We've been flooded for requests for a review of Denon's new AVR-2809 on our forums at whathifi.com, a testament to both the high regard most home cinema enthusiasts have for Denon products in general, and to the specific appeal of the product itself.
The thing is, while the new AVR-2809 isn't anything especially revolutionary in itself, it's attracting attention because it's been so carefully 'pitched' at the market. The price is about right – cheaper than Onkyo's leviathans, for starters – the styling and build is good, and in spec terms, it presses all the right buttons.
Such as? Fitting four HDMI 1.3a inputs is a welcome and sensible progression over cheaper kit, as is the provision of full upconversion to HDMI standard plus 1080p upscaling, the latter courtesy of Faroudja.
There's ample power, quoted using measuring criteria that are a sight more trustworthy than those used by many rivals, and as a significant step towards added quality, the Denon uses the premium Audyssey Multi EQ XT automatic calibration and equalisation system to fine-tune itself to your speakers and acoustics.
Advanced auto calibration system
This is teamed with the new Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume systems, which (among other things) attempt to automatically compensate for variations in volume level across broadcast content – see www.audyssey.com/technology for more details.
Of course, some will point at various aspects of the Denon's make-up and attempt to pick it apart. The Faroudja FLI2310 video processor it totes is considered by many to be inferior to the Onkyo TX-SR876's HQV system, for example, and it also 'only' has one HDMI video output.
But you know what? As we've said consistently for, ooh, decades, the specification of a product is only part of the story. It's how it performs that really counts, and here the Denon is just fine.
It's got plenty of authority and drive, as you'd expect: spinning the heavyweight action scenes in Transformers, there's all the air-shifting, sofa-rattling authority most listeners and sensibly-sized living rooms could need, with an especially appealing sense of space and cohesion to the surround soundfield.
Glosses over some subtle elements
Clarity is impressive too, although the Yamaha DSP-AX863SE we used as a reference comparison felt even more surgical in its precision and accuracy: it pulled out subtle elements from the dense soundfield at the start of I Am Legend that the Denon rather glossed over.
Switching to music, the AVR-2809 shows many of the same strengths. It's articulate enough to recognise the rhythm being fed to it and tonally enjoyable, but at the same time, a little slower and flabbier in the bass than the class best.
It is, however, better than the Onkyo TX-SR876, which we also had in for comparison testing. If it was a straight choice between the two, we'd take the Denon every time: it's a more rounded product, and it's also cheaper.
So why doesn't it get five stars? Simple: we already felt that the Yamaha was a better performer when we believed the two cost similar money – and then Yamaha cut the DSP-AX863SE's price by £200, making it a clearly better buy in terms of performance-per-pound.
But if you're a Denon fan, or want to round-off a system that already includes Denon source components, or simply if you can find a good deal, you'll be more than happy with an AVR-2809.