Setup of the DTC-9.8 was as simple as any receiver I have
used. The menu system is easy to
follow and visually attractive as well.
It is nice to see an SSP that has put some work into making the
menus look good as well as functional.
While the menus have all the same functions as a typically
the devil is in the details so to speak.
At secrets we are always impressed when a processor allows us to set
distance in either feet or meters selectable by the user (if it uses
milliseconds, we typically just send the processor back with a note saying
when you build something in this century send us another one).
The next requirement is being able to
set the distance in increments of 0.5 ft.
Many (even very respectable) processors have one foot as the basic
unit. The 9.8 takes it one step
further allowing increments of 0.2 ft.
If you choose to use the Audyssey setup in the Integra you
can pretty much bypass dealing with setting distances and levels for the
speakers. I spent a lot of time
trying to find the Audyssey setup in the menu system to discover that it wasn't
there. A quick check of the
manual reveals that you simply plug in the calibration mic and the Audyssey
setup menu appears (very nice usability).
The Audyssey setup was very accurate in my theater although it did
suggest 120/150 Hz crossover points for my side and rear surrounds, and while
it is possible, they start to roll off before 80 Hz, so 120 Hz is a bit high.
A quick adjustment in the menu allows you to override this setting as
well as another other basic setting in terms of distance or level. The setup
also wanted to leave my main floor-standing speakers full spectrum, which I moved
back to 80 Hz.
There is a lot of
debate about using crossover frequencies lower than 80 Hz for your main
channels. THX would recommend
(especially if using their THX certified speakers) 80 Hz as an optimal point. I am not going to cover any of that here, but you can refer to
a Colin Miller and
Brian Florian essay for more reading
The setup does not allow you to adjust the slopes or frequencies it
set up at part of the calibration in terms of room correction.
If you want to attempt to perform room corrections yourself, you can
disable the Audyssey and configure the graphical EQ manually.
The HDMI menu lets the user choose what
resolution they would like the output scaled to. The choices are 480p,
720p, 1080i, and 1080p. There is
also an Auto and a Through mode.
The Auto mode will basically negotiate supported resolutions with the
display device and convert all input video signals not supported by your
display to use a supported one.
In a perfect world that should be what everyone would do, but we have
experienced some issues using 'Auto' methods in the past with some displays
and some devices (specifically issues with games consoles and budgets
displays). The Through option
allows the source device to control the resolution and bypasses the scaling
in the 9.8. In my case, about 90%
of my content comes off an HTPC which outputs native 1080p, so there is no
need for the 9.8 to further process the signal.
The 9.8 also allows for lip-sync delay to avoid issues of
video processing delays where the video lags behind the audio.
There is a lack of a 60fps to 24fps conversion when the system is
scaling. I hope Integra will
implement this in a future firmware upgrade, but the unit does pass 24fps
signals if your device supports it.
Integra was also kind enough to send me a firmware upgrade for my
unit, showing that they can be upgraded.
They are not sure if this is a dealer upgrade or a user upgrade, but
that doesn't matter to me. I am just happy to know it can be upgraded.
This particular upgrade added minor adjustments for black/white levels
and further enhancements and adjustments for picture mode, edge enhancement,
brightness, hue, contrast, saturation, and mosquito, random, and block noise
As mentioned above, every stereo and multi-channel audio
format I can think of is supported by this unit.
I could list every audio format the system supports but it is easier
to refer to pages 80-82 of the manual which can be downloaded here
To give you an idea of how complete it is beyond all the Dolby, DTS,
lossless stereo and multi-channel PCM formats, the 9.8 also supports the DSD
format on SACD discs as a digital bitstream from your player.
Integra has added a few
(though not as many as other) surround modes (for instance Orchestra
and Unplugged) to enhance your listening experience.
While these may be fun from time to time, we don't see too many
serious listeners using them on a regular basis.
There are a few other features we look for at Secrets when
we review an SSP or a receiver.
I will cover those quickly below. For additional details see:
Muting: All, or Adjustable between
-50 and -10 dB
Power On-Volume/Max Volume: Last, Off, or
adjustable between -81 and +18 dB max and can be applied for each
Input Level Trim: -12 to +12dB per input
Volume Scale and Speaker Calibration Level: No
Headphone: only for Main Zone and mutes
speakers upon connection
Crossover Frequency: Adjustable.
LFE Trim: Yes (DD, DTS, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD,
DSD and Multich PCM)
Parametric Subwoofer Eq: Audyssey MultEQ XT as
well or 15 band graphic.
Surround Mode Pre-Set: Yes
Multiple Surround Management: No
Academy Mono Filter: No but has its own mono
Setting Storage: Yes plus lock.
Comparisons to a $999 Receiver
Onkyo and Integra obviously share a lot of technology
between their product lines and sell substantially more units than boutique
brands of audio gear. This helps
keep the prices down and allows them to implement technology on the cutting
Sometimes users question
if they are getting any value in buying a higher end piece from a company
like Integra over say a mid-lineup receiver and just using the receiver as an
SSP. This is one time where
we can make a direct comparison of the two options.
Brian Florian recently reviewed the
While these reviews have very little to do with one another (SSP
vs. receiver) you can't help but draw a few comparisons.
As an example, both have Audyssey room setup, HDMI 1.3a, and support
all the latest surround formats.
One would hope that for $600 more than the 805, the Integra 9.8 would have
superior audio and video circuitry.
Brian lives fairly close to me, so we measured both units using the exact
same equipment. In all aspects,
the 9.8 measured better. In the
simple frequency response test, while the receiver is down almost 0.75 dB from
20 Hz to 20 kHz, the Integra 9.8 is down only 0.015 dB over the same
frequency range. This kind of performance is amazing for an SSP at this
THD+N was lower on the 9.8 than the 805 as well.
Some of the internal components are better in the 9.8 as well.
example, it uses a toroidal power supply
transformer, where the receiver just uses a conventional (though massive) power
transformer. The menu options
are different too, as the SR805 only allowed 0.5 ft increment adjustments
for speaker distance, while the 9.8 allows for 0.2.
So, don't be worried about spending
the extra coin on the 9.8. You really are getting more for the money.
Go to Part III.