Unleashed: Denon's 7.1 home cinema monster

If good things come to those who wait, then Denon's AVR-4308DAB will be awesome. We first glimpsed this 7.1-channel home cinema receiver in January at CES 2007 and it's taken this long - 9 months - to finally see the finished product. Denon calls it their "best sounding home cinema receiver" to date. It'd be churlish to disagree. So what do you get for the £2,000 asking price?

The biggest thing you need to know about this flagship receiver is that Denon has designed it to do just about anything. From high-definition pictures and sound, to feature-rich iPod playback, the AVR-4308DAB has the socketry, circuitry and a badge on its fascia to prove it. Heck it's even Microsoft Windows Vista compatible.

As you'd expect, the Denon AVR-4308DAB is compatible with the very latest high-definition video standards. That means you get HDMI 1.3a inputs and outputs, Deep Colour and xvYCC support, auto lip-syncing and the ability to upscale any analogue or digital video source up to 1080p Full HD, plus 24fps film support.

Partnering all this are a full suite of surround sound decoders including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, etc, and even HDCD (High Definition Compact Digital).

iPod and Vista ready

One of the things that really sets the Denon apart is its ability to handle almost every kind of audio file you can throw at it, including AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA Lossless and FLAC. These can be streamed from your Mac or PC using the AVR-4308DAB's built-in Ethernet or 801.11b/g Wi-Fi connections. The only thing the Denon doesn't appear to be able to handle are copy-protected iTunes audio tracks (but that's Apple's fault, not Denon's).

To help you make the most of the often limited sound-quality available from AAC and other compressed audio codecs, Denon's also thrown in a special audio circuit called the Compressed Audio Restorer. This, Denon says, analyses residual harmonics to restore a track's dynamics - adding bass and treble to make the listening experience more enjoyable.

Naturally, the receiver can be used to stream JPEG photo files (including album art) from your PC to TV too. And it's compatible with Apple's iPod and other MP3 players, either by using an optional DSR dock, or via its two USB ports (one front, one rear).

You can also use the AVR-4308DAB to hear around 7,000 internet radio stations, as well as FM, AM and DAB stations using its built-in radio tuner. Plus it's compatible with a wide variety of music servers, including those that are Windows Media, TwonkyVision and DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) compliant.

AVR-3408DAB gives you complete control

All of this is delivered using a slick, graphically-rich interface that can also be upscaled to 1080p - so it'll still look good on even the biggest of flat-panel TVs. You can even setup and control the AVR-4308DAB using your laptop or desktop PC, network-enabled PDA or even remotely using a web browser.

And that's without mentioning the multi-room access. The AVR-4308DAB enables you to watch video content in two different rooms simultaneously while listening to music in a third, plus remote control of a fourth room. Although you'll need to add an extra amp or receiver and a second handheld remote if you want to do that.

It goes without saying that Denon's AVR-4308DAB ticks all the boxes when it comes to home cinema high fidelity. It has discrete audio and video circuits, 12-bit video DACs, 170W per channel power output per channel (into 7 channels at 6 ohms), 3 power transformers, 9 power supplies and Audessy MultEQ-XT room calibration.

But did we also happen to mention that it weighs 18.9kg, but uses just 0.3W of power on standby? Thought so.

The Denon AVR-4308DAB HD Network Wi-Fi 7.1 receiver is on sale now for £1,999.99.