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Denon AVR-4311 Turn over for moreâ€Ś
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2 Denon AVR-4311 ➜ £2,000 Approx ➜ www.denon.co.uk
Control freaks’ dream machine
The new AVR-4311 features a reassuring battleship build
Home Cinema Choice
Denon’s new flagship AVR might well be the answer to Richard Stevenson’s home cinema needs – and his MP3 collection
AV/CV Product: Fully networked nine-channel mid-to-highend receiver Position: Top of the new xx11 series of Denon’s receivers Peers: Onkyo TX-NR5008; Sony STR-DA5600ES
t’s another 43xx series Denon, Jim – but not as we know it. For the first time in a while, the latest iteration of Denon’s nearly flagship receiver is not just a buffed and repackaged version of its predecessor. The AVR-4311 is a new amplifier, completely redesigned internally and bristling with features that allow it to go boldy where no AV receiver has gone before. Top of the warp factor features list is the overall power hike, gaining a whopping 455W over the AVR-4310. Not only does that equate to a claimed 25W extra for each of its seven channels (and our Tech Labs rated its power performance very highly), the 4311 adds two further 140W power amplifiers for Dolby Height or Audyssey DSX Height/ Width speakers. Better still, for those of us with space and a penchant for keeping the loudspeaker industry in business, Denon finally offers 11.2-channel, fully configurable line-level outputs. So if you already have a serious stereo front end, simply allocate front channels to line-level output, hook these up to your stereo system and use the 4311’s nine channels of amplification for super-rich surround sound duty. There is even a new dedicated ‘pre amp’ mode that cuts the signal to all the onboard power amps, reducing current draw and associated distortions, allowing the 4311 to act as a very serious processor/pre-amp if desired. And the machine is not just about power and channels, either. Denon’s features department has been very busy implementing HDMI v1.4a with 3D switching and Audio Return Channel, Audyssey’s latest MultEQXT 32-room EQ system, Dolby Volume and a host of networking Home Cinema Choice
4 Reviews features that elevate this humble AVR to the status of networked entertainment hub. In fact, precisely everything we said we would like to have had on the old AVR-4310 has been implemented here, and some. All of Denon’s regular networking features are joined by FLAC playback capability and direct access to your Last.fm, Flickr and Napster accounts. It can be controlled remotely over the web, supports Control4 multiroom protocol and can also be controlled by the new Denon Remote iPhone App. Okay, this is not as sexy-looking as Pioneer’s iControl AV App, but it does a matter-of-fact job and works seamlessly from the outset. Assuming you have an iTouch, iPhone or iPad, once you have used the new rubber-backed and back-lit remote to set the receiver up, you might as well chuck it in storage. And it gets better still. Along with DNLA networking compatibility, our review sample was fully enabled with Apple’s AirPlay. A £39 upgrade, it enables you to stream music seamlessly
from iTunes on your PC or any iOS device (such as an iPhone/iPad) straight to the Denon via wired or wireless networking. It even brings over the album artwork to display on screen. You can play iTunes remotely with Apple’s own Remote App, giving you pretty much complete control of your music and networked audio content from a single device. When I buy my AVR-4311 (sorry to spoil the review’s conclusion), I will budget for an iPod Touch just to experience the sumptuous control facility. Despite our review sample only receiving its AirPlay update the morning before it arrived, the feature setup was seamless.
Well stocked: Face it, there are probably more inputs here than you’ll ever need
Networks were recognised, music streamed and the whole operation was a heady mix of Apple’s operational slickness and Denon’s sonic pedigree.
The only downer right now is that the AVR-4311 does not support streaming video from iTunes via AirPlay at this time. Chances are that
these features could come at a later date, and they should only be a firmware upgrade for the 4311 anyway. There’s more on this innovative new streaming tech over the page.
Doing a stretch The rest of the new features list is equally comprehensive, with a vertical picture stretch mode for anamorphic projectors, and a new crisp 1080p GUI. Audiophile credentials are enhanced with discrete power amp modules, speaker impedance matching and direct digital input from an iPod/ iPhone/iPad – allowing you to bypass Apple’s awful-sounding built-in DACs. The AVR-4311’s build is suitably solid, although the cosmetics are uninspiring and I think the basic speaker binding post terminals let the side down a bit. Interestingly, Denon has finally dumped its ‘Rear B’ speaker outputs (originally for a second set of rear speakers at 45˚ behind listing position for 5.1
Home Cinema Choice
Reviews 5 music) to cater for the additional height and width channels. It’s also dropped a few S-video sockets in favour of another HDMI input on the rear panel. Otherwise, connections are up there with its predecessor and the peer competition. Denon has no plans to make a proper flagship AVR-4811 to follow the 4810, and I suspect this is because much of the 4810’s engineering and technology has already been grafted onto the AVR-4311 for a more affordable price.
