Denon manuals are terrible. Thankfully, batpig is here!

FADQ: Frequently Asked Denon Questions

General Denon Questions
Audyssey Questions
HDMI / Video Setup
PS3 and your Denon AVR
Audio / Surround Modes
Zone 2 Questions

We all know that the Denon manuals are worthless, soul-sucking torture tests. Plus, the menus are filled with cryptic terms with nary an explanation to be found. Thus, I present you with a collection of Frequently Asked Denon Questions (FADQ) that will hopefully make setting up and using your shiny new Denon AVR a little less painful.

For questions on setup, please refer to the Setup Guide.


General Denon Questions

Q. Which Denon model is right for me?

A. As you move up the Denon model lineup, each step up gives you slightly more power but more importantly additional features and inputs/outputs. Your best bet is to refer to the Denon Model Numbers page for reference so you can understand the model number structure, and then try and compare specs online at Denon's site.

As a good rule of thumb, you should be spending more on your SPEAKERS than your receiver. So if you bought a $500 speaker package for a 5.1 setup, you will probably be fine with an entry-level model like the 16xx or 19xx. If you have invested a few thousand into your speakers and are expecting huge, reference level output in a large room, you will probably need to step up to the superior amp sections of the mid- to higher-end models (33xx/9xx and up).

However, again, this is just a rule of thumb and not an absolute thing. For example, you may have an entry-level speaker package but you really desire the features in a higher end model (for example the networking or the color GUI). Or, if your speakers are extremely efficient (for example horn-loaded speakers like Klipsch can have efficiency ratings of 95dB or greater) you may not need much power. And if you REALLY need more power, for example, if you have extremely difficult-to-drive speakers (moderately sensitive, 4-ohm impedance), you may want to invest in a model with pre-amp outputs so you can add external amplification.

So, in general, the model you buy should be a balance of (1) your budget (obviously!), (2) what features you want, and (3) how difficult your speakers are to drive. Remember though that your SPEAKERS are the number one factor in the sound quality you hear, so if you are thinking of investing the extra $500 to step up from (for example) the 23xx to the 33xx purely for better sound quality, that $500 would be MUCH better spent simply getting better speakers or a second (or better) subwoofer. Sound quality improvements as you move up the line are subtle at best, mostly what you are paying for is extra features and a little more juice in the amps.

Q: Does the Denon on-screen display (OSD) or Graphical User Interface (GUI) show up over HDMI? And will it overlay the volume bar on top of the video when I change the volume?

A: For all new xx12 models, the GUI will display and overlay any video signal via the HDMI output to the TV. For older models, it depends on the model you own. There are three "tiers" of Denon models in terms of how the OSD or GUI behaves:

OSD and GUI capabilities
xx07 xx08 xx09 xx10 xx11
- 588 = 1508 589 = 1609 590 = 1610 591 = 1611
- 688 = 1708 689 = 1709 - -
- 788 = 1908 789 = 1909 790 = 1910 791 = 1911
887 = 2307CI 888 = 2308CI 889 = 2309CI 890 = 2310CI 891 = 2311CI
987 = 2807 988 = 2808CI 989 = 2809CI 990 = 3310CI 991 = 3311CI
- 3808CI - 4310CI 4311CI

  = No on-screen graphics over HDMI, period.
  = OSD over HDMI, but cannot "overlay" menus or volume display.
  = Full color GUI, and can "overlay" volume and GUI graphics.

"Tier 1" models (marked in yellow) do not have the ability to convert analog video to HDMI output, so they cannot display OSD information of any kind over the HDMI monitor output, period.

"Tier 2" models (marked in pink) can process analog video and convert to HDMI; these models are able to display a basic black & white OSD over their HDMI output, but they are incapable of OVERLAYING any graphics on top of HD video sources. So you will NOT see the volume bar or any other on-screen information displayed on top of the video at all, unless you are viewing a standard definition source via a composite or S-video connection. That means if all of your sources are hooked up with HDMI or component video, you will NEVER see the volume display!

If you open the OSD (e.g. to use the setup menu or adjust parameters) on a "Tier 2" model, the video will blank out and then the AVR and display will resync to the basic white-text-on-black-background OSD; when you are done, the OSD will disappear and the video will come back.

"Tier 3" models (marked in green) have fully featured video processing, including the ability to process and scale HDMI video. These models can display a color GUI and volume graphics, both of which can OVERLAY ON TOP of the video, regardless of whether it is analog video or HDMI video. Again, ALL the new xx12 models are now Tier 3, with the ability to overlay volume / GUI graphics over HDMI output.

HELPFUL HINT: The "Video Convert" and "i/p scaler" settings can affect the behavior of the GUI/OSD. If you are having weird issues, like for example the GUI/OSD shows up on your "DVD" input but not on your "TV/CBL" input, play around with the video conversion/scaler settings. For example, on new '10 models with a full GUI overlay, the GUI will only display if Video Conversion is set to ON.

Q: How many video devices can I hook up to my Denon? For example, I see four HDMI and three component video inputs on the AVR 2309CI, but I only see five video sources names that I can assign?

A: Most receivers (not just Denon) have more inputs available than "names" that can be assigned. In the example above, the AVR 2309CI has four HDMI and three component video inputs for hi-def sources, but only five actual "names" for video devices -- "TV/CBL", "DVD", "HDP", "VCR", and "V-AUX".

However, most receivers (including Denon) will allow you to "stack" your inputs, because it automatically selects the highest priority input (HDMI first, then component video, then S-video, the composite) that is producing a signal. Additionally, you can rename any of your inputs to whatever you want, giving you the flexibility to add a lot of devices if you are creative.

For example, let's say you have all three video game systems -- a PS3, an Xbox 360, and a Wii -- and you don't want them to hog three of your input names. You could rename the "VCR" input as "GAME", and then hook the PS3 up with HDMI into "HDMI-1", the Xbox 360 with component video to "Component-1" (plus an optical cable for digital audio), and the Wii with the composite (yellow) video to the input labeled "VCR" (plus of course the analog audio cables, which would also plug into "VCR" -- remember that composite inputs are not assignable!). You would then go into INPUT ASSIGN, select the "VCR" source, and assign "HDMI-1", "RCA-1", and the optical audio cable all to the VCR input (which you also renamed "GAME").

Now, when you select the "VCR" source the display will say "GAME", and it will automatically play whichever video game system is turned on at the moment.

Using this method to "stack" devices on one input gives a lot of flexibility. For example, you could stack a Blu-ray player (using HDMI) and a regular DVD player (using component video) in the "DVD" input name and use that for movies.

Unfortunately, Denon limits the flexibility somewhat by restricting a few input "names" to be audio-only. Typically one is the "CD" input name, and another is usually called "AUX" or "CD-R/TAPE". These devices can be renamed to whatever you want, but they are audio-only.

HELPFUL HINT #1: The "V-AUX" name corresponds to the front panel auxilliary inputs. That is why there are no inputs on the back labeled "V-AUX". You can still use the front panel auxilliary inputs even if you assign "V-AUX" to something else; you just have to make sure the device assigned to "V-AUX" is turned off so the front panel inputs are the highest-priority input that is active.

HELPFUL HINT #2: Certain input names such as "HDP" do not have analog (red/white) RCA inputs for audio, because they are intended for hi-def devices working over HDMI. So if you need to "stack" three devices on one input, make sure to use one of the other input names which has analog RCA inputs available.

Q: Can I change the volume of the speakers individually?

A: You can freely adjust channel levels "trims" for each speaker individually. For example, maybe you really like what Audyssey did but would like to bump up the center channel a little bit so I can hear the volume better. Or maybe you think the surrounds are too loud with Dynamic EQ engaged.

