What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 22 Sep 2010, 11:00am

Denon AVR-1911

Tested at £450
80100
4

A step up on 2009's Award-winner, but the Denon’s under huge pressure

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For

  • Ticks all the important specification boxes
  • converts and scales video information well
  • industrial-strength audio performance

Against

  • Not as subtle, or as spacious, as some rivals
  • remote is a step backwards

Like sharks, home cinema receiver makers must keep moving or they die. Well, perhaps that's a bit dramatic – but consider Denon's position here.

Last year's AVR-1910 was a Product of the Year Award-winner, lauded as an outstanding way to get multichannel thrills, but 12 months on it's no more.

In its place comes the AVR-1911, with the on-paper specification to make its predecessor look, um, a bit last year.

Connect four (HDMIs)
It's 3D that's the must-have, of course, and sure enough the Denon accepts a 3D Blu-ray signal via any of its four HDMIs and passes it through to your 3D display.

Its audio return channel means that one cable between the receiver and a TV with the corresponding feature can work both ways: video can be sent to the screen, and audio from the TV's tuner can be sent to the AVR-1911 for delivery to your speakers.

It's cable-reduction nirvana. There's also video upconverting and scaling from any analogue source to HDMI-borne 1080p, and channels 6 and 7 of the AVR-1911's 7.1 speaker configuration can be assigned as surround back, front height/width, zone two or for bi-amping the front speakers.

Less friendly remote
It's not all cutting edge, mind – the menus are functional at best and the AVR-1910's elegant remote has been replaced by an altogether less friendly handset. The mic-driven auto speaker set-up is pretty accurate, though.

Decoding and amplifying the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the Denon delivers a tight, brawny soundstage.

It's a muscular, attacking and slightly unsubtle device at heart, with iron-fisted low-frequency presence and the resources to stride through big dynamic moments with ease.

Effects steering is rapid and secure, and there's fine articulacy to the centre-channel. The entire frequency range is integrated well, though treble information sounds fractionally rolled off – and is all the more noticeable given the AVR-1911's assertiveness elsewhere.

Stable and detailed
Video processing is accomplished – DVDs forced to 1080p are stable and detailed, with natural colours and crisp edges.

The Denon's particularly adept with strong contrasts, keeping whites bright and clean even through the
most testing scenes in A Serious Man.

With a switch to stereo music (Red Snapper's Suckerpunch) the AVR-1911 sounds burly and forthright. It's not the last word in focus or imaging, and can get a little wearing, but – heavens! – it's vigorous.

In fact, it sounds not unlike its PMA-710 two-channel relative, though without the same grasp of timing.    
  
In some ways, then, it's mission accomplished. This machine picks up where the AVR-1910 left off and, thanks to some tweaking, is more flexible and proficient.

And yet the AVR-1911 can't achieve the full five stars, which can mean only one thing: the competition is fiercer than ever.

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