|Denon AVR-4806 7.1-Channel Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Thursday, 01 December 2005|
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The AVR-4806 took the place of the recently-reviewed Harman Kardon AVR-7300 as the big dog on my rack. While still quite large, it was a lot easier to maneuver than its Harman contemporary. Next I connected my Denon 3910 universal player via the Denon Link, IEEE 1394 and DVI outputs. To test the AVR-4806’s HD capabilities, I connected my JVC Digital VHS player via its component and optical outputs. With my HDMI to DVI adapter in tow, I connected my Panasonic PT-500U HD LCD projector to the AVR-4806’s HDMI monitor out. Lastly, my Definitive Technology ProCinema 80 system was ready and waiting to handle all of my surround sound and stereo needs.
With that little dance out of the way, it was time for the often-maddening process of calibration. Having just reviewed the Harman Kardon AVR-7300, I was a little skeptical of the AVR-4806’s “automatic” set-up. Wanting to believe in the technology, I gave it a whirl. I unboxed the small UFO-shaped microphone, plugged it into the front of the AVR-4806 and set it atop one of my many camera tripods. By pressing set-up on the remote, the first option you’ll see through the OSD (On Screen Display) is the Auto Set-up. Without consulting the manual, I was able to navigate my way through the process with little trouble. Following the instructions on the screen, I had successfully completed the auto set-up in a little less than 20 minutes. I then checked my results by going over the instructions, as well as manually calibrating the AVR-4806 with very similar results. Once you’ve completed the set-up, there are four EQ settings. First off, there is the highly touted MultEQ setting, which the manufacturer claims provides a higher sense of realism to any environment, based on data inputted from the AVR-4806’s microphone. Next up is a setting called Front, which basically balances out the response from the front and rear speakers and makes them essentially equal. Third on the list is Flat setting, which provides for the smoothest frequency response in the specific room where the AVR-4806 is set up. Lastly, you have a manual option that allows you manually adjust the sound parameters to fit your personal tastes. While the EQ settings will assist in giving you the best possible audio reproduction, they will in no way make up for a poorly designed room or system. In my set-up, I found the Flat setting to be pretty ideal in terms of overall performance and chose to carry out all of my listening tests with it turned on.
Music and Movies
I started my two-channel listening tests with Darren Hayes’s second solo album The Tension and the Spark (Columbia). The once-front man for the highly successful Australian duo Savage Garden, Hayes has managed to carve out a very respectable solo career with his first album Spin and continues to do so with The Tension and the Spark. On the opening track “Darkness,” the AVR-4806 treated me to some of the cleanest high frequencies I’ve heard in my room to date. At first, I thought the highs were a little rolled off, but as the song progressed, I began to realize I had become accustomed to my previous gear. With the highs kept nicely in check, the midrange gained some much needed emphasis and weight. As for the bass, the AVR-4806 was no slouch. It maintained a very tight grip on my subwoofer, providing for a very articulate and weighty performance that on several occasions made me rethink the overall capabilities of my sub in general. Moving on to the track “Dublin Sky,” the AVR-4806 saved Hayes’ vocals once again from sounding overly synthesized while placing some of the more acoustic elements of the song virtually in the room with me. Again, the bass plunged deeper than I had previously experienced, but this time it seemed to lack just a bit of the weight that I had achieved with other receivers. Overall, the AVR-4806 was very dynamic and rhythmic when called upon and, with its 140 watts at the helm, it never ran out of juice. In terms of soundstage, the AVR-4806 tended to favor width over depth, which is consistent with my previous experiences with Denon gear. For me, I’d rather have a soundstage that is well defined, with the appropriate amount of air between the performers, than one that shows off by placing the drummer waaaaay in the back of my room. If I had to make an analogy based on my recent review of the Harman Kardon AVR-7300, I’d equate the Denon AVR-4806 to European roadster, with the Harman Kardon representing a more classic American muscle car.