There are two ways to change the individual speaker volumes:

1. to change the speaker levels through the OSD/GUI menus using test tones, go into MANUAL SETUP > SPEAKER SETUP > CHANNEL LEVEL and cycle through the test tones and change whatever you want.

2. to change the speaker levels "on the fly" while watching program material, use the "CH LEVEL" or "CH SELECT" button on the remote to cycle through the various speaker channels and then you can bump them up/down as needed. For example, if you find the dialogue is too low, you can just bump up the center a bit.

With either method, these new channel levels will take effect and override what was set by Audyssey during Auto Setup. To revert to the speaker volumes that Audyssey measured, go to AUTO SETUP > PARAMETER CHECK and hit "RESTORE". This will reset all speaker parameters to how they looked right after Auto Setup.

HELPFUL HINT: If you are using the QUICK SELECTS to change input sources, you will have to RE-MEMORIZE them in order to preserve any channel level changes you make! Instructions for re-memorizing your Quick Selects can be found in your manual.

Q: Can I mix the audio and video from two different sources? For example, can I watch the game on TV while listening to music on my CD player?

A: Denon AVR's have for years had a "Video Select" function (sometimes labeled on the remote as "V.Select") which allows you to mix the audio and video from different sources. In theory, you simply go to the source you want to hear audio from, and then keep hitting "V.Select" until the display indicates that you are getting video from the source you desire. You can also pre-assign the Video Selection in the INPUT SETUP menu.

Unfortunately, however, there is one major hangup with newer Denon models - you cannot use the Video Select function with any HDMI sources!! This is a pretty big bummer, and is one of the (many) reasons it is probably better to leave your cable box hooked up via component video + digital audio as opposed to HDMI. You cannot mix the audio and/or video from ANY HDMI source using Video Select at all.

There are workarounds -- for example, you could temporarily go into INPUT SETUP and actually reassign the audio input you desire to match with the video input you are watching. Or you could run a second audio connection to the input you get the video from (for example, "TV/CBL") and use the "input mode" buttons to switch from HDMI audio to "digital" or "analog". But, of course, if you forget to change it back your wife will be wondering why she is trying to watch TV and only gets sound from the CD player!

The surest way to be able to easily mix audio and video from different inputs is to give up on the "one cable to the TV" paradigm and run several cables to the display. For example, the most common "audio/video mix" is when someone wants to watch TV while listening to music (e.g. having the football game on in the background). If you run the video from your cable box straight to the TV, then you can freely mix any audio source you want with the video signal from the cable box, simple by setting the TV to one input and then the receiver to a different input. If you have a universal remote, it can makes the switching seamless.

Q: I went to the PARAMETERS / AUDIO ADJUST menu and I only see like four or five options, but in the manual there are tons of parameters. Why can't I see all the parameters?

A: The suround parameters that are available in the PARAMETER menu (this section is called "AUDIO ADJUST" in Denon models with a color GUI) will depend on what surround mode you are in. Not every parameter will be available in every surround mode. There is a chart towards the back of your manual which lists all surround modes, and what parameters are available with each.

Q: I'm afraid to buy an Onkyo because people say it runs so hot. Do Denon receivers run hot?

A: Denon receivers generally run fairly cool, and in my experience none of my Denon AVR's were ever more than slightly warm to the touch. I keep my receiver in an enclosed, wooden entertainment console, and have never had an issue with overheating.

That being said, every situation is different. If your cabinet is very poorly ventilated, or if the receiver doesn't have much clearance around it, or if you are driving inefficient speakers to very loud volumes, you could find that the receiver gets pretty warm.

However, overall, Denons are most definitely on the "cool" side for receivers.

Over at AVS forum, forum member Bugs has graciously tested this out for us. He owned both an Onkyo TX-SR606 and a Denon AVR 1909, and his results are pasted below. Click here to link directly to the post by Bugs


The 1909 is a relatively cool-running component. Installed in a 5.1 system, on an open shelf, with 8" of clearance on the sides and 5" of clearance on the top and back, the 1909 had a temperature rise of 26F -28F (14C - 15C) after running for 2 hours at a volume of -18dB.

For a comparison, an Onkyo TX-SR606 installed in the same system had a temperature rise of 50F - 52 F (28C - 29C) under the same conditions.

Another AVS forum member, Alan TN, has also independently corroborated Bugs' results: Click here to go to Alan's post

Please note that I am not going to make blanket generalizations about other brands running temperatures, I am only reporting the specific data gathered by the users above. I have no personal experience with Onkyo and I will not make any general claims about their reputation for running hot. I can only relate the above, as well as my personal experience that I have never had an overheating problem with any of the seven Denons I have owned.


Audyssey Questions

Q. Can you give me some tips before I run Audyssey??

A. The first thing you need to do before running Audyssey is to download the outstanding "Audyssey Step-by-Step" guide, compiled by "giomania":

Click here to go to the Audyssey Step-by-Step Setup Guide

Then, bookmark the Audyssey 101 page at

Click here to go to the Audyssey 101 beginner's guide.

The following tips are all discussed in the links above, but I wanted to emphasize them as they are important:

1. The first measurement point is the most important! This is where Audyssey sets all of your speaker distances/delays and channel levels to make sure your surround sound is balanced. So even if your "primary seating position" is off to the side, you should have the first measurement point be in the SWEET SPOT of your listening area. As a rule of thumb, imagine that the 1st microphone position is at the tip of an imaginary equilateral triangle, with your Front L/R speakers forming the base.

2. The order/position of the rest of the measurements is not as important; they just provide Audyssey with additional information about the acoustics of your room. Just measure a sample of points around the first position, and avoid room boundaries and reflective surfaces. Don't get too caught up on the exact placement of the mic. The spacing recommended in the guide is approximate and doesn't need a tape measure to get it exact. The main guidelines are: (1) stay away from the walls and (2) don't go too far off the center axis.

3. For best results use a tripod. You can go to the drugstore or Walmart or something and get a cheap little video tripod for $15. It doesn't have to be anything fancy (some people have reported success using a lamp with the lampshade removed!), but if the mic does not have rigid support away from flat surfaces you will not get accurate results! Do not just plop the mic on your coffee table or a couch cushion, and definitely do not try to hold the mic with your hand!

4. Keep the room as quiet as possible! That means unplug the fridge, turn off the heat/AC, lock the cat in the bathroom!

Q. Does it matter what settings are on the receiver when I run Audyssey?

A. NO. Audyssey will ignore any settings such as volume control, channel level, surround mode, etc. when you run the auto-calibration program. You don't have to do anything other than plug in the microphone and start it up!

Q. What about the subwoofer? What should I do with all those knobs?

A. There are very explicit suggestions for subwoofer setup in the Audyssey 101 subwoofer setup guide. But if you want to keep things simple, it basically boils down to this: (1) set the volume knob on the sub about half way (e.g. "12 o'clock" on the knob); (2) set the phase knob to "0" or bypass it if possible; (3) turn off the sub's internal crossover (LPF) if possible (sometimes called "bypass" or "direct" mode). If the subwoofer doesn't have a crossover/LPF bypass option, then turn the crossover knob on the sub all the way up to the highest possible frequency.

After running Audyssey, make sure to check the speaker volumes (Auto Setup > Parameter Check) and verify that the subwoofer volume is not "maxed" out at +/- 12dB, which means that the receiver ran out of room attempting to balance the subwoofer volume. If this has happened, you need to re-adjust the sub's volume knob and re-run Audyssey until you get a subwoofer volume reading that isn't maxed out.

Q. Can I create my own Audyssey EQ curve to suit my preference? Like bumping up the mid-bass frequencies to create a "house curve"?

A. Unfortunately, NO. For consumer Audyssey implementations, you MUST use one of the Audyssey "target curves" (Audyssey, Flat, or Front) or the Audyssey system (including Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume) will not function. For an explanation of the target curves, see this question/answer in the Audyssey FAQ.

