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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Denon launches E-Series AV Receivers with Ultra HD 4K support

2012 was an okay recovery for the consumer electronics industry with strong growth in the headphone, tablet, and soundbar categories. One segment that has struggled due to the lingering economic issues is the AV receiver category and that ugly reality was discussed at the CEA's pre-2012 Holiday season event in Manhattan. Soundbars have become "good enough" that many consumers no longer see the need for an expensive 5.1 dedicated surround sound system and with wireless systems like the SONOS PlayBar making noise, that does not bode well for the category.

If you take a look at our AV receiver coverage this week; which includes new offerings form Yamaha, and Pioneer, it's not hard to figure out where the category is headed. Denon didn't make a big splash at CES 2013 and it's understandable.

AV receivers are getting cheaper and packing in more features than ever before. Denon's brand new E-series is a stark reminder that $700 may be the new price ceiling for most people and that may not be bad if it forces manufacturers to improve the power supplies, switching, and video processing capabilities of its more affordable products. If the affordable AVR-E400 7.1 ($600) networked home theater receiver is a sign of the times, more people might actually consider a dedicated system over a soundbar.

 In order to sell an AV receiver in 2013, you need to throw in the kitchen sink and include support for Airplay, MHL, Ultra HD 4K, and high resolution audio formats; which assumes that the receiver has a decent 24/192 DAC.

Denon's new E-series includes the aforementioned AVR-E400 7.1 receiver, AVR-E300 5.1 networked home theater receiver ($400) and the really affordable AVR-E200 5.1 home theater receiver which retails for only $250.

Unfortunately, only the top two models support Apple AirPlay, which allows you to stream music from your iOS device, Mac, or PC via iTunes. The E400 and E300 also offer support for some of the best music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and vTuner which can be controlled via Denon's remote app.

All three models feature a redesigned on-screen UI to make set-up that much simpler; the The exclusive Denon Setup Assistant walks users through the entire setup process (AVR-E300 & AVR-E400 Only). For total sonic accuracy, the AVR-E400 and AVR-E300 both feature Audyssey MultEQ automatic room acoustic measurement and correction system to provide the best tonal balance to any listening environment, along with Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Audyssey Dynamic Volume for immersive surround sound, even at reduced volume levels.

All of the new E-series receivers feature color-coded speaker terminals and include color-coded tags for your cables which should simplify the set-up process but we're disappointed; and this criticism applies to not only Denon but other AV receiver manufacturers, that the binding posts are not better quality and simpler to use with either banana pins or bare wire.

The AVR-E400's video processor includes SD-to-HD up-conversion, along with 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160) pass-through for the next generation of 4K Ultra HDTVs; such as the $20,000 Ultra HD 4K model from LG that we wish we could afford.

The AVR-E400's quoted power specifications look impressive on paper; delivering a maximum of 185 watts/channel; which means 90 into all 7 channels while watching a film.

The less expensive AVR-E300 and AVR-E200 offer 175 and 165 maximum watts per channel, which should translate to 75 watts into 5 channels. Depending on the sensitivy and impedance of your surround sound system; and the size of your listening room, you should be able to fill a small den, living room, or bedroom with above average volume levels.

All three E-series receivers include more than enough HDMI inputs; on both the rear and front panel for any system. The E400 comes with 6 HDMI inputs, 5 on the E300, and 4 on the E300.

The E-series are clearly aimed at college students, or young couples looking to assemble their first home theater in an apartment. At $600, the AVR-E400 looks to offer a lot of power, functionality, and value making it a real threat to the newer offering from Yamaha and Pioneer.

All of the E-series AV receivers will be available in March for online and retail purchase.

View the original article here

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