Polished and powerful Looking under the Denon’s lid you can see a dramatic change in component lay-out and design over the old 4310, including the addition of a pair of temperature controlled fans in the bottom of the case. The 4311 has an extra 2kg in weight over its forebear (it now weighs a hefty 17.3kg), but this is not simply the components for the extra power amps, but a beefier power supply and additional circuitry
too. So, maybe I should not have been quite so surprised when the AVR-4311 sounded even more polished and refined than the excellent AVR-4310. Using the single mic position Audyssey setup, this new receiver has incredible dexterity and a fluid sound that seems naturally projected into the room rather than emerging from the speakers. Gone is the full and fruity bass of the former 43xx models in favour of a sound that is altogether more neutrally balanced, meticulous and even-handed. It is as if Denon’s hi-fi design engineers popped into the AV room during the final tuning stage and politely suggested audiophiles might actually appreciate micro-detailing and acoustic sophistication over adrenaline-crazed audio brutality. I am not so sure, though. While one can ultimately appreciate finer qualities such as refinement and grace, most often one hankers for action movies with sex, drugs, violence, rock’n’roll and the volume wound up to +11. Clearly, the new
Specifications Dolby Digital TrueHD: yes with Dolby Volume DTS-HD Master Audio: yes and DTS ES 6.1 Discrete THX: no Multichannel audio: yes 9 x 170W (6Ω) Multichannel input: yes 7.1 channel Multichannel output: yes, 11.2 channel fully configurable Multi-room: yes, main + 2 zones Phono-stage: yes, MM stage Tuner: yes, AM/FM, netradio, last.fm and Napster AV inputs: yes, 3x s-video & RCA audio HDMI Switching: yes, 6-in, 2-out V1.4a 3D with ARC Video upscaling: yes, to 1080p Component video: yes, 3-in, 1-out Dimensions: 434(w) x 414 (d) x 171(h) mm Weight:17.3kg Features: iPhone/iPad/iTouch control with AirPlay and Denon Remote App, Audyssey MultEQXT32 Room EQ; DNLA certified; independent twin sub outputs with individual EQ; iPod digital direct input; Denon Link 4th edition; twin remote controls supplied
A Get connected C
Use this Ethernet port to make the most of the Denon’s nifty networking features, including audiophile FLAC file support
B Double up
The twin HDMI outputs allow this AVR to drive two displays – ideal if you have a flatscreen and a projector in your setup
C Old school audio
This array of coaxial and optical audio inputs will help connection to older components – and you Sky+HD set top box
D Radio ga-ga
Still using your receiver for FM/AM radio? You could instead browse the 10,000 net radio stations on offer... your setup
E Back to basics F
These rather basic speaker binding posts are one of the few areas where the Denon disappointments
F Reaching new heights
Use these posts if you’re running the AVR-4311’s extra two amplifiers for front height channels Home Cinema Choice
Denon bites Apple’s Airplay Music streaming to the AVR-4311 opens up all sorts of possibilities for getting audio entertainment flowing around the house
enon’s AVR-4311 is the first serious AV receiver to feature Apple’s AirPlay media streaming technology. The latter was part of Apple’s iOS 4.2 launch last November and is essentially a new version of AirTunes for Apple’s AirPort Express wireless network system. The difference this time is that AirPlay has a much wider remit, with the capability of wireless media streaming to and from any current iOS4.2 device or to any AirPlayenabled third party electronics. If that sounds a little familiar, this is just what DLNA promised and has thus far only half-heartedly delivered. With Airplay you can, in theory, be listening to your iPod walking down the street, enter your home and stream the music to Airplay-enabled speakers. You can stream broadcast content recorded on your PC/Mac to a TV with Airplay compatibility, or instantly display photos taken on your iPhone to any enabled display device. Media is delivered across the network with metadata including Better Air quality AirPlay streams audio as Apple Lossless, equivalent to 16 bit, 44.1kHz CD quality over wi-fi or a wired network connection. Not coincidentally at all this is standard PCM (CD format) sampling and bit depth. Music files that are stored in iTunes as compressed AAC or MP3 files are decoded and upscaled before being streamed as a PCM signal. This is subsequently decoded in the AirPlay end device using standard CD-spec digital to analogue converters (DACs). For the very best sound quality, CDs ripped in Apple Lossless format are unpacked back to their native PCM and sent over the Airplay network bit-for-bit identical to the original CD. Ironically, Apple’s AirPlay offers one of the very highest quality ways of listening to music files stored on a Windows-based PC, simply because it circumnavigates the sound-quality-wrecking Windows kernel. Streaming lossless music files over Airplay to a high-end AirPlay enabled audio device such as Denon’s AVR-4311 is as close as you can get to pure CD-quality sound over a network.
