For a true home-theater experience you need a great audio system – and Denon is a leading name in affordable high-quality sound. Without a true surround-sound system you're simply not going to get an amazing audio experience like you do at the cinema. You'll find objective no-hype information on various Denon a/v receivers on this site, plus some links for finding a great price.
Denon was actively involved in the early development of digital audio, and specializes in professional and consumer audio. They've been around a while. The original company was founded in Japan in 1910, and introduced some of the first digital recorders in the 1970s. They've been making consumer CD players since 1981, and added A/V amplifiers in 1988. They introduced the first home theater system with Dolby AC-3 and THX 5.1 certification in 1995 and added DVD players to their line up in 1997. They unveiled the world's first universal Blu-Ray/DVD-audio/SA-CD player in 2008. So you can see that Denon brings decades of experience to the table to deliver excellent audio and video quality at affordable prices.
Denon Home Theater
Current Denon a/v receivers combine high-quality surround-sound audio with digital HDMI switching to form the hub of a great home-theater system. Going this route you'll have fewer cables and simpler set up.
Most people are now familiar with 5.1 channel audio systems. These use the regular pair of stereo speakers plus a rear pair, a center speaker (for a total of 5 speakers) plus 1 sub-woofer. Most Denon models deliver 7.2 channels, adding 2 more front speakers and a second sub-woofer. This gives you more of a “sound stage” plus true stereo on the deep base. Most Denon receivers, incorporate the latest Dolby decoders add a vertical dimension to the sound.
Most models also include Audyssey digital audio processing for exceptional sound quality. Audyssey MultiEQ provides automatic equalization better than a professional can perform. This gets you the most out of your speakers, and even adjusts for room acoustics.
Video and More
Denon A/V receivers can switch multiple HDMI inputs into a single output for your HDTV. Even lower-priced models such as the AVR 1912 have enough inputs for a cable box, game console, DVD/CD, and Blu-Ray player. Along the way these receivers can upconvert all video resolutions to 1080 high-def, as well as converting interlaced to progressive scan. Many also offer an on-screen GUI (graphical user interface) do display the many system settings.
Many models, including the Denon AVR-3312, have a network interface. This lets you listen to internet radio and even view Flikr photos. It also means you can control your receiver and video switching from any networked device with a browser. That includes iPhones, iPads, and more.
We're starting out commenting on a few receivers in the $900 to $1,200 price range. But we've also poked around and found discounts as much as 1/3 off. As you might have guessed, I really like Denon home theater receivers, but if there's a negative I'll tell you about it on the various pages of this web site.
I love great surround-sound for watching movies, but I also use my receiver a lot just for music. The illustration below shows the speaker placement I personally prefer for a 7.1 channel system. The additional pair (over a 5.1 system – for that just ignore the two outermost speakers) are spaced farther out and near the center of the room. This gives a better concert-hall like experience. If you're more into movies most surround sound formats also support placing the last pair higher up in the front for a vertical dimension of sound.
This figure shows the sub-woofer right in front. Some people believe that placing it in a corner of the room at the front strengthens the bass. That makes sense, though I don't hear much difference myself. Again, front placement may be a bit better for music. For home cinema, some people prefer to place the sub-woofer behind the listeners. In fact, a lot of the wireless speaker systems place the two rear speakers plus the woofer in a single enclosure intended to be placed behind the couch.
Don't be too concerned if your room layout prevents you from doing the ideal standard layout. MultiEQ, included in most Denon receivers, does a pretty good job of compensating for different speaker locations. On the other hand, wireless surround speakers can be more flexible if you're trying to avoid long cables.
Surround Sound Setup Test
Running multiEQ is the key part of your surround sound system setup. It's essentially a test, and uses a microphone to “listen” to special sounds sent to the various speakers. Typically speakers are used one at a time and the speakers performance and room acoustics are measured. One of the first things it does is make sure that your speakers are not wired up out of phase (plus and minus reversed on one or more speakers). It may also measure time lags as a way of ascertaining the exact speaker location with respect to the microphone. But if you're willing to spend some time and effort, making some distance measurements with a tape measure will usually give slightly better results.
Notice that the illustration above shows 6 listening positions for placing the microphone during the equalization tests. I'd personally suggest locating the mic at the various locations people are likely to sit while watching a movie. But still keep it close to a regular grid, like in the picture. Actually, I just test with the mic in 3 positions on the couch. My theory is that I get better optimization for just those locations, at the cost of slightly reduced sound quality elsewhere.
Well beyond measured volume and perhaps delay, automatic equalization also adjusts pitch responses (like the old equalizer bar-graph displays and adjustment sliders). This corrects for resonances and other effects of room acoustics. It also measures and compensates for less than ideal speaker responses. That's why I recommend that anyone upgrading to a new receiver go through this setup with their old speakers before deciding whether on not to upgrade their speaker system as well.
