Denon AVR-1912 Review

Note: This review is currently being updated regularly. This is not a review once and forget about it web page. We have installed this device as the main hub of our home entertainment system and this page will be regularly updated as we discover more about this device.

Denon AVR-1912 front (in black)
In October 2011, we upgraded our old Marantz SR5300 home cinema amp for this Denon AVR-1912 device. The primary motivation for the move was to have a home cinema amp with HDMI inputs and video switching. Our Panasonic plasma TV simply didn't have enough inputs for all the devices we wanted to connect to it. Denon AVR-1912 product page.

There were a few other things that we liked about this device too:

  • It supports HDMI 1.4a for 3D video support.
  • It is Internet connected for various services and updates.
  • It supports Apple AirPlay and DLNA.
  • It is a 7.1 amplifier and although we don't have the speakers to support this yet, this is a planned upgrade in the future. It has a 5.1 mode for our current speakers though.

In The Box

In the box are the main unit, a remote control (RC-1156), batteries for the remote, a brief install guide and a manual on a CD-ROM. Also included is a microphone for the automated setup (covered later) and the various aerials and power lead. This is a heavy bit of kit!

On the front of AVR-1912 is a source select knob (wasn't sure that we would ever use this but, it does get used occasionally), a master volume control know and in between is the display. Underneath this are four 'quick select' buttons and four Internet Radio buttons (3 presets).

The 134-page PDF manual is basically essential reading. The brief install guide doesn't tell you much and the remote has many buttons on it, and it is not immediately obvious what they all do. The Internet Radio button being a classic example.

RC-1156 remote control
The RC-1156 remote control has a lot of buttons! We don't plan to use this remote long term if at all possible. It is required for set up and to change audio modes though. We could set the Harmony up to do this too but, the time required does not justify the benefits.

Setup & Configuration

Devices like this are not for the faint hearted. They have a baffling level of complexity and features, even for those with detailed knowledge of home cinema systems. It is definitely one of those devices where it pays to read through the instruction manual, to understand what this device is capable of and how best to set it up. We are not used to reading manuals!

Because it switches both audio and video via HDMI the amount of wiring in our setup is now greatly reduced. The main HDMI monitor output is the only connection really required into our TV now, freeing up the other ports and making SCART leads a thing of the past. That said we have fed an analogue, stereo audio feed from the TV audio out back into the amp.

The AVR-1912 needs a wired Ethernet connection. This is not a problem as we have a Gigabit switch under our TV cabinet for all the devices we connect and test in our lounge.

Back of the AVR-1912
The back of the device is much simper than the Marantz SR5300 it replaces because most of the inputs are now via HDMI. It has speaker terminals for seven speakers though, as it is a 7.1 amplifier.

Our KEF PSW 2010 subwoofer is simply connected using a single phono lead from the 'Subwoofer Pre Out' output into the line input. Be careful to read the guide on positioning and setting up your sub-woofer. I makes a big difference! Despite what this guide says, my AVR-1912 supports Audyssey MultEQ XT and takes 8 readings before calculating. With the volume of the sub set out 12 o'clock we saw the -12dB reading, so had to turn down a bit.

The AVR-1912 can also support direct watching of the TV and supports audio out. This is useful if you have a device like BT Vision and it is recording two channels. Watching the TV directly allows you to watch a third channel or it could allow you to watch Freeview HD (which isn't supported by BT Vision). The problem we have with this is that our TV does support HDMI 1.4a with ARC (Audio Return Channel) and it also doesn't have an audio optical out connection (which the AVR-1912 supports). We managed to get around this by telling our Logitech Harmony One remote to use the CD audio input when watching the TV directly and have connected the stereo TV phono output into the CD phono input. This works and you can also reconfigure the AVR-1912 to display 'TV' on the front, when this input is selected. We have also renamed other input.

We have run through the auto setup wizard once to gain a feel for the process but, we will be using it again once we have finished the physical installation. This uses the microphone to measure volume and phase changes at your 1st, 2nd and 3rd favourite seating positions and then optimises the sound for you speaker set up. Having done this once we were quite impressed with the results.

One useful feature we have found is the ability to control each source signal level. In particular our BT Vision box is quite quiet compared to the other sources we use. In the audio setup menu it is possible to boost each source (+12dB in this case).

Networking

By default the AVR-1912 uses DHCP to obtain an IP network address. If you want to use some of network management features, then it is better to use a fixed IP address. You can also configure the networking capability to be on whilst in standby mode, to allow remote control via the network interface. This will use more power though.

