Throughout my life as a home theater enthusiast and reviewer, I have always preferred products that offer high value. I have generally interpreted that to mean the products are simple to set up and operate. These products wouldn’t have a whole host of fancy features. Because that would be “clear” sign that the manufacturer focused their resources on circuit design and quality internal components, not on bells and whistles. Good sound quality is the main point, after all. I believed that anything which does not directly contribute to the primary objective was irrelevant, unnecessarily costly and would certainly degrade performance (right?). This assessment appeared to be especially germane when considering amplifiers and pre amps. But, with modern product design enhancements, digital control technologies and efficient manufacturing and shipping, all that is changing. Now a high-value product can have tons of flexibility and features without sacrificing sound quality to any appreciable extent.
So before me on this occasion is this modern surround sound receiver, the Integra DTR-50.1. I wouldn’t classify this complex receiver as an “everything but the kitchen sink” product, but it is amazingly flexible in terms of its set up options and operational functionality particularly when you consider its very reasonable suggested retail price of $1,400.
- Design: 7.2 A/V Receiver
- Power Output: 130 Watts RMS x 7 into 8 Ohms
- THD+N: 0.08%
- MFR: 5 Hz – 100 kHz ± 3 dB
- S/N: 110 dB (Line), 80 dB (Phono)
- Will Drive 4 Ohm Speakers
- DACs: 24/192 on All Channels
- Input Connections: 7 HDMI, 3 Component Video, 4 S-Video, Five Composite Video, 1 Ethernet, 3 Coaxial Digital, Two Toslink Optical Digital, 8 Analog Stereo Pairs
- Output Connections: 2 HDMI, 2 Component Video, 3 Composite Video, Full Set of Pre-Outs Including Two Subwoofers
- Component Video Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 100 MHz, – 3 dB
- Video Scaling to 1080p
- Audyssey Processing (Microphone Included) – Setup for “High” Channels
- Two TI (Aureus) 32-bit DSP Chipsets
- Sirius Radio
- Dimensions: 7.8″ H x 17.1″ W x 16.8″ D
- Weight: 39.2 Pounds
- MSRP: $1,400 USA
The Integra DTR-50.1 Surround Sound Receiver is a 7-channel three zone receiver. It is THX Select 2 Plus Certified. This means that the amplifier section should suffice to play at reference levels in home theaters of up to 2,000 cubic feet with a 10 – 12 foot viewing distance from the screen. The “Plus” designation indicates that the receiver includes additional enhancements, the most notable of which is the THX Loudness Plus. (More on this later.)
Integra has maintained a similar styling aesthetic for their products throughout their 10-year history. And it is a very nice aesthetic, with a black, brushed aluminum faceplate. Also typical for Integra are the nickel-colored On/Standby button and large volume knob. Those who are familiar with Integra products can recognize them at a glance. This DTR-50.1 receiver is well made, solidly constructed, and looks very nice.
The front panel has a two-line dot matrix display in the center of the panel. This display has numerous icons surrounding the center section that provide important operational information about the state of the receiver. Most of these icons are a little small for my eyes and require close-up inspection (with reading glasses affixed) to really determine what they are trying to tell me. The front panel also has direct source selection buttons, buttons to control the remote zones, tone controls, listening mode selection and a cursor control. You can basically control everything from the front panel.
The DTR-50.1 has a comprehensive array of front panel jacks as well. These include a headphone jack and a mini plug for the Audyssey set-up mic. The front panel inputs also include a USB jack, an additional HDMI input, a composite video input with stereo analog inputs as well as an optical digital input. This is a very complete set of front panel jacks for a moderately priced receiver.
On the rear panel, the DTR-50.1 has 6 HDMI inputs, 3 component inputs and 5 NTSC inputs (selectable composite or S-Video). The HDMI jacks have enough space between them that my locking Accel HDMI connectors fit without a hitch. There are 3 coaxial and 2 optical digital inputs on the rear panel along with 7 stereo analog inputs. One of these inputs is a phono input (MM).