This means that if you switch to MANUAL EQ and try to edit the graphic EQ bands, you will not be able to use Audyssey features like Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume.

The intent of Audyssey MultEQ system is to calibrate your system to a specified "reference" EQ curve (called the "Audyssey" curve in Denons), which is flat through the bass and mids and then gradually rolls off the highs. It is intended to be a "set it and forget it" solution that, when combined with Dynamic EQ, will give you the "reference" tonal balance that was intended by the mixing engineer regardless of what the volume setting is. The higher-end Audyssey Pro products allow you to customize your own EQ curves.

Q. Can I change anything manually after running Audyssey, and will it screw Audyssey up?

A. One thing to understand about Audyssey is that there are two "phases" to the auto-setup program. The first phase (which is mostly accomplished at the first measurement point) is to calculate speaker distances and delays, balance the volumes of the speakers, and set the "bass management" (crossover frequencies and small/large) settings. This is basically what any auto-setup program does and most of these decisions are actually made by the receiver itself based on the data that Audyssey reports.

The second phase is the "real" Audyssey part, where you go beyond what a normal Auto Setup routine does. In this phase, Audyssey MultEQ creates EQ filters to correct for the acoustic properties of your room; this is accomplished by weighing all six (or eight for MultEQ XT) measurement points and using advanced algorithms to create a unique set of high-resolution filters for each of your speakers.

Note that these speaker EQ filters (phase two) are totally independent from the basic speaker settings like crossover, volume, and distance/delay. The MultEQ filters are their own deal, you can turn them on/off without affecting your basic speaker parameters (crossover, distance, etc) and you can adjust your basic speaker parameters without affecting the EQ filters.

So, feel free to go to MANUAL SETUP > SPEAKER SETUP and change things like speaker crossovers, channel levels, etc. This will not affect Audyssey's filters. For example, you may want to bump up the center channel by 1-2 dB to make the dialogue easier to hear, or you may want to bump down the subwoofer a bit because the bass is too loud.

That being said, as a rule of thumb you should NOT lower any crossovers below where Auto Setup set them! This is because Audyssey's MultEQ filters only extend down to the measured bass response (-3dB point) of each speaker. For example, let's say you are using a small satellite speaker system and Audyssey measures that your left front speaker has "real" bass response down to only 113Hz; it will stop filtering the speaker below that point. Whether you set the crossover at 60Hz, 80Hz, or 150Hz the Audyssey EQ filter will still be independent of that, it will always go down to 113Hz and then taper off. But if you set the crossover to 60Hz, you have "exposed" a large hole in the frequency response that is not filtered by MultEQ, and that your speaker has been measured to not produce in your room! It is better to leave these low frequencies to the subwoofer channel, which actually has much higher resolution filters (because most acoustical problems are in the low frequencies).

Q. OK, that all sort of makes sense. So what should I do with the crossovers? I see a lot of people recommending 80Hz as the "ideal" crossover?

A. The oft-quoted recommendation for the 80Hz crossover is because this is (generally) the point above which bass begins to become "directional". So, in an "idealized" theater setup you would want a set of monitors that can play effectively down to 80Hz, which you can place at the appropriate positions for surround sound, and then "hand off" the ultra low frequencies to a dedicated subwoofer system that can be placed elsewhere in the room for optimum bass performance (because the low frequencies are "non directional").

However, this "ideal" recommendation is NOT the optimum solution for many (most?) home theater setups, especially the common "sub/sat" setups with small satellite speakers that can't effectively reproduce any bass frequencies. This is the whole point of the Audyssey EQ process, in that you are actually measuring the performance of your speakers in your room and not the "on paper" specs from the manufacturers.

Following the logic from the question above, here are some good rules of thumb for how to handle crossovers after running Audyssey:

  • Do not lower the crossovers below where they were set -- your speakers have been measured not to be able to produce them effectively!

  • If any crossovers are set below 80, raise them up to 80Hz and let the subwoofer handle these ultra-low nondirectional frequencies (remember also that the subwoofer has higher resolution filters to correct the tricky low-end response).

  • Make sure that no speakers have been set to "large" especially if they can't actually handle full range signals. You can read a great article on this topic by the founder of Audyssey, Chris Kyriakakis, by clicking this link.

Q. OK, so Audyssey set my speakers to "large" and they are big bad-ass tower speakers, but you are saying set them to SMALL? Won't changing this manually screw up Audyssey?

A. No, it won't hurt anything and is actually recommended in many cases. Here is the response in the Audyssey 101 guide on the Audyssey website.

The thing to understand is that Audyssey does not decide whether a speaker is "small" or "large"! During Auto Setup, Audyssey "pings" all of your speakers and measures their frequency response in your room, and then reports its measurements to the receiver. The "dumb" logic in the receiver then makes a decision on small vs large (generally using 40Hz as the cut-off point) and sets a crossover at the next available setting above the measured "-3dB point". However, this crossover is not always going to be the OPTIMAL crossover for your system! Even if your speaker can produce 40Hz it is unlikely to be truly "flat" all the way down to 20Hz or below, so leave these ultra-low bass frequencies to your subwoofer!

So, again, as a rule of thumb, if you have a subwoofer set all of your speakers to small. And, if any crossover are set lower than 80HZ, raise them up to 80Hz so that you are sure the low bass frequencies are being redirected to your subwoofer. This will not hurt Audyssey at all, and in fact will HELP your system performance because Audyssey MultEQ has much more powerful EQ filters on the subwoofer channel. Remember, the small/large designation has NOTHING to do with the literal size of your speaker, it is simply a "bass management" setting.

For more info on "small vs large", click this link to read a really informatative piece from the founder of Audyssey.

Q. What is Audyssey MultEQ?

A. Audyssey MultEQ is a powerful auto-setup and room calibration program which applies frequency correction to your speakers in an effort to compensate for any acoustical problems inherent to your room. It does not do this with "bands" as in a traditional parametric EQ system; instead, it uses a proprietary method to create a "filter" for each speaker, using thousands of coefficients to shape the response of each speaker.

For more information, please check out the Audyssey MultEQ product description at the Audyssey website.

For general Audyssey questions/issues, first check out the very useful Audyssey FAQ on the Audyssey website.

Q. What is the difference between regular Audyssey MultEQ and MultEQ XT? And what about the "Audyssey 2EQ" in some Onkyos?

A. The biggest difference between regular MultEQ and MultEQ XT is that the XT-enabled receivers have extra processing power, which allows them to use higher resolution EQ filters and make calculations based on additional data about your room (8 measurement points instead of 6). The subwoofer resolution is the same, but the filters for your satellite speakers are 8 times more powerful in MultEQ XT. So, for a high-end home theater, a room with in-wall/in-ceiling speakers, or a particularly "acoustically challenged" room, MultEQ XT should provide superior calibration results. If you have a good acoustic room, or if you have invested a lot of money in acoustic treatments for your space, the difference might not be as noticeable.

The "2EQ" found in some Onkyo models differs in that it only uses three measurement points (the central spot and then 2 extra), and it uses lower resolution filters on the satellite speakers. Most importantly, however, 2EQ does NOTHING to your subwoofer except set the level and distance. It has no ability to EQ your subwoofer at all, which is a pretty huge advantage for full MultEQ as most of the acoustic problems in your room are going to occur at the bass frequencies.

You can see more specifics at the Audyssey MultEQ Product comparison chart on the Audyssey website.

