Denon AVR-2807 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver 
Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers
Written by Yoshi Carroll   
Friday, 01 September 2006

Introduction
When Denon revealed the AVR-2807 7.1 channel receiver at last winter’s Consumer Electronics Show, it caused noticeable ripples of excitement by redefining what a mid-level receiver is capable of doing. With a retail price of $1,099.00, the 2807 remains affordable, while borrowing advanced features and options from its more expensive siblings, features such as analog to HDMI video switching and up-conversion, Denon’s own Audyssey Room EQ and AL 24 Processing Plus. Also available are ports for optional devices offering advanced iPod connectivity and XM Satellite Radio. Right there, the Denon 2807 already has more going for it than most. Don’t forget all of these features are encased in Denon’s trademark black housing, which at first glance is rather barren except for two rather large dials on its face, which control function and volume. Measuring in at 17 inches wide by a little over six-and-a-half inches tall and a manageable 17 inches deep, the Denon 2807 isn’t quite as massive as some of its competition, but at a hair under 30 pounds, it shouldn’t be taken lightly, either. The 2807’s face is as uncluttered as they come, given the plethora of features and sheer horsepower the receiver has under the hood. The rather large LCD screen provides the consumer with all necessary information, from surround sound settings to set-up assistance. Under the LCD panel rests a trap door that conceals the various manual controls, as well as auxiliary inputs for electronics such as video games or camcorders.

Looking to the back panel, I found all of the connections today’s high-performance home theater buff is looking for, as well as a few you may never have seen before. For starters, there are seven traditional RCA audio inputs and four RCA outputs, with each one assignable to a specific component through the 2807’s set-up menus. Another thing to point out is the 2807’s inclusion of a phono stage and a direct input for traditional two-channel sources, such as your favorite turntable or CD player. The 2807 has 7.1 analog inputs for multi-channel music and movies, in addition to a complete set of 7.1 pre-amp outs. The 2807 also has ample digital audio inputs for your components, with four optical and two coaxial inputs. There are also two optical outs. Two more features not found on most receivers, even in the 2807’s price bracket, are an XM radio input (XM subscription and antenna sold separately) and an iPod docking input, which allows the 2807’s to control your iPod via an optional docking station. Lastly, there are nine pairs of five-way binding posts, which can be somewhat configured to fit the user’s needs.

On the video side of things, the 2807 has six composite and S-video inputs and four composite and S-video outputs. The 2807 has three sets of component inputs and two component monitor outs that allow the user to connect a variety of HD-ready components and to send those HD signals to two standard or HD-compatible monitors. But wait. HDMI is all the rage these days and no receiver is worth its salt without HDMI connectivity. Well, my friends, you’re in luck, for the 2807 has two 1080p-capable HDMI inputs and a single HDMI monitor out. It should be pointed out that the 2807 has full HDMI up-conversion from any of its analog video sources, resulting in only one cable having to run between it and your monitor or projector. It always surprises me how manufacturers are able to fit so many features and connection options into what is, when you think about it, a rather compact chassis. Not to mention a detachable power cord, two AC inputs, 12-volt triggers and an RS-232C port for custom installations.

Ron White says don’t marry for looks alone, because stupid is forever. Well, the Denon 2807 has plenty going for it in the brains department, as well as the brawn. With 110 watts over all of its channels, the 2807 isn’t likely to run out of steam when rocking out or playing your favorite action flick. The 2807 also features the latest surround sound decoding options from Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Prologic II, DTS, DTS ES and a variety of Denon’s own virtual surround settings and direct modes.

The 2807 also features Denon’s own auto set-up protocols, which make installing and calibrating the 2807 relatively trouble-free via the included set-up microphone. Throw in several EQ settings, including an Audyssey Laboratories EQ standard, the MultEQ, which allows for multiple viewers within a home theater or living room space to essentially enjoy the same sonic goodness regardless of their location in the room. On paper, it seems too good to be true, but the writing is on the wall for something truly special.

I can’t forget about the remote, although I wish I could. It is not all that special when compared to the rest of the 2807’s fairly slick design. The remote is rather large, with a barrage of buttons just screaming, “Guess what I do?” Well, due to the labeling being too small and the remote’s lack of backlighting, I’m afraid that’s what I have to do – guess. In full daylight, the remote does put all of the 2807’s numerous controls right at your fingertips, but come movie time, you’re going to be fresh out of luck if you want to make any sudden changes with this thing.

