On the other hand, the Denon will only process analog video arriving at its composite-, component-, or S-video jacks and pass the upconverted signal out by way of its HDMI output. HDMI sources, meanwhile, are switched by the receiver and passed through untouched.
The Audyssey MultEQ XT room/speaker correction worked just the same as I'd found on previous versions. (Results will vary enormously depending on the individual room and setup.) In my system, this made for slightly clearer center-channel dialogue, tighter bass, and a smoother sonic bubble with surround effects.
I was also impressed by the other two Audyssey elements. Dynamic EQ, which I've encountered before, was able to retain musical bass, male-vocal character and weight, and surround spaciousness even at very low master-volume settings. And it did so without once sounding heavy, bassy, or ill balanced the way fixed "loudness compensation" circuits so often do.
Dynamic Volume, which is new to me, might be an even more welcome feature since it effectively leveled the volume from source to source, channel to channel, and - significantly - program to commercial and back again. While a bit less subtle than Dynamic EQ (it's an entirely different process), this is an insignificant price to pay to keep those supernaturally loud Cockney pitchmen from shocking you into buying some idiotically useless item.
For movie playback, Dynamic EQ kept an excellent semblance of spatiality even at very low, late-night-suitable volume levels. The courtroom scene early in Order of the Phoenix proved a fine demonstration. When listened to at a very soft level with Dynamic EQ turned off, the reverberant ambience of the chamber was effectively erased; with it engaged, the space's individual, echo-y character was clearly restored.
Oddly, the AVR-989's onscreen displays only worked when it was upconverting an S- or composite-video source. (And there's a several-second delay while it re-syncs the video each time you call up or release the display.) It didn't work with signals passing through the component-video or HDMI inputs, which is unfortunate since the Denon's displays offer easy access to many valuable options and parameters. They also provide a comprehensive display that includes information about the video- and audio-signal format and the surround mode, including dialogue-normalization offsets for Dolby Digital soundtracks.
The simplified, "everyday" top side of Denon's two-sided remote is easy to use, and it might well prove a great compromise solution for some folks. But power users will find that the remote has a few problems. If you want to select among all 12 of the AVR-989 inputs (only six are included on the remote's front), navigate menus (including the oft-needed Parameters page), or change surround modes, you need to flip the handset, open the door, and access a set of small, unlit keys. (And it's particularly awkward for lefties.)
The AVR-989's audio and video performance is beyond reproach. That said, I found its comparatively basic (and limited-access) displays and its frankly confusing video-processing limitations slightly disappointing. And in our increasingly networked home-entertainment era, the absence of media-client functions probably qualifies for the same complaint. Counterbalancing these is the Denon's powerful Audyssey processing, which, along with its indisputable audio and video chops, make it an excellent, affordable A/V receiver option.
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