Denon AVR-2105 7.1 A/V Receiver April, 2005 Piero Gabucci
In the new lineup of Denon receivers, the AVR-2105 is
fourth from the top in price and features. Attending the Denon press
conference last year, I had already reviewed the AVR-3805 and I was
intrigued by this unit, the AVR-2105 at $649 MSRP. It costs about half as
offers similar features. I was curious and stated so, revealing that in my
opinion that at this price point, this unit was the one to watch.
The Denon AVR-2105 is anything but an ordinary mid-priced receiver. Right upfront I'll say the Auto Setup (microphone provided) alone puts this unit ahead of the pack, and whether you subscribe to the benefits of assisted set-up this unit looks more and more like its big brothers, both the AVR-2805 and the AVR-3805.
The AVR-2105 is based on the AVR-3805 chassis, and although the AVR-2805 is between the two, these units (2105 and 3805) are very similar. Knowing the 3805 intimately I will offer the occasional A/B comparison. I hope it is helpful to someone considering whether to upgrade to the higher priced receiver. You'll either love that I'm comparing feature for feature the 2105 to the 3805 or you'll hate it, so forgive me if you're the latter.
The AVR-2105 is a 7.1-channel receiver, boasting a plentiful 90 WPC into all channels at 8 ohms with 0.08 % THD, and 125 WPC for 6 ohms, more than enough for the average home theater. It decodes all current surround formats, DPL-II DPL-IIx, DD EX, DTS, DTS 96/24 5.1, DTS ES Discrete 6/1, ES Matrix 6.1 for both Cinema and Music modes. This Denon has the ability to assign two amplifier channels to a second zone with independent volume control.
Like the AVR-3805, and all other Denon receivers for that matter, the 2105 employs the use of Analog Devices Hammerhead SHARC 32-bit floating point DSP processing. D/A converters on all channels are handled by AD-1837 24-bit, 192 kHz Analog Devices.
All Denon receivers are now available in both traditional black and the newer silver gray. Looking at the face of the unit, you'll recognize the styling similar to all the Denon line of receivers, chamfered edges, large clear volume and input controls, and a large easy-to-read front display panel. Whereas the 3805 hides much of its controls behind a cool flip down panel for a clean flush look, the 2105 sports all its features on the face.
The rear panel is also similarly laid out with arrangement of speaker connections to one side and audio connections on the other. The power cord is fixed, and two additional AC outlets are provided. Missing are Trigger outputs and a RS232C Control Port, but at this price it should not be an issue.
The 2105 allows nine analog inputs, including Phono, CD, Tuner (with presets), TV/DBS, CDR/Tape, two VCR inputs, and DVD/VDP. Instead of two VCR inputs, it might have been better to separate Movie DVD and Music DVD inputs.
There is a set of 5.1 analog inputs too, for DVD-A and SACD. Impressively video inputs include three component, and five each for composite and S-Video. Five digital inputs are included, four of which are optical (1 on the front) and one coaxial. For the future, I would suggest deleting the composite video inputs and laying in HDMI inputs instead.
On the audio output side, there are pre-outs for all channels. For those using VCRs and CDR/Tape, there are three Rec-Out sets. There is one digital optical output.
Video outputs include component video for a monitor, three composite and S-Video for VCR or monitor. The 2105 delivers video up-conversion of composite or S-Video sources to 100 MHz component video for the best video playback possible. I can tell you my experience with this video playback was superb. Again, for future models, delete the composite video and go with an HDMI output instead.
The 2105 is supplied with the RC-980 remote control, the same unit supplied with the 2805. Although unremarkable, this learning universal remote is surprisingly functional. It has a straightforward layout, and I found both set-up functions and normal use to be accomplished simply and efficiently. The remote is not backlit but does have the usual substitute glow-in-the-dark features. All A/V set-up can be accomplished from the remote as well as on-screen. Because of having so many buttons, the labeling is small and hard to read.
The 2105 can be set up from either the remote, on the receiver's front panel, or through an S-Video connection to your monitor via OSD (On-Screen-Display). System Set-up begins by asking if you'd like the unit to perform in auto set-up. If you enter “Yes”, the analysis takes a few minutes. Before you plug in the supplied multi-directional microphone, you'll have to decide if you want to use two of the power amplifier channels to either the rear surround or to a second zone. Unlike the 3805, Denon provides the DM-S305 microphone with the 2105, which is very cool for a $649 receiver.
The Auto Set-up is a nine step process including speaker size, distance, and delay. Before it goes any further, it will perform a speaker check and all the while storing the previous calibration. If you end the process anytime during the set-up, it will remember the stored settings. An error message will warn of improper polarity (this is a very nice feature that will let you know if one or more of your speakers are out of phase with the rest of the speakers) or if it cannot detect left or right front speakers. Naturally this same set-up can be handled manually. Internal test tones allow each channel to be modified from -12 dB to +12 dB in 0.5 dB increments.
Bass management allows eight crossover settings from 40 Hz to 250 Hz, with a recommended 80 Hz. With the front speakers set to Large, the subwoofer mode setting allows the LFE signals to be sent to the sub as well as the mains.
