More valuable in my book was the receiver's unusually complete configurability. You can set the crossover frequency independently for each speaker or channel pair, with seven choices between 40 and 200 Hz - and you can dial in a different set of frequencies for each input, too. (In fact, you must
do so, or at least copy your setup for each input you'll use. It's a bit of a chore at setup time, but you only need to do it once.) Most other options can also be set individually for each input, including surround mode, tone settings, and channel levels.
• Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES 6.1-channel decoding • Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Logic7, and DTS Neo:6 processing for 5.1/6.1/7.1-channel playback from 2-channel or matrixed 4-channel sources • EZSet auto level setup • Many setup options can be saved for each input • Faroudja DCDi video processing with 480p upconversion and enhancements calibrated by input • 2 Hall modes, Dolby Virtual Surround and Headphone Surround, proprietary virtual surround • 3 assignable HDTV-compatible component-video inputs, 1 output with upconversion and onscreen display • 6 A/V inputs, 4 outputs, all with S-video (1 input and 1 output on front panel) • 4 optical, 4 coaxial assignable digital audio inputs (1 each on front panel); 2 optical, 2 coaxial digital outputs (1 each on front panel) • 2 stereo audio-only inputs, 1 record output • 8-channel analog audio input with bass management; DPL IIx can create back surround channel • 96-kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converters on all channels • MP3 and HDCD decoding • Preamp outputs for all channels • 8-component preprogrammed/learning system remote; can store 2 macros (up to 10 steps) • AM/FM tuner with 56 presets • Zone 2 composite/S-video output with line-level stereo (or back surround channels can be redirected); independent source selection, volume control via simplified remote (supplied) • Dual A-BUS multiroom outputs • 12-volt trigger output; IR-control input and output; RS-232 serial port
But the AVR 7300's most newsworthy feature - Faroudja DCDi video processing - is also among its subtlest. The headline here is the ability to "upscale" 480i (interlaced) video, like standard-definition broadcast TV, to 480p (progressive-scan) format, like the output of a progressive-scan DVD player. All of my video sources - my universal DVD player, my TiVo/DVD recorder, and my Comcast high-def cable box - can do the same already, and this is likely to be the case in a lot of up-to-date systems. But the AVR 7300 lets you assign video-setup modes individually for each input - not only DCDi deinterlacing but also settings for video noise reduction, brightness, contrast, saturation, display format (4:3 or 16:9), and so on.
In my case, standard-def images from the Comcast Motorola digital-cable box looked a bit sharper and more solid using the receiver's processing, while the TiVo box and DVD player were tossups. However, another, cheaper progressive-scan DVD player clearly benefited from the processing.
This is not a simple feature, but it is a powerful and potentially beneficial one, particularly for systems with older sources like a VCR or laserdisc player. And one big fringe benefit of the AVR 7300's video processing is simple and universally useful: it not only upscales both composite- and S-video sources to component video, but it also sends all onscreen menus and displays to the component output (as well as the others). That lets you make just one connection to your TV, vastly simplifying not only setup but everyday use. Unfortunately, the onscreen displays don't show up when the incoming material is 480p or higher.