I hooked up the Front Wides last night and now it's time to share my thoughts. (Well, if not for others..... just for the fun of it). If I offend, amuse, inspire, or just blather.... I'll just deal with it.
First, a little review of my thought process and what I am in fact giving an opinion on.
If you are looking for a review of how the new Denon works in Pure Direct Stereo playing original vinyl with the lights out and in nothing but underwear; that's not me. That's definetely not this review. This review is all about signal manipulation, Audyssey tricks, multiple speakers and really getting the Denon to throw all it's processing power at video sources and audio manipulation. Thus, I'm making the Gerbils inside sweat. Many purists may want an unadulterated signal. For me, I think most video and it's audio content have already been mashed, squashed, stretched, and pretty much toyed with at the studio level. My theory then is let the Denon be a Denon and do it's own funkified audio squishing thing.
Now, the equipment. You can see my list but to review the Fronts are B&W 805's (Original iteration) a new B&W HTM3s center (totally cool - by the way), 2 ugly Tangent Towers for the Wides, 2 B&W CC80's in ceiling for the surrounds, and two Energy Dipoles (not a horrible speaker) for the rears. A B&W ASW2500 sub completes the speaker set. I am using 2 monoblock Emotiva XP-1s for the Front L and R power but otherwise relying on the Denon for power.
I have seen a noticable improvement in sound since going from my older plain vanilla processing B&K 307 to the new 4810. (See previous posts). I also ran in 7.1 just to get accustomed to the new receiver, then 7.1 Audyssey managed, external amps added and finally with my new center Speaker. Each time I got, in my subjective opinion, better and more immersive sound. The new center, with a much better capacity to produce low mids and high bass has been significant. It kind of solidified my theory that the Center channel is the most critical speaker in a theater environment. I intend to power it seperately soon. I think, quite seriously that the L R Stereo lovers are flat out wrong about emphasizing the Left and Rights over the center. So, to hell with balance and splurge on the center! Yah, everyone says it's just "Dialogue" but even if it were, it is proving very nice to actually hear the "dialogue" clearly. Sorry, I rant!!!
So, here is what I did and how I set everything up and running. 1st, I placed the speakers pretty close to where the Denon manual says to for Audyssey DSX. Even the In Wall surrounds are in the correct spot and the tweeters are pointed correctly. I then let Audyssey do its thing for 8 seating positions I kind of did 3 positions close to my favorite seating area ( Hey, the room is only so big and my guests are only guests - it's my damn room!). I then fired up my trusty Tivo and sat to watching the latest episode of Numb3rs. All right, not exactly Oscar winning material, but as I have said before, I find Ridley Scott's Audio crew to be amazing. Hands down, this 5.1 DD show is the best audio edited show on TV. I also wanted my first review to be from a quickly slapped together show rather than a highly engineered high quality movie. Also, I listened late at night and really can't crank the system after the little dude and dudette are asleep. All TV watching was done at -10db on the Denon and I accepted all of Audysssey's EQ settings. My daughter and I are almost done with Prince Caspian - the book (Anyone remember actually reading a book - rather than just waiting for the movie?) This weekend, I'll be reviewing 9.1 at full throttle and no Dynamic anything. But, for my thoughts here, I slapped on every freakin sonic manipulation the 4810 can do. So here is my anti "Pure Direct".... Dolby Digital PLIIx Cinema, Audyssey DSX - Wide, Dynamic Volume (Includes Dynamic EQ) and probably spin dry moderate heat to boot. Seriously one could see the Gerbil sweat oozing out of the front.
A few notes on Audyssey. 1). The program coded every Speaker as small. That's consistent with what I've read elsewhere but it is interesting to note that it also recognized the 3 B&W's be set with a 40Hz crossover; even the little guys. The truly unattractive Tangents only got the nod at 60Hz as did the other speakers. I have a really dead room, lots of soft furniture, thick carpet, rough sand paper like wall paint and even some sound absorbing silk flowers. My room is very sound absorbing, minimal glass and lots of throw pillows. I set the Sub to get LFE and L,R low signal. The Emotiva's have a much higher gain and you really can tell this as the Audyssey goes through it's pinging exercise. The left right ping was pretty dang loud! The Audyssey set the Front L and R down a whole 5 and 5.5 db. The big ugly Tangents had to be boosted 2 db and the Center ended up being pretty much flat. I recommend anyone going through the Audyssey set up to pay attention to all the information Audyssey provides. With my dead sounding room the EQ curves, for what I would argue are pretty good speakers, was astounding to me; Plus or minus 9db across the spectrum. I think my room is close to ideal with minimal "problem areas". Think what you might get with a funky shaped, hard surface, sound bouncing mess of a space? I'd be curious to hear about what others are getting on these graphs.
