- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 23 November 2009
When shopping for a receiver, most consumers either get the bargain of the week at $499 or the macho machine at $2,499. But, what about those receivers in the middle, as in $1,499. Not cheap enough for the bargain hunter, not "impressive" enough for the high end. Maybe you should take a second look. At that middle price, you can still get the hot features, but not break the bank. Here, we review Denon's AVR-3310CI which clocks in at 120 watts x 7 and decodes everything, even that new kid on the block . . . height channels.
- Design: 7.1 A/V Receiver
- Codecs: All Types, Including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and Dolby Pro Logic IIz Which has Height Channels
- Power: 120 Watts RMS x 7 into 8 Ohms
- DACs: 24/192
- MFR: Not Specified
- THD+N: 0.05
- Audyssey Room Correction
- Inputs: All Types, Including 5 HDMI
- Outputs: All Types, Including 1 HDMI, Ethernet Port for Firmware Updates and Internet Streaming Audio
- Dimensions: 6.7" H x 17.1" W x 16.3" D
- Weight: 28.6 Pounds
- MSRP: $1,499 USA
The front panel of the AVR-3310 looks like most receivers, with the Power On/Off, Standby, Source Select and a few other buttons along with the volume control on the right.
Behind the fold down panel are the controls for accessing the menu structure, which includes running the automatic setup of the Audyssey Room Correction embedded software. If you are upgrading from a receiver that does not have auto room correction, you are in for a nice surprise. It really works! You simply plug the included microphone into the receiver, press the Menu button and go to the Auto Setup. It will step you through the procedure, and will ask you to place the microphone in several different locations, each time gathering sound data, before it concludes. At that point, Audyssey will be highlighted on the display panel, but you can turn it on or off by use of one of the panel buttons. You should do this just so you can hear the difference that it makes, which is quite noticeable, and for the better.
The front panel also has a USB port so you can play music stored on a thumb drive, and there is another set of S-Video/Composite Video inputs with an associated pair of analog audio jacks.
The power amplifier section is rated at 120 watts RMS x 7 into 8 ohms, and 160 watts RMS into 6 ohms. This means it is not rated into 4 ohms, and you will see in the Bench Test section why this is so.
The 3310 has a video processing section for scaling to whatever output resolution you prefer, including 480p, 576p, 1080i, 720p, 1080p, and 1080p24. You can select the aspect ratio as well (16:6 or 4:3). I left the video processor in the Off position, as I select the output mode I want in the DVD player.
Two remote controls come with the 3310. All of the features are accessible from the large one, and the feature you are most likely to use are on the smaller one. I especially like the way the volume control is set up as it is very easy to change the volume on individual channels. With many receivers, volume control for individual channels is several layers deep into the menu structure. Neither remote control is backlit. The larger remote has another set of buttons on the back, so you can pretty much do everything you want with it.
The rear panel is one solid wall of connections. At the top are the HDMI inputs (5) and HDMI output (1). An Ethernet port is just to the right of the HDMI jacks. This is used to connect to your network for updating the firmware. Underneath the HDMI jacks are the composite video sets and component video sets. The composite video sets include stereo pair of analog audio inputs which can be used by themselves for analog stereo (you just don't use the composite video jack associated with that audio pair).
There are nine pairs of speaker binding posts. Seven of them are for the front left, right, center, surround left, right, and rear left, right. The two additional pairs are for speaker set B, so you could connect those to a pair of speakers in another room and listen to stereo music, or Zones 2 or 3, or split mono between the two zones. Additional Zones 2 and 3 are stereo analog out, with Zone 2 having a composite video jack associated with it. I am waiting for the day when the manufacturers say, "Adios" to composite video connections. Maybe S-Video as well. All the new DVD players have HDMI outputs, all the new receivers have HDMI inputs, and HDMI carries not only Blu-ray video, SD video, but audio from CD, SACD, and DVD-A (up to the full 24/192 sampling). Losing those outdated inputs will give consumers more wiggle room for the other jacks, as well as eliminate that nightmare of a dozen or more cables behind the receiver.
One item they should not make disappear is the Phono input, and there is one present on the 3310 (MM - Moving Magnet). Turntables and vinyl are making an explosive return in the consumer arena.
The receiver has connections for satellite radio, which requires a paid subscription, but you can also listen to free Internet Radio stations via the Ethernet connection to your router. Going into the menu will allow you to see a list of stations, of which there are thousands. There is also a Denon Link, which connects to the Denon Link output on some Denon DVD players. This lets you send the digital bitstream from the player to your receiver for decoding. It was invented by Denon back when Hollywood was still procrastinating about letting consumers have access to the digital bitstream from DVD-A and SACD. However, that has been solved with HDMI, and you can get the bitstream via that connection now.
Lastly, there is a port for the ubiquitous iPod, but the dock that goes with the Denon is an optional purchase. You can operate the iPod from the receiver's remote control using this dock.
At the far right are two AC sockets for accessories. They are both switched, which means turning on the receiver activates those sockets. I have this same feature in one of my reference SSPs, the Denon AVP-A1HDCI, and I use one of the sockets to turn on a small fan and the other to turn on a 25 watt lamp that is sitting behind the flatscreen HDTV. The light serves as a bias, which makes the blacks appear blacker.
I tested the 3310 with various bookshelf speakers that I have on hand, and again, I want to make it clear that you should only use 8 ohm speakers with this receiver. There are plenty of them out there to choose from. One upgrade might be to purchase an outboard three-channel power amplifier to use with the three front channels. There are some very nice ones out there for not very much money, and this will allow the Denon to focus its power on the side and rear channels. I used a Velodyne subwoofer for the bass.