Q. What is the deal with these new Audyssey features, Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ?

A. The guys who made it can explain it best. Here are links to Audyssey's explanations of the new technologies:

Audyssey Dynamic EQ

Audyssey Dynamic Volume

Note that these technologies are supplements to, not replacements for, the Audyssey MultEQ auto-calibration and room EQ system. They "layer on top" of the Audyssey MultEQ room correction, and you can turn Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume off without having to turn off MultEQ. The Audyssey MultEQ filters are the FIRST layer, correcting your speakers. Dynamic EQ is the SECOND layer, maintaining the tonal balance of your system as the volume drops below "reference" (which has been calibrated as "0" on the volume knob). Dynamic Volume, finally, is the THIRD layer, which you can apply when you want to control the intense dynamic swings in certain content (for example when you are watching TV late at night, or if you are annoyed with how loud the commercials are relative to the programming on TV).

Q. When I turn on Dynamic EQ, the surrounds are overwhelming! How do I fix this?

A. Dynamic EQ adjusts two things: (1) the frequency response so that it compensates for changes in human hearing at lower levels and you can listen to the reference response without having to play really loud and (2) surround impression by elevating the surround level as you turn the volume down. This is to compensate for the front-back asymmetry in our perception of loudness and maintain the same level of surround at all volume levels.

So, the first thing to realize is that things may be perfectly normal, and you are just hearing the correct surround mix for the first time!! So give your ears a few days to get used to the new sound, and you may grow to enjoy the enriched bass and surround dynamics that Dynamic EQ creates.

However, if you do find the surrounds are way too loud with Dynamic EQ engaged, you can adjust the "reference level" to which Dynamic EQ is targeting. Setting the "Dynamic EQ Reference Level Offset" to 10 or 15 will tone down how "aggressively" the Dynamic EQ system boosts your surrounds; this should be the first thing you try, especially for cable TV content (which is not mixed to the same reference volume as film soundtracks).

Note that video games may cause unique problems with surround volume levels when combined with Dynamic EQ! Video games are unlike any other source in that sounds can pan around you 360-degrees at the same volume level, especially in FPS (first-person shooter) type games. Dynamic EQ is not expecting this kind of volume level in the surrounds, and so the boost to the surrounds may be annoying and distracting. If you experience this with video games, try setting the "Reference Level Offset" to 10 or 15 as noted above, and if that still doesn't do it, simply turn off Dynamic EQ for video games.

Another potential cause of "overwhelming surrounds" is that your surrounds are not positioned properly, and Audyssey is trying to boost them too much to compensate. For example, if your surrounds are pointed away from the listening area, Audyssey will measure poor response and try to boost them accodringly. If you can change the "aim" of your surrounds, try to point them at the center of the listening area and then re-run Audyssey, this will improve the surround speakers response and tonal "blend" with the rest of your system.

Q. When I turn on Dynamic EQ, the bass is boomy and constantly rumbling! How do I fix this?

Again, as above, part of this could be caused by you simply not being used to hearing the full bass response when playing content at lower-than-reference volume. However, if you find it is constantly rumbling and boomy, it could be a problem.

The NUMBER ONE cause of complaints for “overwhelming” or “rumbly” bass with Dynamic EQ is poorly mastered TV audio!! Dynamic EQ is designed to work with film soundtracks, which are mixed to precise standards and a specified "reference level" to which all theaters and mixing rooms are calibrated. So, if it only happens when you are watching TV, and other sources sound great, then NOTHING IS WRONG and the problem is simply the non-reference audio found on many TV broadcasts! If this is the case, adjusting the "reference level" for your TV input so that Dynamic EQ doesn’t compensate so “aggressively” will cure the problem (see the next question for more discussion on how "Reference Level” affects Dynamic EQ).

If you have a '10 model or newer (i.e. anything ending in "0" or "1" such as 1910, 590, 891, 3311, etc) you can directly adjust reference level in the Audyssey Settings (either in the Parameter or Audio Adjust menu, depending on the model). This setting is known as "Reference Level Offset" and adjusting the reference level by 10dB (or even the max 15db) is usually the magic cure for boomy bass from your cable box. It is also very effective with music sources, which are typically mixed louder than movies, and setting the Offset value to 10 or 15 can help reduce boomy/bloated bass when listening to your favorite tunes.

If you have an older model (i.e. anything ending in "9" such as 889, 1909, etc) you can accomplish the same thing by trimming down the "Source Level" for that specific input. This needs to be done in the INPUT SETUP menu for a given input; again, trimming the source level down by 10dB will probably cure the boominess of Dynamic EQ with certain sources. Note that, unlike the Reference Level Offset option, using the "Source Level trick" will change the number on the volume display. So, if you used to listen at "-30dB", when you set the Source Level to -10dB you will have to turn it up to "-20dB" to achieve the same real volume output. This is normal and you shouldn't be worried that you are turning the volume up louder.

If you are still experiencing issues with excessive bass, even with your other inputs, the next thing you should check is that you have not used improper technique when setting up Audyssey. First, make sure that your subwoofer gain is set properly. If the subwoofer gain (the knob on the sub itself) is turned too high, and Audyssey sets trim far to the negative in an effort to compensate, you may end up with a “maxed out” channel level, meaning your system is not balanced! Check the channel levels that Audyssey set -- if your sub is way negative, like -10dB or even -12dB, try turning down the volume dial on the sub and re-run Audyssey. You would like the subwoofer's channel level to within a few dB's of "0" so you are sure you have enough "wiggle room" to balance the system properly.

Then, once the subwoofer gain is set properly, try re-running Audyssey with a focus on proper technique: (1) use a tripod; (2) don’t put mic too high (well above ear level); (3) make sure the room is as quiet as possible; (4) avoid reflective surfaces, and especially avoid going too close to room boundaries.   If you have soft couches which may absorb a lot of vibrations, do not set the tripod on the couch cushion directly but instead put the tripod on the floor.

Also consider repositioning your subwoofer, as being too close to a wall or corner can really enhance “boomy” bass. Many people have achieved great results by simply moving their sub and re-running Audyssey. If your subwoofer is positioned such that you are exciting a powerful room mode, electronic EQ may not be able to fix that completely. Repositioning the subwoofer, even a few inches, may mitigate the problem and give Audyssey a better chance to EQ your bass response.

Q. Okay, I did everything you said, I am SURE that I am running Audyssey correctly, and I have run out of ways to reposition my speakers. But the bass is still ridiculous with any content! How do I tame it?

If you have tried all of the above, and the bass STILL sounds too overwhelming with Dynamic EQ on… you may just not like “reference” bass. At this point, you are entering the realm of “preference” versus “reference”. The point of the MultEQ system is to equalize your speakers so that you get reference level response in your room at a volume setting of “0”, and as you lower the volume into the negatives, Dynamic EQ kicks in to try and maintain this tonal balance. The further the volume dial goes below “0”, the more Dynamic EQ is stepping in to boost the bass and surrounds.

However, most people with typical living room setups are used to listening at volumes well below “reference”; reference level is REALLY loud! You generally tweak the bass “by ear” until you find a comfortable level of rumble for your particular room and preferred listening volume – but you never had any idea what real “reference” level bass sounds like. Now, all of sudden, with Dynamic EQ, you may be hearing incredible, room-filling bass regardless of where the volume dial is… but the fact of the matter is many people might not LIKE that much bass, especially if you live in an apartment or other situation where you can’t be rattling the walls.

If this is the case, and you want to enjoy the benefits of Dynamic EQ + Dynamic Volume but your “preference” is for less bass, you need to change the reference so that Dynamic EQ is not acting too “aggressively”. Remember, Dynamic EQ compensates more and more the further the volume dial gets below “0”. Dynamic EQ assumes that the volume of “0” is calibrated as the “reference” volume. So, if you want to make the boost less aggressive, you can change the reference volume so that you are hitting a different number on the volume dial, but at the same overall level of “loudness”.

