters where the speakers are, by comparison, much farther away from the listener), Dynamic Compression (makes the soft sounds louder and the loud sounds softer), Panorama, and Lip Sync (an HDMI version 1.3a feature). Dialog Normalization (Dial Norm) is automatic, and occasionally one sees a message about it displayed on the front panel, telling you that it is functioning to keep various programs at the same listening level). Denon's Advanced AL 24 Processing upsamples all the audio to 24 bit. There are also numerous THX modes.
Although the standard Dolby Digital and DTS codecs that we have been using with SD DVDs are all there, it is really the inclusion of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio that distinguish the processor from many others that don't have these codecs yet.