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Denon AVR-1911 Review

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Video upscaling to 1080p
  • USB audio playback
  • Ipod compatible without dock

Cons

  • Very limited connectivity
  • Poor features for price

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £433.58
  • 4 x HDMI 1.4 (3D compatible)
  • Video upscaling to 1080p
  • Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD

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Denon has a long and distinguished history in the home cinema market and its AV receivers are revered the world over, particularly its high-end and reference models. But in the budget to mid-range bracket, Onkyo currently rules the roost with models like the brilliant TX-SR608, which means that Denon has its work cut out trying to convince punters that it’s still the brand to back.


To do so, it has come up with a solid range of receivers for 2010 – coincidentally the year of Denon’s 100th anniversary – ranging from the entry-level AVR-1311 up to the 7.1-channel AVR-3311, with new high-end models to follow later in the year. The 7.1-channel AVR-1911 sits somewhere in the middle, offering enough features to please enthusiasts without the wallet-draining price tags of its high-specced models.
Denon AVR-1911 front


And with 3D being big news this year, the AVR-1911’s most eye-catching feature is the inclusion of HDMI v1.4 sockets, which means you can feed full HD 3D signals to it from a Blu-ray deck and pass them onto your 3D TV, dropping off HD audio signals along the way. They also support the Audio Return Channel and will therefore accept sound signals from HDMI v1.4 TVs. Whether you already have a 3D system in place, want to add it in the future or wouldn’t touch it with a 10ft barge pole, it’s nice to know that the Denon is sufficiently future-proofed.


We’ll get to the rest of the features in due course, but first let’s talk design. Actually, there’s not much to discuss – the AVR-1911 is a smart, functional-looking receiver (only available in black) that prefers to blend in rather than stand out. Denon doesn’t go overboard on the front panel – it’s quite busy but the buttons are discreet and tidily arranged, plus like most receivers the volume and input selection dials are large and prominent.


We like the unit’s massive LED display panel that shows information clearly. A row of buttons is tucked along the bottom edge of this, providing up-close control for the unit’s sound processing features. Front panel connections include a USB port, composite video/analogue stereo audio inputs and a headphones jack, but there’s no HDMI input.

On the back, the socket selection is fine but not quite as abundant as we expected for the money. You get four HDMI inputs and a monitor output, which is great news for owners of multiple HD sources, but you only get a single set of component inputs and no outputs, plus two composite inputs and one output. On the audio side, the choice of two digital audio inputs (one coaxial, one optical) is unusually limited too, although the five analogue inputs should suffice for the rest of your audio kit.


The speaker terminals for all seven channels use binding posts, not springclips for some channels like the Pioneer VSX-520, while the surround back terminals can be used to send a separate stereo signal to a second zone. There are aerial sockets for the built-in FM/AM radio tuners, a single subwoofer output and two ports for connecting a Denon iPod dock. Alternatively, you can use the USB port on the front to play music directly from an iPod, iPhone or USB storage device. The Denon accepts WMA, MP3 and unprotected AAC from USB devices.
Denon AVR-1911 back


Setting up the AVR-1911 is a piece of cake. There’s an Audyssey auto setup feature that chooses suitable settings for your room based on its acoustic properties. For that reason, you’ll find a microphone in the box that plugs into the front panel and picks up test tones played by the receiver. It takes six separate measurements to calculate the best overall settings for the main listening position. After it’s completed, Audyssey’s MultEQ, Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume keep tabs on the sound, not only maintaining the auto calibration settings but also keeping volume at a respectable level. They can be bypassed in the setup menu if you wish.


Talking of which, it’s great to see that you can view the AVR-1911’s setup menu on your TV screen. It’s an incredibly rudimentary menu though, using chunky old-school text against a murky grey background. Thankfully it’s responsive and easy to follow, plus it covers every manual tweak you could wish for, including speaker setup, for those who want to give their sound settings a more personal touch.
Denon AVR-1911 remote control


Aside from sound optimisation, you can set how the HDMI outputs behave and easily assign inputs to certain sources, plus there’s a range of options relating to the AVR-1911’s built-in video upscaling to 720p, 1080i and 1080p. The unit also features video conversion, channelling video fed into the component, S-video and composite inputs to the HDMI output. When watching video through the S-video or composite connections, a status display pops up on screen every time you change input or change the volume.


The newly designed remote comes with a preset code memory for controlling other components, and sports banks of ‘Glo-Key’ buttons that unsurprisingly glow in the dark. As such the buttons boast large bold lettering so they can be read within the glowing buttons. The central cluster of menu controls is ideal, with the volume controls conveniently placed just above them, but the bottom section is overly cluttered. Last year’s zappers were much better.

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.
Denon AVR-1911 full front


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.

Verdict


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.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 10
  • Features 7
  • Value 8
  • Design 8

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