For example, let’s say when you listen to CD’s the bass becomes overwhelming. This is fairly common as most music is not mixed to a reference standard, and additionally much modern music has a compressed dynamic range to make it sound “louder” on crappy headphones and car stereos. You find that listening at a volume of “-30dB” is comfortable in terms of loudness, but the bass is too much with Dynamic EQ at that volume. So, go to INPUT SETUP and change the “Source Level” for the CD input to -10dB. Now, everything is 10dB softer, so you turn the volume dial up to “-20dB” to achieve the same level of “loudness”. But the benefit is that Dynamic EQ now “thinks” you are 10dB closer to “reference” volume, so it will apply less boost.

So, using a combination of the “Source Level” control, speaker channel volumes, and the new “Reference Level Offset” found on 2010 models, you can effectively “trick” the receiver into thinking the reference volume is 10, 15, or even 20 decibels less than film reference. So you can turn up the volume dial closer to “0”, and Dynamic EQ will be proportionately less aggressive with the “boost” of the EQ curve.

As a final thought, if you find movies to be a little overwhelming with the bass (very common with big blockbuster action flicks such as “The Dark Knight” and “Lord of the Rings”), or if you live in an apartment or other setting where you don’t want to rattle the floors, try lowering the “LFE” parameter to -10dB.This will not affect the bass in the main channels, but since most of the floor rumbling bass is contained in the LFE channel it can really lessen the “subsonic” vibrations that tend to piss off your wife or neighbors.

Q. What's the deal with the "LFE" setting in the Advanced Crossover menu? For example, my speakers were set to a 120Hz crossover and the LFE crossover is 80Hz, does that mean I am going to miss some content between 80 and 120Hz??

A. The first thing to understand is that the LFE setting in the crossover menu is NOT a crossover!! For some reason, receiver manufacturers stuck this option in the crossover menu, and it is a huge source of confusion for many users.

A "crossover", by definition, involves two speakers -- the frequencies above a certain "crossover" point are given to the satellite speakers, the frequencies below the crossover are sent to the dedicated subwoofer. The "LFE" setting, however, is not a crossover, it is simply a low-pass filter (LPF) on the LFE channel of a surround mix. All it does is put an upper-limit on the LFE channel, and it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the crossovers and "bass management" taking place in the receiver.

It is important to understand that the “LFE” is not the same thing as the “bass” channel.  Many people are concerned that they will “lose” bass if there is a mismatch between the LFE setting and the crossovers.  However, again, this LFE setting has absolutely nothing to do with the redirected bass from the other speakers.  The LFE channel is a totally separate channel and contains “supplementary” bass effects.

The LFE setting should be turned to 120Hz and left there, regardless of any of your other speaker settings. This is the correct setting and is recommmended specifically in the Audyssey setup guide. So set it to 120Hz and forget it!!

Q. I ran Audyssey and my subwoofer distance is strange, what gives?

A. This is totally normal; Audyssey measures the "acoustic" distance of your speakers, not necessarily the physical distance, as it is trying to correct the timing of all your speakers so the surround balance is correct. You can read the response to this question at Audyssey 101 on the Audyssey website.

Q. I keep getting a phase error when running Audyssey, I check the wiring and everything looks good. What should I do?

A. If the wiring is correct just hit "skip" and move on. Occasionally the acoustics of your room/speakers may trick Audyssey into thinking there is an error. Here is the response in the Audyssey FAQ on the Audyssey website.

Q. Is the “Night” mode the same thing as “Dynamic Volume”?

A. No, the “Night” button on the remote is for the old-school version of “Night” mode that receivers have had for years, it is nothing more than a simple dynamic range compressor. Denon confusingly left a dedicated “Night” button on the remote, but this button does NOT have anything to do with Dynamic Volume or Audyssey at all.

If you are using the Audyssey Dynamic Volume (and you should, it is a much more sophisticated version of “Night” mode), then you should never touch the “Night” mode button.

NOTE: The "Night" mode has been removed from the new '10 series models, so the confusion is finally over.


HDMI / Video Setup Questions

Q. Can you explain more about the the 1080p video scaling? Will it make my standard def cable look better?

A. The first thing to understand about video processing is that any modern HD television is a FIXEDPIXEL display, meaning it HAS TO display everything at its native resolution. For example, any 1080p television can ONLY display at precisely 1920x1080 pixels, no matter what type of video you feed it, standard def or 720p or 1080i or 1080p. The entire job of a television display is to process and display the image on the screen, so your TV inherently has video processsing/scaling as an intrinsic and necessary feature.

That means if you have a 1080p TV, it is already going to upscale everything to 1080p!!! Upscaling in receivers is, in a sense, mostly a marketing gimmick, and it is only a useful feature if it does it better than your display! What you really want to make sure is that the receiver doesn't screw anything up when passing the video through, and in that sense the Denons are just fine.

So, to reiterate, the only benefit of any external scaling solution (whether your AVR, your cable box, your DVD player, etc) is if it does it BETTER than what your TV is already doing. Because 1080p has become such a marketing buzzword, we have ended up in a marketplace where 1080p scaling is a fairly redundant feature found on multiple different devices. For example, if you have an upscaling DVD player, you have the option of either the DVD player, the receiver, or the TV doing the 1080p upscaling.

Do you REALLY need three different devices to accomplish the same task? Of course not... your best bet is to simply try out the various combinations and see which device does the best job. In my experience, on smaller (50" or less) displays, the difference is going to be very subtle and almost impossible to detect unless you know what to look for. So give it a shot, and if you can't see a difference, don't worry about it and move on with your life!

Will it make your standard def cable box look like HD? Don't expect any miracles! The best video processing (for example, that of the ABT-2010 chip found in the AVR 890/2310 and up) can definitely clean up a standard def signal a bit, but the old adage of "garbage in / garbage out" applies here. No mediocre standard def signal will ever look like true HD; the best results will occur when the source is a high-quality SD source, for example a high quality SD DVD can look really excellent upscaled to 1080p. But the blurry, jaggie-filled signal from the SD cable feed of The Daily Show on Comeday Central? Keep your expectations low.

Note that if you have an '09 model or older (e.g. 2809, 1909, 889) the only video processing available is analog-to-digital transcoding and scaling. That means that, unless your video device is hooked up with an analog video cable (component, s-video, or composite), your Denon AVR will not do a thing to the image! HDMI video inputs will simply pass through untouched with no processing, which frankly isn't such a bad thing. On current models (those ending with "0" like 790, 2310, etc) video processing is available on any input, digital or analog, unless you have the entry-level 1610/590 model (which can do no scaling of any kind).

Q: Do Denon AVR's screw up HDMI video at all?

A: Denon seems to get HDMI implementation correct: HDMI Video will pass through untouched, including 1080p/60 and 1080p/24.

Denon AVR's will correctly pass BTB/WTW signals over HDMI (no video clipping), and test patterns have confirmed that it does not touch digital video while passing it through. I have personally confirmed with calibration test patterns on my plasma display that, when passing HDMI video through, the Denons do not touch HDMI video at all.

Note that recent model Denons will NOT pass full-range RGB unless you are connected to a DVI display.

Q. What should I do with all of these HDMI settings? I don’t know what any of them mean?

A. In general, with a typical home setup you can leave these all on their default settings and things should work, as long as you have correctly assigned all of your inputs. By default, your Denon AVR has analog>HDMI video conversion enabled, and is set up properly for an HDMI connection between receiver and processor. It will automatically upscale any analog video signal to the highest resolution your TV accepts.

The only reason to change any of the HDMI settings is if you have an atypical setup – like a HDMI/DVI connection to your TV – or if you want to specifically disable/enable the video conversion and processing for some reason. For example, on newer models that can do HDMI>HDMI video processing, this is typically off by default and you may want to engage it (e.g. to upscale your HDMI cable box signal to 1080p).

For more detailed explanation of the various options, check out the Setup Guide section of this website.

