Denon has long been associated with high performance audio/video gear both in the two channel and home theatre domains, providing cutting edge technologies in the majority of its products. Earlier this fall, I spent a couple of months playing around with the Denon AVR-4310CI AV receiver, one of the company’s higher-end receivers, priced at $2699.
The AVR-4310CI is a 7.1-channel receiver rated at 130 watts per channel. It incorporates the Audyssey MultEQ XT room correction software and offers home network connectivity which allows it to access audio and photos stored on home computers. As expected, on-board decoders are present for all the latest audio formats including Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD Master Audio, found on Blu-ray discs. In addition to these, the AVR-4310CI provides two very new technologies that aren’t common in receivers yet - Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz. Each of these two formats allows for the addition of new channels in the front soundstage. Topping out the feature list are an AM/FM tuner, an HD Radio tuner (which works in the US only), and XM and Sirius satellite radio connections (which require an antenna and a paid subscription). The AVR-4310CI weighs in at a hefty 15.8 kg and is comparatively compact for the many features it offers. The front panel is clean with a display dominating the central area of the panel, flanked by two large knobs: one for source selection and one for volume control. Additional controls are located under a flip-down panel below the display with most functionality duplicated from the main remote control. Also under the flip-down panel are single inputs for USB, HDMI, S-video, composite video, analog L/R audio and Toslink.
The rear panel sports a set of five HDMI inputs for a total of six HDMI inputs. There are also two HDMI outputs capable of sending a signal to two video displays. Other video inputs include three component video, eight S-video and eight composite video. Respective monitor outs for each type of video source complete the video section. Three each of coax and Toslink digital audio inputs are provided with a Denon Link positioned next to them. The Denon Link allows for single cable digital transmission of multi-channel SACD or Blu-ray audio from sources that offer Denon Link. Finally, there is also another USB input in the back, although only one of the two USB inputs (front or back) can be used at any one time.
On the audio side, there are analog L/R inputs for up to eight devices (including the front panel input) as well as a Phono input for a turntable which uses MM or high output MC cartridges. Multi-channel analog inputs allow for up to 7.1-channel analog sources to be connected. Pre-outs enable the user to use outboard amplification for all 7 channels. There are nine pairs of speaker binding posts which accommodate banana plugs and bare-wire but not spades. An IEC input allows for upgrading to a higher quality AC cable if one chooses.
Completing the rear panel are a RS-232 control port to accommodate an optional Denon RF remote which includes two way communication, as well as two 12 volt triggers.
As I ran the AVR-4310CI for three weeks prior to evaluating its performance, I discovered many pleasant surprises in both ease of use and its audio/video performance. My speaker system consisted of Elac 208A front speakers with a matching 201A centre speaker, Mirage M90i surrounds and a Mirage FRX-S8 subwoofer. The sources included an Esoteric X-05 CD/SACD player, a Marantz DV9600 DVD player, a PS3 for Blu-ray/multi-channel SACD playback and a Rogers 8300 PVR (all connected via HDMI, with the exception of the Esoteric player). Initially I tested the AVR-4310CI in a 5.1-channel setup, and later added a pair of KEF iQ3 speakers in the front to allow for Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz evaluations. Video was displayed by a Mitsubishi HC4900 1080p LCD projector firing onto an 80-inch screen.
First I wish to applaud Denon for a first rate GUI that makes setup and on going source/feature selections easy. The main remote control has an LCD touch screen and the GUI is easy to navigate, making the initial setup and calibration very easy. Before my formal evaluation, I calibrated the system with the outstanding Audyssey MultEQ XT system.
