Sugg. Retail: $2999 Distributor: Denon Canada Inc.,
14 Denison Street, Markham, Ont. L3R 1B5
(905) 475-4085 FAX 475-4159
(Reprinted from the Spring 1997 Audio Ideas Guide)
A company that has generally occupied the upper end of the middle of the market, Denon is in just that territory with their new AVR-3600, which is a fully featured home theatre heart
. It handles Dolby Digital in both its forms (RF-modulated from laserdisc and direct from DVD) with configurable coaxial and optical inputs, and provides Pro Logic, as well as the usual complement of dubious DSP surround modes. Has anyone ever wanted to listen to music in a gymnasium? After surviving high school?
There are lots of inputs, too, allowing a pair of VCRs, a pair of audio tape machines, CD (with built-in DAC that plays 20-bit/96-kHz CDs), DVD/VDP (with switchable digital input), TV/DBS, and a Video Aux, all the video-related inputs and outputs doubling the RCAs with S jacks. There’s even a Phono section, and, of course, a built-in AM/FM tuner.
And some tuner it is! With an outdoor Metz omnidirectional whip antenna, the AVR-3600’s tuner pulled in 38 stations, virtually every one quiet, even Buffalo’s WNED-FM in clean, quiet stereo. There was virtually no evidence of multipath or adjacent channel interference. It’s also a very good sounding tuner, rivaling some separate tuners that match this receiver in price.
Getting back to features and facilities, the AVR-3600 remote will control numerous other components, and is programmable. In fact, you can run all Denon components in the default mode, and additionally, program codes for many other brands, and if this isn’t enough, the remote can learn IR codes from other remotes. So far we have a $3000 receiver with an audiophile-grade supertuner and a true universal remote, one other brand of which sells for about half the price of this receiver, and we haven’t even really gotten into the Dolby Digital aspects of it. I think maybe we’re talking value for money here.
The 5 channels of amplification are rated at 90 watts rms, all channels driven, and good plastic-nut/gold-plated-conductor binding posts are used for all channels. There are A and B sets for the front channels which can be configured using a rear-panel switch (Canadian model only) for bi-wiring right from the receiver, another nice audiophile touch.
And let’s get back to the digital side of things. Though not quite a digital preamplifier with its limited number of digital inputs, the AVR-3600 does have a 20-bit/96 kHz DAC in it, as well as full Dolby Digital decoding, and an RF demodulator to handle the direct feed of a Dolby Digital (AC-3) laserdisc player. A button on the remote marked AC-3 RF actually allows scrolling through these digital input/mode options, and can also be left in an automatic setting that decides what kind of bitstream is actually coming in. The actual digital inputs can be assigned to either DVD/VDP or CD, and I assigned the optical from the several players used with the AVR-3600 to the former, largely because the Toslink optical output will carry both RF and direct Dolby Digital, and the coax to CD; that’s how I discovered that the DAC would decode 20-bit/96-kHz when playing the Pioneer DVD sampler, which has several musical selections in this format. 20-bit/96-kHz stereo audio is a part of the DVD standard, and if and when the penetration of players with these DACs achieves critical mass, we may see CDs released in the higher-resolution format, which is a kind of prelude to the coming multi-channel 24-bit/96-kHz super CD that will come early in the new century.
Returning to the digital input flexibility of the AVR-3600, I’m very impressed with Denon’s handling of a very complex problem of digital formats; there are quite a few receivers and decoders out there that will accept only RF or direct Dolby Digital, but not both (the RF modulation was necessary with laserdisc, which is an analog system, but is not with DVD, which is a fully digital one). There may be a market for RF demodulators for LD fans.
However, given that the future is digital in both audio and video, I would have liked to have a few more digital inputs for DAT, MD, and other coming digital formats and components. This is the only shortcoming I can note in an amazingly complete and versatile A/V control and power centre.