Ok, this is on the interwebs so I legally have to show a cat video. Actually it does give you some idea of what the EQ surround test is like. You hear something like noise coming from various directions.
Surround Sound Formats
Beyond 5.1 vs 7.1 channel systems, I found the multitude of different surround-sound encoding formats to be a bit overwhelming. For the most part, I've simply trusted Denon to include all the important ones. But I'll also pass on a few of the things I've learned.
The most common format is Dolby Digital AC-3, a 5.1 channel system. That is 5 speakers plus a sub-woofer. It's what's used on most digital satellite and cable services as well as most DVDs.
Dolby Pro Logic works to artificially create surround-sound from older stereo or 3.1 channel systems. Yes, you can actually get some surround effects out of broadcast TV and even old VHS tapes. Just not as good as AC-3.
DTS is a Dolby competitor's clone of AC-3. DTS-ES brings that from 5.1 to 6.1 channels, while DTS NEO:6 is their answer to Pro Logic. I'm still trying to sort through the newer formats for 7.1, 7.2, and 9.2 channel systems.
At minimum I'd want a receiver with Dolby Digital and Logic Pro. The various DTS formats would be a plus, helping me get surround sound from all the disks and sources I might use.
References: Surround sound technical info.
Wireless surround speakers can be a great convenience and alternative to running wires along the walls or under rugs. But like everything else in this world, they're not perfect. This post will explain the ins and outs of going wireless, suggest alternatives, and at the end briefly comment on some products available today.
With wi-fi and bluetooth so widespread and inexpensive, it's natural to think about wireless surround sound systems. And expect that they're widely available and inexpensive, but that's not the case. Instead, they tend to use proprietary radio communications and good-quality options tend to be expensive. Lets consider why.
First, let's make sure we're talking about the same thing when we say “wireless surround sound.”
A few people might use that phrase with a wireless network connection for the receiver in mind. That is, being able to connect to the internet and home network to access streaming audio and audio files. I don't know of any receivers with this capabilities built-in. Nevertheless many a/v receivers from Denon and other manufacturers have networking capabilities as well as a USB port. In some cases you can use a USB wi-fi dongle to seamlessly (and wirelessly) tie into a huge variety of digital audio.
If the receiver supports AirPlay, you can also stream digital audio into your home theater system from your Apple mobile devices. They can also relay internet radio services such as Pandora. Why would you want to do that? To get the volume and sound quality of your main (and often expensive) audio system while keeping your iPhone with you or your iPad wherever you'd prefer. And also to save the expense of a separate AirPlay-compatible wireless speaker set.
But most people are talking about avoiding ugly cables running to their remote surround-sound speakers, or the expense of hiding those cables under the woodwork.
So why can't you find lots of inexpensive wi-fi or bluetooth adapters? They simply don't work well with home theaters. Good surround sound effects depend on carefully adjusting the volume and “phase” of the sound waves. Which means that the delays caused by digital protocols can really mess things up, especially for these standards. Although the delay is quite small, usually too small to hear, it's enough to mess up the phasing. Further the delays bounce around randomly so that they can't be processed out.
Wireless Surround Sound System Options
This leaves two options for wireless remote speakers. First, you can purchase speakers with build-in wireless receivers along with a transmitter that hooks directly up to your receiver. These can cost hundreds of dollars more than “regular” speakers, and tremendously reduce you selections. On the other hand, you can find nice packages that combine the two rear speakers as well as the subwoofer in one compact package. Just place it behind your couch and you're done.
The second option is to purchase a separate transmitter-receiver pair. Again, you hook the transmitter into your receiver then connect your remote speakers to the receiver. There's still some cabling to do, but you won't be running cables from one end of the room to the other. The advantage with this approach is that you can choose whatever speakers you want, as well as use any speakers you already have. (When upgrading I like to use my old front speakers as the rear pair for my new system).
With both these approaches you'll be limited to the power (and sound quality) of the radio receivers. Plus, even with these approaches many automatic-equalization processors don't work well with wireless speakers. It's necessary to measure and enter distances manually and it's possible you won't experience effects as well as with a wired system.
Are You Sure?
When I start looking for something, the first thing I ask is if I'm looking for the right thing. If you're looking into wireless surround sound systems, you probably care about the décor of the room your home theater is housed in and don't want a bunch of wires showing. The way I see it, there's 3 ways to accomplish that.
- hire a professional installer
- hide the cables yourself
- buy wireless speakers
The first option is way too expensive for most of us. Although you may be able to hire a local handyman, carpenter, or remodeler to do the carpentry and related work while you run the cables yourself. I was able to take the second approach, hiding the cables behind new wooden floor molding while remodeling the living room. But that does mean you'd have to be a bit of a handyman (or woman) yourself. So by the process of elimination you may end up looking into wireless speakers.