Set-up
The first obstacle any new piece of electronic gear must pass in my home is a 10-minute out of the box test. I should be able to unwrap and enjoy music or movies within 10 minutes of placing said equipment on my rack. Any more than that and the Christmas morning feeling starts to fade. Yes, I know, it isn’t proper, but honestly, this is how everyone I’ve ever known sets up his or her gear. I believe set-up and connection procedures should be clear enough to allow for the average consumer to enjoy a certain sonic bliss straight out of the box to let him or her know the money hasn’t been wasted. If it sounds like a million bucks with zero effort, imagine how it will sound when completely calibrated. I started by connecting my Denon DVD player to the 2807 using a single HDMI cable from Monster to handle both audio and video signals. Next up was my HD satellite box, which also utilizes an HDMI output, which I connected with Monster cable to the 2807. I chose to connect my VCR and videogame systems to the 2807, using more standard (if outdated) S-Video cables to test the 2807’s switching capabilities. The Denon 2807 was then connected to my trusty Sony SXRD display via a single HDMI cable from Monster Cable for the duration of the review.

Once everything’s connected and turned on, pressing set-up on the remote brings up an easy to follow onscreen menu. Not all receivers can project their menus onscreen when using an HDMI connection, but the 2807 can. Small warning here: once the set-up menu is pressed, there’s a short pause before the menu comes up during which the screen is blank and the receiver clicks a few times. This is perfectly normal operation and nothing to be alarmed about. The basic set-up process is fairly intuitive, providing you’re familiar with the terminology. If not, your best guess will probably be correct. Scrolling to the sources menu, I choose the appropriate video and audio inputs for each source and I’m done. That’s it for the receiver. Depending on your DVD player, there might be an extra step, and that’s configuring HDMI audio in the player’s set-up. For my Denon DVD-2910, this means going into the audio set-up menu, and changing the HDMI setting from “2-Channel” to “Multi-Channel.”

Next, I cued up the 2807’s auto set-up feature to help me tailor the sound to my speakers and room. It should be pointed out that this can be done manually with an SPL meter, if one were so inclined. However, I have to imagine most will opt for the auto set-up, as I did. Once auto set-up is chosen, the receiver emits a series of test tones and, using the provided microphone placed at the listening position, it compares the in-room sound with the ideal generated sound and tries to compensate for the room’s acoustic imperfections. If the room emphasizes high frequencies, and most do, the receiver will try to compensate by deemphasizing those frequencies until the end result you hear is as close to perfect as possible. Think of it as an extremely sophisticated, automated version of those old bass and treble controls.

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.

The Downside
Unfortunately, it is a reality of life that economics count. Products are made to fit within a price range and compromises must be made.

My biggest complaint is the remote control. It just doesn’t feel as refined and well thought out as the 2807 itself. First, the keys aren’t lit, so using it in the dark is difficult. Second, there are too many small buttons and they have too many functions. I applaud Denon for trying to offer me a universal remote with every conceivable function at my fingertips, yet in the darkness of my room, it could become very confusing as to what button I was actually pressing. Luckily, this is one problem that’s easily solved by advanced, highly programmable aftermarket remote controls, such as the Logitech Harmony 880 or 890. If there has to be a compromise, I’d rather it be a compromise I can rectify.

Lastly, there is the issue of the binding posts. While plentiful and of high quality, they are a bit too close together and have a sort of plastic shield around the base which makes getting bare wire in and out rather troublesome. I used banana plug adapters from Monster to remedy the problem, but if such adapters aren’t in the cards for you, know that you may struggle just a little to make the proper connections.

Conclusion
A famous film director once said that what a great movie needs is three great scenes and no bad ones. The AVR-2807 certainly has no bad “scenes.” When you take into account that it costs just over a grand, this receiver may be all the receiver you’ll ever need for theater in the small to medium-sized range. As for those great “scenes,” well, there are certainly more than three with the Denon AVR 2807. The full HDMI switching mated with Denon’s signature sound would be enough greatness for nearly any receiver in the 2807’s price bracket. Not one to rest on its laurels, the 2807 throws in a whole slew of new features like auto calibration, iPod connectivity and XM radio capability (just to name a few) to the mix just to make your buying decision a little easier. Did it work? With my review period coming to an end, I’m strongly thinking about sending Denon a check and keeping the unit. That’s the biggest compliment I can give.
Manufacturer Denon
Model 2807 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver
Reviewer Yoshi Carroll
# of Output Channels 7.1





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