It wasn't that long ago--May 2006, to be exact--that we gave the Denon AVR-2807 receiver an Editors' Choice award. We touted it as having the "Best bang for your home theater buck in 2006," but with the recently introduced AVR-2307CI ($800), the company upped its own ante. The Denon AVR-2307CI retails for $300 less, and somehow manages to retain many of the AVR-2807's best features--including the ability to convert video analog composite, S-Video, and component sources to all-digital HDMI output; highly accurate speaker autocalibration, and built-in support for XM satellite radio. So what did Denon cut out? The newer model is slightly less powerful, there are somewhat fewer connectivity options, and the remote control is nowhere as user friendly. But those are quibbles compared to the 2307CI's two annoying HDMI limitations, which have the potential to make day to day operation a real annoyance for those without cutting-edge HDTVs. In the looks department, the Denon AVR-2307CI offers no surprises: it's yet another black box, virtually indistinguishable from Denon's other midpriced receivers. Dimensions are likewise average, measuring out at 6.75 inches high by 17.1 wide by 16.4 deep, and tipping the scales at 28.6 pounds. The layout of the controls and knobs is fine, though the 2307 lacks a flip-down front panel of the type found on the more expensive models, so a smattering of buttons and the front-panel A/V inputs are visible for all to see.
Most of the time, of course, you're going to be using the AVR-2307CI's remote control. It's identical to the metallic-gray unit that Denon packs with its home-theater-in-a-box systems, a two-sided control wand with most (but not all) everyday controls on the front and the generally lesser-used controls on the backside. The problem is that such an either/or control split doesn't work so well for an A/V receiver. For example, Phono, CD, and surround selectors reside on the bottom face, under a hinged door that we found downright inconvenient to pry open. We also had to study the user's manual to discover how to access the AVR-2307CI's multichannel input from the backside of remote. Ergonomically speaking, it's not our favorite Denon remote, but it's still better than the awful soft-touch membrane remotes of a few years ago.
Ah, but the manual speaker setup navigation is easy as pie, and the autosetup/calibration is even better. We especially like that it's less demanding than Denon's Audyssey MultEQxt Room EQ-based program that we've used on the higher-end models starting with the AVR-2807. That receiver requires the user to move the calibration mic to several different locations in the room. We had the AVR-2307CI's autocalibration squared away in just a few minutes. The manual -band EQ system is adjustable for individual groups of speakers: Front Left/Right, Center, and Surround. While the auto EQ'ed sound was fine, we preferred the results we obtained manually. The Denon AVR-2307CI is a seven-times-100-watt receiver offering a full selection of Dolby, DTS, and proprietary surround modes. Connectivity runs to five A/V inputs, including the front panel's set, all of which offer composite or S-Video connectors. In addition to the three component input sets, there are two HDMI inputs.
As far as HDMI niceties, the AVR-2307CI is a mixed bag. On the positive side, the HDMI 1.1 jacks have no problem passing 1080p video, so they'll work well with the latest HD-DVD and Blu-ray players, including the PlayStation 3. And because the HDMI connections can pass both HD video and multichannel audio, you need just a single cable running from a DVD, an HD-DVD, or a Blu-ray player. (The AVR-2307CI can pass the uncompressed linear PCM soundtracks on Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs, as well as decode Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams.) The receiver also offers video conversion from all of its analog video inputs (composite, S-Video, component) to HDMI.
So far, so good--but the 2307CI is missing the other two parts of the equation, features that made the AVR-2807 so easy to use. It doesn't offer de-interlacing (480i to 480p conversion), so all of the analog video remains in its native resolution. (That differs from what Denon originally told us--and what we originally reported--when this model was first announced.) For component-video sources, that can include HD video, but for any composite or S-Video sources--including such common devices such as VCRs, camcorders, video iPods, and older game consoles--it's 480i. Furthermore, the AVR-2307CI's onscreen display shows only at 480i resolution over the HDMI connection as well. Both 480i limitations--the lack of de-interlacing and the dearth of onscreen display at HD resolutions over HDMI--mean the AVR-2307CI's HDMI compatibility is questionable with the many older and some current HDTVs that can't receive 480i video via their HDMI inputs. For instance, if you connect the AVR-2307CI to the Samsung HP-R4252, a 2005 plasma model, or the LG 42LB1DRA, a 2006 42-inch LCD flat-panel, via HDMI, you'll get a blank screen when you switch to a 480i video source or when you access the onscreen display, because neither model can accept a 480i video stream via HDMI. That means you'll need to run a second video output--composite, S-Video, or component--to the TV, just to see those non-HD video sources or to access the onscreen menu. That's a pain you wouldn't have if you were using lower-priced competitors, such as the JVC RX-D412B or the Onkyo TX-SR674, which offer the de-interlacing feature.
For non-HDMI sources, the standard digital audio connections are more than ample: you get six inputs (four optical, including a front-panel connector, and two coaxial) and one optical output. There are also three sets of analog stereo inputs: one is a dedicated phono hookup, and another includes a record-out loop. A set of 7.1-channel analog inputs for SACD/DVD-Audio or Blu-ray and HD-DVD players is provided as well. If you ever need more than the AVR-2307's 100 watts per channel, the 7.1-channel preamplifier outputs can be hooked up to a more powerful multichannel amplifier. And there's not only a set of B speaker outputs, you can also reassign the two Surround Back channels for use as Zone 2 speakers.
The CI in the AVR-2307CI name stands for Custom Integration, so Denon includes a wide range of multizone connectivity choices. They include Zone 2 stereo audio outputs for a stereo power amplifier, (but no video outs), two 12 volt triggers, and infrared in and out. The RS-232 port can be used with custom home automation systems.