Denon is one of the oldest audio companies in Japan, known for providing high-value AV products to the masses, and the new AVR-2309CI seems to once again set the bar for the company and, very likely, for their competitors. Priced at $849 and offering everything most consumers will ever need for a great home theater experience, it's actually tough to believe the price of the AVR-2309CI. For far less than a grand, you get seven channels with 100 watts per, decoding of all the new uncompressed audio codecs, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, via the four HDMI 1.3a inputs. A single HDMI 1.3a output will allow passage of Deep Color when this future technology makes it to market.
While priced in the low to mid-range of receivers, the Denon AVR-2309CI gives you a lot, including four digital inputs, two coaxial and two optical, with one optical output, a total of nine analog stereo inputs and even a moving magnet phono input and two record outs. This model will transcode all analog video sources between each other and to HDMI. An eight-channel analog audio input is included for DVD-Audio, SACD or for receiving multi-channel analog outputs from Blu-ray players or the now-defunct HD DVD players. Separate preamp outputs allow control of a second zone and the subwoofer. All this comes with that famous Denon house sound, with a smooth and open nature to the sonics that is never sappy.
• This is one of the most feature-packed AV receivers to date and the price, a good bit below the $1,000 mark, might make it one of the better deals for the budget-minded home theater fanatic.
• You get all the features most consumers need for an amazing home theater experience.
• The video transcoding offered in the 2309 allows a single HDMI connector to your TV, even when using analog video sources.
• While the sound is very good for the price, the power is limited and, for larger rooms, especially with inefficient speakers, it might fall a little short for very dynamic passages.
• Video scaling is good for most conventional displays, but for large front projector systems, you might see some artifacts in complicated scenes.
• The AVR 2309 doesn't offer preamp outputs, so if you want to upgrade, you can't add new amplifiers; you'd need to replace the receiver with an AV preamp and multi-channel amps.
The four HDMI inputs and one out the AVR-2309 offers are more than adequate for the video switching needs of most home theaters, and the fact that this unit offers decoding of all the new codecs for a far cry less than $1,000 makes this receiver a steal. If you run a front video projector-based home theater system, you might find some fault in the video performance of the 2309, but for most conventional displays, it will more than suffice, especially for the money.