With a bevy of surround-processing modes and features, upmarket A/V receivers typically take on a cluttered appearance. In contrast to that trend, JVC's sleek, THX Select-certified RX-DP9VBK is a receiver of elegant design. Yes, it's loaded with goodies, but its rows of buttons and controls are hidden behind an oh-so-cool motorized faceplate. That sort of refinement is also reflected in its intuitive ergonomics and satisfying sound quality. With a bevy of surround-processing modes and features, upmarket A/V receivers typically take on a cluttered appearance. In contrast to that trend, JVC's sleek, THX Select-certified RX-DP9VBK is a receiver of elegant design. Yes, it's loaded with goodies, but its rows of buttons and controls are hidden behind an oh-so-cool motorized faceplate. That sort of refinement is also reflected in its intuitive ergonomics and satisfying sound quality.
The DP9VBK's feature roster is impressive: THX Surround EX processing; flexible Dolby Digital/DTS surround modes; a three-band, parametric (adjustable center frequency) EQ for the seven channels; A/B front speaker switching; 15 AM and 30 FM presets; and a two-year parts and labor warranty. Build quality is remarkable--this receiver weighs 49 pounds, a good 15 pounds more than most of its competition.
This JVC is also unusually large, and its 18.75-inch depth might be a tight fit in your cabinet or home-entertainment center. Connectivity options are extensive, with two component-video inputs, one component-video output, and generous S-Video and composite-video connections. The audio connections are equally comprehensive; digital-audio input jacks are plentiful, but there's just one optical-digital output. Analog choices run the gamut from a turntable input to two tape loops to DVD/Super Audio CD (SACD)-ready 5.1 inputs to 7.1 outputs. Yes, the DP9VBK is a 5-by-100-watt receiver, but if you want to take advantage of its 7.1 Surround EX-processing capabilities, you'll need to hook up an external stereo power amp--or maybe your old receiver--to run the extra surround speakers.
Onscreen menu navigation is completely intuitive, so most home-theater fans will be able to get the JVC up and running without having to crack open the owner's manual. The remote control has an LCD, but its ergonomics are a mixed bag. Programming the remote to work with our Pioneer DVD player and Zenith TV was a snap, but the nonbacklit buttons are crowded, and the labeling on some of the controls is nearly illegible. It's no fun to use in a dimly lit room. More gripes: The DP9VBK muted the sound for a second or so whenever we jumped ahead chapters in a DVD.
Contrast and compare
We put our three-year-old--and somewhat more expensive--Pioneer VSX-27TX receiver up against this JVC. CDs such as Cyrus Chestnut's delicious Revelation sounded especially sweet and open on the JVC. This model did a much better job than the Pioneer of depicting the spaces between the instruments, and Chris Thomas's stand-up bass all but leapt out of the speakers. The Pioneer wasn't bad, but it seemed harsher and brighter than the JVC. The DP9VBK also communicated more of the Rolling Stones' swagger and power on their Love You Live CD.
We heard similar differences between the two receivers when we watched a few DVDs. On Bram Stoker's Dracula, for example, the creepy sound effects that are so liberally sprinkled throughout the surround channels were more vividly presented. We pushed the JVC pretty hard and never sensed a lack of power. This receiver has the fortitude to accommodate inefficient speakers such as our Dynaudio Contours.
Unlike most receivers, the DP9VBK digitizes its DVD-Audio (DVD-A)/SACD 5.1 analog inputs rather than passing that high-quality audio straight to the amplifier section and on to the speakers. Discriminating listeners may notice that this redigitizing causes some loss of resolution. But if you're not using a DVD-A or SACD player, don't worry about this snafu.
We came away impressed with the JVC RX-DP9VBK's sound and build quality, but we wouldn't recommend it if you're using a DVD-A or SACD player. Likewise, if you expect to purchase extra speakers to take advantage of the THX EX or DTS ES capabilities, the hassle of adding a stereo amp may not be worth the trouble. Though its suggested list price is $1,100, the DP9VBK is heavily discounted, so it shouldn't be out of reach of quality-oriented home-theater fans.