We're well acquainted with Denon's A/V receivers, desktop audio systems, and DVD players, but up to this point, we had never sampled one of its all-in-one home-theater-in-a-box systems (HTIBs). The Denon DHT-485DV certainly looks like a contender--it comes with a 6.1-channel A/V receiver, a separate DVD player, a curvy set of satellites, and a compact powered subwoofer. The look and feel of the $699 system is way ahead of typical all-plastic HTIB fare, so we expected component-grade performance. The 485DV shined in our home-theater trials; it did less well with music, but it's one of the few HTIBs that can be upgraded with better speakers and an improved subwoofer.
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 Denon DHT-485DV home theater in a box features a separate receiver, a DVD player, and a seven-piece 6.1-channel satellite/subwoofer speaker package. The full-size form factor may scare off shoppers who prefer petite and sexy "lifestyle" designs, but those who value features and performance will be heartened: the receiver looks like a silver clone of Denon's winning (they both weigh exactly the same: 23.8 pounds). The matching DVD player looks pretty snazzy sitting on top of the receiver.
Although the DHT-485DV comes with two remotes, one for the receiver and one for the DVD player, the receiver's large clicker will ably control the basic functions of both components.
The gently bowed sides and grilles of the 7-inch-tall satellite speakers are a distinctive styling touch. Their wood cabinets are fitted with keyhole slots and treaded inserts to facilitate wall mounting. The 11.5-inch-wide center comes with an adjustable stand that allows the user to aim the speaker up or down toward the listening position. The commendably compact subwoofer loses the sats' curves--it's just a slab-sided box, 11 inches wide, 14 inches tall, and 15.5 inches deep. At 27 pounds, it feels nice and sturdy. The entire 485DV ensemble is finished in muted silver.
Setup is a little more involved than with fully integrated HTIBs, and we eked out the best sound only after we explored the receiver's easy-to-navigate menu options. For example, where the default subwoofer volume level of many HTIBs is too loud, the 485DV's standard setting is too low. We had to crank it up to get a satisfying amount of bass out of the system. That's not a problem, but we urge 485DV owners to roll up their sleeves and make those adjustments.
Denon's component-based 485DV system was designed with a very different set of objectives than most integrated receiver/DVD-player HTIBs. The 485DV will not only sound better than Sony or Panasonic's best models, it can serve as a stepping stone to an even higher-quality system with the addition of better speakers and an improved subwoofer. By contrast, thanks to the proprietary connectors many integrated HTIBs employ, you're usually stuck with the low-grade speakers that come in the package. The full-size A/V receiver is the centerpiece of the Denon DHT-485DV system. It offers 75 watts per channel and a better-than-average slate of surround-processing modes--including DTS-ES, DTS Neo:6, and Dolby Digital Surround EX--via its Analog Devices 32-bit processor. All four A/V inputs accept S-Video sources, and the receiver includes three assignable component-video inputs as well. Audio connections include two stereo inputs, a set of SACD/DVD-Audio 5.1-channel analog inputs, two digital inputs (one optical, one coaxial), and A/B speaker switching. Put simply, it's the most versatile range of audio/video connections we've seen in an HTIB, although unlike the actual AVR-1705 receiver, this unit cannot do video upconversion. The DVD player offers a standard suite of A/V connections, including component/progressive video outputs and coaxial and optical digital audio outs.
Each of the five satellite speakers has a 4.5-inch woofer and a 0.5-inch tweeter, while the center uses the same tweeter and double woofers. The speakers use spring-type wire connectors. The subwoofer's down-firing 10-inch driver is vented through a port in the front. The sub also incorporates a 100-watt amplifier and mono RCA input and output jacks. You can bypass its internal crossover and let the receiver handle bass management.
If you already have a DVD player, you can save a little money and pick up Denon's DHT-485XP. Except for its lack of a DVD player, the $549 system is identical to the DHT-485DV. We kicked off listening tests on the Denon DHT-485DV with our old favorite, the Sessions at West 54th DVD. It sounded spot-on: the horns on Wynton Marsalis's big-band tune came to life without a hint of harshness or glare, and the band's piano, bass, and drums kept up the toe-tapping rhythms. Switching gears completely, we next popped in the Saw DVD. The gory sound effects came through loud and clear, and the low-level atmospherics, which work on a near-subliminal level, added to the film's edgy aura. The DVD's "jump factor" is high, and the nuanced performance of the 485DV kept us on the edge of our seats. The subwoofer's pitch definition was certainly above par, and its freedom from bass boom came as a welcome relief.
With its surround-sound acumen well established, the DHT-485DV next faced the challenge of the stereo realm. The two-channel sound of Bruce Springsteen's new Devils & Dust CD was above average for an HTIB, but the Denon's tonal balance felt a little lightweight--Bruce's vocals and guitar sounded undernourished. Similarly, our Led Zeppelin CDs lacked oomph. Then again, unlike with most HTIBs, which don't allow speaker swapping, you can retire the 485DV's satellites and subwoofer or use them in another room. When we hooked up our sats and center speaker, the sound was dramatically better: smoother, cleaner, and more enjoyable. And that was with the Denon subwoofer still in place; it was so good, we didn't feel the need to try NHT's sub.
That said, the DHT-485DV's supplied speakers aren't at all bad, and most owners won't feel the urge to upgrade. We put the little guys back in the game, cranked up The Lion King DVD, and thought, yeah, they're fine. At the end of the day, the 485DV offers a relatively affordable no-hassle pathway to Denon's well-deserved reputation for top-quality sound.
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