Which Speakers Should Go Wireless?
Your home theater cabinetry may be able to hide the wiring for the 3 to 5 front speakers (5.1 and 7.1 channel systems). Besides, with floor-standing speakers you're going to see some cable anyway and that doesn't really look bad. The two rear speakers and subwoofer are another matter. I almost went the wireless sound route myself.
Wireless Surround Sound Systems
When you're talking about wireless surround sound speakers, you're actually talking about a lot more. First, you'll need transmitters to hook up to your AV receiver. These usually come with the speaker purchase. The speakers themselves of course include a wireless receiver, but also need to include a good-quality power amplifier. In planning out your system, don't forget that the remote speakers will need power from a nearby outlet, and that might also be wiring you'd rather stay hidden.
Now you're starting to see why they're so expensive you just might be better off hiring a local carpenter or electrician to hide the wiring for a regular system. Nevertheless, here's one area where wireless speakers really shine: whenever you use the additional pair of a 7.1 channel systems as stereo in a separate “zone.” To pipe music into my home office, I'd have to have cables running from downstairs to upstairs, and across half the house.
Keep in mind that you're now dealing with two amplifiers – one in the AV receiver and one in the wireless speaker. Either one can be the limiting factor in audio quality. And the amp in the remote speaker will determine the maximum sound wattage.
You need to be careful when looking around for a wireless system. My own online searches for “wireless speakers” turned up mostly regular wired speakers. And some wireless speakers use proprietary standards and only work with certain brands of AV receivers.
You can find lots of inexpensive wireless speaker pairs in the under-$100 price bracket. These might be fine for your 2nd zone in another room for casual listening, but I certainly wouldn't recommend them for your main home cinema room. Leading brands include Logitech and Creative Inspire.
Stepping up, there's a pretty big jump. On the low end you can expect to pay $250 to $300 for a combination of wireless receiver and rear speakers, on up to about that same price just for the wireless link that you use with your own speakers. So far I've looked into the following.
Bose SL2 --Wireless link (no speakers) designed for 5.1 systems. May be limited to Bose Lifestyle and Acoustimass systems.
Creative ZiiSound -- Combination speakers and receiver, requires Bluetooth so it's really for mobile devices.
Polk Audio F/X (photo left) -- Combination of transmitter, receiver and speaker (including sub-woofer). This an excellent solution for anyone looking for an easy solution for those rear speakers. It's also one of the lowest cost options. It boasts "phased and amplitude tapering" for an usuallyspacious sound and localization while the ported enclosure boosts the bass response. The included transmitter can connect directly to speaker outputs on your receiver. It's small and unobtrusive, and people really like the sound. Some people do, however, report it has a bad habit of going into sleep mode at low volumes.
Soundcast SCS100 -- Transmitter and receiver pair (no speakers). A great swireless olution if you already have a pair of speakers you want to use wirelessly. Like the Polk Audio F/X it's compatible with any surround sound system, and can drive a total of 60 watts. That's only 30 watts per channel, so you may be dissappointed with volume if you have inefficient speakers. Don't forget you'll need to run wires from the one soundcast receiver to your two rear speakers. You may also have to try several locations for the soundcast unit to get a good "connection." This can sometimes be a problem, but to avoid this you're likely to have to pay 2 to 4 times as much.
Before you choose, think back on all the options and alternatives we discussed. Even with a wireless link having a cost that's starting to approach that of your A/V receiver you might be giving up a little of sound quality and volume. Also, as mentioned, automatic equalization (such as Audyssey on Denon receivers) can't properly judge distance do to the small delay introduced by the radio link. So you'll either have to skip EQ (not recommended!) or make distance measurements and enter them manually)
Additionally, nearly all of these solutions use the 2.4 GHz frequency band, the same as many mobile devices, cordless phones, wi-fi, etc. Current units have a protocol that keeps them from intefering with one another. But if you have some older devices you may run into a problem. So, as always, be sure to buy from someone that has a good return policy.
Comming to a Good Conclusion
So wireless surround isn't without some drawbacks even beyond it's added cost. But if you simply can't tolerate the sight of exposed wiring and rent or can't afford custom installation, or just want a quick and easy way to add surround sound to your home theater, wireless speakers can be a great way to go. If you have golden ears you'll miss out on audiophile quality, but for most of they're great for the home-theater experience you just can't get without surround sound. I suppose the trade-off between a wired a wireless surround sound system is: can you get wiring put in for under $150-$300.
References: Wireless speakers technical info.
Whether as a first receiver or sound-system upgrade, the 1912 is well worth the relatively modest cost. With an editor's choice award, it's bound to please you, your family, and friends as you gather for a great home-theater surround-sound experience.
