Denon's range of AV receivers covers everything from entry-level to state-of-the-art models -- all of which are expertly designed and capable of consistently impressive sound performance.
The Denon AVR-1908 is one of the company's most fully-featured budget models, although the £450 RRP is still comparably expensive at this level. For your money, you do get exceptional build quality, a full range of previously high-end features and Denon's trademark smooth sound quality -- but is it worth the extra expense?
Denon is renowned for the tank-like construction of its components and the AVR-1908 continues the tradition with an extremely solid build. The contoured aluminum design could easily be mistaken for a receiver costing twice the price. It also has one of the more user-friendly remotes we've come across, with a sensible arrangement of spacious keys that make it easy to use even when the lights are dimmed.
The range of features compares favourably with the best receivers in this class including Onkyo's TX-SR605 and Sony's STR-DA1200ES. There are seven channels with 85W of amplification, video upconversion to component quality and a comprehensive connectivity including the latest HDMI inputs with 1080i video switching (two out, one in). The HDMI 1.3a connections will also be able to support Deep Colour picture enhancements and HD audio formats carried on Blu-ray discs -- although there is no integrated high-definition surround decoding.
The on-screen menu system has been graphically enhanced and is simple to use, while there is also a decent automatic calibration set up supported by the latest Audyssey MultEQ system, which takes slightly longer than some rival systems but is enviably accurate.
In action, the receiver delivers a safe and controlled performance characterised by Denon's typically smooth nature. The sound always remains poised with plenty of precision. Excellent integration and accurate steering create an immersing experience that ultimately equates to easy listening. Scenes from the fairytale epic Stardust are beautifully realised with careful attention to detail and ambient surround effects.
While the AVR-1908's sound performance is impressively composed and cohesive, it lacks the dynamic depth and drive that some rival models in this class can offer -- including the significantly less-expensive Cambridge Audio Azur 540R, even if it can't compete for features.
This can leave energetic film sequences, such as the final skyscraper battle in King Kong, wanting more. The same can be said of stereo performance, which lacks that sense of rhythmical timing that separates the best receivers from the rest.
As with many receivers at this price level, there is no integrated decoding for the latest HD surround sound formats carried on some Blu-ray discs. But since Onkyo's TX-SR605 is the only budget model we've seen that offers this feature and there are very few compatible HD players to support it, it only matters if you want to wait for the promise of HD audio to arrive.
Denon's AVR-1908 is a very good AV receiver that has very few actual flaws. While you can find the Denon online for less than its RRP, you can certainly find other receivers cheaper still. It's just that you can get better performance and more features for your money nowadays.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday