Denon gives the consumer a reasonable amount of choice when it comes to the M51 2.1 Surround Sound system. You can either purchase just the base surround amplifier/reciever, and match it up to speakers and a subwoofer of your choice, or purchase essentially matching speakers and subwoofer to go along with it. Naturally, adding in speakers and a subwoofer does up the price a bit, and the configuration of the M51 we tested with included 2 Denon speakers and a Denon subwoofer.
The main amplifier/reciever of the M51's playback unit is a relatively small unit decked out in stark metallic tones. Basic functions can be accessed either from the front of the unit, or from the exceptionally well laid out remote. At first glance, the M51's remote is quite intimidating, with a huge array of buttons, but closer examination reveals a very sensible layout, with common buttons sitting at the base of the unit and having particular shapes that become second nature very quickly. To top it off, the common function buttons are made of mildly phosphorescent plastic, so it's easy to locate them in a darkened home theatre room.
The optional speakers comprise a intimidating subwoofer decked out in wood tones that should fit well with a variety of decor styles, along with two satellite speakers. The speakers share a mix of the wood motif of the subwoofer and the metallic style of the amplifier/reciever unit.
Setup of the M51 is simple enough, with cables that tightly screw down and a rather thick manual that's easy enough to follow. It's even been put together well enough that it covers all possible bases in terms of speaker seperate options that you might want to hook up to it.
In a world of 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 speaker systems, a 2.1 layout might not sound terribly impressive, but to counter that the system comes with Dolby Digital Virtual Surround Sound, which simulates the effect of a true 5.1 surround sound system. If you're in a situation where even blasting out a simulated surround effect is likely to irritate your fellow housemates, you'll be glad to note that it also supports Dolby Headphone, which likewise simulates a 5.1 surround effect through headphones.