At January's Consumer Electronics Show, we picked the Denon AVR-2807 as the best home-audio product of the show. It wasn't the boldest choice, to be sure, but unlike many of the show's pie-in-the-sky products that are vaguely sexy or potentially cool, the AVR-2807 has arrived more or less on schedule, and it's delivered exactly what Denon promised. A bit more down-to-earth than its big brother, the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink AVR-4306, this receiver still delivers a winning combination of impressive features, including HDMI switching and 480p conversion of analog video, automatic speaker calibration, and built-in support for XM satellite radio and Denon's new iPod dock--it sounds great, too. We said in January that the AVR-2807 "looks well positioned to deliver the best bang for your home-theater buck in 2006." Available for a very reasonable $1,100, the Denon AVR-2807 has fulfilled that expectation to the letter.
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. The Denon AVR-2807 shares the understated design of Denon's up-market brethren: it keeps most of the lesser-used controls tucked under a flip-down panel. The receiver is nearly 17 inches deep and weighs almost 31 pounds. It also puts out a lot of heat, so we'd advise against placing the receiver inside a cabinet unless it's well ventilated.
The AVR-2807's big remote has room enough to spread out lots of different sized and colored buttons. It's nicely organized and easy to use, and we actually preferred it over the touch-screen remotes found on some of the higher-end Denon receivers (such as the AVR-4306). The touch screens' disappearing menus and controls drove us nuts, but the AVR-2807's buttons were always exactly where they were supposed to be.
Denon's advanced Audyssey MultEQxt Room EQ autosetup system can enhance the sound for large groups of listeners. With the exception of determining the subwoofer's level and distance from the measuring microphone, the setup's accuracy was excellent. Either Denon's engineers have streamlined the autosetup or we're just getting used to it, but we had the whole thing done in 6 minutes vs. 20 for the last Denon autosetup we reviewed (the AVR-4306). Though we've had decent results with the Audyssey Room EQ (equalization) system in the past, for some reason, we couldn't achieve much of an improvement this time. If you take the time and run through the process a few times, you might get better results. Then again, if you like tinkering with audio components, you might enjoy the "manual" EQ program and diddle the nine-band graphic controls to your heart's content. We did and came up with a sound that suited our taste. The Denon AVR-2807 is a seven-times-110-watt receiver offering a full selection of Dolby, DTS, and proprietary surround modes. Connectivity options will fulfill the needs of even the most complex home-theater installations: You get a total of seven A/V inputs with S-Video. High-def sources are also well-served: three inputs can be toggled to accept component video, and two more can handle HDMI. Even better, any of the analog sources (composite-, component-, or S-Video) can be converted to component or HDMI output at 480i or 480p resolution. The 480p progressive-scan option is particularly important because it maximizes compatibility with HDTVs; many older models can't accept a 480i video signal via HDMI.
Digital audio connections are abundant: five optical (including one front-panel jack) and two coaxial inputs, as well as two optical outputs. Analog audio inputs include stereo phono and CD inputs as well as a set for 7.1-channel analog sources such as SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray, or HD-DVD. The 7.1-channel preamplifier outputs can be hooked up to an external power amplifier if you outgrow the internal amps. Multizone provisions include video and stereo audio, 12-volt triggers, and infrared in and out. An RS-232 port rounds out the AVR-2807's back panel.
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.