Image: Hugh Threlfall
July 04 2010
So tell me, I could use a laugh… Are you so behind the curve, so confused, so befuddled, so abysmally ignorant of luxury hi-fi that you actually believe a “receiver” in hi-fi speak means a radio, a thing that picks up stuff broadcast by a transmitter? Yeah, me too. And bear in mind that I’m someone who’s been initiated in the high-end hi-fi world, slogged round the exhibitions asking questions, hung out with and interrogated serious hi-fi dudes. Yet I realised how bewildered I still am about some aspects of hi-fi when Denon proudly sent round its latest baby, a sexily rounded, shiny black box o’ tricks, the S-5BD, also known as the Cara, because Cara is, er, Irish for “friend” and Italian for “darling”.
Naturally, I didn’t read any of the press releases that preceded the box, so when it was delivered and I saw it was only a receiver, I didn’t bother to open it for a while. To me, “receiver” means what used to be a “tuner” – an FM radio that plugs into your hi-fi amplifier so you can listen to broadcast music in hi-fi quality. Fairly boring.
It was only when I read around the specialist hi-fi websites that I discovered that the Cara is one of the most-awaited bits of home-entertainment kit on the market. Not only that, but all the serious hi-fi reviewers, even in the US, were anxiously anticipating their samples, while for the past week the cat had been snoozing all day on the sealed box containing mine.
As I now know, after a panic visit in disguise to a superb hi-fi store in a city other than my own (yes, Castle Sound & Vision in Nottingham, it was me), an AV or home-theatre receiver is an amplifier that receives audio and video from a variety of sources and routes it to stereo or surround-sound speakers, TVs, projectors and so on. I also now know, having unpacked it and been wowed by it, that Denon’s Cara is the mother of AV receivers, a muchos-simplified one-box solution for music and home cinema. It combines, in one gorgeous, more-or-less future-proofed box, much of Denon’s top-end technology – a Blu-ray/DVD/CD player directly from its £1,800 DBP-4010UD – with a 300-watt amplifier from another flagship Denon hi-fi machine and a heap of patent software to make the whole shebang as easy to set up as equipment of this quality ever will be.
The Cara also lets you listen to two different sources (CD and iPod, say) in two different locations, while any music on your PC can be wirelessly transmitted via a Denon Networked Control Dock, such as its very nice ASD-51W, which typically sells for £270-ish.
Denon’s Cara sounds big and wonderfully smooth and looks terrific. Now that I’ve deciphered what it is – heaven forbid they should call it an entertainment centre – I love it.