Receivers

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX
Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

Introduction

With over a five thousand dollar range from the entry level AVR-588 to the top of the line AVR-5308CI, Denon offers a receiver to fill just about every budget and need. While not necessarily inexpensive at $649, the Denon AVR-1909 can be considered a deal in comparison to the $5500price tag of their top offering. Since the AVR-1909 falls roughly in the middle of Denon’s 23 receiver lineup, my initial impression is that this receiver will offer a lot a value for your money. Let’s see if that impression plays out.

Specifications

  • Design: 7.1 Channel Receiver
  • Power: 90 Watts per Channel (All Channels Driven to 0.08THD)
  • Codecs: All Dolby and DTS, Including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio
  • HDMI v1.3a Repeating/Switching: 3-In/1-Out; Component, S-Video, Composite
  • Audyssey MultEQ
  • Weight: 25.4 Pounds
  • Width: 6.7” H x17.1” W x 14.9” D
  • MSRP: $649 USD
  • Denon

Setup

Connections

The Denon AVR-1909 offers the following general purpose input and output (I/O):

  • HDMI: 3 in 1 out (v1.3a)
  • Analog Audio: 8 in
  • Component Video: 3 in 1 out
  • Composite Video: 3 in 2 out
  • S-Video: 3 in 2 out
  • Digital Audio: 4 in 1 out
Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

As you can see the AVR-1909 has enough I/O to cover most installations. However, adding an additional HDMI input to the back and one to the front (say for a game system) would allow for more user configurations.

From this set of I/O, the Denon allows you to tailor its baseline configuration to your particular system. For a particular input source, say TV/CBL the label, the audio source, video source, and video output format (resolution / progressive mode, scaling etc) can all be customized. My favorite example of this use would be for a Sony PS3 or other game system. Instead of a generic “VCR” label on the units on screen display (OSD) “PS3” could be used instead.

Audio

As with any piece of home theater gear, setup and calibration is crucial to get the most out of your system. Denon offers that latest automated setup from Audyssey MultEQ to ease you down this path. The Audyssey system analyzes your system setup using the provided microphone. It determines what speakers are present, speaker capabilities (i.e. how much bass they can reproduce), speaker placement, and the room that they are in. With this information, Audyssey calibrates relative speaker volume levels, sound delays based on speaker distances, crossovers and equalization to optimize performance of your speakers in your room at your seating positions (up to 6 positions).

Since I moved to a new state during my time with the Denon, I was lucky (?) enough to have run through this setup multiple times. I used both my bookshelf class ERA Design 5 Speakers with its smallish sub as well as my towering Infinity Beta 50 anchored system with my large customer pyramid sub (the DIY article is available on Secrets). With both speaker systems, the Audyssey calibrated settings were spot on. Crossovers, distances, levels were all as I would have set, using a handheld SPL meter, a tape measure, and the speaker’s specification sheets. Even if I had disagreed, all settings can be manually tweeked.

Video

The Denon 1909, like many of today’s top receivers, offers video conversion. While I do not personally use the feature in my system (since I spend way too much money keeping my system up to date – my own version of a stimulus package) video conversion is a compelling feature to have at your disposal. Stated simply, any low definition sources you have such as a laser disk player (yes I have one) or VCR with s-video, composite, or component video connectors can have their video output converted to the highest quality setting offered by your display. For those of us with a HDTV, all of the cabling to the TV can be reduced to a single HDMI cable.

My particular video setup included all of three cables to handle audio and video. Two HDMI inputs from my PS3 and Blu-Ray player and one HDMI output to my monitor. Got to love how HDMI can simplify these video connections (just wish they would have used a locking connector but I digress).

Instruction Manual

I found the Denon manual to be quite well written. All major features are covered and the layout is clear. However, since there’s a lot of ground to cover in the manual, don’t be surprised with its 86 page length.

On Screen Display

In general I found that the on screen display provided by the Denon was disappointing. Don’t get me wrong it was functional and was a boon to have for setup of the unit. However, the graphics were primitive in comparison to the other gear I had on hand especially the Sony PS3 and Samsung 950 LCD TV.

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

As with other receivers I have used, the 1909 does not overlay receiver information such as volume changes, surround modes, etc. over video when only HDMI or component video inputs are used. I’m not sure if this is a design choice or a technical limitation but this is a feature I missed when I switched to an entirely digital signal path over HDMI from analog.


Remote Control

The main Denon remote, the RC-1099, is a two sided affair. The front side to the remote is dedicated to day-to-day operation. The back side houses what Denon designers decided were less used features andthese buttons are hidden under a plastic door. While I appreciate the effort to cut down on remote clutter, I was not a big fan of the setup. Some of the buttons on the front are large but overall they are not backlit so it can still be tough to find what you need in a darkened theater. Also, the door hiding the back side buttons is not too obvious and I’ll admit to some brief confusion during my initial setup. Until I cracked open the manual it seemed like some buttons were missing (what can I say, it was late). The best user interfaces rarely require the use of a manual.

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

How many users consult the Apple IPod manual? With this design I am also concerned with the long term durability of the remote. My kids have been known to obliterate even the kid -toughened Barbie dream houses so how long would a remote like this last in their hands?

I’d be remiss if I did not mention that the main 1909 remote is programmable. While it won’t be confused with a dedicated universal remote with learning and macro capabilities such as the popular Harmony remotes from Logitech, the Denon remote has a list of preset codes to cover mainstream components including DVD, satellite receivers and TVs.

A second remote, the RC-1108 is also included with the receiver. This remote is limited in function and is intended to be used exclusively to control the multi-zone control unit that can be purchased separately.


