A lot of video connectivity is important, but every receiver is ultimately limited by how many input labels is has. In other words, just because the AVR-1909 has six total high-definition inputs (three HDMI, three component video inputs) doesn't necessarily mean you can use six high-definition components simultaneously. The AVR-1909 has five labels (DVD, HDP, TV/CBL, VCR, V.Aux) to which HDMI and component video sources can be assigned, which means you're limited to five simultaneous video sources at a time. These are also the only inputs available for standard-definition video devices, so those with many components in their rack may feel constrained. There are also two audio-only labels: CD and CD-R/Tape.
The functionality of the standard-definition video inputs is enhanced by the AVR-1909's HDMI upconversion. What this means is that analog video signals from the component, S-Video, and composite video inputs can be converted to be output over the HDMI output, so you only need to make one HDMI connection from your receiver to your HDTV. Additionally, the AVR-1909 is capable of scaling these signals from their original 480i format up to 1080p.
For audio, the HDMI inputs can deliver 7.1 channels of high-resolution audio. Other digital audio connectivity is available by two optical digital audio inputs and two coaxial digital audio inputs, but note that they are, as always, limited to standard Dolby Digital/DTS audio resolution. Analog audio is supported by a set of 7.1 analog inputs, plus two stereo analog audio inputs. Vinyl enthusiasts will bemoan the lack of a phono input, but you can still add a turntable with a separate preamp. For late-night listening, there's also a headphone jack on the front panel.
The rest of the connectivity is rounded out by both Sirius and XM jacks, and since both companies have merged, we'd suggest using an XM Mini-tuner plus a home dock to get reception. The AVR-1909 also has solid multiroom functionality, allowing you to send either powered or line level audio signals to another room. There's no built-in digital or network audio features, but those who are interested in that will be better served with a dedicated media streamer anyway.
As we mentioned before, the AVR-1909 features Audyssey's new technologies, Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. Both promise to improve sound quality for late-night, low-volume listening, but we didn't enjoy the effect while watching the naval battle scenes from Master and Commander on Blu-ray. The AVR-1909 allows you to switch between having them both on, both off, or just with Dynamic EQ on.
Together, Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume produced an overly bassy, dynamically compressed sound, which robbed the soundtrack of any visceral excitement. Switching off Dynamic Volume restored some life to the sound, but the Dynamic EQ effect was still murky, with an overabundance of bass. If the goal is to allow for late-night enjoyment of movies without disturbing others (sleeping family members), the increased bass might be problematic. The bottom line is turning off Dynamic EQ and Volume just plain sounded better to us, even at low volume levels.
That said, we were happy with the improvement Audyssey MultEQ rendered with our Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD speaker system. The Audyssey MultEQ added sparkle and detail to the sound of Jazz Hat, an excellent piano jazz CD. Bass definition and power were also both slightly enhanced by MultEQ. Our previous experiences with MultEQ have shown it can provide significant improvement when used with inexpensive speakers.
All in all, we felt the AVR-1909 sounded terrific with every Blu-ray, DVD, and CD we played. The sound was clear, with a good sense of power and low distortion. Well-recorded and mixed movies exhibited seamless front-to-rear imaging, and with Dynamic EQ and volume turned off, impressive dynamic range capabilities.
The AVR-1909 is capable of upconverting analog signals to 1080p over its HDMI output, and we put it through our video testing suite. We starting off our testing using the 480i S-Video output of the Panasonic DMR-EZ48VK connected to the Denon AVR-1909, which output to the Vizio VOJ370F. We popped in Silicon Optix's HQV test suite and had a look.
The AVR-1909 did a good job at first, resolving every line of the test pattern with very little image instability. It struggled a bit on the next two video-based test patterns, showing more jaggies than we'd like on a rotating white line and three shifting white lines. It also struggled on the 2:3 pull-down test, as we could see significant moire in the grandstands in the background. On the upside, it did handle test patterns with scrolling CNN-like text perfectly.
Test pattern performance wasn't so good, but we changed over to program material to see how it actually handles movies. This went better, as our first disc, Seabiscuit, was relatively moire-free, despite being a relatively difficult disc to display properly. Next up was Star Trek: Insurrection, and this also looked relatively good, with its 2:3 pull-down rendering the curved edges of the boat hulls and bridge railings smoothly. So while AVR-1909 struggled on some test patterns, it performed admirably on actual program material.
Analog upconversion is still a useful feature for those with analog video components, but it's worth acknowledging that analog video-only devices are becoming rare, with the (big) exception of the Nintendo Wii. If you're just planning on using the Denon AVR-1909 for HDMI signals, disregard the previous tests, as HDMI-based digital video looked great no matter what resolution it was in. To be clear, the AVR-1909 simply passes the digital signal through to your HDTV, so you won't run into the minor aforementioned video quality issues.