Processors

Integra DHC-80.1 Surround Sound Processor

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

Cabling was a fairly simple affair as I only used one source, an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player. This was connected via HDMI. I also ran a pair of analog interconnects to test the 80.1's direct mode and a coax cable to the first S/PDIF jack. A single HDMI cable was run out to my projector. My sub was hooked up with an RCA-terminated coax as it does not have an XLR input. I did use XLRs to connect the pre-outs to my Emotiva XPA-5 however. To link up to my computer network, I plugged in a wireless bridge to the 80.1's Ethernet port. I finished up with a cable for the 12v trigger to activate the amp on startup, and an IR input to make the Integra a part of my Logitech Harmony's RF control system.

After dialing in my initial settings, it was time to run the Audyssey room correction. The 80.1 supports the Audyssey Pro Kit with its more-precise microphone and software but as I did not have the kit, I used the included mic and the built-in program. The Pro Kit is sold by Audyssey or you can hire a certified installer to calibrate your processor. I had developed a winning measurement layout during my previous experience with Anthem's room correction (ARC) so I decided to repeat the same five positions. Audyssey MultEQ XT will calculate from a minimum of three to a maximum of eight measurements. After running through the program, I checked the results. The distances and levels seemed correct but the crossovers looked too low. It suggested 40Hz for my mains, 45Hz for my center and 60Hz for my surrounds. After listening to some music, I knew right away this was not ideal. Fortunately, you can change the crossovers to your liking while still taking advantage of the corrected frequency response. I increased the settings to 60Hz for mains and center, and 100Hz for the surrounds. I left the sub's low-pass filter at 80Hz. This sounded quite right to me and aside from increasing the subwoofer level later on, I was very happy with the results.

With Audyssey dialed in, I was free to explore the various volume compression and eq features of the 80.1. Both Audyssey and Dolby have contributed their technologies here. My first experiment was with Dolby Volume. This is accessed from the Audio Adjust menu or by pressing the Audio button on the remote. The effect is a compressed dynamic range so you can balance, for example, dialog and loud sound effects in a movie. We've all been "volume tappers" at one point or another – turn it up for the dialog, turn it down for the explosions. Dolby Volume saves you from constantly reaching for the remote. I found it effective at reducing the dynamic range without compromising sound quality too much. There are three options, Low, Medium and High. Which one you use will depend on your room. Since my theater is isolated sonically, I did not use it beyond my initial tests.

Audyssey also includes two dynamic functions, EQ and volume, and they are designed to work together. Dynamic EQ alters the frequency response based on the factor below reference level of the volume control. It also varies response with the actual level of content so it is constantly adjusting itself. This is meant to compensate for the fact that Audyssey's automatic calibration is performed at reference level. I found it increased bass energy a bit too much. I got a more detailed and balanced sound by simply bumping up my sub's level a bit and leaving the other channels alone. If you turn on Dynamic EQ, you can also use Dynamic Volume. This has three settings like its Dolby counterpart. At the highest setting, all sound is output at the same level which is quite bizarre. At Low and Medium, the effect is similar to Dolby volume. I think in multi-use rooms, this feature will be welcome as it makes movies a bit easier to listen to.

As the DHC-80.1 is THX Ultra2 Plus certified, it includes a THX listening mode. This can be applied as cinema, music or games (5.1); or Ultra2 cinema, music or games (7.1). Using any THX mode will bypass the content's native codec (like TrueHD or DTS-MA). In all THX modes, you can engage Loudness Plus which is yet another volume compression technology. In my listening, I found no advantage to the THX modes. The only DSP modes I use are Dolby Pro Logic II or DTS Neo:6 to convert two-channel content to 5.1.

Though I did not test this, the 80.1 supports height and width channels using either Dolby PLIIz or Audyssey DSX listening modes. If you do install the extra speakers, the Audyssey room correction applies to them as well. Since there are nine channels available you can use front height or width (not both at once) and rear surround channels. You can also connect two subwoofers and adjust their delay and level independently. For those wishing to use all the available channels, Integra has a nine-channel amp available called the DTA-70.1 that sells for $1800.