In Use

As shown in the photo, for evaluating the performance of the Denon I used the following configuration:

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver
  • Main Speakers: Infinity Beta 50 Towers
  • Center Speaker: Infinity Beta C360
  • Surround Speaker: Infinity Beta ES250 (Bi-pole mode)
  • Subwoofer: Custom Build Isobaric Pyramid
  • Subwoofer Amplifier: Sonance Sonamp Cinema 2120 - THX Ultra rated
  • Display: Samsung LN55A950
  • Blu-Ray Player: Panasonic DMP-BD35

Theater

To best evaluate the sonic performance of the Denon AVR-1909 I limited my critical evaluation to some of the latest Blu-Ray disks and the High Definition Audio they offered. The two I chose were the Academy Award winning “Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World” in DTS-HD Master Audio and “Transformers” in Dolby TrueHD.

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V ReceiverThe video of both films played flawlessly through the Denon. The video sent via HDMI at 1080p and 24 fps from the Blu-Ray player was passed correctly through to my Samsung display without issue.

The sound from both films was outstanding. The surround effects were enveloping. The creaks, groans and roar of the sea heard on the British sailing ship Surprise in Master and Commander really sucked me into the movie and was deserving of the accolades soundtrack received. While the dynamic impact I felt was great in the naval battles delivered by the Infinity Betas and Denon, the more subtle violin and cello performances of Captain Jack and the Ships doctor were still delicate and sweet.

Far from delicate and sweet were the battles in Transformers. For these we wereback to maximum impact. The opening sequence of the Decepticon attack on the army base literally shook the room.

A nice feature offered on the Denon, also courtesy of the folks at Audyssey, is Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. These two features work in concert to improve sound reproduction quality at low volume levels and to attenuate large volume variations that can be present in normal programming. The typical example is the volume spike present between a television program and a commercial. I found the Dynamic EQ to be a worthwhile feature. On early morning TV watching with the volume down low, the dialog was definitely more intelligible with the feature turned on. Also, while I appreciate the volume leveling offered by the Dynamic Volume feature to keep from being blown out of my chair when Crazy Charlie hocks his latest great deal, the big swings in volume are what make watching a movie exciting…..you want that big shock when a bomb goes off!

I noted one oddity regarding the HDMI control signals (a feature on HDMI to help automate your system operation). In my system, when a disk was played through the Panasonic player, the Samsung TV was automatically powered on and set to the correct input. The Denon on the other hand, was not powered up by the very same control signal sent by the Panasonic. However, if powered on, the correct input was selected automatically on the Denon when movie playback began. This is not a huge deal of course; it is just odd since the Denon is configurable for HDMI control. The manual notes that the reciever is not controllable by HDMI but there are, apparently, exceptions.

Music

The Denon, while still quite good, was not as proficient as a two channel stereo as it was in home theater centerpiece. With only two stereo channels playing I was better able to focus on individual sound characteristics. The main musical characteristic I noticed was leanness in bass reproduction. Bass notes weren’t as powerful or as clearly defined as I had noticed previously with the Beta 50’s. I suspect this is because I am accustomed to a dedicated high power Adcom amplifier driving these particular speakers. Don’t get me wrong, the Denon still sounds fine but it doesn’t have the absolute control of the speaker that the Adcom did. This isn’t a truly fair comparison though; the Adcom Amp alone is 2-3 timesthe Denon receiver cost.

This leads me to a disappointment I had in the Denon. I always hope to find pre-amp outputs to ease the path to upgrade my amplification (or use extra stuff I have laying around). The processing power and feature list of the Denon is quite good. With what I hope to be an inexpensive addition, by offering pre-amp outputs, the Denon 1909 would be closer to an ideal receiver. The folks at Denon do offer the ability to bi-amp the front main speakers to appease my concern a bit. You can dedicate two channels of amplification to the main speaker, zone 2 amplification, or 7 channel surround.


Other Features

The Denon AVR-1909 has some other nice additions that I did not test in my review time. First, if you have a satellite radio subscription, the Denon is capable of connecting directly to the XM / Sirius receivers. Second, using an optional ASD-3N ($179) or 3W ($229) docking station, an IPod may be directly connected to and controlled by the receiver. Finally, the receiver supports multi room audio. The Denon can directly drive a pair of speakers using its internal amps or it can send both audio and video to an external amplifier. The provided second room remote can select the desired signal to route to the remote location. Note that you may need some extra hardware such as an IR receiver to control this remote operation.

 


 

I tested the receiver with two channels driven. Distortion measurements were within an 80 kHz bandwidth.

At 20 volts into 8 ohms (50 watts RMS), IMD was 0.055%

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

The measured frequency response was 10 Hz - 100 kHz, - 2 dB, and was flat from 10 Khz - 20 kHz.

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

THD+N vs. Frequency is shown below for 8 ohms and 4 ohms. The 20 volt at 4 ohms graph line suggests that this receiver may not do very well with 4 ohm speakers (because distortion stays relatively high all along the graph line).

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver
Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

THD+N vs. Power Output is shown below for 8 ohms and 4 ohms. At 8 ohms, clipping (1% THD+N) occurred at 115 watts output, while at 4 ohms, clipping occurred at 140 watts output. There is not much difference in output between the two impedance loads, so I say again that this receiver should probably be limited to use with 8 ohm speakers.

Denon AVR-1909 7.1 A/V Receiver

 


 

Conclusions

The Denon AVR-1909 is one heck of a receiver. Considering what the features on the Denon would have cost just a year or so ago, it offers a great value at $649. Aside from its great theater sound, with features including the latest HDMI video processing, Audyssey audio optimization and the support of the latest surround formats, this is a receiver I had no trouble living with the past few months. If the minor shortcomings I discovered aren’t a concern for you: an HDMI input or two short of ideal, the lack of amplification upgrade path, a poor remote and an unpolished OSD interface, I would not hesitate to add the Denon AVR-1909 to your system.