Denon's new midprice champ produced impressive results, for the most part, on the test bench. Power was good, just bettering the unit's 125-watt spec in stereo mode, still maintaining good output into 4 ohms, and very nearly reaching the century mark (97 watts) with 5 channels driven simultaneously. When driving more than 5 channels, the Denon shut down protectively after more than a few seconds, but I managed to see around 80 watts repeatedly. Noise and distortion results were also generally excellent (linearity and signal-to-noise were effectively perfect), with two caveats: First (and rather curiously), the AVR-991 measured 1.6 dB quieter from its center and surround outputs on Dolby Digital signals than its front left/right ones. Second (and even more surpris- ing), analog-input noise (shorted input) was more than 20 dB poorer when the Stereo listening mode was selected, relative to the Direct mode. This is the first time I've discovered such a large difference; when I find one at all, it's usually 1 dB or less, and usually much less. I don't know why this should be the case, but Direct mode is always available.
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