Q. How do I set up the video processing so that everything works right and I can just connect one HDMI cable to the TV?

A. The easiest way is to LEAVE EVERYTHING AT THE DEFAULT SETTINGS! By default, Denon AVR's with HDMI scaling are set up to output everything to your TV via an HDMI cable, and will scale all analog sources automatically to the highest HDMI resolution your TV accepts.

If all you want to do is plug everything in and run one HDMI cable to your TV, then DON’T CHANGE ANY SETTINGS and it should work fine as long as you have assigned all of your inputs correctly in INPUT SETUP > ASSIGN.

Q. OK, that makes sense, but I prefer to let my display do all the scaling. How do I set it up so that I can run all of my video to the TV using only one HDMI cable, but without having the receiver do any scaling/processing?

If you would like convert analog video to an HDMI cable output to your display, but want to disable the video processing, set “i/p Scaler” to OFF (INPUT SETUP > VIDEO on '09 models; MANUAL SETUP > HDMI VIDEO on '08 models) but leave "Video Conversion" set to ON.

When the i/p scaler is set to OFF, and the Video Conversion still set to ON, it will just pass through analog signals to the HDMI output at the same resolution they came in, with no processing or scaling. And HDMI inputs will pass through untouched.

Note that on Denon models with GUI overlay, Video Conversion must be ON in order to overlay the on-screen graphics.

Q. I have an old VCR or video game system that I am trying to hook, but I can't get the video to show up over HDMI. Or if it does show up, I keep getting poor quality and constant drop-outs. What's going on?

A. Unfortunately, some old VCR's and certain old video game systems (e.g. N64, Sega Genesis) apparently have a very "weak" video output which confounds the video conversion function. The only solution is to run a second video cable to your TV -- either from a different monitor output on the Denon (like S-video or composite video), or directly from the VCR (bypassing the Denon completely).

Q. HDMI Control? I can watch TV when the Denon is off? Wow, really??

A. Modern HDMI devices have the ability to control each other via the HDMI connection, through a protocol known as HDMI-CEC (CEC = Consumer Electronics Control). This functionality confusingly gets branded with different names by different companies. For example, Samsung calls their version "Anynet+", Sony calls theirs "BraviaSync", and Panasonic calls its version "VieraLink". On Denons this feature is called "HDMI Control".

One side benefit of this feature on current Denon AVR's is that it allows you to "pass through" the HDMI signal from device to your TV when the Denon is in "Standby" mode. Note that you cannot change inputs while utilizing this feature, so make sure to switch the input to the one you want before powering down to Standby. On current model Denon AVR's (those ending with a "0" or "1" like 791 or 2310) you have the option of designating a specific HDMI input as the "Standby Source", whereas on xx09 models (ending in a "9") the passthrough will only apply to the LAST source selected before you power off.

Also, you should be aware that HDMI Control only works with HDMI signals, so you can't pass a component video source to the TV when the Denon is in Standby. Effectively, your Denon turns into a simple, "dumb" HDMI switch and just passes the HDMI signal through without touching it.

To get the HDMI standby passthrough feature to work, use the following procedure:

  1. Set HDMI Control to ON in the Denon
  2. Designate the "Standby Source" for passing through (if available)
  3. Make sure the HDMI Audio setting is set to AMP (not TV!) as you only want audio passing through to the TV when the unit is powered down

With this configuration, when you power down the Denon into Standby, it should pass the designated source through to your TV. If you get video but no audio, try turning off the HDMI-CEC control in the TV, as this has been known to interfere with the HDMI passthrough! It is counter-intuitive, but the HDMI-CEC in the TV will often interfere with the HDMI-CEC in the receiver. HDMI is, unfortunately, a fairly flaky format and a lot of these features that seem like they will make your life easier often end up screwing things up! I always recommend disabling these HDMI-CEC features unless you want to utilize a specific funtion (for example, the HDMI passthrough on the Denon).

HELPFUL HINT: One additional side effect of HDMI Control being enabled is that the two switched outlets on the back are active at all times! Because the unit is drawing power, these outlets do not switch off when the Denon goes to Standby, so you can not use them to automatically power down your DVD player or cooling fan or whatever.

As a final note, when HDMI Control is on, the Denon's power consumption increases slightly, because the HDMI circuits must remain active so the receiver can "talk" to the TV.

Q. How do I use ARC (Audio Return Channel) to listen to audio from my TV?

A. The newest HDMI 1.4 displays often have a feature called "ARC" which stands for "Audio Return Cahnnel". This feature turns the HDMI cable connecting the receiver to the TV into a "two way pipe" which can carry video to the display, or audio back to the receiver from the display. This can be helpful if you are accessing content directly through your TV (e.g. streaming Netflix to a networked TV, using the TV's internal tuner for cable, etc) and want to pipe the audio back to the AVR for surround sound.

To enable ARC, you need to do the following:

  1. Have a TV that is HDMI 1.4 and has the ARC feature (not all of them do!);
  2. Have a receiver that is HDMI 1.4 (on Denons this means xx11 models or newer);
  3. Turn HDMI Control ON in the receiver;
  4. Set the receiver to the "TV" input

If it still doesn't work when the receiver has HDMI control turned on and is tuned to the "TV" input, then you have to check the TV!! The receiver is just a passive "client" and there are no other settings that can effect it. Make sure your TV actually has this feature turned on, and also note that many TV's require you to use one HDMI input over the other to get ARC to work

HELPFUL HINT: One unfortunate side effect of HDMI-CEC and ARC being enabled in your TV is that the TV will try to take control of your AVR, and magically switch it to the "TV" input. There is NO setting on the receiver that will prevent this from happening!! If this behavior is driving you crazy, remember that you can always TURN OFF the HDMI-CEC features in your TV and use the tried-and-true method of simply running a digital audio cable out from the TV and into the receiver. Sure, you have one extra cable, but a lot less headache!


Using the PS3 with your Denon AVR

Q: How do I set up my PS3 to make sure I am getting maximum video and audio quality?

To get the PS3 set up for maximum audio/video quality with your new Denon AVR, first make sure the PS3 is updated to the most recent firmware. And, of course, connect your PS3 to the Denon with an HDMI cable.

Now, you just have to make sure the HDMI settings on the PS3 are correct:

  • For a "FAT" PS3: The older "fat" PS3 cannot send out HD audio to your receiver as a "bistream", so if you want to hear the lossless audio on Blu-rays (Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MASTER) you need to set the PS3 to decode it first.

    First, go to the PS3 options, and under "Video Options" set HDMI Audio output to "Linear PCM". This will set the PS3 to decode all audio and output as multichannel PCM over HDMI. If you leave this on "bitstream" you will get a downmixed version of hi-res audio on Blu-rays. The receiver should report "MULTI CH IN" to indicate it is receiving a multichannel PCM input.

  • For a "SLIM" PS3: The newer "Slim" models can bitstream the HD audio, so you do NOT need to set your PS3 to output linear PCM as explained above. You can leave it on "bitstream" for HDMI audio.

Then, scroll down to "Display Settings" on your PS3, and let the PS3 do an "auto" detect for HDMI Video and Audio compatibility, and it will "talk to" your Denon receiver and automatically set it up for maximum audio quality. If you have a "Slim" PS3, double check the list at the end to make sure Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MASTER are checked off on the list.

For more great PS3 tips and tricks, click here to go to the amazing PS3 FAQ at AVS Forum -- make sure to bookmark this page as it has a ton of useful info about your PS3!! And, for more info on surround modes and how they interact with the PS3 depending on your speaker arrangement, click here to go to the Audio section of this FAQ.

HELPFUL HINT: If you have a "Slim" PS3 and you can't get the bitstream audio to work, you should note that the PS3 cannot output 3D video and HD audio simultaneously! So the problem may simply be that you are playing a disc in 3D. In this case, you will get the "lossy" track instead of the HD audio track even if you have it set up to bitstream, e.g. a DTS-HD MASTER track will come up as standard DTS Surround.