The source was an OPPO BDP-83 Blu-ray player connected to the 3310 via HDMI. Cables were Emotiva.
I ran the Audyssey room correction program, and got out some movies and music. Here is a photo of the included microphone that you use when running the Audyssey setup.
Disney/Pixar's latest animated release is UP, which uses 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The movie is delightful, and the 3310 did a remarkable job of delivering the power required by intense scenes. I used 8 ohm speakers, but they are not very efficient, so I had to crank the volume control to get the SPL I wanted, and there is a bit of brightness in the sound when it's cranked like this. The bench tests will show you why this occurs. So, not only should you use 8 ohm speakers with this receiver, you will need high efficiency as well (> 90 dB/w/m).
I imagine everyone loves Rocky and (nearly) all of the sequels. The Undisputed Collection has just been released in Blu-ray, so I watched all five with the 3310 setup. Of course, in all the fight scenes, the crowd noise is deafening (depending on your volume control setting). The 3310 didn't flinch an inch. From the crushing blows to the jaws, to the screaming of the fans, I didn't miss any of the audio action.
I have mentioned in numerous movie reviews the lack of using the surround channels. It really does infuriate me that I spent all this money on so many speakers and I hardly ever get the chance to hear them on the sides and rear. Fortunately, 7.1 is a different story. When a producer opts for the 7.1 soundtrack, all seven channels are used extensively.
Such is the case for The Punisher: War Zone. It not only uses all seven channels, well . . . take a look at the cover art. You can imagine what's going on in those seven channels. Again, the 3310 handled everything. Note that I set the speaker size to Small and the subwoofer crossover to 60 Hz. This is one way to make the receiver's amplifiers more efficient, as they are not delivering current-hungry low frequencies. You will be able to get more volume from the main speakers this way.
Now to music. I really enjoy high resolution surround sound music discs, and a company in Norway, called 2L, produces Blu-ray music discs using 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio at 24/96 sampling. The example shown below played on the OPPO through HDMI to the Denon receiver, and it worked perfectly. The sound at high resolution is simply astounding, and having it in surround format trumps stereo, regardless of the resolution.
Although SACD and DVD-A are having a tough time, Blu-ray may step in to save the day for those of us who want high resolution audio. The other alternative is such Internet sites as HD Tracks, which have high resolution music for download. The same music is available on conventional CDs, but high resolution discs were not produced. So, to get the high resolution versions, you simply pay for the download.
In keeping with the approaching holiday season, I put on a new SACD, also from 2L, with a Christmas choir. The combination of the high resolution of SACD and having the choir in surround sound made for very enjoyable listening.
On the Bench
All distortion measurements were made with two channels driven and within an 80 kHz bandwidth. Although the 3310 is rated into 6 ohms and not into 4 ohms, I ran tests at 8 ohms and 4 ohms to be consistent with previous reviews. I used the Pure Direct mode, as that bypasses signal processing (no DSP). The tests represent preamplifier and power amplifier performance by themselves.
At 1 kHz and 20 volts output into 8 ohms, THD+N was 0.016%, while at 4 ohms, it was 0.025%. The harmonic peaks are primarily odd-ordered.
Using 19 kHz and 20 kHz sine waves, the 1 kHz B-A peak was 97 dB below the fundamentals at 8 ohms and 93 dB below at 4 ohms. The A+B peak at 39 kHz was 83 dB below the fundamentals at 8 ohms and 79 dB below at 4 ohms.
IMD using the standard SMPTE 60 Hz, 7 kHz sine wave combination yielded 0.024% at 8 ohms and 0.034% at 4 ohms. However, it should be noted that the measurement only takes into account the peaks within 250 Hz on either side of the 7 kHz fundamental. There are also distortion peaks at 14 kHz and in the out of audio band (above the limits of hearing) that are not included in the measurement. All those extra peaks look a little scary, but other amplifiers costing a great deal more do the same thing. It is a matter of how high the peaks are.
THD+N vs. Frequency shows why you should use 8 ohm speaker with this receiver. Even the 8 ohm load resulted in distortion at 0.2% near the upper limit of hearing. Using 4 ohm load caused the receiver to go into fault above 1 kHz. Note that the 8 ohm measurements are using 50 watts output, which is above the average listening level. Most of the time, even in action movies, the output is about 5 watts or less. It is only during intense action that high power is required.
The THD+N vs. Power Output measurement indicated that the 3310, with two channels driven, will deliver 140 watts per channel RMS at the knee, then rises rapidly to clip (1% THD+N) at 160 watts. The 4 ohm measurement is only for comparison and interest. Don't be trying to drive your old 4 ohm speakers to high volume with this receiver.
The measured frequency response was flat between 20 Hz and 20 kHz regardless of the voltage and load (the slight separation of the graph lines near 200 kHz represents 8 ohms vs. 4 ohms. At 20 volts, the response is attenuated on purpose above 50 kHz to maintain amplifier stability.
The economy of this first decade in the 21st century sure has been a big shock to all of us. We might be willing to compromise, but that doesn't mean we are willing to entirely give up some of our pleasures. Listening to music and watching movies is one of those pleasures. If you are not the kind of person who would be happy with an entry level setup, but are not in a financial situation or have the desire to spend some big bucks to get a top of the line system, then consider the middle of the road, where the Denon AVR-3310CI resides. It decodes all music formats known to mankind, delivers sufficient clean power to satisfy, and won't keep you up at night worrying about the interest you would be paying on your charge card if you don't pay the total balance at the end of the month.