Denon AVR-2112CI A/V Receiver Page 2

Associated equipment for this review included five Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4 speakers, a Paradigm Seismic 110 subwoofer, an Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player, a Rega Planar 25 turntable, a Shure M97xE cartridge, and a Bellari VP530 tube phono preamp. All movie demos were Blu-ray Discs with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks.

Audyssey Adventures
First among the movie demos was The Hit List, about some hapless harry who gets embroiled with a professional assassin played by Cuba Gooding Jr. I waited to see how long it would take for me to invoke Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume to protect my delicate ears from excessively ferocious effects. Thanks to an early battlefield flashback, it didn’t take long. Of the three Dynamic Volume settings—here labeled Day, Evening, and Midnight—the minimal Day setting was all the protection I needed. Having recently heard Gooding’s distinctive rasp disembodied by a soundbar speaker, I was relieved to hear it again through a real system, with a good AVR and my beloved Paradigms.

The Other Guys is a high-octane lowbrow comedy as well as a classic buddy movie. Will Ferrell is a comic powerhouse as the nerd-cop supremo, and Mark Wahlberg more than keeps up with him. Automotive mayhem suggested the wisdom of leaving Audyssey Dynamic EQ/Volume engaged. The Day setting was sufficient, although as the movie got noisier, I finally resorted to the maximum Midnight setting. It may not have been the optimum experience from the mixer’s point of view, but the whole point of Audyssey is getting to choose your own experience.

I was off to see the Wizard once again, this time via The Wiz—the 1978 urban adaption of L. Frank Baum’s classic book with Diana Ross in her prime and a still recognizably human Michael Jackson. Not to mention Richard Pryor, Lena Horne, and Nipsey Russell. The Quincy Jones–aranged score was a little brassy but far from brutalizing, so Dynamic Volume went off. I left Dynamic EQ on just to massage the quietest sounds in the presence of a box fan that was exhaling in an open window. What a privilege to hear such great voices from the pre-Auto-Tune era.

Lossless Enlightenment
Blu-ray is just starting to come into its own as a music and music video format. An example of the latter is Vladimir Jurowski conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Beethoven’s fourth and seventh symphonies along with the Coriolan Overture. The disc defaulted to its PCM 2.0 soundtrack—a common quirk of classical video releases—which I corrected to DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. With the center channel underused and the surrounds conservatively used, the overall impact ended up being stereo-ish anyway, with a nice raw immediacy (two of my favorite words, especially when used in combination). As Steely Dan might have said, throw out the software, let’s do it right—which meant no Audyssey enhancements except for MultEQ XT. But I did turn room EQ on and off to gauge the effect. It seemed to bring me a few rows closer to the orchestra and was more spatially coherent. All this blather does little justice to the vigorous performances on period instruments and Jurowski’s interesting conducting moves. At one point, he seemed to be conducting the cellos with his elbow.

Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks took a turn on vinyl—in mint condition because I’ve so rarely played it. This challenging album often seems like a stream-of-consciousness poetry reading with instruments. I may finally have aged into it. The mix eschewed reverb, giving the Dolby Pro Logic II Music mode (my default choice for two-channel music sources) little to grab onto. So I cut back to stereo, comparing 2.1 channels with bass management to the Pure Direct mode’s unvarnished 2.0. The latter ran the speakers full range, with no sub or room correction, and shut down the front-panel display and video circuits to reduce noise. I’m not ideologically a Pure-ist: I just try things out to see how they work. In this case, Pure Direct was better, giving the upper bass and lower midrange some needed thickening. While that was probably due to uncorrected room interaction, it benefited the album in general and Morrison’s voice in particular. Shorn of numerous layers of digital processing, it just somehow snapped into focus, acquiring a more palpable physical presence.

This review marks the second time I’ve used AirPlay in an A/V receiver and the first that I’ve used it with something other than iTunes. I was pleased to see the AirPlay button pop up when I was using Bloom and Trope, a pair of music-generating apps designed by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers. AirPlay is especially suitable for these apps because it cuts the USB and headphone tethers and allows total freedom of movement for you and your iPhone, iPad, or in my case, a second-generation iPod touch. (By the way, first- and second-gen touches are ineligible for iOS 5, Apple’s new iCloud-enriched operating system for portable devices, as are older iPhones. Thanks a million, Mr. Jobs.)

Anyway, iPod touch in hand, I sat on the sofa kinda-sorta composing my own electronic music in collaboration with Eno, fingering the touchscreen to produce tones that slowly accumulated, forming a shifting canvas of sound that complemented the colorful activity on the touchscreen. I’ve developed my own Bloom trick, quickly tapping out two-dozen or so dots to form a figure-8, which becomes audible as a harmonically complex cluster of notes, a fluffy cloud. The deep tones generated by Trope, as I stroked a horizontal line across the bottom of the touchscreen, benefited even more from being played through a subwoofer-equipped system. I was hearing low frequencies that my headphones could barely approach. After playing around for what seemed like 10 minutes, I glanced at the clock. An hour had passed.

At the competitive $650 price point, the Denon AVR-2112CI A/V receiver ventures into challenging territory and comes out smelling like a rose. It has a definitive feature set with no serious omissions. The custom features will be invaluable for some. The Setup Wizard, though not an original idea, really makes a difference in those delicate early stages of a relationship between the black box and its owner. A/V receivers don’t get any smarter than this.

(201) 762-6500

raehza's picture

You review of the AVR 2112Ci suggests that the Receiver clips some Whites and Blacks. This is a known issue with some of the xx12 Denon Receivers and was remedied via a Firmware update. I highly suggest you perform a Firmware update and possibly redo the "Video Test Bench" so your readers can have a more accurate review. Thanks,