Denon DHT-485DV Home Theater in a Box (HTIB) with DVD Player, Receiver, Speakers, and Subwoofer June, 2005 Piero Gabucci
Recently, as I completed the set-up of the Denon DHT-485DV HTIB that I had been sent for review, a friend stopped by on another matter and I invited him to sit in for my first listening.
The Denon being a 6.1 Dolby EX decoding system, I dropped Gladiator into the DVD player and began watching the opening scene. My friend kept asking me to turn it up as he was enjoying the intense early battle activity. Much to his dismay I stopped the playback after about 20 minutes, because I was curious to his reaction. Not because he's an audiophile or a home theater enthusiast, in fact I know he doesn't own a system, but because I think he is the specific target for this system, someone either new, or looking for a modestly priced product. Needless to say, his comments were insightful and he thoroughly enjoyed the brief demonstration, as I did.
In the $699 MSRP Denon DHT-485DV package, you'll receive the new AVR-485 receiver, the DVD-555 player, and the SYS-65HT 6.1 speaker system. Included are five satellites (SC-A65), a horizontally-oriented center channel (SC-C65), and a hearty powered subwoofer (DSW-65). While both the receiver and the DVD player are available for sale individually, the speaker package is not.
The entire package is finished in gray from top to bottom. In fact, the silvery finish tends to disappear in some decors, interesting for those looking to minimize the visual impact of seven speakers in their homes.
One of the things I like about this package is the separate components, not necessarily a new concept, but it allows upgrading a bit at a time. The AVR-485 is a 6.1 channel receiver capable of delivering up to 110 WPC for 6 ohm speakers and a THD at 0.7%. As the speakers included are 6 ohms, there is plenty of power.
Across the board of receivers from Denon, the AVR-485 shares all the same design characteristics: large knobs, an informative display, on/off as well as standby mode (so you're remote can activate the unit(s) without getting out of your chair).
On the rear, the receiver offers eight pairs of analog inputs, a set of six analog inputs (called EXT) for use with a DVD-A/SACD player (the included player does not decode DVD-A or SACD though), and two digital inputs, one each for optical and coaxial. Video inputs include three component, four composite, and three S-Video. On the audio output (line-level) side, there is a subwoofer pre-out and two recording loops. Video outputs include a component for your monitor and two each, composite, and S-Video.
The AVR-485 is not a multi zone unit, but it does offer A/B speaker terminals.
As this is a new receiver, it decodes pretty much everything, including DTS 96/24 for DVD-Video, DD EX, DTS-ES Discrete and Matrix 6.1, DTS Neo:6, and Pro Logic IIx.
System set-up includes speaker size, distance, and a subwoofer crossover frequency range from 40 Hz to 250 Hz. Internal test tones allow for channel adjustments from -12 dB to +12 dB. There are digital-in assignments for the coaxial and optical inputs. All set-up is done from the receiver's front panel, so you don't need to turn on your TV to view the OSD for this.
Auto Surround mode detects analog PCM, two-channel stereo, or Dolby Digital/DTS as well as multi-channel formats. Bass management for the EXT inputs includes subwoofer boost of up to 15 dB.
The AVR-485 allows you to choose a variety of surround parameters in both Cinema and Music modes. Three interesting modes are possible: Panorama On/Off, for extending the front stereo to include surround speakers, a Dimension Control adjusts from front to rear in increments from 0 to 6, and a Center Width Control, allowing you to choose which of the front speakers delivers the center channel sound image (directly from the center speaker or a phantom image from the left/right speakers).
A DSP (Digital Signal Processor) Surround Simulation feature seven surround modes, including the one I enjoy, 5Ch/6Ch stereo, Mono Movie, Rock Arena, Jazz Club, Video Game, Matrix, and finally Virtual. They all offer a variety of sound experiences.
The FM tuner allows 56 stations, and an Auto Preset function will find and store them for you.
The DVD Player
The DVD-555, Denon's affordable progressive scan DVD player will play back DVD-R/RW/+R/+RW, MP3, as well as WMA (Windows Media Audio) version 9. It also decodes 24/96 PCM digital, Dolby Digital, and DTS material.
Outputs include Component and S-Video for video output, and digital outputs from either the coaxial or optical connections for audio.
All DVD player set-up is done through the remote control and the OSD (shown above). A quick set-up in my test room defaulted to English, a 4:3 screen, and Dolby/DTS activated, allowing me to immediately play movies. The Custom menu will let you make video and audio changes and control rating level.
Strangely, but not surprising since this is a package of components put together, two remotes were included.