Again, with the microphone in place, the unit runs a series of pink noise bursts and the room parameters are then set. Testing the results with my Avia test disc, and Radio Shack SPL meter, I found the settings that the Denon made were quite accurate. Moving furniture around or relocating the microphone did yield alternate results and I found the adjustments hardly subtle. Unlike the 3805, no Room EQ is provided on this 2105.
The final set-up steps include assignment of the digital inputs and analog inputs. As I mentioned, the 2105 provides an excellent 100 MHz pass-through for HDTV signals, and my DVD movie playback was outstanding.
The AVR-2105 gives you an Auto Surround mode, which when activated, detects playback signals such as two-channel, stereo, or digital, and also multi-channel signals in DD or DTS.
If you're inclined to listen to FM broadcasts, the Auto Tuner will detect and store up to 56 stations, but make sure you have the best reception before running the auto detection.
Operationally, for the novice, I recommend setting the Surround mode to Auto and let the unit do all the flagging. A series of indicator lights on the display will tell you if the unit is giving you the playback desired. For those interested in multi-channel audio playback, either DVD-Audio or SACD external analog input jacks are provided.
The 2105 is equipped with the potential for 7.1 Surround Sound via the DSP (Digital Signal Processor). This includes 5CH/7CH stereo where a two-channel signal gives sound to the entire surround speaker channels. There is a Mono Movie mode for watching monaural movies, and self explanatory Rock Arena, Jazz Club, and Video Gme modes. For embellishing two- channel sources, either the Matrix or Virtual modes will “enhance” the music sources. A Personal Memory Plus function will remember the Surround Modes last played for any source and automatically play them back in the manner you previously enjoyed.
The Surround mode option does require some set-up, which makes a dramatic difference in the end result. For example, the Rock Arena mode can be adjusted for room size and tone defeat. With the Matrix mode, a delay time can be set within a range of 0 to 110 ms.
Denon has been criticized in the past about the content in its user manuals, and I know they are doing something about it. However the manual does provide some helpful information about optimizing your own space for speaker placement, including movie watching or music listening and gives some insight into DTS and Dolby Digital material.
During my time with the AVR-2105, I had the opportunity to try a variety of speaker “types”, including full floor-standing loudspeakers, in-walls, and satellites. This afforded me a bit of luxury in that as a mid-priced receiver, all options for speakers are probable.
I began with two-channel CDs. Listening to my favorite jazz station out of Newark WBGO-FM, I discovered for me a new singer in Rene Marie. Rushing out, I bought her latest, Serene Renegade. This is a highly personal CD, and the lyrics remind me of her passions and past. She has a wonderful range, and the AVR-2105 produced clean detailed music. Even her breathing was nicely reproduced.
Marvin Gaye's DVD-Audio mix is a collection of some of his best known works, and again I enjoyed the variety of depth and softness to his voice. The Denon allows a subwoofer boost, up to 15 dB especially for multi-channel audio. I set that to the maximum and enjoyed the additional lower end.
I finally broke down and bought Roxy Music's Avalon in SACD format. This really took me by surprise, as I truly enjoyed how musical I found this disc to be, and the Denon faithfully rendered Bryan Ferry's voice and female background singers. The wonderful saxophone is airy and engaging.
Watching movies was also a treat with the 2105 in that it had plenty of power. I did make a minor adjustment to the receiver's auto set-up, as I personally prefer more punch in the subwoofer, without having to elevate the volume to provide some couch rumble. In the new Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the thunderous pounding of the Whomping Willow tree shook me with each strike.
In the Shrek sequel, where in my opinion Antonio Banderas steals the show as Puss in Boots, the Denon delivered with excellent voice clarity. The dialogue was precise and easy to follow.
In the extended version of LOTR Return of the King, DTS ES in 6.1 was wonderful, and the 2105 delivered. The rear channel (I ran the auto set-up again with a rear speaker positioned) sparkled with detail.
I found the digital flag clicking a bit loud, especially as I channel-surfed the movies on my satellite system. It's nice to know audibly that it's picking up Dolby Digital, but annoying just the same. Both the volume control and the input knobs, although silky in feel, move between settings too fast up or down. The labeling on the face of the receiver could be a bit more legible especially in darker rooms, and if you have your receiver 20 inches off the floor as I do, it's a bit difficult to read.
The key elements to me are: Power, is it adequate; Formats, does it decode all the current formats; Setup, is it simple to setup and give enough options for playback; Inputs, does it have plenty of inputs; and the Remote Control, is it functional, programmable and easy to use. I felt it was simple to ask myself, did this receiver deliver what it promises? The answer to all of the above is yes. Did I feel it failed or inadequately reproduced sound? Absolutely not, in fact I found it stellar for less than $700.
The AVR-2105 has an abundance of inputs, adequate power, and has Auto Set-up, (microphone included) and excellent video pass-through. The differences between this unit and the pricier siblings, auto room EQ for example, might tempt a novice to shell out a few hundred more, but I contend someone looking for a mid-priced 7.1 channel receiver will be more than happy with the performance of the AVR-2105.
- Piero Gabucci -
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