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JohnnyB

Adventures in Home Theater Surround Sound

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This past October, my 2013 home theater surround processor refused to boot up. I'd already had warranty work done on it in 2015 for the same problem. Now it was out of warranty and I was out of patience. To replace it I wanted something that would sound better and last longer. Current high-performance AVPs (audio video processors) usually cost north of $2,000 and beyond, while the ones below $1K are noticeably limited in versatility and sound quality.  So I decided to try accessories4less.com, a website that sells home audio in the forms of regular new stock, new factory refreshes, and new old stock. They back their products with full factory warranty and a reasonable return period.

I soon ordered a factory-refurbished and warranteed Onkyo Integra DHC-80.2, originally released in 2011 as a state-of-the-art product for $2300. The refurb unit at acccessories4less was on sale for $399. It arrived Nov. 1. Inside a a 24"x24"x16" shipping box was this behemoth:

711mitr.promo_.jpg

That looked daunting enough, but check out the 109 jacks on the back panel and the buttons on the remote control:

711mitr.bac.jpgIntegra_DHC-80_2_AV_preamp_review_remote

My previous processor back panel and its remote control look like this:

040913_emotiva%20umc200_back.jpg040913_emotiva%20umc200_remote.jpg

That sort of froze me in my tracks for awhile. I knew I could hook it up and get it running, but it was going to take awhile: the user manual is 129 pages long (at 8-1/2"x11" page size). Plus I was alone most of the day watching a very curious and chewing-prone 1-yr-old Shepherd-Husky mix who could have chewed up interconnects, the remote, and other things lying around as I attempted to hook it up properly.

The Integra AVP sat in its shipping box unopened until Dec. 23--seven weeks--and the main reason I started to work on it was because we anticipated Christmas guests for the next day and we usually watch movies. Plus my wife and stepson were home all day to dog sit and keep my installation safe.

Oh, another "encouraging" thing: It turns out that the Integra brand is not only Onkyo's premium line, this AVP is targeted at custom home theater installers who install and configure these several times a week for a living. My confidence was sinking fast. Also, the new unit was so big I had to remove the feet and replace them with cardboard cutouts so it would fit on its shelf. It also weighs about triple what the old processor weighed, which is a bitch when you have to slide it forward off the shelf to plug in the HDMI cables and analog interconnects.

Well, one thing at a time, make sure the interconnects are all labeled and I started hooking it up bit by bit. The main stuff took me about four hours, but I "missed a spot" and got no sound. It didn't break anything and a little later I fixed it quickly and got the sound I needed.

I went to bed and slept well, probably for the first time since, oh, Nov. 1.

I have calibrated the speaker distances and crossover points by ear, but I still need to run the Audyssey software that measured everything from a microphone and adjusts accordingly. I have to find some time when there are no dogs around to run and bark, because that would totally mess up the measurements at the microphone.

So how is this fancy thang?

In a word, Incredible. Now I know why it was originally so expensive and why it's so big and heavy. It turns out that the various internal components are shielded and isolated from each other. That explains why the sound quality is both precise and incredibly smooth and organic. With the previous processor, I often had to turn on the subtitles because my wife couldn't make out the dialog--and sometimes neither could I. Since this new unit has been installed, my wife has not once asked for subtitles.

I've run several movies through it including The Hateful Eight, the Polar Express, Black Dynamite, and True Grit (John Wayne version). Hateful Eight is set in a stagecoach way station during a severe blizzard in the Rockies. The surround placement is very precise. I could hear the wind blowing back and forth and alternately swirling around me. I never had that sensation with my previous unit. The Integra offers a long list of surround schemes that bring out the best depending on how the source material is encoded, even if it's an older scheme.

So...I understand why these things were around $2400 new, but I couldn't have bought one at that. But at $399 it was a stone cold bargain. It's so good it would easily be worth hiring the Geek Squad or similar to have professionals install it (assuming you also have the speakers and sub(s) you need for a complete surround installation.

 

 

 

Edited by JohnnyB
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I think I am too old too deal with that many connectors. The place where we do most watching has space for all the electronic gear built in to the wall. With connections on the rear wall for surround speakers. Which is convenient and out of sight for USE. Now pulling it out of the wall (especially something that heavy and bulky), setting up something to suspend it in space, make connections, then slide it back in, hoping to not have any connection come loose? NOT so much fun.