You'll get great 7.1 channel surround-sound with all the latest features and functions. With this receiver you'll get the best from your existing speakers, directly connect to online radio without dedicating a PC, and have easy access via your Apple devices. You'll also be getting image upscaling and enhancement along with 3D capability.
The 1912 if finally available at less than the list price. Over 1/4 off, in fact (see below).
As a mid-priced receiver you may find some aspects a bit basic, but Denon packs it with all the important capabilities:
- great sound
- HDMI switching and up-scaling
- 3D compatibility
- the latest Dolby surround-sound processing
- Audyssey audio enhancement
- video enhancement
- network interface for internet radio
- iPhone and iPod compatibility
- Apple Airplay
With a list price of just under $550 it's not yet discounted at any of the major vendors, but we have found a free-shipping deal.
1912 versus 1911
It's easy to think of the upgrade from 1911 to 1912 as just having AirPlay enabled as part of the base price. But Denon doesn't make it that simple. You also get a network interface (yaay), a nicer GUI (meh), and FLAC no-compression support (huzzah). On the other hand you loose HD radio (Grrrrr).
Lets start with the key audio specs. This 7.1 channel surround-sound receiver drives 90 watts into each of 7 8-ohm speakers plus a separately powered woofer. As a unique feature, each channel has its own discrete amplifier and power supply. The basic configuration is the same as 5.1 channel systems – a pair of front speakers, a pair of rear speakers, and a center-front speaker. This model lets you use the remaining pair in several ways. Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing can add a vertical dimension by mounting above the main front pair, or you can simply place them further left and right. You also have the option of using them as a separate stereo zone, and this zone can even have a separate audio program from the main room.
For video, you'll have 6 HDMI 1.4a inputs and one output to save wiring clutter and handle the many A/V sources many people have these days. Plus everything's 3D capable (pass-through). Both analog and digital sources are de-interlaced and up-scaled to 1080p. Video enhancement includes picture noise reduction, advanced color features, and “auto lip sync” to keep the video and audio processing in sync. So you'll get more vibrant and more lifelike color, along with blu-ray high-definition audio formats.
Denon AVR 1912 Features
My favorite special capability is the built-in network interface for internet radio. I adore Pandora so this is a must-have feature for me. I just don't bother with broadcast radio anymore. There's also built-in support for Flickr, Pandora, Rhapsody/Napser, and others, and you can also access just about any online radio station or digital audio file on your home network. You'll also be able to use Windows y audio and photo streaming. You can also control this receiver from anything on your home network that has a browser. Once you've run an ethernet cable. Fortunately the AVR 1912 works with common wi-fi adapters, so you're not stuck with buying something only from Denon. But they're so cheap now days I think they should have included it.
For Apple fans, Airplay is built in. Once your system is set up you can be streaming Pandora (did I mention I like Pandora) from your iPad in just a few minutes. Which is especially important since the USB interface doesn't seem to support iPads. Grrr. Denon's Airplay is compatible with iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Nano and iTunes library. There's also a USB port for direct iPod and iPhone connection. This link includes a compressed audio restorer for crisp and clear MP3s.
In addition to all the latest Dolby processing, you get advanced Audyssey surround-sound processing. The standard Audyssey setup is can be easy – just let the on-screen user interface guide you through it. What does that get you? Automatic MultEQ equalization will custom-tailor the receiver's response to your speakers and room audio response. If you haven't had a system with Audyssey or something similar before, you'll likely be amazed with the sound quality you get, even from your existing speakers. This processing also gives you more distinct surround-sound, especially at low volumes.
For video sources, the 1912 supports blu-ray high-definition formats, Dolby trueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio. There's also FLAC HD decoding for uncompressed playback.
Owner Comments and Tips
As a popular receiver, there's already been ample time for feedback, both good and bad. The good stuff is in the specs and features, so lets touch on some notable drawbacks.
Like several other Denon models, the 1912 gets mixed reviews on setup and documentation. Some users say it was a quick and easy breeze, others have cursed it for hours on end. My own take is that you should just use the quick setup. Be sure to hook up a TV so you can get all the on-screen prompts. Leave the CD ROM manual alone until you're ready to start some advanced fine-tweaking.
There have been reports of overheating (and also reports of no overheating problems), so be sure there's plenty of circulation around the chassis and be certain the fan is operational – it may be slow or even off at very low audio volumes. There's also been some compatibility with older iPods and older Roku boxes.
I personally wish the network interface would work with internet video services, like Netflix and Hulu. But then again many HDTVs include a networking feature for this. (My Panasonic plasma is almost -gasp- 5 years old!). Some blu-ray players incorporate this, and I'm currently watching Hulu via my PS3.
Overall, people are really happy with their 1911s. This model received an editor's choice award on CNET, and nearly everyone is extremely satisfied with the high-quality sound and ample power. One user commented that even without calibration the sound was “big, dynamic, enjoyable” as well as “beautiful … gorgeous” with clean channel separation.
