Integra’s DSR-4.8 DVD Receiver ($600) is a simple yet versatile 2.1-channel receiver with a built-in disc player that is designed to let users enjoy many (though not all) of the benefits of a full-fledged surround system, minus the cost and complexity. What is more, the term “DVD Receiver” actually understates the DSR-4.8’s true capabilities, in that the Integra’s built-in disc player can handle a very broad range of A/V disc formats (see “Features,” below for details)—Blu-ray sadly not among them. But the good news is that the Integra provides inputs that make it easy to connect an optional iPod dock or outboard Blu-ray player, should you wish to add either or both.
In an era where features-laden, hyper-complicated multichannel A/V receivers are the norm, the Integra bucks the trend by emphasizing three great virtues: simplicity, ease of setup/use, and strong core sound quality. If you want a high quality sound system for use with your HDTV, but find full-on surround rigs too expensive or dauntingly complex (and perhaps a bit of an eyesore, to boot), this Integra could be just the ticket.
Consider this DVD receiver if: you want a simple, versatile, high-quality, one-box, 2.1-channel A/V player/receiver that can handle almost all of the most important disc formats except Blu-ray (the DSR-4.8 even handles excellent, though admittedly somewhat uncommon, audiophile disc formats such as SACD and DVD-Audio). Note that the DSR-4.8 is powerful enough to drive full-range tower-type speakers, but can also work beautifully with satellite/subwoofer systems, if that’s your preference.
Look elsewhere if: you expect the seamless, 3D, “wraparound” surround sound experience that only good surround rigs can provide. The Integra’s “Theater Dimensional” virtual surround mode does a great job of creating a convincing “quasi-surround” feel, but it can’t reproduce channel-specific effects (e.g., the sound of a helicopter approaching from behind and to the right of the listener) the way a 5.1 or 7.1-channel system can. Also, look further if you require a receiver with a built-in Blu-ray player.
Ratings (relative to other DVD Receivers):
- User interface: 7
- Sound quality, music: 9
- Sound quality, movies: 8
- Value: 9
- 2 x 50-watt integrated amplifier using Integra’s signature WRAT (wide range amplifier technology) low-impedance/high-current circuit topologies. (WRAT amplifiers use the traditional linear circuits favored by many audiophiles, as opposed to Class D switching amplifier circuits).
- 2.1-channel configuration means the receiver can be used with full-range stereo speakers or with subwoofer-equipped speaker systems.
- Subwoofer output with variable level controls and crossover functions
- AM/FM tuner with 40 presets
- HDMI Pass-Thru (1080p compatible; one input/one output). Strangely, though, HDMI audio signals can ).
- Component, and composite video output.
- Two composite video inputs
- Two digital audio inputs
- Disc formats: DVD-Video/Audio, Video CD, audio CD, Super Audio CD (SACD), MP3, WMA, and JPEG (supports JPEG in High Definition).
- Provides Integra’s “Theater-Dimensional” virtual surround mode
- Direct Mode (turns off all audio processing for purest sound).
- Remote control
The DSR-4.8 features a sophisticated graphical menu for initial setup that is reasonably intuitive and easy to navigate. The Integra also provides an “Advanced” setup menu that, unfortunately and confusingly, does display onscreen (instead, it works only through the receiver’s small front panel display). Since the advanced menu addresses certain basic configuration decisions all users will need to make (for example, configuring the system for 2-channel vs. 2.1-channel operation), it really ought to be displayed onscreen along with all other menu options.
The DSR-4.8 comes with a remote similar to, but simpler than, the remotes typically provided with Integra A/V receivers. Unfortunately, the DSR-4.8 remote is not backlit (most Integra AVR remotes are) and does not provide discrete, named input selector buttons; instead, the remote selects inputs via a matched pair of “>” (go forward) and “<” (go backward) buttons.
Given the real-world circumstances under which the DSR-4.8 is likely to be used, we do have two minor quibbles with the way this receiver’s inputs are set up.
First, there is only one HDMI Pass-Thru, where I think most users would expect at least two (one for a cable box and the other for a Blu-ray player). Second, as mentioned above, the DSR-4.8 can only pass through HDMI audio signals, which seems downright weird (it sort of defeats the “one-cable-does-it-all” appeal of HDMI, don’t you think?).
Here’s the recommended workaround. If you want to run a Blu-ray player through the DSR-4.8, and have the Integra and your main speakers (not the speakers in your TV set) play movie soundtracks, then plan on using an HDMI cable (or component video cables) for video connections supplemented with either a coaxial or optical digital cable for audio connections.
As a test I routed HD video signals from a high-quality Blu-ray player through the Integra and found its HDMI pass-thru performance exemplary. The DSR-4.8 added no visible noise or other artifacts to pass-thru signals.
On DVDs, the DSR-4.8’s built-in player proved good, though not quite top-tier level, performance. On the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD, for example, the Integra offered good resolution, good motion adaptive processing, and very good handling of various video, film, and animation frame cadences, though it faltered to a degree on the disc’s notoriously difficult jaggies tests and moiré pattern tests. Happily, these latter two problem spots were rarely evident when I used the DSR-4.8 to play real-world movies. When playing DVDs the Integra delivered good 1080i upscaling performance and a presentation that handled onscreen motion smoothly, but that rendered small, fine image details a bit more softly than some top-tier players do.