There are no multi-channel analog inputs. The lack of a multi-channel input means that I could not listen to multi-channel SACD’s using my older Sony SACD player. Of course, my Oppo BDP-83 outputs multi channel SACD via HDMI as either PCM or DSD so the omission of a multi-channel analog input was not a major concern for me. It’s just something to keep in mind before you lay down serious cash for a high-end player with premium DAC’s and output stages or if you have a legacy player you like a lot.
The DTR-50.1 has numerous video outputs as well. Specifically, there are 2 HDMI, 2 Component, 1 S-video and 3 Composite. The 2 HDMI outputs can be used simultaneously or individually and each can be calibrated differently in the ISF calibration menu. This is really nice. I have a plasma display and a front projector with a retractable screen that slides down in front of the flat panel for the most serious viewing. With the Integra DTR-50.1, I was able to adjust the image independently for each display. The HDMI outputs can be run simultaneously. (I used the HDMI outputs simultaneously for our Super Bowl party this year.) Keep in mind that both HDMI outputs show whatever source is selected in the Main Zone. To take full advantage of the Integra’s independent multi-zone capabilities, you will need to use the Zone 2 component and/or composite outputs.
Line level outputs on the DTR-50.1’s rear panel include unbalanced 7.2-channel pre outs. The “.2” means that there are 2 sub outs. The same signal is present at each output. If you want an Integra receiver that outputs separate signals with different EQ curves for each of subwoofer then check into the DTR-70.1 or the DTR-80.1 as they have this capability. There are no line level outputs for the front effects channels. There are also 2 stereo analog outputs, one for each remote zone.
Now let’s talk about the speaker level outputs. There are 11 of them! Seven channels, eleven outputs. Confused? Don’t be, the point is that you can connect up to 11 satellites to the DTR-50.1. Then you can select up to 7 of those that you want to be active using the SP Layout button. You can also choose to bi-amp your main channels using the surround back binding posts in addition to the L/R posts. The speaker outputs are very solid binding posts that will accept banana plugs, pins or bare wire.
The Integra DTR-50.1 rear panel also has a Sirius radio input, IR ins and outs, 3 separate 12V trigger outs, an Ethernet input and a bi-directional RS 232 port. The Ethernet connection allows streaming of files from a server, network or Internet radio. The Integra includes several popular Internet radio services: Pandora, Rhapsody, SIRIUS internet Radio, and vTuner. This is from the press release, “[the DTR-50.1 is] compatible with Windows 7 and [is] certified with DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) version 1.5, ensuring optimal compatibility with other network-enabled equipment throughout the home. Finally, [the DTR-50.1] receiver also includes USB connectivity, further increasing the streaming audio options from either personal computers or USB-enabled portable devices.”
The DTR-50.1 has a Universal Port that can be used to connect an optional iPod dock (UP-A1) and/or an optional HD-Radio dock (UP-HT1). Yes, I said and/or because the two docks can be daisy chained as the UP-HT1 has a Universal Port input of its own.
The fully backlit remote control is a new design that I actually do not like as much as the former generation of Integra remotes. The older remote had a button on the side to turn on the backlighting. This button was easy to find in the dark. The new remote does not have this button. Also, the older remote had larger buttons and the print on them was much easier to read. But the newer remote is smaller and lighter. So the newer remote fit in my hand more comfortably. One major upgrade for the DTR-50.1’s remote is that it is bi-directional. This means that you can program the remote to control other equipment through the DTR-50.1’s GUI. That’s a nice feature!
The Integra DTR-50.1 employs the ubiquitous Audyssey MultEQ set up and room compensation software. I ran the setup routine for four seating positions and felt that the results were very good. I ran the routine several times as I had a total of three different speaker systems in my lineup throughout the review period. Pretty much every time I ran the Audyssey setup routine on the Integra, I was very satisfied with the results. So I did almost all of my listening with the Audyssey equalizer settings engaged.