Speakers for the 1912
Like me, many people are a little cautious buying just a receiver rather than a box with speakers included. So I've been keeping an eye out for which speaker systems look like good matches.
- BIC Forumla line with BIC Satellite
- Bose Acoustimass Series 15
- Klipsch HDT-300 system
- Polk Audio 5.1 TL1600
- Polk Audio RTI A3 pair
Despite a few complaints, the advanced features actually make installation and setup easier, so you shouldn't shy away because of complexity. Just follow the quick guides and make use of the TV on-screen display and you'll have a system that goes way beyond a HDTV's built-in speakers or conventional stereo system.
- HDMI makes cable hookup much easier. Just one cable per device, all the same type of cable.
- Although it takes a little while, Audyssey will automatically fine-tune the audio. You'll get the best possible sound from whatever speakers you have.
- For standard configurations, access from your Apple devices, including AirPlay functionality, is straightforward.
- An network connection and on-screen GUI make internet radio a snap. Pandora, Rhapsody/Napster, and more are directly supported.
- Video processing enhances everything, including old VHS tapes, to look as good as possible on your HDTV.
- 3D HDTVs, cable boxes, and disk players plug in just like everything else, future proofing your home entertainment system.
Top Ten Reviews lists the 1912 as the #1 AV receiver with perfect scores in:
- input-output ports
- audio technology.
They also note that it's satellite-radio and bluetooth ready. And, finally, some decent discounts... and then short supply -- I've only been able to find 'em on Amazon (click here).
The 1912 is a great value, and has already developed a devoted following. Although none of the audio specs stand out, the sound is indeed outstanding. The Audyssey and Dolby surround-sound processing will pull the best out of your speakers and room acoustics, and the video section will make the best of just about any video source. You're also likely to enjoy the built-in internet radio and Apple Airplay capabilities. You may find set-up a bit perplexing, and might run into some heat problems, but otherwise this model is nothing but thumbs-up. The 2-year warrant is twice as long as some other leading brands. If you're like most people you'll find the Denon AVR-1912 great for music as well as movies and gaming.
If you're currently have a 5.1 channel system you'll find upgrading to 7.1 channels well worth the effort and expense. The additional pair of speakers will give an added vertical dimension to your surround-sound experience and is the current “standard” in home theater audio. With the 1911 you also have the option of using the additional speakers to pipe stereo into a separate room. You can keep your existing speakers, and add the final 2 whenever you're ready.
With 90 watts per channel there's plenty of power. The 1911 is pretty much identical to the Denon 791, but with the addition of HD Radio. Much like HD TV, you'll get improved audio quality for HD radio stations. Many broadcast stations provide one or even two additional channels for alternative programming. Once you have a receiver it's absolutely free – no monthly charges.
Denon 1911 for Home Theaters
As an audio/video receiver, the 1911 can tie your home entertainment system together. In addition to conventional analog video inputs you'll have 4 HDMI 1.4a inputs and 1 output. This means you can connect 4 digital sources such as a DVD or Blu-Ray player, game console, and cable box up to your HDTV with only one cable each. The 1911 becomes your hub, switching video and audio simultaneously.
Video inputs are up-converted to 1080p, with both video and audio quality enhancement for a better entertainment experience. Your standard definition DVDs and cable TV gets a boost to near HDTV quality. This even applies to older analog equipment such as VHS recorders.
The HDMI switching is 3D compatible, so you'd be set for a 3D TV from almost any source. The 1911 also incorporates the latest Blu-Ray standards.
If you're not familiar with contemporary a/v receivers, set up can seem a bit difficult. The manual can be a bit confusing, and setting up all the features is time consuming. So read through the manual a couple of times and allow 1 to 3 hours to get everything connected and adjusted.
TIP: Hook everything up first, before you plug in the receiver. In most cases on first-time power up the Denon will take care of the settings and adjustments automatically.
The iPod interface isn't without its drawbacks. The TV on-screen interface is pretty ugly and rather limited. You really need to use the included Denon remote control to get things going. Major problems have been reported for iPods with iOS4 and beyond. This isn't a Denon problem. Rather Apple didn't keep full backwards compatibility in their iOS upgrades. It's been reported that the iPhone 3GS works fine with this receiver. But if you big into iPods or iPhones this might not be the receiver for you.
Denon's 1911 also delivers high-quality surround sound for a cinema experience as well as music listening. It incorporates the latest Dolby processing, including Dolby TruHD and Dolby Pro LogicIIz. This receiver also includes Audyssey MultiEQ, Dynamic Volume, and DynamicEQ.
