Pros: Clean, clean sound
Cons: center channel broke way back when
I have surprised even myself with the fact that I am reviewing the Denon AVR-1500. You see, I bought this receiver about 10 years ago when I was in college when, as a senior, I finally succumbed to the dark mistress of credit card debt. I had a part time job, and unlike most college kids I was making more money than I needed. Somehow the excess cash made me think financing $1400 on a credit card was a good idea (only $800 of it for this receiver). So why am I reviewing a 10 year old receiver? I have recently rediscovered what a gem this really is. Yes, even by todays standards.
Come back in time with me. Come back to a time when a VHS machine was the cutting edge of home theater. Come back to a time before HD, before even DVD players. Most stereos still have cassette decks hooked up to them. MP3's dont exist. If you are really rich you even have a laser disc, or video disc player hooked up to your sound system. Now that you are here you may remember that Dolby Pro logic is the cutting edge in home theater sound technology. Yes, the Denon AVR-1500 features nothing higher than Dolby Pro logic. So can this old standard hold up to todays standards? Well, no. It is rubbish for watching movies compared to the new stuff. My particular unit is even more rubbish since the center channel conked out. So when I said this was a gem, I was really talking about old school stereo listening. While home theater technology seems to update every few months old fashioned stereo has stayed blissfully good and blissfully the same. Split the sound to a right and left channel, whether it be from the tuner or a cd and the Denon AVR-1500 will take great care of you.
The watts per channel myth
Once upon a time an easy way to tell if a stereo could cut the mustard for you was to check the watts. You see making a speaker vibrate in a way to create good sound takes power and seeing that something had 50 watts per channel used to be an indicator of how you could expect the stereo to vibrate that speaker. Unfortunately manufacturers quickly caught on and began placing units all over the shelves with huge watts per channel. The problem is what the watts were pushing. It actually takes a ton of power to push static, which is what those low end receivers were pushing. So now you need to worry about power, but you also need to worry about clean sound. Other than your ear I am not sure of a rating for signal cleanliness. Still look at the watts per channel, but make sure you listen and listen hard. I say this with all honesty. An 80 W high quality amplifier can and does outperform a phony bologna 200 W amplifier. Your ear will have to be the final judge.
My Denon Specs and its story
The Denon AVR-1500 offers 50 W per channel to the center and rear speakers and 70 W per channel to the main speakers. The 70 W per channel is what I am talking about today. The Denon AVR-1500 functioned as my home theater receiver for about 4 years. When I lost the center channel it was decommissioned briefly. When we bought our first house we only had one living room and no good place for it. Still, I knew it was still a gem for music and so I hooked it up down in the unfinished basement so we could listen while working down there or working out. Well I think I used it 6 times over the next 5 years. Fast forward to now. I am on my second house which has a family room and living room. Now I need a stereo again, and not a home theater. That 70 W per channel is clean and crisp. For music, I prefer the Denon AVR-1500 to my much newer Bose Lifestyle. Seriously.
As for other specs the Denon AVR-1500 measures 17 and 3/32 inches wide by 6 and 11/32 inches high by 16 and 3/8 inches deep. The unit weighs 23 pounds 3 ounces. The Denon AVR-1500 has 6 audio inputs and 2 audio outputs. There are also 2 video inputs and one video output. Other than that, you have a mono subwoofer output, jacks for antennas and your speaker hookups including rear, center and two sets of main speakers. These main speakers are selectable so you can listen to either or both all at once. This is multi room, but not truly so. If you want to listen to both sets at once they have to be playing the same thing. I dont know for sure but I would think that if you had both sets of main speakers running at once that the 70 W per channel would become 35 W. I have been trying to think it through. If you double the speakers you halve he power, but you also halve the resistance. If you halve the resistance it will run hot which I cant imagine Denon would allow. I dont design stereos and I cant figure it out.
The Denon AVR-1500 offers pretty much standard audio features. You get a selector for your inputs, tuning and presets for the stereo, and volume control. There is also something that was pretty new at the time called RDS (radio data service?). This gives info about stations that broadcast the rds. You can see what kind of station it is, song, and artist info. I think it comes standard these days. It did in my newer cars anyway. The video features are where I think the Denon AVR-1500 was trying to shine. This receiver came with sound field settings. I was very excited to listen to movies or shows with various contrived effects added in like live, super stadium, rock arena, jazz club and Classic Concert. I was thrilled by them when they were a novelty and now that the novelty has worn off I think they are stupid. For instance if you listen to a football game with super stadium turned on then everything the announcers say will echo as if spoken over a PA system.
Believe it or not the remote actually holds up pretty darn well even by todays standards. It is a programmable/learning remote. I never messed with programming it. You just set it up to learn and point the learnee remote at the Denon remote and push the button you want it to learn. The Denon will pick it up just by copying the signal. It really can learn almost anything. This flexibility comes at a high price. The remote is big and complicated. There are multiple selector switches at the top first to determine whether you are controlling an audio or video component and then to select which component from within there. There are specialty buttons that will perform several functions in sequence. For instance, you can program a button that will turn everything on and start the cd player playing. A nice feature I suppose but one I didnt and dont use. Right now I use the remote to control the receiver itself and a cd changer. No problems at all. Even after I dont know how long with dead batteries it still remembered how to control the cd changer.
Well I dont think many people are going to be researching this relic, but if you have read through my review and want one you are probably out of luck. I have checked a few times on E-Bay just out of curiosity. As of right now there are two for sale but usually there are zero. If you do come across one it could be a great way to get an inexpensive, high quality stereo receiver. I plan on upgrading my speakers soon, both main channels and subwoofer. I also intend to run my deck speakers off of the main B channel, once I get the deck built that is. Thanks for reading.