Until recently, you weren’t likely to find many $2k + receivers out on the market. Perhaps this is because, in the minds of most consumers (and many A/V enthusiasts as well), that $2k price point indicates that you just flew past the mile marker for the law of diminishing returns on the A/V super highway. At some point we ought to consider the option of separate components and their premium performance as an alternative to a pricey receiver. That is, unless the receiver in question is a total knock-out.
What you get in a receiver priced at around $2 grand, in the case of the Denon AVR-4311CI, is just about A/V feature you’ve ever heard of and then some. We wonder, though, if the advanced functionality and sound of this high-end A/V receiver is so mind-blowingly awesome that it’s worth the lofty price tag. We took our time digging in to the 4311CI and we think we have the answer.
Out of the Box
Denon’s AVR-4311CI comes packed along with a heavy gauge power cord, radio antenna, Audyssey microphone, a main zone remote, a zone two remote, batteries and a manual. The 4311CI measures 6.7” x 17.1” x 16.6” (h,w,d) and weighs a respectable 38.2 pounds. As we lifted the receiver from its box, we were surprised to feel that its 38 pound heft was not concentrated entirely in the power supply section – rather it was evenly distributed throughout the chassis. The black facade is adorned with two large rotary dials, 7 small control buttons, a smoked display window and a flip-down panel. Denon softens the look of the receiver by adding some curves to the trim of the display window and implementing a sunken relief on the top and bottom edges of the chassis. Denon also bucks the blue LED trend by backlighting its power switch with a soft green LED.
Denon’s 140 watt per channel AVR-4311CI is so jam-packed with features and functionality that we just can’t list them all here, but we will highlight some of the more advanced and unique aspects for your techno-geeking pleasure.
The 4311CI is technically a 9.2 receiver as it has 9 discreet amplifier circuits, and it offers the option to assign two stereo channels as you wish. These assignable outputs can be configured to perform several different surround and multi-zone roles. For instance, it is capable of up to 11.2 channels of surround sound, including surround back, front height and front width channels, which promise to add more dimension to surround sound tracks, but you’ll need an external amplifier for one of those pairs of speakers. If multi-zone audio is your thing, you can run a 5.2 theater and two separate zones of audio. If you would prefer to bi-amp your front speakers, you can still run surround backs, front height or front width channels. The potential combinations are dizzying.
If multi-room control is what is needed, the 4311CI offers flexibility in serving the second and third zones. It sports two HDMI outputs, both with audio return channel, and can decode digital audio signals for amplification in the other zones. No more unnecessary analog cables. Users can even configure crossovers, bass, treble and default volume settings for both zones 2 and 3.
The 4311CI is equipped with Audyssey’s top of the line MultEQ XT32, which applies filters to each speaker in the system, including the subwoofer(s), based on readings it takes from up to 8 positions in a room. MultEQ XT32 can be easily upgraded to PRO level which offers up to 32 different measurement positions. For those who prefer a manual calibration, the 4311CI offers all the tweaky adjustments one could ask for including 10 different crossover points for each speaker, a fully manual EQ and a clever system for balancing two separate subwoofer output levels.
The 4311CI is a very network friendly receiver. Its front and rear USB inputs will accommodate flash drives, hard drives and a direct iPod interface including simple on-screen navigation. It is DLNA certified, so it will stream audio and pictures from any networked computer that is sharing content. There is access to Rhapsody, Pandora, Napster, Flickr and internet radio. As if all of that content weren’t enough the 4311CI is one of a handful of Denon receivers that can be upgraded to use Apple’s AirPlay. For $49.95, the 4311CI can be upgraded with the AirPlay option which allows iTunes and most other iDevices to stream audio to the receiver for playback in any zone.
Denon didn’t seek THX certification for this model so it doesn’t offer any THX post-processing but is, of course, capable of decoding all of the latest surround codecs and offers plenty of its own post-processing options too, including a proprietary Cinema EQ processor that tames some of the brightness commonly associated with movie mixes. It even supports SACD and HDCD playback via HDMI.
The 4311CI packs in plenty more but we’re running out of space here. So, if you need to know if the 4311CI offers a phono input, headphone output (it offers both) or any other specifc feature, feel free to browse Denon’s extensive product description here.