While home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems are incredibly popular, they're typically not known for their sound or build quality. Thankfully, Denon's approach to HTIB design defies that sort of pigeonholing. First off, the DHT-486DV's 7-channel A/V receiver is a bona fide, separates-grade component. The DVD player is also first rate, and the seven high-quality, two-way satellites don't look or sound like typical HTIB fare. The potent 100-watt powered subwoofer provides a solid foundation for movies and music. The Denon DHT-486DV package defied our expectations for HTIB sound--but the $750 price tag, the somewhat convoluted setup menus, and a dearth of HDMI connections may limit its appeal.
Editors' note: Denon Electronics will not honor the warranty on Denon components purchased from unauthorized dealers or if the original factory serial number has been removed, defaced, or replaced. If in doubt about a particular online or brick-and-mortar retailer, call Denon at 973/396-0810. The complete Denon DHT-486DV system weighs an impressive 106 pounds. The huge shipping box contains a total of 10 components: seven speakers, one subwoofer, an A/V receiver, and a DVD player. Hooking up all of the cables takes time; it's not too complicated, but dealing with the receiver's menu display may confound home-theater neophytes. We strongly urge buyers to make the effort or have a knowledgeable friend plow through the setup routine, because the DHT-486DV receiver's factory-default settings are far from optimum. The center speaker and subwoofer's volume are way too loud relative to the front and surround speakers. Worse yet, the speaker-size default setting is Large when it should be Small. Furthermore, the receiver's satellite/subwoofer crossover setting comes incorrectly set to 80Hz--we had much better results after we changed it to 135Hz. We also noted the speakers were shipped with a protective plastic sheet behind their grilles; the speakers will sound a lot better if you remove the plastic--the owner's manual fails to mention this detail. The DVD player's onscreen menu displays are a lot easier to deal with than the receiver's, and we squared them away in a minute or so.
The satellite speakers' medium-density-fiberboard construction is a big step up from the usual flimsy plastic models packed with most HTIBs. They're nicely finished and small, just 7 inches tall, and the center is a mere 10.5 inches wide. The subwoofer almost qualifies as full size--it's 17 by 9.25 by 14.25 inches (HWD), and at 27 pounds, it's the heavyweight of the group. The satellites and center speaker are all light enough to be wall-mounted with keyhole slots. If you'd rather not deploy all 7 satellites in your home theater and are happy with standard 5.1 surround, you might consider using the extra satellites in another room, hooked up to the B speaker connectors.
The receiver and matching DVD player are both 17 inches wide, and the receiver is almost 16 deep. Each comes with a remote, but we found it easy enough to control both components with the receiver's remote. The entire system has a matte-silver finish. The seven-times-75-watt receiver has all of the leading Dolby and DTS surround formats. You get three component-video and three composite A/V inputs with S-Video, plus there's a set of composite-only A/V ins on the front panel. The audio suite includes three analog stereo (red and white) inputs, a 5.1 analog set for SACD/DVD-Audio/HD-DVD/Blu-ray players, and one optical and two coaxial digital inputs. The receiver has provisions for multiroom speakers and A/B speaker switching. (The receiver is also sold separately as the $300 Denon AVR-486S.)
The DVD player's jack set offers just the basics: composite-, component-, and S-Video outs as well as coaxial digital and stereo analog outputs. The receiver and DVD player lack HDMI inputs and outputs, which is surprising for an HTIB at this price. Comparatively, the Sony DAV-FX100W offers a more robust input-output suite for a similar price range. (The player is also sold separately as the $150 Denon DVD-556S.)