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Denon AVR-2310 AV Receiver - Denon AVR-2310
On the back is a mind-blowing array of sockets that should keep you going for years to come. The highlight of course is the inclusion of five HDMI v1.3 inputs for hi-def gear, plus an output to pass the signals to your display. Like many of its rivals, the AVR-2310 features built-in upscaling circuitry that allows you to feed in an SD signal and get 720p, 1080i or 1080p out the other end.
Your audio sources are in good hands too, with two optical and two coaxial digital inputs (and one optical output), six sets of analogue inputs (and two outputs), 7.1-channel external inputs and analogue pre-outs. Add to that a shedload of other video inputs/outputs, an optional iPod dock connection and custom install ports and this receiver is just about ready for anything.
The Denon's surround back speaker terminals can be used for their nominated purpose, or you can reassign them in the setup menu for Front Height channels, speakers in a second zone or to bi-amp a front pair.
As mentioned, the AVR-2310 offers the sort of extensive feature list that you'd hope for at this price. It blasts out 135W from all seven channels and decodes the entire gamut of Dolby and DTS formats on Blu-ray and DVD, including hi-res Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio tracks.
Denon has also joined Onkyo in offering Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing, which cleverly lets you add an element of height to the 5.1 soundstage - if you're prepared to install a pair of speakers above your TV that is. It extracts non-directional audio information contained in any soundtrack and sends it to two 'front height' channels, giving the impression that certain effects and ambience are emerging above you. It's an interesting idea and the results can be impressive, but we're not 100 per cent convinced many home cinema fans will invest the time and effort for such marginal benefits. Much more useful is Pro Logic IIz's ability to boost stereo sources up to 5.1 and 7.1 channels.
You'll find a wealth of other audio features, including seven Denon surround modes and the Restorer feature, which aims to improve compressed audio playback by replacing the data lost during compression. It's also equipped with Audyssey's MultEQ, which attempts to maintain the optimum sound quality at all times. Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume lend able support, respectively enhancing low-level dynamics and smoothing over sudden changes in volume.
Some hands-on time with the AVR-2310's operating system reveals it to be slick and easy to use, thanks mainly to the onscreen menus displayed via the HDMI output. The vast functionality on board makes this GUI a real godsend, and despite its unflashy appearance the clear, intelligent layout makes it a joy to navigate. You can tweak settings on the front display panel, but it feels laborious by comparison.