Multi-channel audio performance via HDMI was phenomenal with exceptional soundstaging and dynamics from both SACD and DVD-A discs. The seamless integration of the subwoofer and resulting tight, visceral bass was a real revelation. There was a sense of tonal balance and proper space around the musicians that was not previously evident through my two-year-old Marantz AVR, which has the basic Audyssey MultEQ. The amplifier section is resolving and dynamic, utilizing an E-type transformer as there simply isn’t enough room for a toroidal unit. Once I established that the AVR-4310CI was reproducing music accurately, it wasn’t a surprise that it handled movie soundtracks with ease. Playback of multi-channel SACDs from the Genesis 1970-1975 box set and DVD-Audio discs from the Talking Heads collection confirmed that this is a truly musical, audiophile-grade receiver. The AL24 feature, which suppresses noise quantization from digital to analog conversion on LPCM signals up to 192 kHz, further enhanced the high resolution audio discs, providing a quieter background and excellent low level detail.
Blu-ray and standard DVD playback again showed that the AVR-4310CI was flawless in its ability to render both large scale dynamics and low level detail. The Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Blu-ray disc sounded spectacular right from the opening sequence with Paramount’s swirling stars sonically swirling around the room and a super clean bass response. The Lord of the Rings Return of The King DVD had a greater sense of sonic depth exceeding the panoramic soundstage I recalled from the movie theatre. It was at this point that I decided to test out the new Audyssey DSX options which allows for two additional width speakers in the front flanking the main left and right speakers (or two height speakers above and behind the main L/R). There is also the Dolby Pro Logic IIz option which utilizes two height channels. The 4310 allows for the addition of two extra channels (a choice of width or height) since it is a 7.1-channel receiver. It’s worth mentioning that only one of these audio processing technologies can be selected at a time. Those wishing to utilize both the width and height channels may want to look at the new 9.1-channel Denon AVR-4810CI. Of these options, I had a strong preference for Audyssey DSX with the width channels. After a quick re-calibration of the receiver, I revisited my previous music and movie selections. The soundstage opened up even further, the dynamics were increased and low level detail was out of this world. I cannot emphasize enough the improvement brought about by the additional two front width channels. You have to hear it believe it! For an in-depth explanation and evaluation of the Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz formats, please visit the A/V Articles section on www.canadahifi.com/.
I first noticed the video performance of the AVR-4310CI while watching a Blue Jays broadcast in HD. I’m a huge baseball fan and so the colour scheme of broadcasts from the Roger’s Centre is firmly engrained in my mind. The different shades of blue of the backstop behind home plate had differing shades of blue that were much more noticeable now in comparison to my Marantz AVR. The picture also had a greater sense of depth, creating more of a three dimensional image. The jump from HDMI 1.2 to 1.3a may be the contributing factor but I would guess superior video circuitry is the main reason.
The AVR-4310CI uses Anchor Bay VRS processing to up-scale video fed into it up to 1080p allowing you to bypass the display’s scaling function. The AVR-4310CI clearly up-scaled better than my projector when watching 1080i broadcasts. The resulting images were more dimensional and free of any jaggies. During 480i DVD playback, the AVR-4310CI performed a hair better than the Marantz DV9600’s up-scaler. Progressive modes for film or video based sources and aspect ratio are also selectable. Blu-ray playback was exceptional with a deep colour palette, rich blacks and whites that were not crushed.
Those with home networks will definitely want to take advantage of the AVR-4310CI’s networking capability through either a hard wired or wireless connection. This feature allows for streaming of music or pictures via a PC or a hard drive based source. When connected to a home network, the AVR-4310CI also provides access to internet radio services such as Rhapsody and Napster. The USB inputs accommodate USB flash drives and direct input of an iPod (no dock necessary). The iPod’s menu will show up on your display for ease of use, which is a very nice touch. The Ethernet and USB connections support a number of file formats including WMA, MP3, WAV, MPEG-4 AAC, FLAC and JPEG for displaying still images.
The Denon AVR 4310CI is a full featured AV receiver that’s loaded with all the latest technological advances, yet it is relatively simple to set up and use. It offered extraordinary performance in both the audio and video domains, regardless of what source material I played through it. Overall, the AVR 4310CI excelled in every aspect.
Denon AVR-4310CI AV Receiver
Price: $2699 CAD