In Use

In standby mode the AVR-1912 uses about 2W of power (3W when using network standby feature). When in use this rises to ~50W. We like the fact that displays and lights are quite subtle. The power button has a ring around it. This is off when in standby mode, red when in network on standby and green when on. There is a noticeable clunk as the relays switch on power up or input selection but, it is quieter than the Marantz SSR5300 it replaces in this respect.

It is not immediately obviosu but adjusting the audio settings affects the the current input source only and these are also remembered for each input source.

Restorer

From the user manual: Compressed audio formats such as MP3, WMA (Windows Media Audio) and MPEG-4 AAC reduce the amount of data by eliminating signal components that are hard for the human ear to hear. The RESTORER function generates the signals eliminated upon compression, restoring the sound to conditions near those of the original sound before compression. It also corrects the sense of volume of the bass to obtain richer sound with compressed audio signals.

It has three modes and an 'off' setting. The default for most inputs is off and 'mode 3' for the iPod and NET/USB inputs. The most convenient way to change the restorer setting is via the Denon iPhone/iPod app. We tend to leave it in 'mode 3' for iPod/AirPlay use and it does improve the sound quality when using MP3 tracks at high bit rates (~200bps VBR or 320Kbps).

DLNA

The AVR-1912 is both a DLNA player and DLNA media renderer. It only supports playback of music and photos though (no video). As with most DLNA media renderers, the range of video formats supported is minimal.

On our Windows 7 laptop we could see the AVR-1912 as a network device. A right-click and 'install' installs the drivers required to right-click on content and stream it straight to the device as a DLNA media renderer. Whilst we could get MP3 music files to play, displaying photos just didn't seem to work.

As a media player the AVR-1912 can see our DLNA media servers OK. It will only play music and photos though. The photo display is disappointing too, with the picture quality being poor and the aspect ratio wrong.

Apple AirPlay

We could immediately see the 'DENON:[AVR-1912]' device available in iTunes for streaming via Apple AirPlay and it was also visible to iPhones and iPods in our home. It is possible to stream music to the AVR-1912 but it doesn't display video. This is a real shame and we hope it arrives in a later software update.

If you have turned configured the 'network on standby' feature, then the AVR-1912 will turn on when an attempt is made to play music through it using AirPlay. This is a neat feature and the AVR-1912 will automatically switch on and start playing, though it takes a few seconds to start up.

If you are playing through iTunes and have checked 'Allow iTunes control from remote speakers', then you can use the AVR-1912 remote control to pause, skip, etc. whilst playing.

iPod/iPhone Dock

The AVR-1912 has a USB port on the front to dock an iPod, iPhone or any other USB storage device. It can also supply 1.0A for charger of devices too. This would not be enough for an iPad. It would be better if the USB port was on the back of the device so that you could leave an Apple cable and proper Apple dock connected.

The port does not supply power whilst the AVR-1912 is in standby mode and when an iPhone is plugged in, it takes control of the device and displays the docked image on the screen of our iPhones. This is pretty much what you would expect for general storage device control and playback.

Once docked, you therefore have to use the UI displayed on the TV screen to access you music. You can only access music and not video content or photos, again pretty much what you would expect for generic USB storage devices.

Navigating iPhone content
Navigating music is pretty much like you would do it on an early iPod.

Music playback on screen
When playing music, the track information is displayed briefly on screen along with album art. A screen save kicks in after about 5 seconds to leave a black screen.

Denon Control Dock For iPod/iPhone

Denon do sell a control dock for the iPod and iPhone (ASD-1R or ASD-11R) which allows access of photos and videos and will recharge your Apple device. This is an optional extra though, it is expensive and annoyingly, it requires another plug-in power supply. Interestingly, this page on the global Denon website does not show iPhone support with this dock.

Denon Remote App

We have downloaded the Denon remote app and it works pretty well. It's not something you tend to use very often but it does provide access to some feature on the remote that are not easily accessible on the Logitech Harmony One universal remote we use in our lounge.

Internet Radio

The Internet Radio service looks very similar to the Reciva app we have used in the past and seems to feature the same channel line up (944 stations in total). This is one aspect that requires the remote to operate fully. To be perfectly honest we can't see ourselves using it often. Driving it via a remote control is no fun after an iPhone app and touch screen.

The remote and the front of the AVR-1912 unit feature 3 presets to enable quick access to some stations though. You can store a station to these buttons by pressing and holding them down for a few seconds.

Network Services

Flickr

You can add Flickr contacts and display their sets and stream on screen. Like our other attempts to get photos onto the TV with the AVR-1912, the aspect ratios are wrong :-( Apple TV does a much better job of this.

