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Denon AVR-2307CI review: Denon AVR-2307CI

Denon AVR-2307CI

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Steve Guttenberg
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Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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7 min read

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.

7.7

Denon AVR-2307CI

The Good

The Denon AVR-2307CI is a full-featured 7.1-channel A/V receiver highlighted by its ability to switch among its five HD-capable inputs (two HDMI, three component). It converts all incoming analog video sources to HDMI output for a single-wire connection to HDTVs. The receiver offers advanced autosetup capabilities, and it's compatible with XM's HD Surround stations and Denon's optional iPod dock.

The Bad

The potential convenience of the HDMI features is tempered by the dearth of de-interlacing, and the fact that the onscreen display is visible only at 480i resolution; both will prove to be an annoyance for many HDTV owners. The remote utilizes an awkward, two-sided design.

The Bottom Line

Denon's AVR-2307CI delivers a strong combination of advanced audio/video features and high-end sound quality at a great price, but its HDMI shortfalls keep it from being a slam-dunk.
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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.

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.

The AVR-2307CI is XM Satellite Radio-ready--just hook up a Connect-and-Play XM antenna and subscribe. Unlike the AVR-2807, the 2307CI includes the latest Neural processing for decoding XM's "HD" surround channels. The receiver is also compatible with Denon's ASD-1R iPod dock and lets you access and control your music from the receiver's remote via the onscreen interface.

If you like everything the AVR-2307CI offers but you want to save $100, check out the Denon AVR-887. It's essentially the same receiver, except that it lacks the custom install-friendly features (RS-232 port, 12-volt triggers, zone 2 preamp outputs). We started our evaluation of the AVR-2307CI with some 5.1 music. James Brown's Live at Montreux 1981 DVD put the receiver's stamina to the test. The high energy music can make lesser receivers beg for mercy, but with the AVR-2307CI in control, Brown's taut grooves never turned flabby, the raw power of Brown's growls and screams always remained clear. Turning to movies, the Sumo wresting match with Fat Bastard on the Goldmember DVD had lots of "impact"--the wrestlers body slams rocked our home theater. A lot of 100-watt-per-channel receivers don't feel all that powerful, but the AVR-2307CI surely did. We even subjected it to the ultimate test by running our Dynaudio speaker set to Large, because that setting generally sounds best, but makes far greater power demands. The Denon didn't mind one bit.

Saxman Bob Belden's Mysterious Shorter multichannel SACD was something else again. The session, a tribute to sax player Wayne Shorter, was recorded live in a New York City church, and the church's acoustical setting was projected upward and outward from our speakers and was especially vivid. Each musician's instrument stood out in bold relief, and we could hear its sound filling the vast space of the church. The high resolution gave Nicholas Payton's trumpet a sweetness of tone that's rarely reproduced at home. The AVR-2307CI effortless handling of the band's hard-hitting dynamics was also impressive.

Classical music on CD sounded appropriately lush, Fritz Reiner conducting Dvorak's New World Symphony with the Chicago Symphony elevated our estimation of the AVR-2307CI's overall sound quality. This music can could strident on some receivers, but not here. The recording's majestic scale was truly breathtaking in its beauty.

All in all, the Denon AVR-2307CI demonstrated the same excellent performance we've come to expect from the company's receivers. That brings us back to our HDMI caveats: in our opinion, Denon cut one too many corners for those looking for robust HDMI and high-def support. For them, it's still worth investing the extra $300 in the AVR-2807, or for a competing model like the aforementioned Onkyo TX-SR674. The 2807 also delivers bit more power, with slightly more generous connectivity, and a more sophisticated speaker autocalibration program. That said, the Denon AVR-2307CI is an otherwise great-sounding receiver that has a lot to offer--it's just too bad Denon couldn't take the HDMI functionality to the next level at this price.

Editors' note: Denon Electronics will not honor the warranty on Denon components purchased from unauthorized dealers, or if the original factory serial number has been removed, defaced, or replaced. If in doubt about a particular online or brick-and-mortar retailer, call Denon at 973/396-0810.

Assistant Editor Matthew Moskovciak contributed to this review.

7.7

Denon AVR-2307CI

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8
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