If you're searching for a big, really powerful receiver to run an ultimate home theater, Denon's AVR-4810CI might be the holy grail.
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.
I've reviewed many Denon receivers, but never one of the really big ones. Richard Ames, that lucky devil, had the pleasure of putting the Denon AVR-4810CI through its paces for "Home Entertainment" magazine.
Each of the receiver's nine channels puts out 140 watts. Just about every surround format is on board, including Dolby ProLogic IIz height channel processing and Audyssey's DSX (which adds the possibility of width channels as well). You also get Audyssey's MultEQ XT 8-point room correction processing.
Video signals, regardless of resolution or input, can be upconverted/transcoded to HDMI and 1080p. Anchor Bay's VRS handles all the video processing. Ethernet connectivity supports Internet radio and access to media files on your home network.
Audiophile-oriented home theater fans can rest easy, the AVR-4810CI sports 24-bit/192kHz Burr-Brown PCM-1804 and PCM-1791 digital-to-analog converters.
Ames, unlike me, found the onscreen GUI (graphical user interface) excellent, acknowledging it "borrows" heavily from Sony's PlayStation Xross Media Bar GUI. I'll leave that up to you if that's a good or bad thing.
For Internet hookup you can either use an Ethernet cable or attach the included antenna to access your LAN wirelessly. That's cool.
Though there is a USB input on the front and rear panels, only one is usable at a time. The front is the default, so if you want to enable the one on the rear panel you need to do so in the menu. This isn't just for iPods, the AVR-4810CI will also play music or show images from flash drives.
Ames found the sound warm, and that the DACs deliver a clean sound that is never abrasive. That's the Denon sound--warm and rich--with plenty of detail, so sure, you don't need to spend $3,000 to get that, some of the more affordable Denons will likely get you pretty close to the sound of the AVR-4810CI.
Denon is having a major press event here in NYC on April 26, so I'll be reporting on any audio-oriented components coming down the pike. The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, so I'm expecting some major announcements on the 26th.