How to choose surround modes on the xx12 and newer models

Learning how and when to select surround modes, and how these surround modes relate to the input signal to generate the desired speaker output, is one of the fundamental processes to understand to ensure you are getting the most out of your Denon receiver.  For many, many years, Denon receivers used the same rubric for surround mode selection, based around the “Standard” button.  I cover these concepts and the older method fairly comprehensively in the Audio section of my FADQ.

However, starting with the xx12 models, Denon abandoned the old paradigm and switched to a new button layout.  Instead of the old “Standard” button as the core, with additional option buttons like “Stereo”, “Pure Direct”, and “DSP Simulation” to select “non standard” surround modes, owners of xx12 and xx13 models are now presented with the following four surround mode control buttons:

  • MOVIE
  • MUSIC
  • GAME
  • PURE (called DIRECT on xx12 models)

For example, here is what you see on the bottom of a remote that comes with an xx13 model receiver:

Image of the surround mode buttons on the xx13 remotes

So how the heck do you use these buttons?  Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually a pretty easy process!

The first three buttons — Movie, Music, and Game — can be thought of as surround mode “categories”.  Each of these buttons will be connected to a predetermined list of surround modes that Denon decided were appropriate for the given input signal.

If you press any of these buttons once, it will recall the last surround mode used with that button. If you want to change the surround mode associated with that button, press and hold it for a couple of seconds and a list will appear on your screen:

This is what appears on the TV screen when you press and hold the "Movie" button

Scroll through the list, either by pressing the surround mode button repeatedly or using the up/down arrows on the remote, and select the surround mode you want to be assigned to that button.  Voila!  That surround mode will be “memorized” for the button going forward.  Using this process, you can set the “assignments” for each of the three buttons and then quickly recall your favorite surround modes by hitting the relevant button.  Note that the memorized assignments also depend on the input signal, so the settings you use for 2 channel audio will not screw anything up when you get a 5.1 channel digital signal.

The final button is the one labeled “PURE” (or “DIRECT” on xx12 models).  This button has a fixed function for all input signal types — it toggles between the DIRECT and PURE DIRECT surround modes.  (If you want to learn more about these two modes, click the link above to go the Audio section of my FADQ)

That’s it!  Pretty simple right?  It’s actually a pretty handy system, and once you get the hand of it you can effectively utilize the three buttons as “preset favorites” to give you a lot of flexibility for controlling surround modes for any given input source.

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