In the sound contracting business, when one thinks of Onkyo or its high-end Integra division, your first thought is “consumer” or “hi fi.” Well, no longer. I recently took a look at the Integra DTR 8.4 AV receiver ($1,800). And although the support documentation clearly aims at the consumer, there are many features and functions that could apply to some AV installations. [It should be noted that Onkyo is starting a “pro” division to directly serve the contractor/installation industry – Ed.]
Product PointsApplications: Installation, home theater
Key Features: Multiple audio and video inputs, digital and analog connectivity, Net-Tune Ethernet connection
Contact: Integra at 800- 225-1946, Web Site.
Certainly evident is the feature set available and typically found in most consumer receivers aimed at providing the audio portion of a home theater. The twist here is that it not only manages audio inputs and multichannel outputs, but it manages the video sources as well. In fact, it can handle five video inputs plus a DVD input and four audio sources plus a Net audio input; more on that in just a bit. Additionally, it provides two video output zones using an S-Video or composite outputs for connection to the video monitor device, be it a TV or projector. Two component video inputs and a component video output are available as well. Back on the audio side, it accepts four optical digital audio inputs and three coaxial digital inputs that are arbitrarily selectable to any source. Two optical digital outputs are available for recording purposes to DVD and CD recorders. Cool.
As if that isn’t enough, it has multichannel analog inputs for components offering the multichannel audio outputs. Eight preamp outputs are available: front L/R, center, sub, surround L/R and surround back/zone L/R. There are seven amplified channel outputs providing 110 watts at 8 ohms, with the only excluded channel being the sub. So you have to use a powered sub or an amplified sub system connected to the preamp out. There are antenna connections and an Ethernet connection for Net-Tune.
Imagine connecting this unit to your network and piping Net audio services from a dedicated audio server, the Internet or cable company, satellite etc., all in digital splendor. Way cool. How about an audio server for campus PA or background or foreground music? Finally there is an RS232 serial control connection so you can control it with your favorite external control platform. The remote control included with the unit provides detailed and dexterous control of all the features, functions and their parameters, such as multiple surround modes, content and source sequencing, and signal adjustment; you get the picture.
Oh, and if you do not want to use the rear (back) surround option, you can set up a “Zone 2.” This allows the user to send source audio and video to a second set of AV outputs for simultaneous operation while the main surround system is in use. Remember, there is a built-in amplifier for these channels so all you need are the speakers and the video monitor. A nifty little extra are prelabeled wire markers for all the cables. You will need them!
Just about every type of connection needed for a consumer AV system setup is available. However, there are some connections that would be useful for commercial AV applications that are not present, like balanced audio ins, VGA inputs and outputs and possibly some Phoenix-type connections for speaker outputs. Although all audio inputs are unbalanced, there are coaxial and optical digital inputs available. I connected a DVD player and a TV monitor to the unit and played a DVD. An optional remote control can be used to adjust the parameters, but I used the front panel to set up the audio types and display mode and balance the system. I connected an alternate video source. Switching between the audio and video sources was smooth. I could not see or hear any discernable degradation in the video or audio signal.
The “re-EQ” function comes in handy with some earlier DVDs with harsh-sounding sound tracks, allowing you to de-emphasize the high-end content. You can set a default input source, although the factory default is for the DVD player. As with audio receivers, you can select an input to go to a specific recording output while still watching a main program. So you can record your satellite feed to the DVD recorder while doing a presentation with your computer. In all there are very useful features with lots of variables. My concern in an AV installation would be locking out unused features so that the client cannot mess with the unit. The unit cannot be rackmounted and it is big and heavy, so make sure you have a secure and steady rack for the unit.
I am impressed with the Integra DTR-8.4. Although it does not have any provisions for microphones, computers, or other balanced connections, using a simple little preamp with a wireless microphone and a VGA to RGB converter can turn this unit into a viable AV solution for small presentation rooms for corporate or education facilities. Especially with the high- quality audio and video and the flexible routing, your customers’ AV environments can be enhanced and act like something they are used to using at home. This unit certainly allows for “thinking outside the box” when looking at your next AV installation.