My Story with the AVR 4520CI... and I am sticking to it.
Over the course of the last year, I have been giving quite a bit of consideration to "downgrading" my Home Theater to remove my two-channel bias. I just don't listen to music in my theater anymore. That said, I have always been a separates guy and for the last several years I have been running my Revel Performa2 Speakers in a 7.1 Configuration powered by a an Integra DHC 80.3 and Parasound halo A21 and A51 amps. When the Best Buy sale was announced I thought I could pull more than $4,000 out of my theater by selling my pre-amp and amplifiers and replacing them with an integrated AVR. The question I asked myself was simply, what will I give up in the process? I had little doubt the answer to this question was some level of dynamics, detail and overall cohesion of the system. Boy, was I wrong...
Upon removing the AVR 4520 from its box, I had little doubt that I was about to be totally underwhelmed. While it is very attractive and the quality of the exterior components appears to be very good, the AVR is very light. It is ighter than my Integra 80.3 with no amplifier section and far lighter than either of my Parasound amps. In my line of thinking at the time, there was no possible way this AVR was going to be able to properly handle my Revel speakers.
Removing my separates from my system was a burden, as I expected it to be, and I was not looking forward to reconnecting everything to the AVR, particularly since I honestly believed that I would be reinstalling the Integra soon after. I actually contemplated, more than once, leaving my system in tact and returning the Denon. The biggest problem I encountered was working with the binding posts on the 4520. If you connect bare speaker wire and use high-gauge cable, be prepared to get frustrated. The binding posts are small, positioned very closely to one-another and the threading holes are very narrow. It took me more than an hour to get my 7 speakers properly connected. Furthermore, because of the binding posts proximity to one another, the Denon, when I first turned it on, went into auto-shutdown mode because wires were inadvertently crossed.
Following getting everything properly connected to the AVR, I began working through the internal setup which I have to admit was very easy to get through, far easier than my Integra. The only issue I ran into had to do with Audyssey identifying my front speakers as being out of phase. While it took me a little while to realize this was probably due to my room acoustics, I resolved to allow the system to think they were out of phase and move through the Auto EQ process.
Now it was time to put the Denon through the paces... The first movie I put on was Troy because I know the source material so well and I immediately noticed something I hadn't heard before. In the opening scene as Achilles arrives to do battle, there was a seemlessness to the panning and the surrounds were much more active than they had been. My immediate reaction was to recheck the sound profile that was being utilized and, after going through the related menus, I determined it was exactly where it was supposed to be. Switching to the first Percy Jackson movie yielded similar results, but this time the LFE during the Hydra scene was tighter and deeper than it was with my previous setup. The bass was alive and perfectly integrated into the mix. Furthermore, the Center stage was perfectly distributed and the voices were more detailed and not localized like they were with the Integra. I was immediately reminded of the review that Sound & Vision did on this receiver a few months back. They concluded that it was the best implementation of Audyssey that they had yet heard and that the receiver seemed to be almost built around it. I firmly believe this to be true.
Over the last few weeks, I have found their review to be spot on in every respect. The simple fact is, while I thought I would be giving up something, I have actually gained a much more refined home theater sound experience. Yes, I said it, the Denon is clearly better from an HT standpoint than my Integra and Parasound combination. Others may not find this to be the case, but with my room, which admittedly is an odd duck, The Denon 4520 is clearly the better performer. So, not only did I bring in an additional $4,000 from selling my old hardware, I improved my system significantly... go figure.
As a final note, as a result of this experience, I will likely never go back to the separates world. I have concluded that much of what they are selling is indeed snake-oil. You may wonder what my two-channel impressions have been of the Denon AVR and, to be honest, I cant characterize the relationship. It has been far too long since I had extensive listening sessions with the Integra, so a real comparison in not possible. I will say that I don't miss the Integra/Parasound setup at all.
Last edited by nohjy; 09-21-2014 at 12:18 PM.