Denon AVR-2311CI A/V Receiver
It’s not every day that I get to review a product from a 100-year-old brand name. But Denon is indeed celebrating its centenary in 2010.
When American-born Frederick Whitney Horn established the Japan Recorders Corporation in 1910, home audio playback was largely a matter of gramophones and shellacs. Between then and now, the company that eventually become known as Denon celebrated many firsts. In the 1950s alone, it sold the first LPs in Japan, a tape recorder for broadcast use, the first stereo records in Japan, and open-reel audiotapes.
The Denon that home theater buffs know and love really started gathering momentum with its first A/V amps in 1988, the world’s first Dolby Digital–equipped, THX-certified system in 1995, and the world’s first THX Surround EX system (with back-surrounds) in 1999. More recently, in 2008, Denon became the first company to combine Blu-ray with SACD and DVDAudio in a universal player. For the past eight years, Denon has been the D in D&M Holdings, along with stablemates Marantz, McIntosh, and Boston Acoustics. Read more about the Denon story at denon100.com.
What makes Denon compelling to present-day home theater buffs is not just its grand history. Denon has maintained its market share in A/V receivers by fervently seeking out the newest and coolest features and rushing them to market. If you want a state-of-the-art spec sheet, you’ll find it in Denon’s higher-end models. And if you want the must-have fundamentals at an affordable price, you’ll find them in Denon’s lower-end models.
Reading the Tea Leaves
The AVR-2311CI ($899) is one of eight new Denon A/V receivers, filling out a line with a total of 20 models. The other new models are the AVR-4311CI ($1,999), AVR-3311CI ($1,199), AVR-1911 ($599), AVR-1611 ($399)—plus the AVR-891 ($799), AVR-791 ($499), and AVR-591 ($349).
Even the least of the new ones includes HDMI 1.4a for full 3D compatibility, Dolby Pro Logic IIz height-channel enhancement, and a suite of Audyssey features. These include some form of MultEQ auto setup and room correction (not the lower-end 2EQ) plus Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume for slicker low-volume listening. All models have seven channels except for the bottom model, the five-channel AVR-591. The AVR-1911 and up (including the model reviewed here) have HD Radio, allowing reception of digital over-the-air AM and FM broadcasts.
Note the $300 gap between the AVR-2311CI, reviewed here, and the step-up AVR-3311CI. The differences between them fall under the heading of networked audio. The AVR-3311CI offers a network connection, Internet radio via Pandora, support for the Rhapsody and Napster music subscription services, and DLNA certification, which allows access of various media from a PC connected to the same router. The AVR-3311CI also throws in Audyssey DSX height and width enhancement.
Perhaps the AVR-2311CI’s greatest claim to fame is that it’s the lowest-priced Denon, out of three new ones, to win the CI designation. That stands for Custom Integration. These products are designed with feedback from installers and incorporate the features they demand, such as Control4 certification for home automation and compatibility with numerous interface technologies. Denon has created its own remote modules for use with Crestron whole-house control systems, so installers can create systems by dragging and dropping programming tools.