Q: Allright, I did what you said, but I have a "phat" PS3 so it can't bitstream the HD audio. All it says is "MULTI CH IN". How do I make sure everything is working correctly and I am hearing the lossless audio from my Blu-rays?

If you have set everything up correctly with the PS3, the display of the Denon will read "MULTI CH IN" indicating that it is getting decoded, multichannel PCM audio from the PS3. See the Audio section of this FAQ for a more thorough explanation of what this means.

Since the AVR doesn't know what type of audio was originally decoded, to verify that you are getting the highest-quality audio when watching a Blu-ray you need to check on the PS3. Thankfully it's super easy -- just hit the "Select" button on the PS3 remote and it will call up the info display. Check at the top of the screen and make sure the PS3 is outputting the correct audio format.

HELPFUL HINT: Make sure to check that you have actually selected the TrueHD or DTS-MA track on the Blu Ray, if available! Many Blu-rays will not have the highest quality track set up as the default option, and unless you check there is no way to know because the Denon AVR display will read MULTI CH IN either way. To select a different audio track, you will have to open up the "language" settings on your Blu-ray to find the actual audio track listing. Then, select the HD audio track and you are good to go!


Audio / Surround Mode Questions

Q. Why isn't the Dolby TrueHD / DTS-MA light turning on when I play a Blu-ray?? I set up everything correctly but all is says is "MULTI CH IN". What the heck does that mean?

If the display says "MULTI CH IN" that means your source device is sending your receiver a multichannel PCM stream. You can think of PCM (which stands for Pulse-code Modulation) as the "raw" digital audio data, essentially just a digitized representation of the analog waveform. You probably never noticed it before because it is typically packed into a "codec" (like Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby TrueHD, etc.) which compresses the amount of space needed to hold the data on the disc (think of it like putting a bunch of big files into a ZIP file). But when you actually want to play the audio, the "raw" PCM data must be "unpacked" from the audio codec and decoded back into PCM.

It is important to understand that, in a modern digital receiver, ALL the audio you are hearing is PCM! Most people are unaware of this because, again, you typically only see the "codec" (e.g. Dolby Digital versus DTS) being decoded by your receiver. The actual processing behind the scenes in the "black box" is invisible to you. But now, with the ability of HDMI cables to transmit high-resolution multichannel audio data -- and the increased capacity of Blu-ray and HD DVD discs to hold all this extra data -- we have audio sources which can directly transmit the "raw" uncompressed PCM data without having to pack it into a codec.

When the new high-resolution audio codecs first came out, receivers did not have the processing power to decode them, and thus most HD DVD and Blu-Ray players came with the decoders built in. So on early HDMI receivers, you were forced to let the player decode the audio first and then transmit the raw multichannel PCM data over HDMI. At this point almost all HDMI receivers can decode the new codecs directly, so you have your choice of letting the player decode or having the receiver decode.

So, if your display says "MULTI CH IN" it means either: (1) the source device is decoding the audio first and sending the raw PCM audio to your receiver, as opposed to sending the encoded file ("bistreaming") and letting the receiver do the decoding; or (2) the audio on the disc is not encoded and you are simply getting the raw PCM data right off the disc. Either way, the sound you are hearing is identical with the source device "bistreaming" an encoded audio track and letting the receiver decode -- it all ends up as PCM either way!

For more background and information on "bitstreaming" versus "PCM", please study the incredible AVR FAQ at, especially the sections on "What do the terms bitstream, PCM and MPCM mean?" and "What do I need to enjoy lossless audio?" Also, read on for the answer to the next question...

Q. Okay, so how do I get that lovely blue HD audio light to come on?? I love me some lights!

A. In order to see the Dolby TrueHD / DTS-MASTER register on your display you need to do the following five things:

  1. Have a Blu-ray / HD DVD player that is capable of "bitstreaming" the new audio codecs;
  2. Make sure that your specific Denon AVR can actually decode the HD audio (every Denon AVR has had this capability since the xx09 models);
  3. Make sure that the Blu-ray player is configured properly for bitstreaming;
  4. Make sure your disc has an HD audio track and that you have actually selected it (the TrueHD or DTS-MA track are not always the defaults on a lot of Blu-rays!!);
  5. Make sure you left INPUT MODE and DECODE MODE set to "Auto" on your Denon AVR (this is the default setting).

If the Denon is set to "Auto" for input/decode mode and the display doesn't say "TrueHD" or "DTS-MASTER", that means the Denon isn't getting the correct audio signal!! All the receiver can do is play what you give it, so if you aren't getting it to "light up" and register HD audio, that means you need to look "upstream" and make sure your source is configured properly.

The most common cause of bitstreaming failing to work is that Blu-ray players will require you to turn "Secondary Audio" to OFF in order to bistream the HD audio codecs; the players to not have the functionality to mix the secondary audio (like Picture-in-Picture commentary) and re-encode it as TrueHD or DTS-MA. So if you want to listen to PIP or other special features, you may need to turn off the "bitstream" audio.

Please note that THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE in sound quality when bitstreaming hi-res audio vice letting the source decode. Remember, as we discussed above ALL the audio you eventually hear must end up as PCM! The only difference is where the audio is "unpacked" from its codec. Think of it like a zipped computer file that you email to your friend as an attachment. Regardless of whether you unzip it first and then attach it to the email, or you attach the zipped file and let your friend unzip it, the end result is IDENTICAL. This is one of the benefits of digital data.

Note that if you are using a "phat" PS3 as your Blu-ray player (i.e. anything but the "Slim"), it cannot bitstream the new hi-definition audio codecs: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD and DTS-Master. You will never see the HD audio light on the receiver when using a PS3 as your only Blu-ray player! You will only see "MULTI CH IN" as discussed above. The newer "Slim" PS3 model can bitstream the new audio codecs. To read more about the PS3 and your Denon, scroll up or click here to go the "PS3" section of this FAQ.

Q. What is the best surround mode to use?

A. Ultimately, only you can decide! The best thing to do is to experiment and see what YOU like, but here are some pointers to get you started:

The most important thing to understand is what type of signal you are receiving and then how that relates to how many speakers you have. The choices of surround mode which are available to you will depend on these two things!

To check what type of signal you are receiving, you can hit the “STATUS” button on the receiver to cycle through all the info, or you can go to MENU > INFORMATION > AUDIO INPUT SIGNAL.

On many Denon models, you can also look at the little channel lights on the display – the lit up boxes on the left side of the display tell you how many audio channels you are receiving from the input source (for example, if only two boxes on the left are lit up, you are getting a 2-channel source). The boxes on the right of the display tell you how many channels are being output to the speakers.

When you check the signal, the important thing to pay attention to is what type of signal it is and how many channels the input signal contains. For example, you may see something like this:

- DOLBY DIGITAL 3/2/.1 - or - DTS SURROUND 3/2/.1 -

This means you are receing a Dolby Digital or DTS signal with 5.1 channels (3 front, 2 surround, and the .1 or LFE channel).

Or if you are receiving a 7.1 multichannel PCM signal (like with a PS3 game or some Blu-rays) you would see something like this:

- PCM 3/4/.1 -

This means it is a PCM signal with 3 front, 4 surround, and .1 LFE channel (7.1 total).

If you are receiving a 2-channel input, it will look like this:

- PCM 2/0/0 - or - DOLBY DIGITAL 2.0 -

This means it is a STEREO input signal -- two channels only. That means if you want any noise to come out of the center, surrounds, or subwoofer, the receiver needs to be set to the right surround mode to process the extra channels out of those two channels.

