Denon AVR-2309CI 7.1 A/V Receiver



Video Capabilities and Performance

Video processing capabilities and performance have become a major selling point for mid-level and above audio/video receivers. In the last couple of years, we have seen the feature set shift from simple video conversion (taking one format and converting it to another such as S-Video to component video), to advanced analog to digital conversion, video scaling, and deinterlacing.

The 2309CI includes these advanced features in the form of a Faroudja DCDi FLI2310 Video Processing and Scaling chip, which is capable of outputting video up to 1080p. The receiver can take any analog format and convert it to HDMI, while also giving you the option to scale it to 1080p for output to a monitor that supports it. Alternatively, it can also output 1080i, 720p, or 480p, however, this receiver is not capable of outputting a 720p source as 1080i or vice versa.

What is really nice is that you can set the option to perform these tasks on a per-source basis. For instance, one could set the DVD source to convert the video from component to HDMI, but leave the resolution untouched by turning off the i/p scaler. Then, for the TV source, one might choose to both convert the video to HDMI and scale it to 1080p. This granularity is certainly welcome. If you have a component that you know has excellent video processing, such as the Denon DVD-3930CI, and you want to avoid having the receiver touch the video at all, you can turn that functionality off completely for that input, but leave it on for, say, the cable DVR that has poor upscaling performance.

Sounds pretty awesome, no? So here’s the kicker…the scaling functionality is only available for analog video sources (so the above example of the DVD-3930CI may be moot if you are outputting via HDMI). At first I thought the feature was totally broken, as I would set one of my sources to scale from 480i to 1080p through the receiver, but my HDTV informed me that the incoming signal was the same as what was coming in to the receiver. I tried this with several of my sources, and it was the same each time.

Then I got to the SlingCatcher, which happened to be the first component video source I tried. Surprisingly, I found that the scaling worked at that point. I set the device to output 480p, and sure enough, when I set the i/p scaler on and to output at 1080p, my television showed that it was indeed coming in at that resolution. I confirmed this with Denon as well. The AVR-3808CI is the first model in the lineup that does video scaling for HDMI sources. I re-read the online specifications page as well as the receiver’s manual, and while there is one vague allusion to this fact in the i/p scaler page in the manual, it is never plainly spelled out anywhere that there is no ability to scale HDMI-sourced material.

Doing some further testing, I also found that when inputting 480i over component, if I had the source set to convert but not to scale, it lacked color and looked pixilated. As soon as I changed the source to output 480p instead of 480i with the same settings on the receiver, the problem went away. I am not sure if this was a bug in the software, a hardware problem, something in my HDTV, or what, but I point it out since it is what I observed.

So, after finding that I would need to test the scaling and deinterlacing performance with an analog source, I reconnected my HD-DVD player using component video cables and an optical audio cable instead of HDMI. I first wanted to test the performance of standard DVD, so I set the HD-DVD player to output video at 480i, and the receiver to convert and scale it to 1080p. The results were quite good. I tested using some scenes from the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring. I will admit, after watching mostly HD sources these days, even the best DVDs don’t look as good as they used to. In reality, they look the same, but my point of view has changed significantly. In any case, for SD video, this DVD is one of the top notch presentations.

The 2309CI did an admirable job in the scaling and deinterlacing department. Throughout the testing, I saw no artifacts, or pixilation. Colors were relatively deep and accurate. The large, sweeping shot of Gandalf flying through the snow covered mountains on his way to Rivendell, for example, looked wonderful, and played without apparent judder or distracting noise, as did the majestic pan over Rivendell itself. I would be pretty happy using this receiver to do my video scaling if I had my DVD player and HD-DVR connected via component cables.