Any unboxing begins, of course, with a box. And in the case of the packaging for Denon’s new flagship AVR-A1H 15.4-channel A/V receiver (not a typo), the sheer scale of the cardboard container gives you a sense of what you’re in for, even if you’re not the one to hoist the 80-ish-pound shipping crate into the den yourself for unboxing. To say that pictures don’t do it justice is such a cliché, but in this case it’s apropos—I hauled a lot of A/V receiver boxes through my house in the past few months while doing the most recent update to Wirecutter’s guide to the category (or watched them hauled when I was unable to do so myself), and none of them was anywhere near this imposing.
Cracking the outer carton for a look at the inner boxing doesn’t immediately explain its heft, but it starts to hint at the reasons. Needless to say, Denon’s $6500 (all prices USD) powerhouse boasts every feature you could hope for from such a device, including support for all of the relevant immersive audio formats, all of the prominent HDR video specifications, your choice of two room-correction systems, pretty beefy streaming capabilities (including Roon), and all the currently meaningful features of the HDMI 2.1 spec.
Open up the inner package, and you’re met with a substantial accessories box sitting atop the receiver, along with a pretty basic remote control (too basic, in my opinion, for a $6500 AVR), a beefy power cord, and the microphone for the Audyssey room-calibration system.
Inside the accessories box, you’ll find the Quick Start Guide, antennas for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, an antenna for the tuner, the usual Audyssey cardboard tripod (underneath a lot of paperwork), and some incredibly necessary speaker wire stickers. I generally ignore these things, but when you’re dealing with an AVR capable of driving 15 speakers (and four subwoofers), anything to help make the rat’s nest of wires a little easier to identify and navigate is much appreciated.
Overall, the AVR-A1H is as well-protected as you’d expect for a product of its price—well, mostly. I have to admit, it’s a bit of a bummer to see Denon relying on expanded polystyrene instead of expanded polyethylene for the packing foam. EPS can handle some shocks, sure, but it’s also crumbly and almost impossible to handle when you get to this size without cracking it right in half. Thankfully, the padding is split into four pieces—two up top, two on the bottom—which makes removing it to access the receiver a little easier. Still, for $6500, I’d like to see some better-quality (and let’s be honest, more expensive) foam padding, if only to make it easier to repackage the unit if you need repairs. And also just because it feels nicer.
Such concerns evaporate when you get the A1H out of the box and take your first look at it. Yes, it does sort of just look like a multichannel receiver. But again, the scale of it is impressive. It’s obviously not a matter of width—and it doesn’t seem that much taller than normal either. Depth perhaps? Maybe. Whatever it is, this thing is imposing.
Flip down the beefy front flap, and you can see most of the physical front-panel controls, including quick-select buttons and navigation controls. After setup, the only time you’re likely to flip that door down is when you want to plug in some cans, but the buttons all feel appropriately nice, and the accents on the D-pad control class up the joint quite a bit.
Taking a look through the ventilation grille on the top of the receiver, you really get a sense of where a lot of the A1H’s weight comes from. You can just see the massive 900W power supply and beefy heatsinks. I’m sure you’ll be able to see them much better once we crack the lid and photograph the guts of this thing professionally. But I’m not about to do that pre-review, just in case something goes kerflooey.
Spinning the chassis around to get a look at the back panel, I have to admit that it’s a bit overwhelming at first blush—15 amplified channels is a lot. A very lot. And it’s no surprise that the speaker-level connections dominate the bottom of the chassis. The unit also has a ton of other ins and outs and what-have-yous—so much so that there’s scarcely an unused square centimeter of space on the back panel.
Granted, some of those connections are redundant—and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. I simply mean that, for example, with the four independent subwoofer outputs, you have your choice of single-ended RCA outs or balanced XLR.
You also get one stereo XLR input, in addition to the wealth of stereo RCA ins and, of course, the embarrassment of HDMI connections.
The binding posts are quite nice. I’m not sure who on earth would use bare-wire connections with this many speakers to connect, but that’s an option, along with bananas and spades, or even pins.
Throughout the course of my review, I plan on installing the A1H in two different rooms—my mid-sized surround-sound system at the front of the house and my home theater in the back. The former is currently home to a 9.2-channel Marantz SR6014, so I figured as I was disconnecting it to make room for this behemoth, I’d stack the two receivers for the sake of comparison. It’s not a real surprise that they’re the same width—both have to be rack-friendly, after all. And as hinted at above, I’m not overly shocked to see that they’re not far off in terms of height, with the SR6014 measuring in at 6.4″ and the AVR-A1H at 7.1″ (yes, I just looked that up).
The real difference, as you can see, is depth. The 22.3-pound Marantz measures just 15.4″D without its antennas and other doobly-doo. The 70.5-pound Denon, on the other hand, spans a gargantuan 19.4″ from tip to tail. Oof. Mind you, if you need 15.4-channels of immersive sound and you’re willing to shell out 6500 clams for it, you’ve probably got the space. But dang, that’s a lot of receiver.
Does all that extra weight, extra power, and extra channel-count translate into better performance? I guess we’ll find out, won’t we? Look for my full review, coming soon.
. . . Dennis Burger