The Integra DTR-50.1 includes the new Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing which upmixes source material to include front height speakers. It also has Audyssey Dynamic Surround Expansion (DSX) which can derive signals for front height or front width speakers. DSX also applies “Surround Envelopment Processing” to enhance the blend between the front and surround channels. I experimented with both the DPL IIz and Audyssey DSX. I preferred the DSX processing over the DPL IIz processing because the front width channels derived from the Audyssey DSX routine really did provide a greater improvement to the sound field than the front height channels derived by either DPL IIz or Audyssey DSX. If I were building a new theater from scratch, I would definitely consider front width and/or height speakers in the system. I might install a total of eleven satellites – FL, C, FR, SL, SR, SBL, SBR, and the 4 front effects channels because you can hook up all these speakers to the Integra DTR-50.1 and freely activate whichever speakers you choose for your listening session using the SP Layout button. Sadly, my current room configuration means that these additional channels would not be a reasonable permanent retrofit. Depending on the source material, the additional effects channels tended to make the front soundstage too diffuse at times. On the other hand, with good program material, the sound expansion was a meaningful improvement.
The Integra DTR-50.1 has THX Loudness Plus. According to the manufacturer, “with THX Loudness Plus, home theater audiences can now experience the rich details in a surround mix at any volume level. A consequence of turning the volume below Reference Level is that certain sound elements can be lost or perceived differently by the listener. THX Loudness Plus compensates for the tonal and spatial shifts that occur when the volume is reduced by intelligently adjusting ambient surround channel levels and frequency response. This enables users experience the true impact of soundtracks regardless of the volume setting. THX Loudness Plus is automatically applied when listening in any THX listening mode.”
This receiver has similar processing via Audyssey Dynamic EQ. The Integra can be set to override the THX Loudness Plus with the Audyssey routine, if you so desire. I generally ran the receiver with THX Loudness Plus when I had the Klipsch Icon W system in play. Alternately, I ran the DTR-50.1 with Audyssey Dynamic EQ when the Canton GLE system was being evaluated. I suggest that you try experimenting with these routines to find a setting you like. I found that when either of these routines was properly dialed in, the sound really did have a lot more meat on its bones when listening at socially responsible levels.
The Integra DTR-50.1 has Audyssey Dynamic volume which is intended to tame loud passages that are typical of cable, satellite and OTA feeds. I played with this feature a little, but I didn’t use it very much.
The DTR-50.1 features HDMI upscaling to 1080p via the Faroudja DCDi Cinema Enhancement solution. The Integra Receiver will also transcode and upconvert analog video to HDMI. Since I have an Oppo BDP-83 Universal player, I didn’t need (or want) deinterlacing support for any of my disk-based material. When it came to deinterlacing the 1080i signal from my DirecTV DVR, however, I much preferred the results achieved via the Faroudja DCDi Cinema Enhancement over the deinterlacer in my Pioneer Kuro plasma display. The Faroudja DCDi Cinema Enhancement did a good job resolving the 3:2 pull-down on film based material. Likewise, the Faroudja chip is motion-adaptive and really excelled when processing video signals. So I pretty much let the receiver deinterlace all signals from my DirecTV DVR.
This receiver has extensive video calibration controls which let the user adjust basic and advanced picture parameters. These controls are located in two places within the DTR-50.1’s menu tree. Basic picture controls are found in the Monitor Out menu. These settings adjust all the inputs simultaneously for each video output. The more advanced controls are found in the Source Setup Menu. Here you will find the same basic picture controls plus it adds brightness and contrast controls for the primaries as well as a gamma adjustment. The settings in the Source Setup Menu are source-dependent.
In addition to these video controls, the Integra DTR-50.1 also features the Imaging Science Foundation Certified Calibration Controls (ISFccc). This hidden menu lets the installer/calibrator fine tune picture controls. Each HDMI output can be configured differently in the ISFccc menu. These adjustments add control over the secondary colors. Plus there are memory slots for day and night for each source. The DTR-50.1 has a third memory slot for custom adjustments that can be made by the user.
The published power output of the Integra is 130 watts per channel with 2 channels driven full band at a maximum THD of 0.08%. This appears to be a somewhat optimistic specification when you consider that the DTR-50.1 has a total of 7 amplifier channels and it doesn’t have the most massive power supply I’ve seen. Be that as it may, I used this receiver to drive the Canton GLE speaker system with the main speakers crossed over at 40 Hz. The Integra DTR-50.1 never really even broke a sweat. The GLE’s are rated at 4 ohms nominal and I left the Integra DTR-50.1 set to 8 ohms. This system filled my large room to reference levels without complaint except for really extreme material that stressed the sub well before stressing the receiver.
