Denon AVR-2313CI A/V Receiver Page 2
Once installed, the Denon was a charm to use. The front display is easily readable from across the room, the GUI (graphical user interface) is extremely well laid out, and I never once had to venture into the user manual (available on CD only) to figure out how to operate the AVR. My only complaint with the user interface was with streaming music when the remote responsiveness was a tad sluggish, but this isn’t a deal-breaker by any means.
A Tale of Two Rooms
I used the Denon in two different setups in my home to test its capabilities for a wide variety of end users. My main home theater isn’t what you’d find in your typical Joe Six-Pack home. It’s quite large (over 5,000 cubic feet), includes three M&K S-150 speakers across the front, four SS-150 surround speakers (all of which are nominally 4-ohm loads), and an SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer. In addition, the room is acoustically treated to deliver the flattest frequency response possible.
The second room is what I dub the Everyman room. It’s about 1,100 cubic feet (10 wide x 11 deep, with a 10-foot ceiling), has no acoustical treatments whatsoever, and frankly, would make an audiophile cringe given its multitude of hard, ridged surfaces and lack of absorption (only the carpeted floor and couch). In this room, the Denon would have to power a Pioneer SP-BS22-LR speaker system—a Home Theater Top Pick reviewed in our December 2012 issue—that includes four SPBS22-LR monitors, a SP-C22 center (6-ohm load), and an SW-8MK2 subwoofer. The Andrew Jones–designed setup had audio editor Mark Fleischmann raving about its price/performance value, and I have to agree with him. This package is a steal at around $500.
Starting in my reference room, the AVR-2313CI blew me away with its capabilities. Initially, I used a manual setup (no Audyssey) to see how well the high-end budget AVR could drive my power-hungry speakers, and I soon discovered it was more than capable of the daunting challenge.
Green Day got its start right down Highway 80 from me in Berkeley, California, and its bestselling album 21st Century Breakdown is one of my favorite albums in the last 10 years. “21 Guns” addresses the topic of patriotism, and the power ballad starts with a solo acoustic guitar and solo vocalist. Streaming the high-definition FLAC files from my Windows Home Server, the Denon captured each strum of the guitar with distinct clarity, and as other instruments came into the fold, each additional layer of complexity came through clear and concise, with plenty of punch on the low end.
I then performed an Audyssey Pro calibration to see if the room-correction software could improve the imaging and bass response. In most rooms, this is the case with the software, but the differences in my treated room were very minor. The Audyssey treatment seemed to open up the midrange slightly, but I couldn’t hear any major differences on the lower end of the audio spectrum.
Moving to movie soundtracks, one of the best I’ve auditioned recently is Sony’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack from The Amazing Spider-Man. Not only is the movie a crowd-pleaser and huge upgrade over the Tobey Maguire trilogy, the soundtrack is everything a superhero movie should be—excellent dynamics, first-rate frequency response, and incredible sound design.
The Denon didn’t break a sweat powering my speakers at near reference levels (about –10 decibels). Dialogue was clear and concise, bass response tight and deep, and discrete effects flew throughout the room from every direction with precise imaging. Once I removed the Denon from my rack, I reinstalled my Integra DHC-80.2 and Anthem PVA 7 and rewatched many of the critical scenes and would likely be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two different setups in a true blind comparison. That’s quite a compliment considering my Integra/Anthem stack is over four times the Denon’s cost!
Moving the Denon to my Everyman room really opened my eyes to the benefit of room treatments. I demoed the same music without an Audyssey calibration, and the music was extremely muddy and cluttered as the vocals got lost behind the instruments. In a word—yuck! The same could be said with The Amazing Spider-Man. Dialogue was nearly unintelligible, the dynamics were virtually nonexistent, and the bass lacked any distinct thump.
Using the supplied microphone, I performed a non-pro calibration that the typical consumer would probably employ and followed the onscreen instructions for measuring six different positions in the room. Once completed, it was time to re-examine the audio, and boy, what a difference the Audyssey calibration made.
Right off the bat, the vocals in “21 Guns” were much brighter and clearer, instruments were easily distinguishable versus the cluttered mess of the noncalibrated audio, and the bass response was much tighter and more alluring. Of the Andrew Jones speakers, the sub is probably the weakest link of the setup, but the Audyssey calibration was able to overcome some of its shortcomings and apparently flatten the sub’s frequency response in the room, impressing not only me, but both of my teenagers.
I reached the exact same conclusion when it came to movie soundtracks. With Audyssey enabled, I was able to enjoy the soundtrack how it was supposed to be heard, with distinct clarity between the cornucopias of discrete effects coming from the soundtrack drawing me further into the movie. Taking things one step further, I took the time to perform a pro calibration in the room and was able to eke out every last bit of audio performance I could from the Denon given the room’s rather stringent constraints. At some point I’m going to have to get some treatments in this room, but meanwhile, it’s good to know that a popular solution like Audyssey can make things better.
The engineers at Denon have once again impressed me. The AVR-2313CI delivers the goods in almost every way. Sure, it’s missing a few extras—such as 7.1 analog preouts and inputs, a universal, programmable remote, a phono input, and Zone 2 video—but at $900, what do you expect? It’s built like a tank, has amplifiers that nicely handled my demanding speakers, and it performed top-notch video processing. I found it to be an incredible value. This one comes highly recommended.