Last.fm

Unlike the Last.fm web service, you need to have a subscription for this to work on the AVR-1912 and this is £3 per month. No thanks!

Napster

Napster is a subscription based music streaming service.

Web Control

The AVR-1912 has a web interface to enable web control. This makes a lot more sense if you assign a fixed IP address to the device and don't use DHCP but it is easy to discover the web interface URL in Windows 7, by selecting viewing the network and clicking on the device properties.

To be honest, we haven't found a real need to use this feature yet.

Party Mode

In party mode, the same network audio (Internet radio, Media server or iPod DIRECT) can be played on multiple Denon products (if they also support Party Mode and are connected in a network). The party mode consists of one 'organizer' and up to four 'attendees'. When one unit starts the party mode as the organizer, up to four devices on which the party mode function is activated automatically participate in the party as attendees. This isn't a feature we can see ourselves using but if you want to synchronise music throughout your house, this is one way to do it.

Configuration

This section lists our current configuration and settings for each input source:

BD

HDMI input 1 and used for Sony PS3. Input is renamed to 'PS3'.

SAT/CBL

HDMI input 3 and used for BT Vision set top box. Input is renamed to 'BTV'.

TV

This input is normally used with the HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) or the TV optical audio input but our TV supports neither of these, so we are not usign this input. It might appear confusing to have two input named 'TV' but, this is only the case if you are using the rotary input selector on the front of the AVR-1912. Since we are using a Logitech Harmony One universal remote, this is never an issue.

NET/USB

T.B.C.

DVD

HDMI input 2 and used for Sony DVD player. Input is named 'DVD'.

V.AUX

HDMI input 6 and used for WD TV Live player. Input is named 'V.AUX'.

DOCK

We haven't really used this yet.

TUNER

We haven't really used this yet.

GAME1

T.B.C.

GAME2

T.B.C.

CD

We don't have a dedicated CD player connected to this device. As our current TV only has analogue audio out, we have connected the CD audio inputs to this output. Input is named 'TV'.

iPod

This is not a selectable input as such but is 'selected' when an Apple device is connected using AirPlay.

Summary

The AVR-1912 is quite a complex piece of equipment. With the supplied remote many things are far from intuitive. On a day to day basis we are using a Logitech Harmony One universal remote which greatly simplifies the user experience. The supplied remote is still required for some things but, these are largely configuration settings that will be remembered once set up.

In terms of performance the audio and video quality is excellent. We haven't tested it with any 3D content though, because we don't have any devices that support it in our home. Once set up, the audio quality from our KEF 2001.5 speakers is gorgeous and finally, their musical capabiliites have been revealed. The Audyssey set-up has made a huge difference and has simplified the set-up in a way that our previous Marantz SR-5300 could never do.

The DLNA support is poor. The only real feature of use is the ability for it to work as a media renderer for music. In our household we do this all via Apple AirPlay anyway. We plan to keep our WD TV Live device under our TV as a media player in its own right and as the main DLNA device under our TV.

In a similar vein, the AVR-1912 doesn't really cover all the required bases from an Apple AirPlay perspective either. The lack of video support basically means that we will be keeping our Apple TV under the TV too. This is perhaps our biggest disappointment with the AVR-1912.

Despite the above reservations, it does all the main things we wanted from a home cinema amp and it also does them really well. The DLNA support was icing on the cake and the Apple AirPlay support (for music) is a very useful and well implemented feature. We just love the way the device automatically comes out of stand-by when you connect to it via AirPlay.

It is a shame that the extra things promised in the headline specification don't really work as well as we had hoped but, we have no regrets in buying this device. Having taken a few days to set it all up as required, it is now the core of our lounge home entertainment system and all video and audio devices are played through. Once you have experience TV, DVDs, Blu-Ray disks and games consoles through a decent surround sound system like this, then there is no going back.

We also wonder how many people manage with a device like this without also using a universal remote. Having installed the device and set it up, I could manage with multiple remote controls but it would be painful. There is simply no way I would be allowed to inflict this on the rest of the family though. Our Logitech Harmony One remote really is the only remote required in our lounge and makes accessing all of our devices a simple and pleasurable experience.

Updates

9th March 2013

A new firmware update was downloaded and installed.

13th January 2012

A new firmware update was automatically downloaded and installed. This can take about 7 or 8 minutes to complete.

November 2011

Everyone considering or buying this device should read the AV Science forum thread - 'The **OFFICIAL** Denon AVR-XX12 Model Owner's Thread'. It provides invaluable information on features and set up.

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