Receivers

Denon AVR-4308CI 7.1 Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

 

Next I moved to the source configuration.  The 4308CI's sources are all pre-labeled, but you can rename any or all of them.  I went through this process so that my gear would be easily identified.  I must say, one of my only complaints about the receiver is the text input.  As has become par for the course with consumer electronics gear not made by a computer company, it took scrolling through upper and lower case alphabets as well as special characters to type out the names of each of my sources.  Two words came to mind here: painfully slow.  Actually, there is a great workaround for this that I will go into shortly, but I didn't realize it before configuring the sources' names.  Next, I assigned the sources their proper audio and video inputs.  The tricky part here was that if you assign a port by accident that is already assigned to another source, you have wiped that configuration out and will need to go back and fix it.  This came to light when I plugged in my HDMI cables and was unsure of which one was going to which piece of gear (let's just say I have less than perfect cable management behind my rack).  What I really liked about the source assignment functions was that you can independently assign HDMI, component, and digital audio ports.  So, if you have a component such as a Blu-ray player and you want to assign both an HDMI port and a component port to it, that is no problem.

The other wonderful option that is defined on a per-source basis is the video conversion option.  If you have a source that has an excellent scaling/de-interlacing chip in it, for example, the Samsung BDP-1200 with the Silicon Optix HQV Reon chip, and you prefer to take advantage of this instead of the Denon's Faroudja chip, you don't have to change a setting every time you switch to the source.  Instead, you can actually tell the Denon to pass the signal through to the monitor unmolested for that specific source.  This may sound like a trivial matter, but having used some of the other receivers out there that do 1080p upscaling, but don't allow you to do it on a per-source basis, I can honestly say this is a huge convenience benefit.  However, if you do wish to make use of the Faroudja de-interlacing and scaling chipsets in the Denon, you may not be disappointed.  I can't say it is as good as all the standalone video processors out there, but it definitely looked very good with both HD and SD source material.  It is likely better than many of the HDTVs on the market.  At the same time, I must throw out there that when compared with my receiver that sports the Silicon Optix HQV Reon upscaling solution, my own eyes tell me the Denon is not quite as good.  This is perhaps the only negative thing I can say about the video portion of the receiver, but again, that's my personal opinion.

Convergence isn't just a buzzword anymore.

While the Denon AVR-4308CI is not the first receiver to integrate TCP/IP into its design, it has made some of the best use of network features in a traditional A/V device that I have used.  From control functions to media server-type features, Denon has really added some value by allowing you to put this unit on your home network.  Next to overall performance, this set of features is what sets the AVR-4308CI apart from the competition.

The standard on-screen interface (OSI) by itself is impressive, however, that is only the half of it.  There is a fully featured web interface as well, which includes just about everything found in the standard cmputer GUI.  Now, this is not the prettiest web interface I have seen (it borrows its design from something out of 1995), but it works very well.  The 4308CI has both wired and wireless capabilities.  You can give it a fixed IP address (preferable for accessing the web interface), or let it obtain one automatically from your DHCP server (usually your home router).  Once set, you simply browse to the receiver's IP address from your computer and are greeted with the main screen.  From there you have the option to control or rename any of the four available zones, access the setup menu, or access the PDA menu.  You did read that right: you can control this thing with a networked PDA or even a smartphone that has WiFi!

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For each of the first three zones, you get a basic page that allows you to control the volume, select the source, mute the sound, and power the receiver on/off.  The biggest drawback to the web interface is also found on these zone pages, which is that here is no direct link back to the main page.  This is quite inconvenient because, in order to get back there, you either need to type in the URL again, or hit your back button in the browser until you return there.  It shouldn't be difficult for Denon to address this issue by simply adding a link to the main page on each of the sub-pages.

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What makes this is so inconvenient is that if you need to change anything except for the settings mentioned above, you have to be in the setup menus.  That is where you configure things like surround modes and parameters.

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