Denon unveils new AV receiver line

Denon unveils is 2007 AV receiver line, and we break down the differences between the models.

Denon is certainly one of the heavy hitters in the AV receiver market, and its full 2007 AV receiver line has now been announced. In general, you can expect Denon's receivers to be pricier than similarly equipped competitors, but in many cases, Denon is trying to justify the price premium with premium features. For example, all the receivers from the AVR-3808CI to the AVR-5308CI feature Denon's new graphical user interface, which replaces the old blocky-text look. Denon is also stressing networking functionality, which is available on the same receivers with the GUI and allows you to you play many different file formats, such as MP3, WMA, FLAC and AAC. Of course, Denon also has a reputation for first-class sound, which many buyers may decide will be worth the extra money. Here's the breakdown of Denon's receivers, highlighting the main feature differences:

Denon AVR-1508
Denon AVR-1508 Denon

Denon AVR-1508($350, September)
Denon AVR-1708($500, September)
Denon AVR-1908($600, September)

Denon's lower-priced receivers are similar, but there are some significant difference. The AVR-1508 and the AVR-1708 both offer dual HDMI 1.3a ports, but they're video-only ports, which means you'll need to make a separate connection for audio. The AVR-1908, on the other hand, offers true HDMI switching with audio, along with onscreen display, which both step-down models lack. The AVR-1708 and the AVR-1908 both feature Audyssey auto setup, along with upconversion to the component video output--the AVR-1508 is lacking both of these features.

Denon AVR-2308's back panel
Denon AVR-2308's back panel Denon

Denon AVR-2308CI($850, August)

The jump from the AVR-1908 to the AVR-2308CI is big in terms of features. The AVR-2308CI offers HDMI upconversion, which means it can take analog video signals and output them via the HDMI output. It's capable of upconverting to 1080p using Faroudja scaling, and hopefully you'll be able to select your desired output resolution. There's also "dual-zone, dual-source" support, which means you can send audio to a separate zone into your house, and you can run a different source in your main zone and your secondary zone. This is Denon's cheapest receiver that provides HDMI switching and upconversion, but it's going to face some fierce competition from Onkyo's excellent TX-SR605, which offers similar features for only $500 list price, and even less online.

Step-up features

  • Upconversion to 1080p using Faroudja processing
  • Dual-zone, dual-source
  • Basic second zone remote

Denon AVR-2808CI($1,200, Late July/Early August)

From what we can tell, the AVR-2808CI is similar to the AVR-2308CI, but adds some additional enthusiast-friendly features, such as "three-zone, three-source" capability, so you can have a different sources playing in three separate zones. The AVR-2808CI also includes onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, two of the new high-resolution soundtrack formats available on HD DVD and Blu-ray. The actual usefulness of this feature is somewhat questionable, as there are currently no Blu-ray or HD DVD players that can output soundtracks in bitstream format--although Denon has announced a Blu-ray player that apparently will be able to do this. The AVR-2808CI also adds preamp outputs, for those who'd like to use a dedicated amp, as well as one additional video input, optical digital audio input, and optical digital audio output. The AVR-2808 has a suggested retail price of $1,200 and should be available shortly.

Step-up features

  • Onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding
  • Three-zone, three-source capability
  • Preamp outs
  • Two component video outputs
  • Additional AV input, optical digital audio input, optical digital audio output

Denon AVR-3808CI($1,600, Late July)

Denon's new GUI
Denon's new GUI CNET

The AVR-3808CI marks another big step up in the Denon receiver product line because it's the least expensive receiver to feature Denon's new graphical user interface (GUI). We had some sneak peaks at the interface earlier, and from the limited demonstrations we've seen, the GUI looks pretty slick. We'll wait until we do a hands-on review to compare it to the Sony STR-DA5300ES's GUI, but we were impressed at Denon's ability to integrate digital media playback into the GUI, including showing album art and track info on the screen. To facilitate digital media playback, the AVR-3808CI is equipped with an Ethernet port, as well as a USB port, which Denon claims will work with USB mass storage devices like a USB 2.0 hard drive. The AVR-3808CI can also tap into your iTunes library (but no DRM iTunes files), but that requires the use of TwonkyMedia, which will cost $40 to download--which is a little frustrating when you spend this much on a receiver. The Ethernet port will also allow certified Denon customer installers to log into a receiver and make adjustments from off-site. The AVR-3808CI also steps up the HDMI connectivity, offering 4 HDMI inputs. The AVR-3808CI will be available by the end of the month for a suggested retail price of $1,600. The AVR-3808CI is certainly packed with features, but we also expect it to face heavy competition from Sony's STR-DA5300ES, which offers 6 HDMI inputs and an excellent GUI for $1,700.

Step-up features

  • Ethernet connection
  • Digital music playback, including MP3, AAC, WMA lossless, and FLAC
  • Graphical user interface
  • USB port that supports USB hard drives

The Denon AVR-4308CI's rear panel Denon

Denon AVR-4308CI($2,500, Available now)

The AVR-4308CI includes all of the features the AVR-3808CI but adds some significant improvements. For network connectivity, the AVR-4308CI adds 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi connectivity in addition to the Ethernet port. The AVR-4308CI also adds a second zone component video output, which should mean that you'll be able to enjoy analog high-def sources in a second zone. Like the AVR-3808CI, there are four HDMI inputs, but the AVR-4308CI adds two HDMI outputs, which could be useful if, for example, you had a flat-panel display and a projector in the same room. Rounding out the extra features is support for HD radio. The AVR-4308CI has a suggested retail price of $2,500 and is currently available.

Step-up features

  • Second zone via component, with OSD
  • Ethernet and WiFi connectivity
  • Two HDMI outputs
  • HD radio

Denon AVR-5308CI($5,200, December)

The AVR-5308CI is the flagship model of Denon's 2007 receiver line, and it's packed with features. One of the major step-ups is the inclusion of HQV's Realta processor, which should deliver outstanding video quality for upconverted sources. The AVR-5308CI is also capable of HDMI to HDMI scaling, which is an uncommon feature and allows you to use the powerful Realta processor to upscale lower resolution HDMI signals to your desired resolution. The AVR-5308CI also adds more HDMI connectivity, with six HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. Of course, all these features don't come cheap, as the AVR-5308CI will have a hefty $5,200 price tag when it comes out in December.

Step-up features

  • HQV Realta video processing, with HDMI to HDMI scaling
  • 6 HDMI inputs, 2 HDMI outputs

 

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