Denon's midline receivers such as the and can get a little pricey, so we were curious about how its $399 AVR-1705 would fare. This six-channel contender sports most of the more-expensive models' surround-processing modes; it offers extremely good connectivity for its price point, including three component-video inputs; and a peek under the hood didn't reveal any overt cost-cutting design measures. The biggest difference? It has a slightly more modest 75-watt-per-channel power rating. That won't shake the walls of a large suburban living room, but in smaller home theaters or for those of you with more sedate listening tastes, the Denon AVR-1705's power will be more than adequate.
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. We're generally fans of Denon's chunky styling, but we think the Denon AVR-1705 looks a little generic. And while we're nitpicking, the row of teensy buttons and even teensier labeling under the display wasn't much fun to use in our dimly lit "theater." On the other hand, we like the AVR-1705's fairly compact overall dimensions. It measures a trim 16.5 inches deep and weighs a nimble 23.8 pounds.
Despite the fact that the AVR-1705 doesn't have onscreen displays, setup hassles were few. The receiver offers a choice of eight satellite-subwoofer crossover frequencies, ranging from 40Hz to 250Hz. That flexibility made it easy to achieve the best possible subwoofer blend with large or small satellite speakers. We like another particularly useful feature Denon calls Personal Memory Plus, which recalls the mode setting last used for each source. For example, we enjoy listening to the radio in stereo and CDs in Dolby Pro Logic II, and with the Denon AVR-1705, we didn't have to futz around with the mode switches every time we changed sources. Bass and treble controls are conveniently located on the front panel. The big remote control isn't backlit, but a large selection of differently colored and shaped buttons makes it easy to use. Each of the Denon AVR-1705's six channels delivers 75 watts of power. As with Denon's pricier models, it features a generously sized power transformer and large, extruded aluminum heat sinks to cool the power transistors. Surround modes include all of the usual Dolby and DTS suspects, plus a few of Denon's proprietary processing modes. Denon's Cinema EQ feature may be used to tame some of the harsh sound you get with some older movies; it worked wonders when we played our favorite classic DVDs.
The receiver's jack set isn't the most comprehensive we've seen, but it will be fine for smaller home theaters. A/V inputs number four, a whopping three of which accept component-video sources--and yes, the receiver will upconvert composite and S-Video sources such as VCRs to S-Video or component video. Audio connections include two stereo inputs, a set of SACD/DVD-Audio ins, two optical and one coaxial digital inputs, and A/B speaker switching. We would have liked to see a fourth digital audio input as well as S-Video on the front panel, but those are minor omissions. We used The House of Flying Daggers DVD to put the Denon AVR-1705 through its paces. There's an amazing fight scene in the bamboo forest that starts with very natural ambience and rustling leaves, so the whoosh of the catapulting men swooping down on Zhang Ziyi caught us by surprise. The crunching sounds of shattering bamboo rods added immensely to the visceral quality of the scene. When we did a quick face-off with Onkyo's TX-SR602 receiver ($500), we thought the two receivers sounded pretty much the same--both were excellent on DVD. When we played jazz diva Cassandra Wilson's CDs, we noted that the 1705 sounded a little richer, while the SR602 had a bit more resolution of fine details and grooved harder.
Returning to the AVR-1705, we turned up the heat with the Queens of the Stone Age's new Lullabies to Paralyze CD. The band's crunchy guitars are balanced with surprisingly deep melodic tunecraft. The turbocharged music is best enjoyed at maximum volume, and that made big demands on the AVR-1705's reserves, so it didn't exactly cruise over the rough spots like Denon's mighty AVR-3805 would. But that brute is three times as expensive as the AVR-1705. If you want to feel da noise, you have to pay to play.
We finished our auditions with Frank Zappa's Quaudiophiliac DVD-Audio disc, which features surround mixes that FZ perfected in the late 1970s. "Lumpy Gravy" dramatically opens up in surround, and we got a sense of being in Royce Hall at UCLA, and "Chunga Basement" was literally recorded in a basement, so it sounds more confined and maybe even a little damp! Since you can dial in a separate subwoofer level for the AVR-1705's SACD/DVD-A inputs, you'll get to hear all of the bass on your SACD or DVD-A discs, and that's rare with most A/V receivers. If you're a DVD-A or SACD fan, Denon's receivers are the way to go.
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