November 21, 2010
Continued from Denon AVR-3310CI Receiver Review (Part 1)
Sound Performance: Feeling the itch to get back to a big Hollywood title, specifically one with over the top sound I popped in ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ and skipped forward to chapter 29. One of the best demo scenes of recent memory in my opinion. (p.s. dear neighbors, if you were home during this portion of my review, my deepest condolences.) While it wasn’t on par with our demo system that consisted of a Denon AVR-4806 and PSB GT1 towers, it was easily better than my old Marantz SR7500, and I’m sure the uncompressed PCM was a big part of that. The sound was lush and well placed in the soundstage, the bass was pronounced and the top end was smooth and free of harshness even at loud volumes.
Random clips and observations. During ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ a gunshot that panned from back to front (sort of unusual) really caught us off guard, the wife actually jumped, I pretended not to. From there I wanted to check in with something I’m very familiar with, Serenity on Blu-ray. After as many viewings as I’ve had with this title its hard to discover anything new but the rear channels were more active than I ever recall hearing them, a lot more active.
I’ll paraphrase a few lines form an upcoming review, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ on Blu-ray (without giving too much away). From the first few notes of Science Fiction Double Feature, it was obvious the soundtrack had been given the special care it deserved. It had a analog like quality (that’s a good thing kids, contrary to what you’ve been told) to it. I honestly don’t recall ever hearing better on Blu-ray. Regardless, its among the very best I’ve ever heard from a major studio, on a 35 year old, low budget title no less. In case you can’t tell, I love the sound on this disc and the way it sounds through the AVR-3310CI.
I threw on an old DTS HD Master Audio demo disc I picked up at CEDIA a few years ago and skipped forward to a live cut of Perter Gabriel performing ‘Salisbury Hill’. Talk about active surrounds… this track might be a bit too frantic to discern overall sound quality but it again illustrates the 3310’s ability to render complex surrounds and center channel audio, while never detracting from what going on with the main channels.
Changing to another demo disc, this time a TrueHD sampler with a cut from Nine Inch Nails, ‘The Hand That Feeds’. I’m always appreciative of how much easier it is pick out the bass-line on high resolution audio tracks, again very active surrounds, great vocal placement in the center channels and impressive soundstage.
Lastly, I selected another live clip from the TrueHD demo disc with Dave Mathews and Tim Reynolds, ‘Crash’. Acoustic guitars can be very telling in discerning the performance of a systems digital-to-analog stage. While I can say I’ve heard more convincing acoustic guitar playback from a digital source, I can just as easily say those systems cost three to four times more than what the AVR-3310CI originally listed for (much less what it can be had for now). We’ve still got a ways to go before the digital-to-analogue conversion of consumer grade AVR’s (even really good ones) meets or exceeds what the high-end audio world accepts as good digital playback. That said, the Denon AVR-3310CI sounds leaps and bounds better than gear of its caliber did just a few years ago.
Feeling like I’d sufficiently explored Blu-ray I wanted to move onto some other sources, this is where I encountered my first hang up. I started off by playing a few video files through the HTPC, at first all seemed well but later I started getting random audio dropouts. After reading up a bit on the subject it looked like a firmware update (through the built-in ethernet port) might be able to fix the problem, or at least I hoped so.
This is where we had a bit of a scare with what appeared to be a failed firmware update. Fortunately the update picked right back up where it left off after the stall and was able to complete. I’ve read some accounts of early models being bricked by these stalled firmware updates but I wouldn’t let it trouble you much. Again most of the early units have already been flushed from the retail supply line and they’re still under warranty when bought new.
Video Performance: The Denon AVR-3310CI features a Anchor Bay ABT2010 video processor that handles tasks like deinterlacing, format conversion, cadence detection, 3:2 pull-down and on and on. It’s pretty much the swiss-knife of video processing inside the AVR. I had intended to do extensive on/off comparisons of what the processor was capable of but to be quite honest it looked so much better than the raw signals I just moved on and enjoyed the video.
I’m not sure if its the Mosquito noise reduction, cadence detection, deinterlacing, combination of all the above or something else entirely but my HD cable never looked better. It was as if someone took a cloth and wiped away a layer of grime from the screen. I also really got a kick out of how much better the Nintndo Wii looked. The video was much smoother, the jagged lines that were once quite prevalent were all but gone, this was a bit of a surprise but a welcome one.
HQV Benchmark Results (1080i source deinterlaced via receiver)
HD Noise Test A: Full Pass
HD Noise Test B: Full Pass
Video Resolution Loss Test: Full Pass
Jaggies Test A: Full Pass
Jaggies Test B: Full Pass
Film Resolution Loss Test: Full Pass
Film Resolution Loss (Stadium) Test: Full Pass
Obviously the Anchor Bay Technologies chip scoffed at these tests as any kind of real challenge and never blinked an eye. While these sort of tests aren’t always the tell all of video performance, its nice to see a processor that does indeed make gorgeous video pass the technicals (with ease) as well.
Conclusion: I’ve lived with the Denon AVR-3310CI for about two and a half weeks now and overall I’m extremely pleased with the purchase, especially pleased when I think about what I saved going with last years model. It was a long overdue addition to my system but a welcome one just the same. Which leads me to the only caveats I can offer before a full-on, 100% recommendation. If the lack of full 3D pass-through, ethernet over HDMI, audio return channel and or 4k support bothers you, then by all means look at the AVR-3311CI or another HDMI 1.4 capable device. If not, this very well may be the best bargain in AVR’s you’ll see in a very long time.
Easy to use interface
Net Radio and HD radio
Minor sync issues with some legacy equipment (firmware update fixed)
Early models suffered from firmware issues
No un-switched outlets on rear panel