Now, to the show. One last thing before I review... It was pretty slick to see the Audyssey DSX big aqua blue logo fire up. (For those who haven't gotten this far yet, I didn't even know it was there). Then you get another little indicator the wides are up and pumping.... The whole front of the Denon is just one big LCD light show.
How did it sound? Pretty great actually. I know this may bum the audiophile crowd out but the "Dialogue" was better. Low male voices seemed to fill the whole screen as opposed to just coming from the center. Throughout the show, be it a cheesy car chase or Numbers little in movie sound affect happy explanation of math theory snippits; much more of the material came from the screen area. If there were mutiple voices on screen, Left and Right, I got a better sense of the voice matching the location on screen. There was still quite a lot of front to back room affects but the whole show had more oomph upfront. Keep in mind, I also used Dynamic Volume functions and this made the episode easier to hear. Except for really showing off the chops of my outboard amps and freaking out my friends during explosive movies, Dynamic Volume is my everyday go to solution. I highly recommend it for all of us sound source manipulation types.
During the show, I paused, started rewound and did it all again with eyes open, closed, and in different seating locations. My take away is the Wides do actually add a much more upfront immersive element to my room. This is also not exactly Oscar Material for content but I'd say the Denon did a good job of making it all sound better.
Keeping in mind, this wasn't True HD 7.1 or for that matter a good 5.1 DD, I did go walking and attempt to hear what the new wides were actually producing. To me, after sticking an ear or two up close, most of what I got was just moderate levels of signal. Audyssey may disagree with this and perhaps with a better movie, I would to; but my first take away here is that it's not a huge amount of signal being sent to the wides. I didn't get that "tons of stuff going on" feeling. I will review again with Prince Caspian. My intention is to send the 805's to wide duty once I can convince my far better half to accept new towers. For others though, both budget limited and just less stupid than I. I suggest that the Wides do not "need" to be matching gold leafed pieces of modern art. As opposed to your 3 main speakers (or you wish them to be) are. I would imagine, since Audyssey says the Heights are relied on even less than the wides, the same thought process applies to the heights.
Here are a few other points for those contemplating this Receiver and may be a bit confused by this thread.
1). Setting up all these funky audio capabilities was flat out easy. This thread has gone off on tangents regarding this stuff. My observation is, even with Denon-speak manuals, you can fly through set up.
2). I still think the build quality is great.
3). Do the Firmware upgrade - Also easy.
4). Dynamic Volume is my new best friend.
5). PC Issues still exist - EDID pass though is problematic for me.
6). On occasion the Volume GUI overlay has crapped out (I need to figure this out).
7). It doesn't get too hot but is a bit warm on top. Be cautious on ventilation.
8). The Speaker Binding Posts are High Quality but tight (Be Careful)
9). The whole Audyssey Set Up GUI is totally cool!! Just plain elegant.
10). Use the Web Interface.
11). Remote Stinks
12). Filmmixer suggests if you have an HDMI input you still have the Denon upconvert to 1080P. I was suspect but damn if he wasn't right and my Tivo 3 looks better now (Marginally but still better)
So, In conclusion,
I like the Audyssey DSX Wide Mode and can confidently declare it does make the front of my room far more immersive and really opens up the whole front sound field. I will try movies next and see of I get more "stuff" out of the wides with a better source.
I always thought that putting 3 speakers upfront and 4 in the rear and surrounds was a bit goofy. It was kind of like the sound engineers were asleep and got out Dilberted by the marketing slobs. I mean when you go to a Theater, do they place most the speakers in the place next to or behind the screen, or do they stick them in the back of the room? It appears to me that Audyssey and Dolby are attempting to correct this error. Wides definetely place more sound content where it should be; up front.
If any one thinks I'm way off here and or have tried the new wides or heights, please chime in. I have thick skin and of course do most my listening with a nice cabernet in hand. I am not a tech person but rather just a hobbyist; not easily offended.