If you have your own AV receiver or multichannel processor at home, you don’t need me to tell you how much a good surround sound system can enhance and enrich the movie-watching experience. You probably also don’t need me to tell you that controlling these beasts isn’t always entirely intuitive. Before I added smart control to my home, my poor wife could barely figure out how to play a DVD without my help, due to the pile of remote controls required to power things up and switch inputs.
Of course, control systems like Control4, URC Total Control, and Savant make that sort of remote control juggling a thing of the past. But still, getting your surround system and your control system to play nicely together isn’t always the easiest of tasks. So most of the time, home technology specialists have to resort to tricks like placing a little IR transmitter on the face of the gear itself. But every time my dad’s house cleaner visits, I’m reminded of the fact that those little IR transmitters are way too easy to knock loose. And when they’re not positioned perfectly, the system stops working. I can’t tell you how many 8pm calls I’ve received from my old man that begin not with a, “hello,” or, “how are you?” but rather an exasperated, “My sound isn’t working!”
One of the many things I love about Integra’s new DHC-60.5 7.2-Channel A/V Preamp is that it puts an end to that sort of thing. The DHC-60.5—which I just reviewed for Home Theater Review—is, without question, one of the easiest devices I’ve ever integrated into my Control4 system, thanks mostly to its combination IP/serial/IR Secure Device Discovering Protocol (SDDP) driver. What that means is that as soon as you connect the DHC-60.5 to the same network as your Control4 system, the programming software that your Control4 dealer uses automatically recognizes the device and makes the driver available for drag-and-drop installation.
At least that’s what the “SDDP” part means. The really wicked cool thing about the DHC-60.5 driver is that, as long as the network connection remains intact, it uses your home network to send control signals (like changing inputs, adjusting volume, or directly accessing all of the preamp’s built-in streaming audio services). If, for some reason, the network connection to the preamp is interrupted, the driver also instructs the Control4 system to send serial and infrared commands as well, via the preamp’s RS-232 port or the back panel IR input (which is not only far out of reach of roving feather dusters, but is also a pretty tight and solid connection).
In other words, you’re triple protected in terms of the connection from your automation controller and the preamp, so you can be pretty secure in the knowledge that when you press “Watch>Blu-ray,” everything will fire up quickly and correctly, every time.
I was also fortunate enough to have Samsung’s F9000 Series Ultra HD TV on hand when I first began my review of the DHC-60.5, so I was able to test out its 4K upscaling capabilities. In my testing, it did just as good a job of upscaling 1080p video from Blu-rays as either the F9000 or my OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray player did, but even after taking the UHD TV out of the equation, I was impressed with the Integra’s video processing capabilities.
In terms of audio performance, there were some ups and downs—some strikes and gutters, as the Dude would say—but overall I found myself impressed with the sense of space that the DHC-60.5 delivered through my Paradigm Reference Studio 100 tower speakers and CC-590 center speaker. The soundfield was spacious, detailed, enveloping, with an uncanny ability to drop sound effects into 3D space with precision.
On the other hand, I found that the preamp didn’t really excel with my go-to scenes for difficult dialogue clarity. Voices were a bit indistinct, and with music I found that midrange-heavy acoustical fare tended to get a little muddied for my tastes.
That was true with or without the DHC-60.5′s Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction engaged. And unfortunately the preamp doesn’t feature access to Audyssey MultEQ Pro, a more advanced room correction system that’s only available to authorized home tech specialists.
I’m not sure if MultEQ Pro would make a difference in the preamp’s handling of midrange frequencies, and I’m not even sure it would bother most listeners. My wife said that voices never sounded quite right with the DHC-60.5, but she didn’t really pick up on the other problems that I had with the delivery of midrange frequencies, so your best bet would be to drop by your local Integra dealer for an audition to form your own impressions of the audio quality.
Whether you dig its sound or not, there’s no denying that the Integra DHC-60.5 7.2-Channel A/V Preamp takes integration to a level that few surround sound systems do. It’s quick to install, it’s as reliable a product as any I’ve ever tested, and when you add its HDBaseT multi-room audio-video capabilities into the mix, this has to be one of the most integration-friendly products I’ve ever reviewed.
For a deeper look at the DHC-60.5, and for a more detailed description of its performance, check out my full write-up at Home Theater Review.
Content courtesy of: Dennis Burger, Editor in Chief, HDLiving.com