Originally Posted by scbartling
The 4520 showed up a day early. Let the drooling ( I mean installation) begin
Since I have been deluged by PM messages regarding choosing the Denon AVR-1520CI over the Pioneer Elite SC-68 and Onkyo 5010 and where I found the best prices, I thought I would report back.
The place where I bought the 5520 from shipped the same day I ordered it and it arrived within 3 days of placing the order. Excellent service and the Denon arrived intact.
I have been a long time customer of Pioneer Elite receiver as I own several of them with the oldest being 21 years old (and is still used daily). There were two reasons I switched to Denon: 1) due to over all feature set, ease of use, and flexibility (ability to reconfigure the amp assignments into almost any configuration), and 2) cost (none of the Pioneer Elite dealers I contacted would sell for less than MSRP and I think that's both uncompetitive and ridiculous). Of course, after I purchased the Denon someone PM'ed me with a authorized dealer willing to negotiate to a reasonable price point on the SC-68
I received the Denon on Monday of this week. It's working very well in my system and I'm happy with the purchase. It is indeed as flexible as the AVSforum postings have indicated. It sounds very nice, especially the surround processing which is a marked improvement over the 21 year old Dolby Prologic Pioneer Elite receiver I had in this system.
I'm really a perfectionist and quite picky since I keep and use good system units forever :-) So far the Denon lives up to my expectations.
However, I don't think there is any real differences in sound quality between the top units for most manufacturers. The choice ends up being be made based on user preference for feature set, and the reliability track record of the manufacturers. Folks will be happy with any of the top units in terms of sound quality ... really ... it's true (I'm donning asbestos underwear to prepare for flame throwers from those who also believe that running a green magic marker around CD's improves jitter performance of the player and reduces aliasing effects of digitization and from those that believe that high end HDMI cables sound better than standard cables. None of these things are true, but some folks still want to believe in something. Let the flame wars begin
Moving on to some details regarding personal observations and few technical features that I learned about.
My family room system now has a new Plasma TV (Samsung PN51E800) that arrived yesterday and the new Denon AVR1520CI. Audio is a 5.1 configuration: Emotiva ERM-6.3's for left, center, right front speakers, Paradigm ADP-12's (dipoles) for rear surround, and an SVS PB-12ND for the subwoofer in a ~8000 cu ft room (family room plus breakfast nook, plus kitchen ... there are 12 foot ceilings so the physical volume I have to deal with is massive), and a new dish network hopper system (1 hopper, 3 joeys, installed yesterday afternoon). Last but not least ... there is a newer model blu-ray player (Samsung D6500 2011 model) hanging around waiting to be used.
The raw video from the dish network video suffers from a number of artifacts due to dish network proprietary compression of the 1080i signal to save satellite bandwidth (it's really 1080i in name only). These artifacts were readily apparent when feeding the raw 1080i signal from the hopper to the TV directly (the worst artifact was a loss in clarity, things just were not as crisp visually). I then turned on the TV's upscaling and video processing. That helped, but it's still not super sharp. I disabled the TV processing and ran the video through the Denon instead. I can't recall the exact settings I enabled, but at a minimum I turned on the scaler and also the de-interlace capability (1080i --> 1080p). The video improved dramatically. Image detail is now close to blu-ray in apparent sharpness and clarity. Color rendering is also improved, with flesh tones now appearing realistic and not too pale (blue emphasis) or too yellow (red emphasis (or lower color temperature)).
Audio: Am currently running a 5.1 configuration with zone2 feeding the whole house speaker system (have not tried bi-amping the front speakers yet, but do not really expect that will really improve the audio in any readily apparent manner).
Audio is much improved over the Dolby Prologic in my 21 year old Pioneer Elite VSX-95. The Audessey room equalization (using 8 measurement points) really makes a big impact. Especially for compensating for the "near wall" bass and midrange enhancement that results from the front speakers having to sit in a cavity above the built-in entertainment center. The sound in the room now sounds much more natural. To stress test it, I used a blu-ray of the most recent Star Trek movie to get decent LFE and sound tracks. After disabling sound processing on the blu-ray player (e.g. bitstream output), the Denon showed Dolby True-HD on the display. The sound was simply astounding. My favorite effect was when the ships entered warp. The sound of warp entry was almost palpable. I kept wanting to reach out and touch the point halfway between where I was sitting and the entertainment center where my ears indicated the ships were departing from. Really, really cool. I've never experienced a 3D audio sensation before and it was amazing (the clouds parted, angels started singing, it was nirvana on Earth
Moving on to a technical item. At some point in this thread, someone was trying to get the whole house (main zone + zone 2/3) to play the same music on the 1520 (sort of like party mode on the Onkyo high end receivers). After not being able to get sound to emanate from zone two for several hours, I learned a few interesting things: 1) If most of the sources in your system are HDMI, only a few sources will be available for zone2 playback (HD radio Tuner, Ipod interface, etc). 2) There is a way to play what is on TV or what is being fed in in terms of music on all zones simultaneously. From memory (I'm at work now), you have to enable power to the main zone and also zones 2 (and 3 if desired). Once all zones are enabled, you go back to the main zone setting on the remote and hit the option button on the remote. Then select "enable all zone stereo" or something like that. At that point, whatever is playing on the main zone will be reflected as a stereo output in all zones. However, the main zone sound effects appear to change in an audible manner, but the main zone is clearly not playing in stereo mode since sound is coming from all speakers in the main zone. I haven't quite figured out what the main zone is doing in terms of audio processing in this mode. I'll have to play with it some more. I was just happy to figure out how to make this work initially.
Well, I do have to work for a living, so it's time to go back to work. I hope this was interesting/informative for others contemplating a holiday receiver upgrade or Christmas present.