As a plain stereo amplifier (remember those?), the AVR-4810CI proved all but flawless. I played a selection of high-rez 96-kHz/24-bit reference tracks, mostly obscure classical stuff but also the rocking "Catch Me Now I'm Falling" from the Kinks' One for the Road, and heard nothing to suggest any amplifier limitations or colorations. Power was more than generous: My long-term L/R speakers, stand-mounted two-ways, are a decibel or two less sensitive than most, yet the AVR-4810CI produced full-range stereo rock at chest-thumping levels without complaint or any sign of harshness.
Multichannel playback is where I focus most of my energy these days, of course, and the big Denon acquitted itself every bit as expertly there. The new Star Trek is one of the year's big-sound Blu-ray Disc highlights, and the Denon produced its soundtrack with enough power to deliver reference levels in my 3,000-cubic-foot studio with ease. The climactic chase-battle-escape sequence in Chapter 13 (not to be confused with the previous 12 chase-battle-escape sequences) demands all she's got from any audio component, and the Denon clearly had plenty to give.
Reviewer Brent Butterworth has ably covered Dolby PLIIz and Audyssey DSX previously, so I will confine myself to a few technical comments: Kewl! Neato! Smokin'! These new multichannel developments may set the bleeding edge of practicality (and spousal acceptance) for most owners, but they really do bring surround - including surround music, and particularly large-hall orchestral music - to a next level.
The effect of DSX is neither subtle nor debatable. Engaging it on Star Trek delivered a palpably more first-run-theater aural experience: bigger, wider, more spatially convincing, and without the faint, DSP-processing tinting of main-channel and dialogue sound that some previous systems have carried. And listening to a superb SACD of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé (BSO Classics) delivered an audibly more realistic musical experience. But if you go the DSX/PLIIz route, be prepared to spend plenty of time tweaking the setup. And don't expect to cheap out by using inexpensive, easily mounted height (or width) speakers - I tried that, and it doesn't work. Instead of blending into the overall surround mix, a pair of small, cheap 'n' cheesy speakers in the Height positions made everything sound cheap'n'cheesy.
The AVR-4810CI's video processing runs on Anchor Bay VRS silicon, with the familiar excellent results I've seen from other products that use this solution. Upscaling of 480i material was free of jaggies artifacts, and conversion from composite- and S-video to HDMI (up to 1080p) occurred without any substantial visible impact.
Some readers may recall that Denon's hybrid "touchscreen" (really just a membrane) remote controller is not among my favorites. (I wouldn't go so far as to say I hate the RC-1126 - oww! Stop twisting my arm! Okay, I hate the thing.) Thankfully, the AVR-4810CI's fast, sharp-looking, intuitive onscreen GUI does nearly all the heavy lifting, so the handset's real-button cursor, volume, and input-select keys are what you'll most need day to day.
In truth, the remote proved decent enough in everyday use, and Denon also supplies a secondary handset - an old-fashioned, all-buttons affair - for remote rooms. Denon's onscreen GUI, which is a lot like Sony's "Xross-media bar" interface turned 90°, seemed a lot more welcoming my second time around (I first encountered it last year on Denon's now-superceded AVR-989), and I only stumbled a couple times mousing horizontally to reach the desired parameter list.
The AVR-4810CI is studded with further features, some cool, some probably superfluous, and many related to multiroom custom installation, hence the "CI" in its name. Most of these will have to content themselves with mention in our Key Features list.
The AVR-4810CI is the first receiver I've encountered that offers direct iPod connection via USB, without requiring a proprietary (or third-party) dock accessory. You can simply plug in your iPod, hit the appropriate onscreen source icon, and start mousing through your Albums, Artists, Playlists, and so on directly on your TV using the Denon remote's cursor keys. (There's also a front-panel HDMI input for plugging in a game console or high-def camcorder.)
You can access audio and photo content via a wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection, streaming from the Internet (Rhapsody and Napster trial accounts are provided), or from your networked PC/Mac. The latter requires that the computer be running DLNA-compatible media server software such as Windows Media 10 or higher, or TwonkyMedia, which I employed on my Mac. This worked fine in my setup, with dramatically faster browsing and file selection that was also freer from momentary lockup than the last iteration I tried, on Denon's aforementioned AVR-989. But I can't be certain whether this was due to the AVR-4810's hardware or some external change. (I'm now running a newer version of Twonky.) The AVR-4810CI also can stream 96/24 FLAC audio content directly - yippee!
Stuff is good, and more stuff is better (sometimes), but either way, having the underlining chops to back up your stuff is best of all - just ask Muhammad Ali. The Denon AVR-4810CI has it in spades, and so ranks as one of the best A/V receivers out there for those to whom abundant features, controls, and setup and surround options seem more alluring than off-putting. I'm still too much of a cheapskate to call any $3,000 receiver a "value," but if you've got that kind of coin to spend on one, Denon's prepared to deliver your money's worth.
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