MultiEQ is pretty amazing. By sending calibration sounds through the speakers, it automatically measures acoustic responses. It then adjust it's frequency response to adjust for your room's particular acoustics and gets the most out of your speakers.
DynamicEQ boosts bass as well as the surround-sound speakers at low volumes. Most people notice a significant improvement even at normal listening levels. Finally, Dynamic Volume adjusts volume for you. Commercials and action scenes aren't overwhelming, yet you can also hear quiet dialog clearly without re-adjusting volume yourself.
The Denon AVR 1911 also has a USB port for iPods and other devices. This gives you better sound than an analog connection, and this receiver can even restore some of the audio quality lost in compressed formats like MP3s.
The Denon 2311 provides full 7.2-channel surround sound. This includes 5 front speakers (left lower, right lower, left upper, right upper, and middle), left and right rear speakers, and 2 subwoofer channels. Numerous audio processing capabilities means this receiver will deliver excellent sound for music as well as home-theater. If you don't care for the upper front speakers you can use those channels to deliver stereo to a separate room, even from a different audio source than the main room. In addition to the usual AM/FM receiver, there's also a built-in HD radio receiver.
As the hub of your home-theater system the AVR 2311 can select from up to 6 HDMI 1.4a inputs so you can have a cable box, Blu-Ray and DVD/CD players, and a couple of game consoles and still have free inputs. All video sources are upconverted to 1080 pixels and from interlaced to progressive scan. Analog inputs (composite and S-video) are digitized and upconverted as well, so even your older video resources will look good.
For the audio geeks among us, there's lots of technical details, so here's the highlights.
Overall dimensions: 6.7 x 17.1 x 15 inches
Weight: 24.7 pounds
Warranty: 3 years
The Denon 2311 delivers 7.2 channels of surround-sound. That's 7 powered channels at 105 watts each (735 watts total), plus 2 unpowered sub-woofer channels. The following Dolby processing is provided.
- Digital EX
- Digital Plus
- Digital Surround EX
- ProLogic II
- ProLogic IIx
- ProLogic IIz
This A/V receiver also handles the following DTS encodings.
- HD Master Audio
- HD High Resolurion
- ES 6.1 Discrete
- ES 6.1 Matrix
For video sources, DVD-Audio and 7.1 Uncompressed Audio are also supported.
The 2311 uses the Anchor Bay ABT-2015 video chipset for advanced digital and analog video. It converts from interlaced to progressive scan and upscales resolution to 1080p at 24 and 60 fps and features “multi-cadence” detection. The chipset also provides video noise reduction as well as picture enhancement. Analog inputs (composite and s-video) are also converted and upscaled, improving the viewing of VCR tapes and older games.
Dolby Pro Logic IIz provides a true vertical dimension to the soundstage, and Audyssey DynamicEQ enhances surround-sound and bass effects at low volumes. Altogether this gives you a more dramatic home-theater experience than many a/v receivers in its price range.
The Audyssey MultiEQ feature will automatically equalize the 2311 for your particular room characteristics and speakers to give you the best sound possible. Many listeners report significant improvements and often decide to skip a speaker upgrade. DynamicEQ will even reduce the distracting volume changes between programs and commercials.
The Anchor Bay Technologies ABT2010 chip set reduces video noise and performs picture enhancement as part of the upscaleing. Again, this means even your old analog video sources will look better. This model is also 3D compatible.
The included remote can also be “trained” to control other components, often including your cable TV box. In most situations you'll then need only that one remote rather than a handful.
A front USB port supports iPods and iPhones without the need for any external adapter or dock.
Poking around we were unable to find any customers that didn't give this model at least a “good” rating. Many selected the 2311 based on sound quality and were then pleased with all the additional features.
Like most Denon models, the user's manual isn't the best, so be prepared to spend some time getting everything installed and set up. Most people find installation easy, but many found set up (programming, configuration, and preference setting) difficult. But with all the features and capabilities, that's well worth the effort. It depends on user experience, patience, and a willingness to let the GUI walk you through it.
This is especially true for the automatic Equalization. This can be the most time consuming part of set up, but you'll be rewarded with the best sound possible. Don't forget to hook up your TV first so you can use the on-screen user interface to help walk you through everything. The GUI is your best friend. Hook up all your input devices, TV, and speakers before powering up for the first time.
Denon AVR 2311 Conclusions
Our “realistic dream” receiver would be in this price range but include direct internet radio (Pandora, Napster, etc.) and video (Hulu, Netflix). If that's not important to you, this model delivers great sound for both music and movies and serves as a video hub all at a good mid-range price. Throw in the 3-year warranty and the 2311 is clearly worth considering.
This model is an upgrade to the 3311 (differences noted below). The AVR 3312 brings all your audio and video together, and adds Apple Airplay capability to its long list of built-in functions. It's internet ready, and includes HD radio, a USB port, and 3D compatible HDMI video swithcing. A few people have reported some initial problems, so read on!
