Denon was the second manufacturer to ship a truly current HDMI 1.3-capable AV preamp. The Denon AVP-A1HDCI sports an impressive six HDMI 1.3a inputs, as well as processing for of all the newest and legacy audio codecs. The feature sets here are enough to leave even the hardest-core home theater maniac very happy. This AV preamp has it all, from 12 freely assignable balanced and single-ended outputs to wi-fi music streaming capability to AM/FM and HD radio tuners to being XM-ready, as well as sporting the Silicon Optix Realta chipset for exceptional 1080p video scaling and transcoding of all formats to HDMI. You get all the stereo analog inputs you could ever need, even a MM phono input, as well as a pair of balanced inputs. Control features are all here, too, from IR ins and outs to DC triggers and dual RS-232C controllers.
Denon implemented their new graphic user interface (GUI) to make set-up as straightforward as possible, but beware, you (yes, you - the guy who doesn't ever read manuals) might need to read the manual first, in order to make this preamp get up and dance. Each input can be set up with more options than you could imagine. Should you wish to do so, you can select the Audyssey room correction for any source, and you can store two different correction profiles for different environments or listening positions. Each input can be totally customized and labeled to suit your tastes. An optional two-way RF remote allows you to see what is displayed on the face of the AVP on the remote. In addition to the main remote, a second remote for zone 2 is included. You'll have to work out how you want to control the other two additional zones yourself. Yes, this unit will do four zones and, depending on how you set up the outputs, can even run two independent 5.1 home theaters at once.
Click to Page 2 for The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion.
• The feature sets are nothing short of impressive. If you want to get the most out of Blu-ray and its HD audio-video capabilities right now, it's either this Denon, the Integra or a $35,000 Mark Levinson No. 502 AV preamp and the Levinson doesn't have HDMI 1.3, even at its price tag, despite sounding really, really (really) good.
• It's hard to find any AV preamp that has this many inputs and outputs. The varying ways you can configure this preamp to make your system do whatever you dreamed up seems almost unlimited. Let's put it this way - we'd be pretty impressed if you found the limit of what this preamp could do in terms of configuration possibilities in today's theater (don't tell me you ran out of inputs because of your Beta deck, an S-VHS machine and a laserdisc player).
• The Denon AVP-A1HDCI is truly HDMI 1.3a compliant with Silicon Optix Realta video scaling, which not only can help make older video sources like your 1080i satellite or cable DVR look better, but some day in the future, it can support Deep Color, which is supposed to be something to behold. At this stage, it's not reality, but these vaporware formats seem to be what send people over the edge and into a buying decision. I would prefer people use and listen to the unit first, as opposed to just making a buying decision based on a laundry list of features.
• The new Denon GUI is much easier to navigate than previous versions, making for a far more meaningful user experience.
• The unit is gigantic by AV preamp standards, with Denon using their largest receiver case. Make sure you have room in your rack before you bring one of these bad boys home.
• Without question, set-up can be complicated. This is no Mac Mini. This is a serious piece of equipment and, for the DIY consumer, it comes with a larger learning curve than if you wanted to program a reference-level Meridian 861 AV preamp. Some might also consider the flexibility and complexity to be an absolute advantage. It just depends on which side of the fence you're on.
• An RF remote should have been included for the price.