Since the Integra can decode audio bitstreams of just about any known variety that arrive by way of HDMI, I first cued up some suitable Blu-ray Discs using a Pioneer BDP-95FD player. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on The Day After Tomorrow served admirably for starters, and the DTR-8.8 dutifully delivered pristine, extended-resolution sound. (At any rate, the "DTS-HD Master Audio" logo lit up on its front-panel display; it's reassuring to know that this HDMI 1.3 feature worked as advertised.) Same deal for Dolby TrueHD: I Am Legend called up the equivalent Dolby-flavor display. Both sounded great.
The news was equally good with SACDs, which the Integra also decoded directly. With an SACD bitstream arriving over HDMI, the DTR-8.8 sparked up a DSD Direct front-panel display and sent forth the superb multichannel sonics I expect from my SACD collection.
The Integra produced truly ample power for all of the howling winds and other preposterous effects in The Day After Tomorrow. The dynamics on the superbly recorded CD, the David Hazeltine Trio's The Jobim Songbook in New York, as demonstrated by dramatic drum-kit attacks and vivid brass transients, sounded truly impressive. Nothing about the size or the pristine quality of the Integra's sound made my ears think "receiver," rather than "separates."
Audyssey MultEQ room correction is by now an old friend, and when I engaged it in my setup, I heard the expected results: slightly tighter midbass, clearer and more realistically defined male vocals, and a faintly smoother yet simultaneously more open-sounding top end. I also heard a difficult-to-define increase in something - spatial purity, for lack of a better term - that was subtle but no less welcome.
Integra's Internet/USB streaming-media features worked as promised. Since a careful look at the manual showed that these should function with any Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) or DLNA-compatible media server, I ran a familiar multi-platform example (TwonkyMedia) under Mac OSX, and it worked perfectly. Browsing onscreen menus via the Integra was leisurely but bearable, and sound quality was of course limited only by the bit rate of the source files.
The Integra's upscaling video performance relies on a Silicon Optix HQV/Reon video DSP engine. Unlike some other receivers, the Integra will accept 480i-format video over HDMI (which my Oppo player obligingly supplies), so I was able to judge its performance unadorned by any in-player processing. The DTR-8.8's deinterlacing and upscaling proved outstanding, delivering concrete improvements to most standard-def TV and DVDs I watched on my Samsung 1080p LCD TV.
Usually, Integra's (and Onkyo's) user-interface designs strike me as more than usually straightforward, and the DTR-8.8's was no exception. The main onscreen display is graphically simple, and although it outputs only in 480i-format video (with the consequence of a substantial pause while my high-def TV re-synced to the lower-rez signal), it works well. The supplied eight-component system remote might be a little long in the tooth; versions of this handset have graced Integra and Onkyo designs for some 4 years now. But it's a simple and effective preprogrammed/learning design that provides adequate control with minimal confusion.
The Integra DTR-8.8 is all about performance and value, so regular readers won't be surprised that it gets a big thumbs-up from me. And its noteworthy test-bench performance didn't hurt. For nearly half the price of some other flagship A/V receivers, the DTR-8.8 does it all, and does it extremely well.
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