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Nice score @JohnnyB ! Surprised to see a phono preamp on it! Congrats!

3 hours ago, JohnnyB said:

I've run several movies through it including .....and True Grit (John Wayne version). 

There is only one version.

.....that counts. :lol:

Edited by gtrdaddy
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16 hours ago, gtrdaddy said:

Nice score @JohnnyB ! Surprised to see a phono preamp on it! Congrats!

There is only one version [of True Grit].

.....that counts. :lol:

I like'em both. The original just drips with talent and charisma, not just the force of nature that is John Wayne, but Henry Hathaway's deft directing, Glen Campbell's credible support, and the totally believable character actor who portrayed Tom Chaney. His weather-worn face, gunpowder burn, and half-starved lanky body look more like a career criminal living off the land than Josh Brolin, who's just too damn healthy looking.

Jeff%20Corey%20%20True%20Grit%20(1969).j  MV5BMTQ1MzYyMjQ0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTA0

The Coen Brothers version is truer to the time and place of Fort Smith, the close proximity of Indian Territory (later known as Oklahoma, the youth of Mattie Ross, etc.

Both are engaging films, but the Hathaway/Wayne version grabs you by the collar and doesn't let go.

Edited by JohnnyB
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Nice looking unit! 

I built my first big HT system around an Integra DTR-7.4 (this was about 15 years back), Paradigm on-walls and a 500w SVS cylinder sub.  Loved the sound of the Integra, but after a few years the front right channel went out.  Replaced it with a Onkyo TX-NR708... which was also very nice... but the conformal coating they treated the front panel PCB with had a (fairly well publicized... 6mos *after* I bought it) issue that would cause it to randomly switch input channels :).  I fought with that for a while, and finally ripped the whole thing apart and scrubbed that stuff off the board.  Worked fine for a few more years, and then the HDMI board failed :/

Guess its a given that stuff don't last like it used to, not to mention the fact that there is a lot going on in those things... computer, DSP, big ass power amp, etc...  

The Paradigms and SVS are still going strong after all this time, but I settled for a Yamaha RX-V675 to replace the Onkyo a few years ago.  That one's still hanging in there, but not quite the same sound quality as the others.

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$400 is a steal!

That would have been perfect for my brother who bought a new TV and wanted me to hook up his dinosaur receiver, cassette deck, CD/DVD combo player and VCR  built before HDMI existed. Clusterf**k ensued.

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3 hours ago, hamerhead said:

$400 is a steal!

That would have been perfect for my brother who bought a new TV and wanted me to hook up his dinosaur receiver, cassette deck, CD/DVD combo player and VCR  built before HDMI existed. Clusterf**k ensued.

It would have been the perfect match: the reason the Integra's back panel has so many jacks is because it can handle just about any source component from 20-year-old legacy components to current products. It can accept up to 10 current HDMI 1.4 inputs, which can accept 3D or 4K super HD video plus 11.2 channel surround sound. It also has lots of RCA jacks to accept L-R stereo plus composite video, plus old style surround sound plus old style component HD video (RBY), including 7.1 channels of audio and it has other inputs to accept left and right channel audio plus a single composite video like the old days.

It has the codecs to decode recent surround schemes from Dolby and DTS, with or without THX enhancements, and the ability to create matrix surround from 2-channel stereo inputs.

Edited by JohnnyB

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1 hour ago, JohnnyB said:

It would have been the perfect match: the reason the Integra's back panel has so many jacks is because it can handle just about any source component from 20-year-old legacy components to current products. It can accept up to 10 current HDMI 1.4 inputs, which can accept 3D or 4K super HD video plus 11.2 channel surround sound. It also has lots of RCA jacks to accept L-R stereo plus composite video, plus old style surround sound plus old style component HD video (RBY), including 7.1 channels of audio and it has other inputs to accept left and right channel audio plus a single composite video like the old days.

It has the codecs to decode recent surround schemes from Dolby and DTS, with or without THX enhancements, and the ability to create matrix surround from 2-channel stereo inputs.