Home Cinema Choice May 2011
artist, album/movie and track titles, along with cover artwork. AirPlay offers the ability to easily share your content between devices over a wired or wireless network, promising to free media from the bounds of being stuck on any one device. This is great news for fans of music, movies and general wow-factor gadgetry, and the content industry are in favour of it because it shares a single file across several devices, rather than creating multiple copies on each. Well that is the theory. If you have an iOS 4.2 device such as an iPhone4, a Mac computer and a secondgeneration AppleTV, it will all work swimmingly and you can even stream to multiple devices simultaneously. In conjunction with iTunes and the Apple Remote App, the AirPlay system is a work of sublime genius. However if your living room does not look like an Apple store, AirPlay is somewhat limited. Right now you can only stream music to third-party AirPlay devices such as the AVR-4311, but not images, iTunes TV programmes, YouTube content or movies. There does not seem to be a valid technical reason for this, particularly
as it was apparently enabled in the beta version of iOS 4.2. Certainly devices like the AVR-4311 have more than enough number crunching power to handle streamed video – particularly AppleTV’s 720p files. Cynics might suggest that the decision to remove AirPlay video from third-party device drivers at launch was simply Apple wanting to ensure early adopters of the concept buy Apple’s own hardware. Whatever the reason, it’s likely to be early 2012 before AirPlay video comes to non-Apple branded products.
Remote App 2.0 Integral to the AirPlay concept is the Apple Remote App for iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad. This affords complete control over the iTunes library on your PC or Mac, complete with a GUI grafted from the iTouch music player. You can slide through albums by artwork, choose tracks, set-up playlists and even control the output volume. Enable AirPlay and the music is streamed to whichever AirPlay device you select on the App interface. Alternatively you can stream the content stored on your iWhatever over wi-fi to any AirPlay device.
Apple Airplay makes wireless audio streaming a painless experience
Reviews 7 Power consumption: Watts 200
Idling: Not the most energy efficient at idle, but then again this is a beefy amplifier
Powered: Real-world consumption with movie playback averaged 130W
Power ratings: Watts (8Ω , 0.5% THD) 150
Black box: But you can get it in a silver finish if you prefer
Audyssey multiple subwoofer calibration was keeping my two Velodyne DD18’s not only in check, but also locked up and on a leash, while the MultiEQ-XT32, with its 32x better processing than the old MultEQ-XT, had smoothed the 4311 to the point of becoming delightfully delicate and finely poised. In fact, the AVR-4311 was starting to sound a little too far up its own transistors, begging for a bit of Sunday afternoon Vivaldi and maybe an intellectual drama on Blu-ray in the evening with a glass of port. With the opening battle sequence of Star Trek on Blu-ray (a first-rate demo scene that I know off by heart) it was all getting too polite for me. Time for a fiddle. Switching off Audyssey, Dynamic Volume, Dynamic EQ and Dolby Volume instantly put fire into the 4311’s belly, but the sound then became congested with room-based reflections, standing waves and all the peaks and troughs that an EQ system generally smooths out. The solution I found was to copy the measured Audyssey curves across to the 4311’s comprehensive manual EQ adjustment mode and tune the sound by ear. I wanted to rediscover the marque’s thunder while maintaining this model’s fabulous clarity and precision. I wasn’t sure this was possible as, inexplicably, you can’t manually equalize the sub channels. In fact, it didn’t take too long at all. Based on my room measurements, all it needed was rolling off a little top-end gain, negating some mid-band cuts caused by the single mic position and reducing some of the upper bass filters until
the sound was tight, punchy and ready to rumble. Even in vanilla 5.1 mode, as the USS Kelvin thunders towards Nero’s Romulan mining vessel, the effort with the manual EQ is immediately justified. The sound is packed with scale and thunder but the resolution of the finest nuances still manages to take your breath away. As Kirk is born amidst the chaos, the Denon builds the tension with stunning realism, crafting each sound effect as if the whole movie hangs off it. The scene is delivered as a thoroughly moving, emotionally charged, bottom lip wobbler.
2-channel 8Ω: Above Denon’s own claimed spec in two-channel mode
5-channel 8Ω: An impressive multichannel power measurement
184W Onkyo TX-NR5008 170W Pioneer SC-LX83
Fidelity firewall: A measurement of 184W with 0.05 THD (two channels into 8Ω) matches its high-end rivals
85dB S/N tests: A very low noise floor guarantees a clean sound from the AVR-4311
Extra special Putting the AVR-4311 into 11.2-channel mode, the ‘front main’ output feeding a stereo power amp, and four more speakers drafted in for height and width, the result is nothing short of a revelation. The extra
channel processing sounds as seamless as if it was mastered into the original pressing, adding another order of magnitude to the sheer scale of the presentation. Sound effects gain substantial body and a greater air of realism. Dialogue is better focused mid screen rather than below it, and panning effects swoop from way out West to the Far East and back again. The downside is that manually tweaking the Audyssey-measured EQ curves across all 11 channels is a labour of love and toil. Thankfully, you will only have to do it once to enjoy the rich fruits of this spectacular AV receiver. Get down to your dealer today and demand a demo – and take your credit card...
Verdict Denon AVR-4311 £2,000 Approx Highs: Polished sound; fabulous networking features including Airplay; nine powerful channels of amplification Lows: Manual EQ required to elicit the very best sound; lacking those last two amplification channels for 11.2 Performance: Design: Features:
Overall: May 2011 Home Cinema Choice
Published on Mar 31, 2011