The Denon AVR 3312 Gets It Together
So you have several sound sources like an iPod, iPad, MP3 files on your PC, a home stereo, maybe a gaming console? And you'd like to have great sound and volume from them? Not multiple sets of cheap speakers scattered everywhere? Problem solved. With the AVR 3312ci you'll have easy access to all you music. You'll have a front-panel USB port for wired connection to iPods, iPhones, and MP3 players. Plus Airplay is built in so you can also stream wirelessly from Apple devices.There's also an ethernet connection so you'll have direct access to your Pandora, Rhapsody, and other internet radio subscriptions. You'll also be able to access MP3 and other audio files anywhere on your home network. You can even control this receiver from anywhere on your home network as well as from Apple mobile devices.
With 125 watts per channel you'll have plenty of volume. You can configure the 3312 to supply 5.1 channel surround sound to one room from one sound source plus stereo for a second source to a separate room. Now that may require some extensive wiring or a fairly expensive (around $250) radio link, but the possibility is there.
This receiver will also bring your home theater video together, serving as the control and switching hub. With plenty of HDMI inputs, you'll be able to have your cable box, blu-ray, HD-DVD/CD, TiVo, and a couple of game consoles all connected at the same time. And all your video sources will be up-converted to 1080p with image enhancement.
Like its predecessor, the 3312 features great sound and true vertical-dimension surround sound via advanced Dolby and Audyssey digital audio processing. You also have the option of using the additional pair of surround-sound channels as a separate stereo in another room. That added zone can even be fed from a different audio source. This model features great Apple compatibility via a USB port and built-in Airplay.
The Denon 3312CI also plays with PCs via Windows 7 media compatibility. It'll also connect directly to your home network for audio streaming and internet radio. You can even watch Flikr pictures. You'll also find a phono input for vinyl freaks (like me). With HD radio (in addition to the usual AM/FM receiver) and MP3/WMA/WAV compatibility you're pretty much connected to everything.
Along with the receiver you get a remote control, set-up microphone for automatic equalization, an AM loop antenna and a simple FM indoor antenna.
With 125 watts per channel there's plenty of power for just about any speaker set. The specs are good (THD 0.05% for 20 Hz to 20 kHz into an 8 ohm load), and listener reviews attest to the great sound quality. Denon mid-range receivers are often preferred over other brands for music listening. There's also Denon's proprietary “Dynamic Discrete Surround Circuit-HD” for whatever that's worth. Most owners rate the overall sound quality as great.
This model is compatible with blu-ray high-def audio formats, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Owners are uniformly pleased with the realistic high-fidelity surround sound for movies, video, and games.
If you're into Apple, you'll be getting Airplay, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and iTunes capabilities. There's even an app that lets you use an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch as a remote control for on/off, volume and source selection. You can also do that from any home-network connected device with a web browser.
This model steps up HDMI capabilities a bit, with 7 HDMI 1.4a inputs and 2 outputs.
The Not So Good
There were initially reports that the online firmware update sometimes bricks the receiver and you have to send it in for repair. Firmware updates can take as long as 45 minutes on some wireless home networks and have occurred fairly often. Denon should should get their online upgrade problem straightened out, but this problem was reported as late as September 2011.
It's a good idea to follow the same update recommendations you might use on your PC. Above all, don't turn the receiver off during the update. And don't try using the receiver until an update is clearly finished. Ideally, don't use your home network and internet connection for anything else during the firmware update.
Although the Denon iStuff app works pretty well, the functionality is a bit limited and the app sometimes freezes if the music files are deep in the file hierarchy.
Since this model is a receiver only, not a box set, I like to keep track of what speakers are best suited to it. Here's my list of what customers have been happy with.
- B&W 683 (front), Martin Logan Motion 8 (center), B&W DS3 (rear)
- Klipsch HDT-500 speaker system
- Logitech Z906 speaker system
- Mythos One (front), Mythos 8 (center), Mythos 6 (rear), SuperCube II (sub-woofer), Mythos Four (additional surround-sound speaker pair)
AVR 3312 vs AVR 3311
Not that this receiver is also available at a discount, the 3312 is a clear choice over the 3311 if you want AirPlay. Even if you don't care for AirPlay I'd still lean towards this newer model since it's only about $50 more. For that you'll also be getting FLAC support for uncompressed audiophile-quality sound and support for more network music files. It also adds a seventh HDMI input.
The 3312 does drop a few of its predecessor's features. There's no separate remote for zone 2, but you can get remote control from almost any device on your home network, including mobile devices. Also there's no input dedicated to satellite radio. That's more a matter of display labeling, but if you're into Sirius you should go for their internet feed. Finally, there's no optical digital output as used by some high-end gaming headsets.
