Among the other features is Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing, which allows you to use the surround back channels as front height channels, giving the soundstage a greater sense of horizontal and vertical envelopment. You also get a range of Denon Original Surround Playback modes that emulate different environments such as Rock Arena and Jazz Club, but for purists there are Direct and Pure Direct playback modes, the former playing the signal in its original form, the latter turning off the display and analogue video circuitry. The AVR-1911 also decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks, and musters a mighty 125W per channel.
When you load up a Blu-ray disc – in this case Hellboy II: The Golden Army – you can really hear that immense power bursting from the speakers. There’s a richness and authority to the bangs and booms as the Elemental wreaks havoc near the Brooklyn Bridge, which makes for an enthralling, pulse-racing listen. Low-frequencies are wonderfully tight and expertly controlled, but the bass channel’s excellent integration with the other speakers prevents it undermining the harmony of the soundstage.
The AVR-1911 backs up this muscle with exceptional smoothness. Loud treble sounds, which can appear grating and hard through lesser receivers, are silky and easy to digest but never flat – high frequencies like tinkling glass and the delicate rustling of the Elemental unfurling his leafy limbs really sparkle from the speakers, while half-heard voices and screaming women in the background come through crystal clear.
There’s much more to admire, such as the open, expansive soundstage, fluid steering between channels and precise, confident placement of surround effects. It takes sudden dynamic shifts in its stride and delivers speech in a clear and intelligible tone. But when the action takes a back seat the Denon doesn’t, continuing to tease out background minutiae and ambience with a deftness and eye for detail that only a company at the top of its game can deliver.
It’s a similar story with music – its heart-warming smoothness works a treat with pop tunes, particularly ones with delicate female vocals a la Corinne Bailey Rae. Her take on Editors’ Munich is an absolute delight through the Denon, which conveys her breathy voice and acoustic guitar with a purity of tone that’ll leave you wanting more.
Denon upholds its enviable reputation with yet another admirable AV receiver. The AVR-1911 packs plenty of power, serves up a modest array of features like 3D compatibility and is generally easy to use, but the real reason to give it a whirl is its stupendous sound quality, the sort you’d expect from a more expensive amp.
However, for all its brilliance it doesn’t quite do enough to dethrone the Onkyo TX-SR608, and we’ll tell you why – not only is Onkyo’s receiver cheaper, but it also offers more features, more connections (including 6 HDMI inputs), a higher power rating, THX Select2 Plus certification, a superior remote, a prettier onscreen interface and a similar level of sound quality. But if for some reason you still end up taking the Denon home then you’ll still have bagged yourself a very impressive AV receiver.