I used the Integra DTR-50.1 with primarily two different sets of speakers – the Canton GLE 470 system and the Klipsch Icon WB-14 system. The Cantons are rated 4 ohms nominal. The Klipsch speakers have a main driver with an impedance dip which demands a little more current from an amp than the speakers’ highish sensitivity ratings would imply. I left the DTR-50.1 set for 8 ohms throughout the review period and never really reached the receiver’s practical output limit. I had up to 7 satellites in action at any given time. Nevertheless, the DTR-50.1 was capable of producing adequate current to safely drive these different speakers.
My budget reference receiver is an Onkyo TX-SR805. This receiver can tend towards brightness with certain material. So I was concerned that the DTR-50.1 may suffer the same tendency. I am pleased to report that the Integra receiver never came through with a bright edge. In fact, the DTR-50.1 had a special harmonic richness to its sound. I even likened the effect to somebody pouring maple syrup on my head. Even though its sound was harmonically rich, the DTR-50.1 was still open and transparent sounding.
I am writing this review after having put my reference Onkyo receiver back into the system. The Onkyo simply switches HDMI. It does not deinterlace or scale the signal. Right now, I am really missing the Integra receiver for its video prowess. It was great at deinterlacing DirecTV signals. And it more cleanly switches the pristine signal from my Oppo BDP-83 Blu-Ray player. The subjective difference between the two receivers is not subtle and I much prefer the Integra with respect to its handling of HDMI video signals.
The DTR-50.1 reproduced Hilary Hahn’s violin with almost no electronic haze on her 1999 CD release of Beethoven Violin Concerto and Bernstein Serenade. Thanks to Audyssey Dynamic EQ, the Hahn CD had substantial presence at every volume setting which really helped me hear all the natural harmonics from Ms. Hahn’s instrument.
In the Pixar movie Up, Michael Giacchino score was reproduced with great delicacy. Voice reproduction was very transparent through the DTR-50.1. This receiver produced fine bass weight on this movie.
This receiver cleanly passed along all the sonic complexity contained within the Blu-Ray of Jeff Beck: Performing This Week – Live at Ronnie Scott’s. The DTR-50.1 preserved the natural timbre of instruments on this disc and the bass was extremely tuneful. In my listening notes, I wrote that the music took on a fiery intensity through the Integra. There was also a very seductive presence in the midrange, particularly with the few tracks on this disk which feature vocals.
The Integra created a nice surround bubble on Star Trek. I watched this movie on the Klipsch Icon W system at reference levels. The more majestic sound effects were reproduced with great intensity. This movie played through the Integra DTR-50.1 reminds me why I’m so in to Home Theater!
There Will Be Blood has a generally sparse soundtrack that is interspersed with various loud effects-filled scenes. During the sparse scenes, the background orchestral music involved a lot of minor chords. I liked the way the DTR-50.1 passed along the creepy, discordant emotions in this music. This receiver was capable of wide dynamics and the louder scenes were quite impressive. The music in the gusher scene had great clarity in the upper registers and I felt that the DTR-50.1 did a good job of preserving the air in the soundtrack. And Daniel Plainview’s voice thundered mightily in the bowling alley scene!
The Integra DTR-50.1 receiver is an amazingly feature rich product for its $1,400 asking price. What I like most about this receiver is that it provides this high degree of flexibility without compromising its sound quality. The DTR-50.1 has great clarity of sound and never tended towards brightness which is a common fault of my reference receiver. The Integra also produced adequate current to drive all manner of speakers to reference levels at an average seating distance of about 11 ft. Add to that the new Audyssey DSX, Audyssey Dynamic EQ, and THX Loudness Plus. Now you have a receiver that offers an expanded sound field and it sounds great at moderate volume levels on both movies and music.
I liked the Integra DTR-50.1 so much that I went ahead and purchased the review unit. I highly recommend this receiver to any budget-conscious home theater enthusiast.