Denon AVR-5308CI A/V Receiver

When I answered the door and saw the UPS man standing there with a massive box, I knew that Denon's AVR-5308CI had finally arrived after a series of misadventures. (Don't ask.)

"Oh boy, I've been waiting for this A/V receiver!"

As the man in brown struggled to lift the box, he looked at me with wonder and said, "Who needs a 75-pound receiver?"

Fifteen minutes later, as I grunted to curl the monster ultra-high-end AVR into its chest-high slot on my equipment stand, I asked myself the same question.

That question is answered by the vast array of functions and features contained within the 5308. This behemoth is for pretty much anybody who wants one box to rule them all in his or her home-entertainment system.

In addition to offering 150W x 7 channels (into 8 ohms) and all the latest Dolby, THX, and DTS decoding, the Denon also boasts Dolby Headphone, HDCD, MP3, WMA, and Neural Surround Mode XMCF processing (which decodes 5.1 or 7.1 discrete channels from Neural-encoded 2-channel sources such as games and broadcasts). It has 2-zone preamp outputs and a media-server interface (both Ethernet and WiFi) that lets you listen to music stored on your computer, stream Internet radio, or browse Rhapsody. Oh yeah, the 5308 also offers HD Radio, XM satellite radio, and a special iPod port (optional cable required)—heck, Denon even offers a wireless iPod dock as an accessory.

Add to that video processing with six HDMI 1.3 inputs, six component inputs, seven S-video inputs, and multizone video outputs. The 5308 is the first receiver in Denon's line to employ the Silicon Optix Realta HQV chipset, which automatically upconverts and scales all analog and digital sources to 1080p.

The humongous Denon has a host of 24-bit/96kHz-capable digital-audio inputs: two BNC, four coaxial, four TosLink, and one USB in addition to the aforementioned HDMI. To handle even higher-res audio, Denon Link (the company's implementation of FireWire) supports up to 24-bit/192kHz from certain Denon source components.

Oh wait, that's not counting the front panel connections hidden behind the hinged door—add an extra HDMI, S-video, and TosLink input to that tally as well as a USB port.

If that's not enough flexibility for you, the digital inputs, multizone outputs, and speaker outputs are all configurable, allowing you to customize the 5308 to your specific requirements.

Like most high-end receivers these days, the 5308 comes with a calibrating microphone and an auto-setup feature. In this case, it's the well-regarded Audyssey MultEQ XT, which measures the room's acoustic response from up to eight listening positions and creates an inverse filter that compensates for any problems over a large listening area.

The Denon is unique in my experience in that I wasn't able to think up a single "if only they'd added that" feature.