Denon AVP-A1HDCI Surround Sound Processor and POA-A1HDCI Power Amplifier


In Use

I had several Denon players on hand which I used for the review, including the DVD-2500BTCI Blu-ray player that we recently reviewed, and a DVD-2930CI which is an SD DVD player with a Denon Link connection to feed the SSP SACD DSD bitstreams. Speakers were Paradigm Reference, Final Sound ESLs, and four Velodyne 18" subwoofers. Cables were Nordost. When I ran the Audyssey setup, I recorded the final settings so that I could experiment with manual changes to the speakers (loudness, crossover, etc.) and be able to go back and put in the original settings.

Below is a sample of the music and movies I enjoyed with the Denon system. I configured the amplifier as 7.1, and the SSP delivered audio to the seven channels, plus three discrete subwoofers (for the total of all ten channels on the SSP). I had four Velodyne 18" subwoofers for this purpose (two of them were connected to the LFE output, and the other two served as left and right subwoofer channels). I listened almost exclusively to SACDs and watched Blu-ray movies as they came in for review. They had either Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, or 48 kHz PCM soundtracks. Note that standard CDs can be played through the HDMI connection along with SACDs and movies. So, you don't really need analog cables at all with HDMI sources. In fact, that is the whole idea. Go Digital!

I must say that I have never had so much enjoyment from a surround sound system. Although I listened to my SACDs mostly in the Direct mode, I did occasionally change over to a mode where Audyssey EQ was in the path. Perhaps a little bit of accuracy was sacrificed by going through the additional processing, but the improvement in overall natural tonality was worth it. At the end, I was playing SACDs with Audyssey. It is addicting.

Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio movie soundtracks are a big, big jump from "old fashioned" DD 5.1. There is an obvious fidelity improvement that can be heard even in human voices, and the surround channels sound much more detailed.

Overall, the sound was very clear, detailed, without midrange mushiness (congestion) or other noticeable distortion, and I never had to turn the volume up anywhere close to 0 dB. With two-channel music, played in stereo (rather than processed with DTS Neo:6 for example), the sound stage was distinct, with instruments clearly placed. With multi-channel music, the discussion of sound stage becomes more difficult because there are so many speakers, but, it always sounded glorious, especially with SACD.

Denon AVP-A1HDCI SSP and POA-A1HDCI Amplifier Music and Movies

I connected the SSP to the Internet using a CAT-6 cable rather than using the wireless capability. When I tried the wireless setup, I was shown a list of six local networks, as SSID-1, SSID-2, etc. Normally, on a computer, the network names are displayed, such as SMITH-OFFICE, so you can easily determine which one is yours. On the SSP, the network names are not displayed, so you have to guess which one might be yours. If you have a large WEP password, such as I do, it takes a long time to scroll through all the capital letters, lower case letters, and numbers, one at a time to input the complete password. So, it was the hard wire network connection for me, and as soon as I plugged in the CAT-6 cable, the SSP made the proper connections and I was on line. I listened to some Internet Radio stations, but the sound is pretty awful because of the compression. One station from overseas, after playing some music that was barely listenable, said they were broadcasting at 36 kbps. No wonder it was terrible.

The AVP-A1HDCI also has the capability of using a Rhapsody account (you have to sign up and pay a fee) for quality on-line music. The network connection will allow you to connect to music files on one of your computers in the network, or a dedicated media server. The problem with media servers right now is that they don't let you store Blu-ray movies or high resolution audio. When that happens, I will use my media server through the Denon SSP. You can of course, just listen to FM/AM broadcasts through the tuner.

I did not use any of the extra zones that the AVP-A1HDCI has to offer because I have full audio setups in several other rooms.

There is an optional iPod dock that can be purchased to connect your iPod to the SSP, and the SSP will show the iPod contents which can be operated with the SSP remote control.

The AVP-A1HDCI has a video processor, offering basic features such as contrast, brightness, chroma level, hue, and sharpness. You can also scale incoming video to a preferred output resolution. In the SSP manual it is stated that THX recommends leaving the scaling option turned off. In my own case, if I use a video processor at all, it is an external one.