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Denon AVR-1612 Home Theater Receiver

Great value, great performance

During his tenure as a Crutchfield staff writer, Marshall Chase wrote about home theater receivers, sound bars, and in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.

More from Marshall Chase

People expect a lot from a home theater receiver, and the Denon AVR-1612 delivers. It has five channels of amplification for surround speakers as well as five 3D-ready HDMI inputs for convenient switching to an HD television. I put this receiver through the paces in the Crutchfield Lab and it performed very well. I also came away with some insights that should enhance your enjoyment of this receiver.


The Denon AVR-1612 in Crutchfield Labs

In our setup, the '1612 was connected to the Energy RC-Micro 5.1 home theater speaker system. Our television was the Samsung UN55D6500 . We played a Blu-ray action movie using a Sony BDP-S580 player and tested music streaming with a Mac® Mini computer. Even though the receiver itself has no direct Internet capability, once I connected a separate networked device, that component's web features became available.

Denon%20AVR-1612%20Audyssey%20setup%20wizardThe on-screen display helps you through the setup.

Auto-speaker setup works best with three legs

The '1612 uses Audyssey Laboratories' MultEQ® system to tune the speakers to your room. Instructions appear on screen and they're very easy to follow. An interesting discovery I made was that placing the included microphone on a back sofa cushion or worse, the seat of a chair, leads to noticeable foul-ups during setup.

The best solution came with the realization that the mic has a threaded insert, perfect for a camera tripod placement. This made easy work of positioning the mic for perfect listening height and distance.

How did the AVR-1612 sound?

The '1612 performed very well in surround mode. There was no lag between the TV image and sound track, synching perfectly to the action movie onscreen. Channel separation was excellent. The clarity of the Energy speakers was consistent throughout.

For a music test, I streamed a track, Barton Hollow, by the group The Civil Wars. This vocal duo features acoustic instruments and traditional harmonies that I think show a system's strengths and weaknesses. The mix of both male and female voice sounded natural and distinct. Guitar, bass and rhythm instruments had real warmth throughout this standard definition MP3 stream.

I found that when I  listened to music I got the fullest sound when I used the "Multichannel Stereo" or Dolby® Pro Logic mode. Based on prior tests using floor-standing speakers connected to similar Denon receivers I'm confident that the '1612 will sound great with a traditional front/left stereo speaker combination as well.

Some suggestions for configuration

After hours of testing I discovered a couple of tweaks I'd like to recommend.

Although I had everything connected properly I still didn't hear anything out of the speakers initially. I know this happens to people in the "real world" too. If this happens to you, here's the fix. When you first set up the '1612 you will come across the "HDMI Audio Out" in the "HDMI Setup" menu. Select "AMP"; otherwise audio and video will pass through the '1612 to the television, but won't play on your speaker system.

When I did the "Audio Setup", I left the "Auto Surround" function "ON". I didn't like the result. Auto Surround automatically plays your new program using the last used decoding function. That's not much fun if the last mode you used was a two-channel stereo format and the one on your movie is in 5.1-channel surround. I turned the Auto Surround OFF and had no further trouble getting to the best decoding for each tested source.

AVR-1612 is a terrific home theater receiver value

I found the AVR-1612 to be completely worthy of the Denon name. This is not a hard receiver to set up. The Denon set-up wizard even helps the user decide what cables to use. One feature that really stood out was the front-panel USB. While many receivers allow direct connection of an iPod® through this port, this one also lets you control your player using the receiver remote while viewing the metadata on the receiver's display. The '1612 has the flexibility to accommodate all kinds of gear, new or old, to help create a truly solid home theater system. I had different brands of components connected, and everything played well together.

The sound quality was excellent for both movies and music. Image pass-through was clean throughout tests with both HD and standard definition sources. The AVR-1612 proved itself to be an excellent performer. After working with it in the Crutchfield Lab I recommend the Denon AVR-1612 highly.

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