Back in the 1970s, Denon’s gorgeous direct drive turntables helped build the company’s reputation for performance and build quality, and as I recall, the cognoscenti also prized Denon’s early CD players. Denon has a knack for building great sounding components, so it comes as no surprise that the AVR-2308CI is one of the better sounding receivers you can buy today.
Audio setup is expertly handled by Audyssey’s MultEQ six-point room calibration system (you move the calibration microphone to six different locations in your room to produce the best possible sound over a wider area than more conventional systems that use just one or two mic positions). We like that the receiver’s back surround channels can be reassigned to bi-amplify compatible front left/right speakers (but that gambit limits the system to 5.1 channel use). Denon’s menu navigation has shown improvement over the past few years, but the AVR-2308CI’s could still benefit from refinement. There are provisions for XM, but not Sirius Satellite Radio.
The remote is a two-sided affair; the front has far fewer buttons than most AVR remotes but enough to operate the AVR-2308CI and sources such as a DVD or Blu-ray player. The rear’s buttons, concealed under a flip-open cover, handle surround processing modes, menu and cursor controls. A second, smaller remote covers just the basics and is intended for use in a second zone.
The AVR-2308CI upconverts analog video signals to HDMI 1080p via Faroudja upscaling. That’s nice, but there are only two HDMI inputs— one fewer than most other receivers in the Denon’s price class.
Bluesman Otis Taylor’s Recapturing the Banjo CD [Telarc] is a very different kind of blues revival record. The banjo, which was originally an African instrument, is the heart and soul of this wonderful CD. The AVR- 2308CI captures the transient pluck and natural acoustic warmth of the banjo. The same could be said of Taylor and his daughter Cassie’s vocals: they’re so perfectly balanced and present that the sound feels live. Iron And Wine’s The Shepherd’s Dog CD [Sub Pop] was a completely different trip. Sam Beam’s overdubbed vocals have a Crosby, Stills & Nash sweetness, and the whole disc is just so darn pretty.
This CD is far more heavily produced than the Taylor CD and its weighty textures and multilayered mixes were drop dead gorgeous. The AVR-2308CI was consistently musically involving and there’s an effortless quality to its sound I found irresistible. I turned up the heat with The Ring DVD. This hallucinogenic horror flick relies on all sorts of subliminal audio effects to create tension, and the AVR- 2308CI dished out an immersive, totally enveloping soundfield. The speakers seemed to disappear so the soundtrack’s unworldly shrieks and creepy noises came from all around me. Later, when a horse on a ferryboat broke loose, the frenzied sounds of the wild animal galloping on the metal deck were incredibly powerful. The Denon’s home theater sound was almost as good as it was on music.
The AVR-2308CI gets my vote for A/V receiver most likely to please audiophiles. It sounds awesome with music and not too shabby at all with home theater.