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First Look: Denon AVR-E400: A somewhat simpler AV receiver at a cost

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First Look: Denon AVR-E400: A somewhat simpler AV receiver at a cost

3:18 /

Denon's AVR-E400 makes some progress simplifying the arduous AV receiver setup process, but it lacks convenient wireless features you'd expect at this price.

Hey. I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET and we are gonna take a look at the Denon AVR-E400. This is a new 7.1 AV receiver that's selling for $600 and the big change this year is Denon focused on making AV receivers easier to set up. Now, that's a mission I can get behind as AV receivers are notoriously frustrating to set up and Denon does make some worthwhile progress. The biggest change is to set up a system. An on-screen guide that walks you through the setup process, the first time you fire up the AVR receiver, telling you how to hook up your speakers and get all your devices properly configured. Another change is Denon's new push in speaker connectors on the back. Now, they're definitely easier to use if you're sticking with bare speaker wire, although I found them a little bit more cramp when using banana plugs. Finally, the included remote is the same as last year's but it's still the best AV receiver remote that's currently available. Buttons are logically laid out and they're nice and big rather than the confusing jumble of tiny buttons that most receiver remotes have. Now, while all those improvements are nice, the AVR-E400 still misses the mark somewhat when it comes to ease of use. For one, it's still a giant metal box which makes it a pain to physically handle and it's not exactly the nicest looking edition to your living world. And that science would be a little more tolerable except Marantz offers the NR1403, which is nearly half the size $200 cheaper and looks a lot nicer. The AVR-E400 is also missing both Bluetooth and Wifi to wireless technologies that offer a lot of convenience. Bluetooth works with the vast majority of smartphones and tablets and it's the easier way to wirelessly stream music. So, it's frustrating that it's not included on a $600 receiver. The lack of WiFi means you need to connect the receiver Ethernet to use any of its networking features. And that's not always easy for every living room scenario. Now, both WiFi and Bluetooth are included on the Onkyo TX-NR626 and that currently cost $100 less. The rest of the AVR-E400 features are solid. There's 6 HDMI inputs which should be enough for almost every home theater. The networking feature are also respectable including built-in airplay, DLNA, Pandora, Spotify and Internet Radio. We also had resident audio file, Steve Guttenberg listened to the sound quality and overall, he was impressed. The Denon has a rich sound and plenty of power to fill our medium size listening room. He also compared it directly to Yamaha's RXV475 and pioneers VSX-823. And while he did end up preferring both of those receivers especially the Yamaha, they all perform pretty similarly. So, a lot of it comes down to taste. But to sum it up, the AVR-E400 is ultimately asking you to pay extra for its simplicity but I don't think it goes far enough to justify that cost, especially without Bluetooth and WiFi which offer a lot of real world convenience. The AVR-E400 is a very solid receiver when judge on its own, the most buyers will get a better value from the alternatives. I'm Matthew Moskovciak and this is the Denon AVR-E400.

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