Integra’s WRAT amplifiers give the DSR-4.8 a pleasingly warm, natural, well-balanced sound that has virtually none of the shrill, brittle, treble edginess that many other low-cost receivers exhibit. Although it is perhaps not the last word in retrieval of subtle, low-level sonic details, the Integra more than holds its own relative to other products in its price class and it provides more than enough resolution for listeners to discern difference between different grades of recordings (for example, to hear how and where SACD discs sound better than their CD counterparts).
Although the DSR-4.8 appears to be only moderately powerful on paper (offering 50wpc versus the 100wpc typically claimed by many A/V receivers), it is important to understand that Integra’s power ratings are quite conservative. Consequently, this little DVD receiver sounds more capable and dynamically punchy than its modest wattage ratings might lead you to expect.
When watching movies through the DSR-4.8, I found the best plan was always to engage the receiver’s “Theater-Dimensional” virtual surround sound mode. Subjectively, “T-D” mode improves dynamics and creates satisfying quasi-surround imaging where sounds not only emanate from a broad, deep sound stage that extends across the front of the room, but that also seems to stretch back to the sides of the listening position.
For a great taste of what the T-D mode can do, try putting on the by-now classic “Echo Game” scene from House of Flying Daggers (the scene where a Chinese garrison captain flings hardened beans at a circular array of drums, and an ostensibly blind dancer attempts to strike the same drums the bean have hit, “echoing” their sound). If you know how the soundtrack for the scene should sound on a good full-fledged surround rig (and many of us have heard the demo scores of times), what will surprise you is how close the Integra comes to achieving surround-like effects—but with just two channels. All of the basic elements are there: the dry, rattling sound of the beans in the bowl, the hush that comes over the crowd before the game begins, the sharp attack and deep reverberant boom heard when the beans strike the drum heads, and the slightly differently voiced sound of the drums when the weighted sleeves of the dancer’s garment echo the initial notes.
While the sound doesn’t completely encircle you as it would with a surround system, it does seem to bend around to fill the front and sides of the room, which—for many listeners—will be a completely acceptable alternative. The point is that the Integra gives you much of the listening pleasure of a surround system without the complexity.
One point to remember about the Integra is its sheer versatility; it can play traditional audio CDs as well as audiophile-oriented, high resolution DVD-Audio and SACD discs. Granted, DVD-Audio discs are relatively uncommon, but new SACD material continues to be released, sounds great, and is well worth searching out. Happily, the DSR-4.8 is a balanced and accomplished performer with all three main audio disc types. In fact, one way to look at the DSR-4.8 is to picture it as a good $400 universal player coupled with a good $400+ 2.1-channel receiver, but selling for less than the sum of its parts.
To appreciate how suave and sophisticated the Integra can be, try a really well recorded jazz track such as “Gadu” from Avishai Cohen’s Adama [Stretch]. On this track you’ll hear veteran percussionist Don Alias’s smooth, self-assured performance on congas (you not only hear but feel Alias’ confident touch on the taut drum heads), the deep, throaty, achingly evocative sound of Cohen’s pizzicato playing on the acoustic bass, and the lilting, dancing, chime-like sound of Chick Corea solos performed on a Fender-Rhodes electric piano (the sound is enchantingly reminiscent of Corea’s work from back in the days of Return to Forever). On good recordings, the Integra pulls you deep inside the music much the way far more expensive high-end components do, which is really the whole point.
Integra’s DSR-4.8 DVD receiver answers the need for a sensibly priced, high quality, combo universal disc player plus 2.1-channel receiver. For people who can’t (or don’t want to) install full-bore surround systems, the DSR-4.8 is easy to embrace, because it creates satisfying surround-like effects from just two channels. While there are some quirks (the menu system and pass-thru only capabilities for HDMI audio) and omissions (no Blu-ray playback), the DSR-4.8 is nevertheless a fine value. As you listen to it, my bet is that you’ll instinctively try to compare this little Integra to pricier components, which is the highest praise of all.
SPECS & PRICING
Integra DSR-4.8 2.1-channel DVD receiver
Power output: 2 x 50 Wpc @ 6 ohms
Disc formats: DVD-Video/Audio, Video CD, audio CD, Super Audio CD, MP3, WMA, JPEG,
DVD +/- R/RW, CD-R/RW
Decoding formats: Dolby Digital, DTS, and proprietary “Theater-Dimensional” virtual surround
Video inputs/outputs: HDMI v1.0 Pass-Thru (1 in, 1 out), component video (1 out); composite video (2 in, 1 out)
Audio inputs/outputs: HDMI v1.0 Pass-Thru (1 in, 1 out), digital audio (1 optical in, 1 coaxial in), analog audio (2 in), AM/FM tuner, subwoofer output (1 out), headphone (1 out)
Other: RS-232 port (1 in), IR input/output (1/1)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 3.562” x 17.125 “ x 16.312”
Weight: 19 lb.
Integra Division, Onkyo U.S.A. Corporation