Moving on to multi-channel music, I focused my attention on the DVD-Audio release of Metallica’s Black Album (Electra). On the opening track, “Enter Sandman,” the AVR-4806 dished out one of the more true to life performances in terms of scale and weight I’ve ever heard. When the drums finally kicked in (and kick in they did), the AVR-4806 punished my chest with truly deep bass. Neighbors be damned, this was one hell of a ride. The cymbals sparkled without a trace of glare and melded beautifully with the screeching guitars. James Hetfield’s vocals were raw and in your face without being over-pronounced or pulling too far away from the rest of the band. When the child’s voice floats in about halfway through the track, the effect was downright eerie. On the track “The Unforgiven,” the opening drum roll appeared from complete blackness and exploded into my room, then quickly faded into nothing. The simple guitar melody was crystal clear and well-defined, allowing me to hear every pluck of the strings. Again, the AVR-4806 struck the appropriate balance between rocking out and not punishing my ears to the point of bleeding. Overall, the AVR-4806 proved to be a jack-of-all-trades, maintaining its focus and musicality amidst the onslaught of heavy metal soup that Metallica has a tendency to dish out.
Turning my attention to movies, I started things off by watching the D-VHS version of director David Fincher’s “Fight Club” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment). There isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said about this film, outside of the fact that it’s cinematic genius. During the scene where Tyler is laying out the rules of the Fight Club, the AVR-4806 reproduced the damp, inhospitable surroundings of the cellar wonderfully, with the appropriate amount of echo mixed with the feeling of stagnant air. When the men of Fight Club begin to throw down, every punch sprang from the screen as if they were swinging directly at me. The Dust Brothers’ dark score was kept in check again by the AVR-4806’s wonderful bass prowess. In fact, the bass was so taut that I could immediately tell the difference between whether or not the bodies were hitting concrete or the makeshift cardboard mats without ever having to consult the image on my screen. As far as the image, the AVR-4806 passed the information faithfully to my projector without editorializing and/or adding any trace of artifacts. For those of you who have not experienced this film in true HD, I can only say you’re missing out. The black level was terrific through the AVR-4806. The brightest whites weren’t anything to cry about either, never beaming or bleeding into their surroundings the way they can through lesser receivers. What I really appreciated was the AVR-4806’s ability to keep even the minutest details like sweat and small grains of dirt and debris from becoming indecipherable.
Finishing up my review period, I stuck in the newly released “Batman Begins” (Warner Bros. Home Video). Again, the AVR-4806 showcased its ability to recreate true to life spaces. When Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) enters the heart of the Batcave for the first time, the AVR-4806 placed the massive waterfall precisely to my left while allowing all of the screeching bats to swirl effortlessly around my listening position. During the test drive scene, the AVR-4806 balanced the abrupt changes between being inside the Tumbler and outside it with such immediacy it almost became jarring. Every time the Tumbler accelerated forward, the AVR-4806’s sheer horsepower caused not only myself but also my guests to reel back in our chairs as if we were in the passenger seat. When the Tumbler finally came to a halt, the sound traveled around in a true 360-degree arc that began with gut-churning bass, then gave way to the sound of screeching rubber, yet regardless of the frequency or dynamic swings, the AVR-4806 never lost its composure. It was during my time watching “Batman Begins” that I realized that I was quickly running out of speaker, as opposed to running out of power. If you have a slightly larger room like mine, and you’re thinking about purchasing the AVR-4806, you might want to consider floor-standing speakers. I know I am. Turning my attention to the image, the AVR-4806 showed no signs of degradation. During the sword fight on the glacier, the AVR-4806 maintained the steely blue quality of the ice while keeping the characters’ faint reflections apparent in all but the darkest areas of my screen. “Batman Begins” isn’t a film I’d say pushes the envelope in terms of color, but in the scene featuring the mob boss’ club, the rich golden hues were wonderfully saturated without seeming like “Moulin Rouge.” While I consider image quality to ultimately be in the hands of your source components, it’s nice to know that the AVR-4806 isn’t there to rob them of their abilities and if they come up a little short, well, it’s there to lend a helping hand.