Will you pay my medical bills if I tell the better half that I want to hook up ELEVEN  speakers, plus a pair of subwoofers, in a space she frequents?:unsure:

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1 minute ago, django49 said:

Will you pay my medical bills if I tell the better half that I want to hook up ELEVEN  speakers, plus a pair of subwoofers, in a space she frequents?:unsure:

A few years ago I moved up from 5.1 to 7.2 when Audio Advisor was blowing out some Mirage HT speakers that were compatible with my 5.1 setup. This Integra supports 11.2, but no way am I adding another pair of speakers to the front sides (the wide channels) and another pair on the front ceiling (the high channels).

Going with 11.2 assumes a theater-like space and probably a big-ass video screen. The high channels are for creating a sense of height, such as the downtown scenes in Spiderman, Superman, and Batman films.

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I paid about 3 grand for my Integra preamp... that' a steal. I run it into a set of EMOTIVA amps... 

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I actually had one of these:

il_fullxfull.873824976_828o.jpg

Edited by Thundersteel

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On 2/5/2018 at 2:29 AM, Armitage said:

20121204_120124.jpg

Are those Klipsch KL-525-THX speakers for L-C-R? Which subwoofer model are those?

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My L C R and 2 rears are KL-650-THX, the next model up. The two subs at the front are their LW-120-THX, you can see their amp on top of the EMOTIVAs. I also have 2 Klipsch THX in-wall speakers for the sides and 2 15 inch Klipsch subs in the back.

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Update: Last Saturday (Feb 3) I finally got around to running the Integra's built-in Audyssey's MultiEQ XT32 room correction software. It includes a microphone that's plugged into a jack on the AVP's front panel and place the microphone where a listener/view's head would be. The software generates test tones speaker-by-speaker, measures the distances to each speaker, adjusts time delays accordingly, adjusts crossover points from speaker to speaker (especially critical for good subwoofer integration), measures and equalizes for room resonances, etc.

Then, it enables you to run the software again up to 7 more times, one for each additional seating position. There are only three family members here, so I ran it three times plus a fourth time in my seating position to give it a slight preference.

Wow! I knew this would improve it because I've run these programs on a couple of previous AVPs, but the higher resolution, additional channels, and higher build quality yielded a cleaner, more profound improvement.

In the time since, I've watched some films that exploit this AVP's strong points--Star Trek Beyond, Batman v. Superman, In a Valley of Violence, the opening of Polar Express, and there will many more to come. I haven't had this much fun watching movies at home in a long time.

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Installing, configuring, and finding my way around this surround processor has definitely been an adventure. I find new ways to do things, better ways to do them, better sound, better clarity, and my most recent discovery, better picture quality!

What? How could that be? Well, I was aware that one thing that separates the expensive AVPs from the sub-$1K ones is the video switching. Typically the AVPs have multiple HDMI inputs that usually carry the multiple channel sound plus three conductors for hi-def video. The less expensive ones simply have passive switching; the expensive ones not only have active switching (signal boost) but I found out this unit has pretty impressive upconverting.

Specifically it has HQV-Reon-VX Video Processing with 1080p video upscaling of all video sources connected via HDMI. A description can be found here.

For one thing, it can do a 1080p-to-24fps conversion. 24 frames per second is the native mode for commercial movie cameras and projectors. The processor is so fast it can evaluate every pixel on the screen in real time and adjust them before forwarding the video signal to the TV. Colors are richer and more natural, images are sharper. It almost feels like I upgraded to a 4K TV, and it definitely upconverts standard DVDs to look like HD. Any doubts I had that it was my imagination disappeared when the credits rolled and they were totally sharp and legible.

 

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42 minutes ago, LordsoftheJungle said:

$400 ? Sheesh, that's a helluva discount!

Bear in mind it's a 2011 model, and technical improvements in home theater technology advance rapidly. I don't even know how many iterations stand between this model and their current product. Still, it's factory refurbished with a warranty. It's also HDMI 1.4a compliant, which back in 2011 meant it could transmit 3D HDTV. These days the same bandwidth is used for 4K Ultra HD. It's 11.2-channel capable, which is where current models seem to have maxed out. The new ones have new room correction software and surround sound codecs, but the 2011 versions seem to work fine for me, and are a big big improvement over what I had before.

Yep; I was really glad to find it.

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