We were happy to see the AVR-2807 is XM Satellite Radio ready; all you need is an XM Passport or an XM Connect-and-Play Home Kit and a $12.95-per-month XM subscription. But XM's new HD Surround channels will be only in stereo. That's hardly a reason to skip the AVR-2807--as of April 2006, there are only two XM surround stations. But it's worth noting that the Pioneer VSX-816 and the Onkyo TX-SR504 sport XM HD Surround, and they're $299 A/V receivers.
No, you won't find an Ethernet port, streaming network audio, or the HDMI upscaling features of the AVR-4306--but the AVR-2807 is a full $900 cheaper than that model. The AVR-2807 is also the first Denon receiver that's compatible with the company's optional iPod dock, which is available in white or black. Aside from the cutesy name--the iDock--it comes with all of the necessary connecting cables and a selection of five adapters to accommodate virtually all dockable iPods, including the Nano. Unlike the much cheaper Apple version, the Denon iPod dock lets you control your iPod with the Denon's receiver remote and displays a crude but functional facsimile of the iPod's menu on your TV screen. It also sends your iPod's photo and video content to your TV--but to do so, the TV menu system is disabled, leaving you inexplicably limited to maneuvering on the player's tiny screen, which is all but worthless if you're 10 feet away on the sofa. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page's No Quarter concert DVD kicked the Denon AVR-2807's auditions into high gear. Rather than just do an unplugged Led Zeppelin show, they reinvigorated the music's blues roots with a heavy infusion of African and Middle Eastern musicians and a string section borrowed from the London Metropolitan Orchestra. It was great to hear that huge band careening through "Since I've Been Loving You." Somehow, it all works--the exotic instrumentation, including a primal-sounding didgeridoo dueling with Page's ferocious electric guitar on "Black Dog." The DVD's densely layered sounds were absolutely thrilling--far beyond what we hear from most affordable receivers.
Jackson Browne's Running on Empty DVD-Audio disc sounded even better. The AVR-2807 put us in the midst of the disc's center-of-the-band surround mixes. You hear the ambiance change from one tune to the next: on "Cocaine," the guys are sprawled out in a hotel room, while "Nothing but Time" rumbles by on the tour bus, and you can feel the open space of the Garden State Arts Center on "You Love the Thunder." With a receiver as accomplished as the AVR-2807, you feel like you're there. CD sound, in stereo, was also excellent--the soundstage was deep and wide, with a natural portrayal of depth that's all too rare with receivers.
Turning to movies, the sonic riches of the King Kong DVD were the perfect vehicle to fully reveal the AVR-2807's consummate home-theater skills. We could almost sense the heat and humidity in the jungle where Kong lives. During the climactic scene atop the Empire State Building, we felt as if we were right there with Naomi Watts, with the planes circling our home theater and their machine guns firing at Kong.
On the video front, the Denon AVR-2807 has all the bases covered. The receiver's two HDMI inputs successfully passed a 1080p signal from our Sencore VP403 signal generator, proving that the AVR-2807 should be no impediment to future 1080p HDMI sources such as PlayStation 3 and Blu-ray players. It also had no trouble converting 480i analog-video sources (such as those from a VCR, a non-high-def cable or satellite box, or a video game system) from the composite and S-Video inputs to 480p progressive-scan video via the HDMI output. The receiver's onscreen display was also visible when viewing via HDMI. While those accomplishments may appear to be nothing short of ho-hum, the list of A/V receivers that cannot convert analog video to HDMI, convert 480i video to 480p, or show the onscreen display via the HDMI output, is long and distinguished. The AVR-2807's HDMI features are notably superior to those of Denon's own AVR-3806, for instance--despite the fact that the AVR-2807 costs $200 less.
The HDMI prowess of the Denon AVR-2807 was borne out once we connected it to the Toshiba HD-A1. We're still getting the hang of the next-gen audio and video features offered by HD-DVD, but the Denon had no trouble delivering surround audio from the player via its HDMI (along with high-def video), optical/coaxial digital, and 5.1 analog inputs, respectively. No, the AVR-2807 can't decode the brand-new Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD audio codecs--we won't see such receivers until late 2006, at the earliest--but it's easily one of the most futureproof receivers on the market right now.