Although the DSR-4.8 appears to be only moderately powerful on paper (offering 50wpc versus the 100wpc typically claimed by many A/V receivers), it is important to understand that Integra’s power ratings are quite conservative. Consequently, this little DVD receiver sounds more capable and dynamically punchy than its modest wattage ratings might lead you to expect.
When watching movies through the DSR-4.8, I found the best plan was always to engage the receiver’s “Theater-Dimensional” virtual surround sound mode. Subjectively, “T-D” mode improves dynamics and creates satisfying quasi-surround imaging where sounds not only emanate from a broad, deep sound stage that extends across the front of the room, but that also seems to stretch back to the sides of the listening position.
For a great taste of what the T-D mode can do, try putting on the by-now classic “Echo Game” scene from House of Flying Daggers (the scene where a Chinese garrison captain flings hardened beans at a circular array of drums, and an ostensibly blind dancer attempts to strike the same drums the bean have hit, “echoing” their sound). If you know how the soundtrack for the scene should sound on a good full-fledged surround rig (and many of us have heard the demo scores of times), what will surprise you is how close the Integra comes to achieving surround-like effects—but with just two channels. All of the basic elements are there: the dry, rattling sound of the beans in the bowl, the hush that comes over the crowd before the game begins, the sharp attack and deep reverberant boom heard when the beans strike the drum heads, and the slightly differently voiced sound of the drums when the weighted sleeves of the dancer’s garment echo the initial notes.
While the sound doesn’t completely encircle you as it would with a surround system, it does seem to bend around to fill the front and sides of the room, which—for many listeners—will be a completely acceptable alternative. The point is that the Integra gives you much of the listening pleasure of a surround system without the complexity.
One point to remember about the Integra is its sheer versatility; it can play traditional audio CDs as well as audiophile-oriented, high resolution DVD-Audio and SACD discs. Granted, DVD-Audio discs are relatively uncommon, but new SACD material continues to be released, sounds great, and is well worth searching out. Happily, the DSR-4.8 is a balanced and accomplished performer with all three main audio disc types. In fact, one way to look at the DSR-4.8 is to picture it as a good $400 universal player coupled with a good $400+ 2.1-channel receiver, but selling for less than the sum of its parts.
To appreciate how suave and sophisticated the Integra can be, try a really well recorded jazz track such as “Gadu” from Avishai Cohen’s Adama [Stretch]. On this track you’ll hear veteran percussionist Don Alias’s smooth, self-assured performance on congas (you not only hear but feel Alias’ confident touch on the taut drum heads), the deep, throaty, achingly evocative sound of Cohen’s pizzicato playing on the acoustic bass, and the lilting, dancing, chime-like sound of Chick Corea solos performed on a Fender-Rhodes electric piano (the sound is enchantingly reminiscent of Corea’s work from back in the days of Return to Forever). On good recordings, the Integra pulls you deep inside the music much the way far more expensive high-end components do, which is really the whole point.
Integra’s DSR-4.8 DVD receiver answers the need for a sensibly priced, high quality, combo universal disc player plus 2.1-channel receiver. For people who can’t (or don’t want to) install full-bore surround systems, the DSR-4.8 is easy to embrace, because it creates satisfying surround-like effects from just two channels. While there are some quirks (the menu system and pass-thru only capabilities for HDMI audio) and omissions (no Blu-ray playback), the DSR-4.8 is nevertheless a fine value. As you listen to it, my bet is that you’ll instinctively try to compare this little Integra to pricier components, which is the highest praise of all.