No HDMI-switching is a gamble these days, but we're betting you won't care when you hear the AVR-1907
Throaty and powerful
Clean dialogue mastery
Lack of HDMI switching might not suit your set-up
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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on an HD disc is actually the second-most anticipated launch of 2007. Top of that exalted list is Denon's AVR-1907.
Why? Well, according to my mates in AV retail, many of whom actually have my credit card details on their mortgage documents, Denon's previous sub-£400 receiver was a proverbial hot cake.
In some shops the AVR-1906 outsold all other budget receivers ten to one - and rightly so, as it was a cracker, a first-class bargain. No pressure then.
The all-new AVR-1907 comes to the test bench promising more features, more power, and even better value - sort of. Number one point of contention is that the price has actually risen from £330 to £400, which is the wrong side of an inflation-busting 20 per cent increase. Ouch.
This is the 'full asking price', of course, and there are some damn fine deals to be had if it is purchased with a Denon DVD player as a package.
The good news is power is up - just. Output is up by 5W per channel to 85W, as verified by our Tech Labs... which should make absolutely no difference at all. However, there is no change to the basics. The chassis is identical, the setup, OSD and fascia are exactly the same and the decoding set is likewise verbatim. Indeed, you could count the changes from the previous model on one hand without needing your thumb.
Looking under the lid I am getting serious amplifier deja vu. But, hold the phone. Surely if you were going to implement any major upgrade from the previous model you would address the one and only gripe I had about the AVR-1906 - namely that it didn't have HDMI.
Of course, it's obvious! Well, not to Denon's engineers apparently, because the AVR-1907 remains stoically devoid of HDMI switching. Up against similarly-priced models from the likes of Onkyo, resplendent in their HDMI switching and in some cases HDMI upconversion, the budget king's crown is starting to slip.
So on the face of it, this year's model is a lot like last year's model. Underwhelming? Possibly, but let's take a moment of quiet, retrospective contemplation.
Just because it does not boast a wholesale change from its forebear does not necessarily render it a lemon - particularly when said forebear was a best-seller. The AVR-1907 still packs in decoding for every format you are likely to find on a DVD movie, sexy SHARC DSPs, 192kHz/24bit DACs, auto set-up with mic supplied and rear-back channels that can be reassigned to front bi-amping duties.
In addition, this model now offers rather sumptuous aluminium knobs rather than plastic, a connector for Denon's AD1-SR iPod dock (should you insist on doing that) and video up-conversion to component in the digital domain.
The system's 12-bit/216MHz digital video converters are claimed to give a much smoother and more lifelike component output from any video input. The AVR-1907 is also greener, with a frugal sub-1W energy consumption in eco-standby mode. That might go a little way to assuaging your guilt when it's drawing nearly half a kilowatt at full chat.
The AVR-1907 also comes with Denon's new double-sided remote control. Once you get used to buttons being on both sides (under a flap on the rear) it really is something of an ergonomic delight.
These fineries are merely the icing on what is a big, calorie-laden, full-fat cream-filled cake. I love this receiver for its no-holds-barred power and passion, and its commanding clout with any movie.
With an action flick it will thump out big explosions, effects and rocking soundtracks with an authority that leaves the competition sounding meek and mild.
For less than £400 it has no right to drive my huge Tannoy floor-standing speaker package with such machismo. It's no less at home switching to a less exotic sub-sat lifestyle speaker system (...the missus made me buy it - honest).
It offers rock-solid bass and a smooth top end that always checks higher frequency effects from getting spitty or aggressive at volume.
With either type of speaker partner, its naturalness with dialogue is impressive and the AVR-1907 eclipses more than a few receivers for intelligible, realistic voicing. It is blissfully free of that cuppy, chesty or nasal dialogue traits that afflict much of the budget AV receiver market and is equally punchy and controlled at low or mid volumes.
I found myself watching Pan's Labyrinth for the second time almost in a row simply because the Denon's sweet balance draws you right into plot and crafts that all-important suspension of disbelief.
At high volumes it's something altogether different. Just like its forebear, give it a good quarter turn of the volume knob and the amplifier that your mother would approve of throws off its sensible shoes and turns into a hard-core extreme-action monster.
With Casino Royale high frequencies all but leap out of the speakers and the bass grabs hold of your sofa and tries to shake the cushions off. The overall impact makes a mockery of the mediocre claimed power output, even with its alleged extra 5W, as the 1907 seems to have bags of grunt in reserve.
The lack of HDMI and the increased price makes the AVR-1907 less of an all-round bargain than its predecessor, but its still got it where it counts and weaves its magic with any film and almost any speaker attached to it. Sonically you would have to be bitter and twisted to find fault with the AVR-1907 at its price - not quite a killer then, but still damn dangerous.