Denon AVR-2307CI A/V Receiver

Depending on your perspective, 800 bucks is either a whole lot to spend on an A/V receiver or very little. Compared to the mid-four-figures flagships designed for the price-doesn't-matter crowd, it's mere flowers-and-champagne money. But measured against the $200 to $300 a bare-bones but quite functional entry-level box might cost, to the average Joe it's a serious budgetary uptick that had damned well better pay off.

Denon sure is trying to make it so with its new AVR-2307CI. The Denon AVR-2307CI A/V receiver boasts all the latest goodies, including XM sat-radio expandability, an optional iPod dock, and a customizable RS-232 serial input, plus 12-volt trigger and IR-signal features intended to wow custom installers - hence the "CI" in its model name. More important to many of us, it promises strong performance on the basics of power, surround, and video - qualities that Denon's receivers have consistently delivered.

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SETUP The 2307CI has the supplied mini-mike and auto-setup routine that most receivers north of about $500 feature today. Call me a Luddite, but I don't necessarily trust these things, so after running it (Denon's depends on noise bursts) I checked the results with a sound-pressure level meter against my own test sources as well as the receiver's own internal test noise. Result: very good. Channel levels were all within ±1 dB of what I'd have set manually, and crossover choices and distances were spot-on. There's also an auto-room EQ function that works similarly. It has a good deal of flexibility and delivered an interesting set of curves, but in the end I found un-EQ'd preferable. (The usual caveat: Every room, every setup, and every speaker system will tease out very different results with these things, and this one's no exception.)

The Denon accepts only two HDMI sources, about the bare minimum most folks will need today (surely three such will rapidly become the norm even for fairly affordable receivers), but delivers 1080p pass-through on them and can convert any composite-, S-, or component-video sources to HDMI, permitting a one-cable link to the screen. My Comcast cable box still refuses to pass signal to any component identifying itself as an HDMI repeater (will they ever deliver the promised firmware update?), and since the 2307CI does so, like nearly all A/V receivers, I was restricted to the set-top's component output, giving me an excellent opportunity to try the receiver's component-to-HDMI conversion.