Denon AVR-1913 A/V Receiver Page 2
The user interface is an aesthetic and navigational upgrade over years past, but perhaps the most impressive aspect is the only one many non-enthusiasts will ever see: the Setup Assistant. I wasn’t really kidding with that plug and poke and play gag. If you can connect an HDMI cable from the AVR-1913 to your display and press the power button, the Assistant holds your hand through every other step of the setup process. And I do mean it holds your hand, prompting you to connect each speaker one at a time (with diagrams), connect and name each source device, and so forth down the line. It’s the sort of hand-holding that normally infuriates me as an advanced user. But, defying all odds, Denon has managed to craft a Setup Assistant capable of guiding pretty much anyone with eyes and opposable thumbs through the legendarily difficult process of setting up an A/V receiver, while managing not to frustrate those of us with years of DIY experience. I almost want to use the word magical. I won’t, but I almost want to.
As for speaker calibration and—ahem—room correction, the AVR-1913 comes equipped with Audyssey MultEQ. Not the more advanced XT or XT32, but the bare-bones MultEQ, which is more limited in its ability to tune the sound. In typical fashion, it gauged the distance to my subwoofer spectacularly wrong (which Audyssey recommends you simply leave alone), claimed to have noticed a phase error with my surround speakers (there wasn’t one), set the subwoofer output way too low (that I couldn’t ignore), and latched onto a ridiculously high crossover frequency of 250 hertz (which I dialed back down to 100 Hz, a more reasonable crossover frequency that would not leave a gaping hole between the Polk Blackstone TL3s and Sunfire Atmos subwoofer attached to the system). Performance
With Audyssey’s settings tweaked as best I could tweak them, I settled down to entertain myself and gauge the AVR-1913’s performance. With music stored on my iPhone, this was a cinch: Simply select AirPlay as the output device on the phone, press play, and the receiver automatically fires up, gets itself situated on the right input, and starts making beautiful music. Well...pretty music.
Not surprisingly, the AVR-1913 lacked the very last word in oomph and sparkle on known tracks compared with my reference receiver, a $2,000 Anthem MRX 700. But don’t get me wrong—it was a solid performer, and for $580, you won’t likely find many receivers that best it, even if it’s not my go-to audiophile choice for music listening.
That said, it did a fine job with stereo imaging, particularly with the Beastie Boys’ “Hey Ladies” from Paul’s Boutique, which features one of my favorite two-channel phase shifts. The AVR-1913 handled that perfectly, taking the mix from a straightforward and flat affair to a funky, room-filling riff without skipping a beat.
Moving on to movies, I’m not one to use receiver reviews as a soapbox to brag about all the new Blu-rays I own and you don’t, preferring instead to fall back on tried-and-true discs with which I’m intimately familiar: for instance, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Blu-rays of which I’ve nearly worn laser grooves into. The Mines of Moria sequence from The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition is a particularly favorite test for vocal clarity, and in that regard, the AVR-1913 excelled, rendering the dialogue flawlessly even in the midst of the cacophonous, reverberant subterranean environments.Skipping forward a few discs to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields from the second disc of Return of the King Extended Edition, though, I found myself hanging on the edge of my seat, waiting for an earth-shattering kaboom that never came. (Maybe some wascally wabbit stole the AVR-1913’s Illudium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator. I dunno. It’s not on the spec sheet.)
I fiddled around with Audyssey MultEQ’s various EQ curve, Dynamic EQ, and Dynamic Volume settings trying to get the oomph I know is there and managed to do so by just turning it all off. Unfortunately, this is my secondary theater space where I do usually need a weensy bit of help in the low end from the Anthem’s room EQ. With MultEQ off, the sound was just a little flabby. With it on, it was just a little too dead. This became clear when things were looking a bit grim on the Pelennor Fields and Gandalf tells Merry about the White Shores to assuage his panic. MultEQ especially robbed this scene of its wonderful airiness and ambience, but without it, the sound got a little too messy when the action cranked back up again.
For multichannel music, I also turned to a tried-and-true favorite: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours on DVD-Audio. It’s a disc that suffers from a too-high noise floor and some iffy midrange issues, but it’s a warm and rocking recording with a gorgeous sound mix that I know well. My previous assessments of the sound held true with this one as well. If you’re on a strict budget, the AVR-1913’s sound is incredibly solid—for $580, there’s little to complain about. The amps are powerful enough with the right speakers for most midsized rooms, and the sound was acceptably dynamic and tonally balanced. But again, I find myself struggling with the Audyssey MultEQ. While on, the music lacked a good bit of the sparkle I’m used to. Off, I thought it lacked much of the focus. I think Denon could have done this receiver (and its purchasers) a favor by pumping up the Audyssey to at least MultEQ XT for the additional resolution that system might offer. Of course, you may have better luck in your room than I did, or not require room correction at all.
This brings me to an interesting final point. Viewed in a vacuum, the AVR-1913 looks like a good receiver choice for $580. But the stepup Denon AVR-2113CI, for just $70 more at $650, gives you a significant bump up to Audyssey MultEQ XT, 4K video passthrough (should you ever need it), a slight increase in rated power, what appears to be a better power supply, superior video processing, RS-232 control (if you’re into that sort of thing), and second-zone preamp outs. If your budget is tight, the AVR-1913 should serve you well. But if I were seriously in the market for a receiver around this price point, I would pay the extra $70 for all of this just on principle.