The RC-982 (the one on the left, in the photo) that came with the DVD player is simple, straightforward, and extremely easy to use. The larger RC-977 that comes with the AVR-485 receiver is a universal learning remote, capable of controlling both components from the slide of a switch from audio to video. Neither would win innovation awards, but nonetheless, they performed nicely. Put the DVD remote away and use the RC-997.
The SYS-65HT 6.1 speaker system includes five satellites consisting of the SC-A65, which is a two-way speaker design, having a single 3 ½” driver along with a 1” tweeter. Rated at 6 ohms, these units weigh 2 pounds and stand 7” or so tall. The center channel SC-C65 has dual 3” drivers and a centered 1” tweeter, weighing 3 pounds and is almost 12” long. All the satellites are magnetically shielded. On the rear of each satellite are wall mounting posts and recessed screw holes for stand mounting.
The subwoofer, DSW-65 with a built-in 100 watt amplifier, is surprisingly ample for this system. Front ported with a 10” down-firing driver, there are many options for optimizing this unit. The subwoofer features a standby mode so you're not having to turn the unit on or off, volume control, and a manual crossover if your SSP is not setting it automatically. As included are a LF direct on/off, and a phase switch.
Lastly, also included in the package are speaker wires, probably 16 gauge, and a subwoofer line cable.
Although the intent from Denon is to give the user a simple and quickly set up system, there are some very nice added benefits (from the receiver especially) that allow further tweaking. I'm sure, as you continue using the DHT-485, you'll discover many nuances that are adjustable.
The manual is standard Denon stuff, I'll leave it alone.
I did listen to the system in two different room sizes, and the very portable speakers made that easy. The best listening was in my smaller den, where I wall-mounted the satellites.
I won't make presumptions about how the DVD-555 would perform on Kris' bench tests. Operationally I will tell you the unit worked very well. It played every CD and DVD I put into the carousel, and the video results were pleasant, no complaints.
I began with two- channel material and played it back in both stereo mode as well as with various DSP modes. Stereo mode can also be played back in Direct mode which switches all circuitry unnecessary for playback to Off for the best stereo playback. I really wanted to give the package a good exercise, so my music selection was all over the place.
Miles Davis' Kind of Blue CD comes out once in awhile and I sat through most of it, which told me I was enjoying the performance, although I will tell you, I needed to play it a bit louder than normal to hear enough detail to satisfy me. Jimmy Buffet's newest CD, License to Chill has a few interesting melodies, my favorite "Boats to Build" is a duet with Alan Jackson. I found the vocals and steel drums nicely blended.
As this is really a home theater package, watching movies is where I spent most of my time evaluating. Besides watching Gladiator with the early battle scenes (I enjoyed the 6.1 playback), I also checked out Collateral, with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. The subwoofer performed very nicely, and the gun-fire thundered and exploded, shaking me on the couch.
The sound track from Pirates of the Caribbean was noticeably forward, but although I needed to get used to it, I rather enjoyed the difference. Swordplay also made me take notice of the detail that the AC-A65 satellite is capable of producing.
As I mentioned, the subwoofer, if placed properly, really makes a difference in making this package a performer. I qualify this statement by saying most people with HTIB packages that I visit rarely have the subwoofer properly set up. In the Superbit version of The Fifth Element, I noticed the subwoofer rumbled during many scenes from rocket-fire to the many explosions, truly engaging me.
Generally I was pleased, if not delighted by the performance of this package. The receiver offers plenty of power, and the modest set-up procedure should appeal to the novice. The DVD player with its adequate set-up options worked nicely.
Critical to getting the best performance out of this system is the placement of the speakers. The center channel speaker was a bit dry for my taste when placed in a cabinet (which may be typical for an HTIB). Out in the open, the center channel's performance increased dramatically. The satellites offered just enough detail to make any movie enjoyable; although punchy they did lack some depth. I would definitely keep the subwoofer if I ever considered upgrading the system; the unit won me over in this price range.
Whether you're looking for your first home theater package or looking for a modestly priced system for a den or master bedroom, Denon's DHT-485DV HTIB will deliver. Even in your main watching room, you won't be disappointed; the speakers are small enough to blend in with the décor, yet provide very enjoyable performance. The receiver will accommodate future upgrades, such as a DVD-A/SACD player.
There are many HTIB packages available out there ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands. At the mid-lower end, the Denon fits in nicely. The DHT-485DV offers enough performance and upgradeability to be a confident choice for anyone wanting a small system.
- Piero Gabucci -
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