|Denon AVR-2807 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Yoshi Carroll|
|Friday, 01 September 2006|
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Music and Movies
The receiver’s multi-channel stereo processing options are fine and plentiful, but for stereo material, Denon recommends using the Stereo/Direct setting, which disables all the unnecessary components from the signal, essentially turning the 2807 into a dedicated stereo receiver.
First on the CD chopping block was James Blunt’s Back to Bedlam (Atlantic). Smooth and delicate, Blunt’s voice makes this pop CD worthy of attention. Immediately, I noticed a smoothness and ease to the sound that I usually associate with much more expensive equipment. Blunt’s airy voice glows into being like a warm sunset, and the 2807 handles it with grace. The instruments take their rightful place in the space around Blunt’s vocals and never threatened to intrude or interfere. There was no sense of strain and really no sense of anything getting in the way. It was an even and balanced presentation, with nothing seemingly out of place. The bass was assertive and quick, with little to no signs of bloat, the midrange was rich without sacrificing clarity and the highs were crisp and lively and didn’t once become harsh or fatiguing. Most of all, what really came through was the sheer emotion of Blunt’s lyrics, allowing me to better experience his heartbreak and melancholy.
I was so impressed with the 2807’s performance that I wanted to give the Denon something more challenging. Fiona Apple’s latest DualDisc album, Extraordinary Machine (Epic), is one that makes serious demands on any system. There’s a little of everything on this disc: consistent subsonic bass, an orchestra, bells, whistles, and most importantly Miss Apple herself, whose husky and powerful voice is known for setting hearts ablaze and, among other things, embarrassing stereo systems. But not here. Apple never once sounded gruff or lean, even at high volumes. During several tracks where the orchestra takes center stage, the Denon remained composed. Track Six, entitled “Parting Gift,” is just Apple and her piano. It’s a complex and moody song about love failed, with a range of emotions from a lazy, languid disappointment to bittersweet regret and anger. So much of this expression comes from the rendition of subtle details and complex dynamics, and the 2807 renders the details so well one can almost see Apple’s expressions, better yet feel her emotional state unfold before you. When the bass digs through the floor and the bells hover effortlessly in the background, the 2807’s superior resolving power maintains all of the track’s subtlety amidst the chaos. If you’re one to measure your music through words like texture, dynamics and separation, then you’ll be very happy with what you hear from the 2807. If you measure your music using foot taps, head bobs and wicked smiles, well, then … you’ll be ecstatic.
“Memoirs of a Geisha” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment) is a movie about Japanese customs and the transforming of one’s life into a work of art. The opening is told without a line of English dialogue. It’s a three-hour tone poem, relying on a purely cinematic combination of photography, editing, music and sound design. The production is excellent, as is the DVD transfer, and the Denon recreates the story with conviction. The same virtues that make the music come off so well, the detailed presentation and lack of harshness, now work to create an acoustical environment that is both convincing and natural. All five speakers work in seamless unison. The sound effects, voices and score remain cohesive and never muddy, and the voices are always clear, regardless of volume or action.
The only question remaining is: can the 2807 go big? The spec sheet lists 110 watts per channel, but power ratings are more complicated than they appear and some manufacturers’ 110 watts can do more than others. That elusive feeling of size has more to do with the relative scale of sounds than it does with loudness, which means that as the volume goes up, the details and clarity must remain. Loud, thundering sounds must coexist with quiet clicks and shuffles like, for example, the roar of a giant ape alongside the frantic footsteps of a barefoot Naomi Watts in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” (Universal Studios Home Video). In the first character scene with the mighty Kong, Watts’ character, at the end of her wits, danced and juggled stones in an effort to entertain the giant beast. Kong’s nuanced and charismatic expressions stole the scene, but it was the sound that told the whole story. The beast was clearly amused and interested in the show, but the subwoofers never stopped rumbling throughout the scene, constantly reminding us that even Kong’s charm was a force borne of nightmares. I was pleased to find that at no point during this scene was I robbed of my enjoyment by sluggish bass or a bloated midrange.
During “Kong’s” exciting dinosaur stampede, the Denon proved it could go big, very big, and did so without breaking a sweat. It kept up with the action and delivered a gut-wrenching yet ultimately satisfying performance, full of adrenaline and detail. The dinosaurs’ shrieks and roars were so vivid that it was enough to make my hair stand on end.
During the scene that I can only describe as the “bug pit,” the 2807 dished out one hell of a trauma-inducing experience. The scene’s creepy and terrifying sound design came off with such grotesque realism that it made me twitch in my seat like a shock victim. Never mind the fact that I felt utterly surrounded by the 2807’s excellent ability to recreate the haunting cavern right there in my viewing room. I highly recommend you check it out: it’s 51 minutes into the “King Kong” DVD, but beware, you may want to pack a can or two of bug spray.
Besides sound processing, the other great feature quietly working in the background is the HDMI video switching. For my digital inputs from the DVD player and the satellite box, the 2807 was, as it should be, completely transparent. The beauty of keeping the signal in the digital domain is that bits don’t degrade as they make extra hops across equipment. There’s no penalty for the convenience of digital switching. The receiver happily passes analog sources like cable boxes, VCRs and gaming systems through to the HDMI output and, while it doesn’t offer its own scaling options, it does offer de-interlacing converting standard 480i signals to 480p. My Sony SXRD display has its own internal de-interlacing, but I found that the 2807 did it better. Images appeared smoother and less jittery, with fewer artifacts. Once again, there’s no penalty for choosing convenience; on the contrary, there’s actually some benefit.