The Denon AVR-1912 is the most complete midrange AV receiver we've seen in 2011 so far. It's one of the only two receivers in its class (the other being the Pioneer VSX-1021-K) with built-in support for Apple's AirPlay, a feature that lets you use any iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad as a wireless music source. While the Pioneer has a nicer interface, the Denon outdoes it with slightly better sound quality, a sixth HDMI input, a two-year warranty, and onboard support for Pandora, Rhapsody, and Napster. The Denon AVR-1912 is our go-to pick if someone asks, "Which AV receiver should I buy?" and that's why we've given it our Editors' Choice Award.
AV receivers are all pretty similar-looking, but if we had to pick a favorite on aesthetics alone, we'd go with the Denon AVR-1912. We prefer its soft, matte finish to the high gloss of the Pioneer VSX-1012-K, and its rounder edges are more appealing than the stark front of the Onkyo TX-NR609. It's a full-sized AV receiver, which means it takes up a lot of shelf space, coming in at 6.38 inches high, 17.13 inches wide, and 15.05 inches deep.
Remote and remote apps
The included remote is similar to the one that came with last year's Denon AVR-1911. Denon does a decent job of distinguishing the sections with different colors and button sizes, and the number pad is tucked out of the way at the very bottom. It's still difficult to use if you're not a home theater geek, but that's the way all AV receiver remotes are. Most buyers would be wise to invest in a quality universe remote to control all their home theater gadgets.
The AVR-1912 can also be controlled via Denon's iOS remote application, which provides basic functions like choosing inputs and adjusting the volume. The standout feature is that you can access your iPhone's music library from inside the app, without needing to switch to the iTunes program. This allows you to turn on your AV receiver and listen to all your music from a single app, instead of having to switch between two.
The AVR-1912 features a basic onscreen display that's essentially one step up from the primitive white blocky text menus we saw last year. While the menus are mostly organized in a logical fashion, navigation is a little confusing because the left-hand menus get replaced when you delve further into the menu. You intuitively expect the cursor box to move to the right when you press to the right, so it can be a little disorienting when the cursor stays put and the menu changes underneath it.
The Denon has a GUI (graphical user interface) for playing streaming music services and local digital music files. When we first hooked up the Denon AVR-1912 to our Samsung PN58B650, we were surprised how bad it looked. The image shook and strobed slightly, and while it was still legible and usable, it wasn't what you want to see when you connect your new cutting-edge $530 receiver. When we connected the AVR-1912 another TV, however, the strobelike effects went away.
The problem is that the AVR-1912 outputs an interlaced standard-definition (480i) signal for its menus, so they're subject to your HDTV's standard-definition processing. It's frustrating that an AV receiver in 2011 can't output a high-def onscreen interface, but it's not a deal breaker for us.
Built-in AirPlay lives up to the hype. Once you get the AVR-1912 on your home network, getting music to stream from an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad is as simple as selecting a song to play, hitting the AirPlay icon, and selecting the AVR-1912. Music played using the iPod app will have cover art and artist information displayed on the connected TV, plus you can adjust the volume of the receiver using your iOS device's built-in volume controls. It's a really satisfying experience to sit on the couch with an iPhone, browsing your music and controlling your AV receiver.
AirPlay isn't limited to music on your iOS device. It works with a ton of third-party apps, so we were streaming music from Pandora and Rhapsody in no time. And if you fire up Apple's Remote app and select an iTunes library from a networked computer, you can stream music from that computer using an iOS device or the computer itself as the remote.
The AVR-1912's AirPlay functionality isn't exactly the same as what you get on an Apple TV, as it doesn't handle video. The lack of video streaming does bring up the strongest argument against the Denon and all networked AV receivers: why not just get a cheaper AV receiver and buy a more fully featured separate Apple TV box? It's definitely worth considering, especially because it's easier to replace a $99 Apple TV with an updated model when new features get added.
|Key AV receiver features|
|Channels||7.1||Analog video upconversion||Yes|
|Graphical user interface||Yes||Automatic speaker calibration||Yes|
The Denon AVR-1912 has all the key features we expect at this price level, including a two-year warranty, which is a year longer then Pioneer offers for the competing VSX-1021-K.
|iPod/iPhone/iPad features chart|
|AirPlay||Yes||Connect iOS device via USB||Yes|
|iOS remote app||Yes||Proprietary iPod dock||$100|
The Denon lets you connect an Apple iDevice in just about every way possible: wirelessly via AirPlay, using the front-panel USB port, or with Denon's $100 ASD-11R iPod dock. Only the Denon AVR-1912 and Pioneer VSX-1021-K offer AirPlay in this price range.
|HDMI version||1.4||3D pass-through||Yes|
|Audio return channel||Yes||Standby pass-through||Yes|
This year all of the midrange receivers we've tested support the major new HDMI features, including the handy standby pass-through mode, which allows the receiver to pass audio and video signal to a TV even when the receiver is off. No midrange receiver that we've seen so far supports HDMI Ethernet Channel.