|Denon AVP-A1HDCi AV Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Tuesday, 01 July 2008|
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To test the music server function of this unit, I had to re-burn discs onto my Windows laptop. For me and other Mac users, this is a shortcoming, but to the vast majority of PC users, it will not be a problem. Denon used their flagship receiver’s case to house the new AVP-A1HDCI, and while there are some upsides to this, namely Denon’s years of refining the receiver/user interface, I for one don’t like having a piece that looks like a receiver in my reference rig. This is a personal and snobbish complaint, but one I must air. The unit is big – no, frankly huge – even by pre/pro standards. This isn’t as much a complaint as it is a statement of the connectivity this piece has. A smaller box simply wouldn’t have allowed all these connectors without using the sides. I think they could have done away with many of the composite and S-Video connectors, as I imagine they’ll just take up space in almost every system that utilizes this piece.
The Denon AVP-A1HDCI made a popping noise through my speakers when switching sources, muting, un-muting and powering on or off. This happens with many pre/pros, but I would prefer that it didn’t. This phenomenon could easily be system-dependent, but it needs to be mentioned. The remote is the standard Denon remote. A two-way RF remote is a $299 extra I would have liked to see included. This allows users to have the front panel displayed on the remote, maximizing iPod and music server functions, as well as general use of the receiver when not in direct line of sight or just close enough to see.
The Denon AVP-A1HDCI lacked a slight bit of smoothness in the midrange and upper end on music. Separation was not as good as with some other similarly-priced pre/pros on the market, but it more than made up for this lack on movies, especially with the new high-resolution audio codecs. Note: the slightly better-sounding, similarly-priced preamps are woefully shy of features and connection options when compared to the Denon preamp.
When I heard of Denon’s return to the high-end market and saw the specifications of this preamp, I wanted one so badly that I bought it without hearing it. Having lived with it for a while, I can say that it does a very good job with music, but for movies it is simply incredible. Once you hear a movie with uncompressed audio, you will never want to listen to Dolby Digital or DTS again. It is HD for your ears and something every home theater enthusiast needs to experience, but be warned, once you hear it, you will have to have it.
To my knowledge, there is no more feature-packed AV preamp that exists. If you are an early adopter of the new video and audio formats, as I am, then you will adore the Denon AVP-A1HDCI. It does everything you could want and then some. I doubt many will ever need more from an AV preamp, and most will never come close to needing all the Denon AVP offers. Its incredible flexibility and connectivity, as well as high-level room correction and Wi-Fi streaming that allows Windows users to instantly have a music server, stream Internet radio and Rhapsody music accounts and control, make this a steal even at the $7,000 price.
The Denon AVP-A1HDCI is the most feature-packed piece of AV gear on the planet, and currently the AV preamp to beat. This is a preamp that should stay current for years to come. This might just be all most users could ever need. The Denon AVP does it all, from exceptional video scaling to very good musical performance and decoding of every new audio codec on the planet. It also has WiFi, DNLA compliance and the ability to be the hub of a whole home audio/video system. If you are a home theater and tech junkie, this is your dream AV preamp, and one I am sure will become popular with installers, as it allows service to be done online rather than necessitating an in-home visit. If you are in the market for a new AV preamp, you owe it to yourself to give the new Denon AVP-A1HDCI a look and listen. This preamp will keep you current for now and into the foreseeable future, giving you all the connectivity and flexibility even the most source-crazy AV enthusiast could need.