Here is a brief summary of different surround modes. Remember, the important thing to know is what type of signal the Denon is receiving:


To listen to 2-channel as 2-channel, your choices are STEREO, DIRECT, and PURE DIRECT.

Using either DIRECT or PURE DIRECT mode will disable all bass management, which means that your front L/R speakers will get a full-range signal, and if the subwoofer is ON it will “double up” the bass from the mains. The only “bass management” available in DIRECT or PURE DIRECT modes is "double bass" when LFE+MAIN is on. Therefore, if you have small front speakers that can’t handle bass, just use the STEREO mode for 2-channel music to preserve all of your bass management settings. See the next question for a more thorough discussion of Direct vs Stereo mode.

Also, please note that if you select PURE DIRECT, the display and video output will be shut off. This is the way it is supposed to function, so don’t freak out if the display shuts off when you hit “PURE DIRECT”.

To matrix 2-channel sound to multichannel sound, you have your choice of DOLBY PRO LOGIC II or DTS NEO:6. Hit the “Standard” button to cycle between the two, or you can hit the “Cinema” or “Music” button to directly engage the specific Cinema/Music modes. You also can tweak them independently using the PARAMETERS menu. See the manual, as well as the AVR FAQ, for explanations of the differences.

Alternately, you can choose one of Denon’s proprietary DSP modes. As with most DSP, pretty much all of these suck, the only possible exception being the 5/7 CHANNEL STEREO mode. This mode will output unprocessed stereo sound equally from all your speakers, and can be a great choice for stereo music, especially if you just want background music at a party or something.


Generally, the receiver should automatically default to the correct decoding mode depending on the input signal. If it doesn't, the STANDARD button is your best friend! Pressing the STANDARD or STD button on the remote will put the receiver back in the "default" or "standard" decoding mode for any given multichannel source. "Standard" is Denon-ese for "straight" or "unprocessed" decoding -- just decode and play the multichannel signal as it was indended! For example, DOLBY DIGITAL for a Dolby Digital signal, DTS SURROUND for a DTS signal, DOLBY TRUEHD for a TrueHD soundtrack, and so forth.

If you are running a 7.1 setup, you can matrix 5.1 surround sound up to 7.1 by using DOLBY PRO LOGIC IIx. You can engage this by adjusting the surround back speaker parameter in the OSD/GUI menus, or by using the “Music” or “Cinema” button to directly engage the appropriate PLIIx mode. The display will read something like “DOLBY DIGITAL + PLIIx CINEMA” or “DTS + PLIIx CINEMA”. You can also cycle through your options with the STANDARD button.


Again, the STANDARD button is your friend! This will engage the "standard" default setting of MULTI CH IN. Additioanlly, if you have a 7.1 setup, it will probably cycle through things like “MULTI IN + PLIIx CINEMA”, which will matrix a 5.1 signal to 7.1. If it is not in the correct mode, hitting the STANDARD or STD button on the remote will engage the "standard" mode of MULTI CH IN for a multichannel PCM soundtrack.

You can also engage the DIRECT and PURE DIRECT modes when listening to multichannel PCM, which will shut off the tone controls, bass management, and any unneeded processing. If you have small speakers that can’t handle a full-range signal, remember that engaging MULTI CH DIRECT mode will effectively treat all speakers as “large”.

Also, remember that “PURE DIRECT” will turn off all video, so do not use this while watching a movie unless you just want to stare at a black screen while listening to the soundtrack! The MULTI CH PURE DIRECT mode is really only useful for listening to multichannel music (SACD or DVD-A) decoded by an external player and sent as multichannel PCM over HDMI.

HELPFUL HINT: Whatever Surround Mode you choose to correspond to a given input signal, your Denon AVR will memorize your settings and default to the last one you picked when it sees the same source signal again (as long as you didn't turn AUTO SURROUND off!).

Note that this is memorized by INPUT and by SIGNAL, so for example you can have different “default” settings when listening to 2-channel music on the “CD” input versus 2-channel television on the “TV/CBL” input. To check what your Auto Surround defaults are, hit MENU, go to INFORMATION, and then select AUTO SURROUND MODE. It will tell you what the default surround mode is for that input, depending on the input signal type.

Q. Can you explain more about DIRECT and PURE DIRECT modes, and how they differ from STEREO mode?

A. The major difference is that, when in DIRECT and PURE DIRECT modes, the receiver bypasses most (or all) of the additional processing circuitry such as Tone Controls (bass/treble) and Bass Management. Theoretically, bypassing or shutting off any unneeded circuitry should deliver slightly "purer" audio quality; in practice, you may or may not hear a difference.

If you look in Denon's manuals, they quote their S/N ratio specs in DIRECT mode, which implies that DIRECT will have a slightly lower noise floor than regular STEREO mode.

The key functional difference for most setups is that, when in DIRECT or PURE DIRECT mode, the speakers are treated as large regardless of how you set things up in the 2CH DIRECT/STEREO menu.

The only difference between DIRECT and PURE DIRECT mode is that PURE DIRECT shuts off all the video circuitry, including the display on the receiver itself. Note that if you use PURE DIRECT with an HDMI source, the video will still remain on as the receiver needs to keep the HDMI circuitry active to process the audio. In other respects they are the same; PURE DIRECT and DIRECT share all settings, including surround parameters, subwoofer mode, channel levels, etc.

To set up audio for 2-channel listening, you need to use the 2CH DIRECT/STEREO menu found under MANUAL SETUP > AUDIO SETUP. However, because of the quirks of DIRECT and PURE DIRECT modes, the settings are not always obvious in how they function. In typical Denon fashion, the settings do NOT apply equally to STEREO and DIRECT modes! Here is a summary of the behavior of this special sub menu:

When in STEREO mode:

- All settings -- e.g. small vs. large, crossover freq., etc. behave normally

- Remember that there is NO LFE signal in a stereo source, so if you want the sub to play while in STEREO mode you either need to set your speakers to SMALL with an appropriate crossover, or set sub to LFE+MAIN to activate "double bass".

When in DIRECT or PURE DIRECT mode:

- "Small" vs. "Large" is ignored (the front speakers are always treated as "large")

- The subwoofer will be active only if the LFE+MAIN setting is on, and it will be "double bass" because the front speakers will be treated as "large". ** note that you can still have the sub set to LFE in the "normal" subwoofer setup menu, this is just referring to the "2CH DIRECT/STEREO" settings

- The "crossover" frequency effectively functions as an LPF (low pass filter) for the subwoofer's "double bass", but does NOT affect the fronts (again, because of the first bullet point). The "crossover" thus effectively becomes an upper limit or "cap" for the double bass effect. So a good strategy is to set the "crossover" to where your front speakers naturally roll off, to try and get a smooth "blend" despite the double bass.

MULT EQ note:

Denon AVR's ending in an "8" or "9" (e.g. 2809) allow for Audyssey EQ to be applied in DIRECT and PURE DIRECT modes. This somewhat counterintuitive option was removed for the '10 models (those ending in "0" like 790 or 3310) but, if you have an older model, this is how to enable Audyssey with DIRECT modes:

  • On '08 models (e.g. 3808CI) the setting is found in AUTO SETUP > OPTION > DIRECT MODE
  • On '09 models (e.g. 2809CI) the setting is found in MANUAL SETUP > AUDIO SETUP > EQ PRESET

HELPFUL HINT: Note that all of the above applies to MULTI CH DIRECT mode as well. If you are receiving multichannel PCM input, like from a PS3 or HD DVD player, remember that in MULTI CH DIRECT mode there is no bass management and the sub will ONLY play the LFE channel -- and not redirected bass from other channels -- unless the sub is set to LFE+MAIN in the normal subwoofer setup. So if your speakers cannot handle full range signals, make sure to hit the "Standard" button and use MULTI CH IN instead of MULTI CH DIRECT.

Shameless Plug

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