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Denon once again brings its enviable home cinema prowess to the 2.1-channel realm with another high-end system designed to knock the spots off the competition. The S-302 is one of two three-channel systems in Denon's current ‘Smart' series (replacing the S-301 launched in 2006) and as the top-end system it adds a few extra connections and features missing from the cheaper S-102, as well as mustering a greater power output.
At the heart of the system is a highly attractive main control unit, which is robustly constructed using a steel chassis, aluminium front panel and the DVD drive from Denon's awesome DVD-2930 player. There's a busy but informative display panel and an array of large front-mounted buttons that glow blue when pressed and then fade away, which is a gorgeous touch. The disc tray glides out smoothly and quietly - always a sign of good DVD craftsmanship.
The front panel sports a USB port to play compressed digital audio, video or photo files from flash memory drives or MP3 players, and there's a 3.5mm jack for other portable devices. The rear panel is packed with a frightening amount of connections, giving an indication of just how talented this system is. There is, of course, an HDMI output - the conduit for all-digital DVD pictures upscaled to resolutions of 720p, 1080i or 1080p - and it's joined by component, S-video, composite video and optical digital audio outputs, but interestingly there's no SCART output, revealing that this system is designed with flatpanel TVs in mind. The unit will convert video fed into the component, S-video or composite video inputs and output them from the HDMI socket - a feature missing from the S-102.
Other noteworthy sockets include a slot for an optional iPod dock and a LAN Ethernet port for the unit's networking functionality (more on this later). External video sources can be played through the system using the component, S-video, composite inputs, while for audio equipment there are three pairs of analogue stereo inputs plus optical and coaxial digital inputs. FM/AM radio aerial, room to room and dock control ports complete this extraordinarily generous socket set.
If you have a wireless home network, then you can screw the supplied WLAN antenna onto the rear panel and stream music and photos wirelessly from PCs or Macs, plus you can listen to Internet radio. These are the same Wi-Fi capabilities found on Denon's latest range of AVR home cinema receivers and are the sort of killer features that set them aside from other 2.1-channel systems on the market (and is one of the reasons for its hefty price tag). If you haven't yet gone wireless, then you can link up to your network using the afore-mentioned Ethernet port.