Integra DTR-50.3 ReviewPreface
- [Skip to the Review section if you don't care about all of my bla bla bla!]
I'm a long time Denon fan since I worked at thegoodguys. When I lived in CA, I sold HT gear there and was privy to purchase equipment at 5% below cost and A/B tested everything to death
I've had my Denon AVR-5600, the first THX certified AC-3 receiver, since 1995, and it has been a beast! Hard to believe its 18 years old. Since the debut of blu-ray with more and more sound tracks being delivered in DTS I've had the itch to replace my 5600 but cannot afford the top of the line gear that I went into debt for when I was younger LOL.
So, about 6 months ago I stumbled on a Denon AVR-3806 in a pawn shop and snatched it up for $200. I somewhat reluctantly removed the 5600
and set it up in my system which consists of the Klipsch THX KT-LCR and KT-DS THX surrounds, Velodyne 1215 sub, Sony BDP-S560 blu-ray player, and a Sony KDL-46VE5 TV. The 3806 Had HDMI and component inputs that my 5600 lacked, but I soon discovered that it was 720p/1080i only. So I rewired most of my HDMI components straight to the TV.
I was now able to play DTS 5.1 encoded material. The 3806 was a slight improvement in recreating an open sound stage, but couldn't touch the 5600's volume levels, and to make matters worse the 3806 sounded out right terrible when playing music. I was a bit disappointed in this since 50% of my listening is Music and I was use to my 5600 being able to sound decent and play music at ear splitting levels without distortion.
I purchased a new home about 7 years ago and I've finally had enough tripping over my surround sound speaker wires and decided to switch to in ceiling speakers, and at the same time setup a 7.1 system, since my 3806 supposedly supported DTS ES Neo 6 and DD EX and Pro Logic PLIIx. I ordered two pair of Monoprice 4103 ceiling speakers to replace my di-pole surrounds. I had used the Monoprice 4103's before in an installation and they sounded great for the price even if they are a little lacking on the low end.
I installed the speakers as surround, and surround back (there's no way I could do SW, or SH in my room), and hooked them up to my 3806 and tried everything to get a real 6.1/7.1 playback from it and couldn't. I'm not sure if I didn't have anything encoded in DTS ES or DD EX (looked through my entire library and googled for titles but I think I was a few years late trying to play those formats) or If i didnt have the the cryptic settings of my Sony blu-ray player set right. It may have been me not knowing what I was doing as I've been out of the loop about 15 years. I don't know, but I wasn't having it! and I wanted to be able to play back Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio.
So, my search began and I started researching receivers in my budget, and found myself wanting to stretch my budget more and more! I looked at Denon and was disapointed with all of the reviews of hardware failure, and having worked for and AV store I had seen my fair share of Denon receivers in for repair, altho my 5600 has been rock solid. Sorting through my options I remembered a few years ago a friend of mine bought an Integra Receiver (not sure what model) and I helped him set it up and it sounded pretty damn good. So I found this thread and read it start to finish and decided to see what I could find in the market.Review
I found a bargain on an Integra DTR-50.3 on e-bay in immaculate condition for less than half MSRP. I've been auditioning it in my home for the last 4 days. I got it set up and ran a 5 pt. Audssey setup (yes I unplugged my refridgerator LOL), and watched "Rise of the Guardians." WOW! Never heard anything like it in a home theater. This was like going from Pro Logic Surround to 5.1 AC-3 back in 1995 all over again! This is what I was looking for!
The Integra DTR-50.3 created an enveloping sound stage with amazing detail. There is a lot of surround content in "Rise of the Guardians", but when played on the Denon AVR-3806 there was just no presence like the Integra DTR-50.3. I don't think I can say enough about this receiver!
I will say that, there is a lot to learn with this receiver. Moving from the Denon 5600 to the 3806 I was very comfortable, but from the Denon to the Integra, there has been a bit of a learning curve.
I do like the clean layout of the "iPod Classic like" onscreen menu system, but I wish some of the features were more easily accessible from the remote. Specifically selecting the native surround mode, or turning Audessy on or off, or selecting the monitor output resolution. I'm still trying to memorize the location of these settings in the menu system so I can make quick changes when listening to various content/media.
Since half of my listening/viewing is music content I put in my "Delirious Farewell Show" blu-ray in, selected the DTS 5.1 Master Audio Track and began to listen. It sounded ok, but I've listened to this countless times on my 5600 in DD and it always sounded very crisp. It was missing detail in the front channels. I had the Integra in Audssey Music mode and tried switching through several other modes, until I finally got up and stuck my ear close to the LCR speakers and discovered that the center channel volume was way too low compared to the Left and Right channels, and that's where all the crisp vocals were. I put the receiver in plain old DTS Master Audio mode and tweaked the center channel. What a difference! The Integra blows the Denon 3806 away when it comes to music, and compared to the 5600 the Integra has opened up the sound stage even further.
The only thing I truly miss about the 5600 now is the 140 watts per channel toroidal amplifier. In every other way the Integra 50.3 surpasses my 18 year old 5600 and leaves a smile on my face. I do like the fact that the Integra has the discrete analog output, and this may push me to buy a separate amp to power my power hungry Klipsch KT-LCR's, or possibly upgrade to an 80.3 if I can score a deal on one somewhere down the road
I did use some of the Net features of the 50.3. I setup my Pandora One account and streamed music most of the day today. The Pandora interface is low resolution and clunky, but gets the job done.
I tried the DLNA features too, but once again the user interface got in the way, and I'm not sure, that in my Apple ecosystem, DLNA will ever top the user experience I'm accustomed to with my Apple TV. It's not perfect but it's way better than what DLNA has to offer.
Part of me wishes I could be on their user interface design team.
It could be so much better. I'm finding myself in the menu's all the time tweaking output levels for each channel depending on the source. I hope this doesn't get old and and curb my enthusiasm, because I love this receiver.
As far as video quality, I noticed right away that the image was softer than what I'm use to when my components were connected directly to the TV, but this gives the image a more film like look compared to the uber realistic harsh edges we are so use to seeing in HD content.
Overall, the Integra DTR-50.3 is a great receiver, if you're on the fence about a decision it's time to jump off! You won't be sorry.