For some home theater enthusiasts, AV receivers have lost their way. What used to be a relatively simple device with a focus on sound quality is now the complicated hub of your home theater, handling audio, video, and sometimes even online streaming services.
Among such multifaceted receivers, however, the Denon AVR-1911 is something of a throwback. Its connectivity is modern, but sparse, with four HDMI 1.4 inputs where others offer six. There's also only a single-component video input and two digital audio inputs. The Denon has an onscreen display, but it uses blocky, white text, compared with the more-graphical interfaces offered on the Sony STR-DN1010, Pioneer VSX-1020-K, and Yamaha RX-V667.
If all we cared about were specs, we'd be ready to write off the AVR-1911, but it gets arguably the most important aspect right: outstanding sound quality. The Denon AVR-1911 is a full notch above other receivers we've tested this year, making it our go-to choice for audiophiles on a midrange budget. Yes, it costs more than competitors and it lacks tons of inputs and outputs, but the Denon AVR-1911 is the way to go if superior sonics are your priority.
The design on the AVR-1911 hasn't changed much from last year's Denon receivers. The front panel has a matte-black finish, which gives it a more refined look than the shiny gloss of Pioneers and Sonys. The main unique touch is the slight curve on the front panel, which tapers away toward the top. It's certainly a distinctive design, and one that not everybody will like, but we think it's a nice variation on the "big black box" design of many competitors. There are two large knobs on the right and left, for volume and source selection, both of which are displayed on an LCD readout at the center.
Though new AV receivers come packed with fancy features like 3D compatibility and multiple HDMI ports, we're always shocked at how primitive most of their user interfaces are. The AVR-1911 uses a text-based user interface, which looks out of place in a modern home theater
It makes the setup process a little more difficult compared with receivers like the Sony STR-DN1010, which use a more graphics-based approach, although that's not a huge shortcoming since you'll only see the setup menus infrequently.
The Denon AVR-1911 has the least amount of video connectivity offered by any of the midrange AV receivers we've tested this year. Its four HDMI inputs are the minimum we expect, with competitors like the Pioneer VSX-1020-K, the Yamaha RX-V667, and the Onkyo HT-RC260 offering six. It's also skimpy with analog video inputs, offering just a single component video input and three composite video inputs.
All that adds up to the fact that you can only connect five HD video devices at a time; this is significantly fewer than other midrange receivers, which can handle seven or eight HD devices at once. It's easy to knock the AVR-1911 for its lack of ports, but it's worth remembering that the extra connectivity offered by competitors really only matters if you're going to use it. For many (if not most) home theaters, the Denon's video connectivity will be plenty.
The AVR-1911's included remote is a huge improvement over the awful remotes that have come with Denon receivers in the past. It gets many things right, from the centrally located directional pad to the large button rocker for volume. There are buttons at the top for selecting sources, but even more useful is the source select button, which lets you choose your source for the onscreen display.
We also appreciated that many of the important buttons glow in the-dark, which makes it easier to use in a darkened home theater. (That said, it's not as easy as the Marantz NR1601's backlit remote.) We had our nitpicks, such as four buttons at the top for controlling power options, and it's still going to intimidate home theater novices, but overall we're happy to see a Denon receiver with a usable remote.
Denon receivers have featured Audyssey's MultEQ automatic speaker calibration for many years, so we felt right at home as soon as we brought up the AVR-1911's first setup screen on our display. Audyssey MultEQ determines the speaker sizes, speaker-to-listener distances, sets the volume levels of all of the speakers and the sub, and calculates the subwoofer-to-speaker crossover point.