Despite the firmware updating problems, customers consider this receiver well worth the money and it continues to grow in popularity. Purchasing an AVR 3312ci you'll be getting a central-coordinator for all your audio and video rather than a bunch of separate systems that don't operate well together. And you'll get lots of genuine Apple and network goodness with the Denon AVR 3312.
This model is finially available at significant discounts. Here's the new lowest prices, all these include free shipping.
The Denon AVR 3311 delivers theater-quality sound with a network interface. In addition to receiving HD and internet radio, you can control this home-theater receiver from any mobile device with a web browser. The 3311 can switch up to six HDMI 1.4 inputs, becoming the hub of a complete home-entertainment system. This mid-range component lists at around $1,200 you can usually find it discounted to $800 -- $900. You'll find candid evaluation below, including why you should consider this receiver over the 3010 and even the 3012.
A Terriffic Home-Theater Choice
This receiver can form the core of a great home-entertainment system. I provides high-quality sound at up to 125 watts per channel, and is well liked by music enthusiasts. It also delivers true 7.2-channel surround sound for a genuine movie experience. The additional pair of channels can be used in the front to add a vertical element, or used as stereo from a different audio source in for a separate room. Audyssey MultiEQ can automatically equalize the sound for your particular room and speakers.
This receiver can also serve as the HDMI switcher tieing your system together. It has 6 HDMI 1.4a inputs and 1 output. It's compatible with 3D sources, and all video inputs (including VCR) can be upconverted to 1080 pixels and from interlaced to progressive scan.
The build-in network interface allows you to control this model from almost any device in your home network. If you have a wireless router you can even use an iPhone or iPad. You can stream JPEG and other audio from the web and even internet radio without a PC attached. This receiver is also compatible with Windows 7 media features.
You'll also get a USB interface for iPhones and iPods as well as a built-in HD radio receiver and of course broadcast FM and AM radio.
The Denon AVR3311 includes 2 remotes (one main and one sub-zone) and a microphone for the automatic equalization. Although many brands includes a 1-year warranty, Denon provides a standard 3-year warranty.
Denon AVR 3311 CI Details
It seems like this receiver has just about every Dolby and surround-sound audio processing in the book. It's a bit unique in having Dolby Pro Logic IIz. Along with Audyssey DSX this means you'll hear exceptional fidelity and realism and a true height dimension in the front sound stage. Many listeners have noted that the surround-sound effects are much more vivid. A large part of this is from Audyssey Dynamic EQ. In addition to adjusting bass at lower volumes, it also boots the surround speakers at lower volumes. And running through the Audyssey multiEQ ET will pull the best out of your speakers, possibly even allowing you to skip an upgrade. Numerous customers have commented how much better their speakers sound.
The network interface gets you a lot. You can stream audio off the web or any digital storage on your home networked PCs and laptops. You can directly access internet radio, including Pandora and Rhapsody/Napster directly without an attached PC. You can even watch Flikr photos. Add 6 HDMI inputs, USB port, and built-in HD radio it seems you can get just about any digital (and analog) A/V source that's out there.
The most common complaint actually applies to all Denon receivers – the owner's manuals are not the easiest to understand. The AVR 3311 itself gets mixed reviews here. Some customers comment on how easy it was to install, others complain about the difficulty. If you've only hooked up a few speakers and a DVD/CD player before, there is a lot more to do here. Be sure and use the on-screen GUI, and be prepared to spend an hour or two getting everything (including multiEQ) configured just right.
A few people have reported continued problems with the network connection, but far fewer than on the earlier model and with no recent reports. It looks like this one's been fixed, but you may want to think twice if it's a long way to the repair center (shipping for in-warranty repairs will still cost you about $25).
There's also been some annoyance that Airport is a $50 add-on. But as long as your Apple is hooked up to your home network we don't see this as a big deal unless you can't extend an ethernet cable to your Apple or Denon.
Despite the long list of audio-processing capabilities, there's no THX certification. But keep in mind that this is just a 3rd party test, it doesn't mean any capabilities or quality is missing.
The 3311 is a sweet spot in cost versus performance; it's a big jump in cost to the 4311. We do NOT recommend the Denon 3310. A fair number of people had problems with the network interface, and this has been corrected in the 3311. It's successor in turn, the 3312, adds Airport support and a few tweaks but otherwise is the same receiver. It's street price is currently about $50 less than the 3311. If you're looking for an even lower price, consider the Denon 1912, a very popular model.
Overall people love this receiver for its superb sound for music as well as home-theater, and its long-list of up to date features. The network interface enabling both internet radio and smart-phone control was what first caught our eyes and makes this a 21st century component with pretty cool capabilities. Like everything else, nothing's perfect. But after digging into it, we conclude the Denon AVR 3311 just might just be THE receiver for everyone except those rare people with perfect ears.