Pros: Good power and sonic character, even when driven hard.
Cons: Can be complex for some to set up.
What is it?
The Denon AVR-1907 is one of the middle priced home theatre receivers around these days, yet might seem less impressive against some of the entries from Yamaha, Onkyo or Sony. I bought this for use as a stand-alone home theatre unit that could also do double duty as a processor combined with a Rotel amp. I'll review the receiver on it's own of course. Sure, there are receivers out there for 3 grand, but they really don't make sense since they have yet to truly match the sound quality of separates for the same money. I consider the high end for a receiver to be 800-1200 dollars. After that you really should be looking at a separate amp/pre combo, which will also be a better value since the amp will always be usable down the road. The 1907 provides you with 7 channels at 85 watts each. It's also XM ready, though I'm a Sirius fan. It includes an odd two sided remote that does a good job, but many folks opt for all-in-ones and will leave this in a drawer.
Setting it Up
Like many home theatre receivers, the 1907 is quite complex and it's a good idea to read the manual carefully, even if you're familiar with this stuff. That said, I found setup fairly easy and I left the amp on for a couple of days before really doing any critical listening. The Denon 1907 ships with a microphone that allows it to setup it's own volume values for each speaker. You just place the mike in the seating position. I tried this for fun, and it did a reasonable job. Still, to get things "right" I ended up tweaking things my way as most people will do. The amp is fairly low key in appearance and nicely understated.
I tested the 1907 with my SVS speaker system that included a pair of SVS powered subs. This 2000 dollar speaker set was bought for home theatre only in my dedicated sound/theatre room. Test DVDs included Magnolia, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Saving Private Ryan and Monsters INC. The Denon drove the speakers nicely and without audible compression/strain to very loud levels. More importantly music and dialogue did not have the thin quality of some other units from Sony or Yamaha. It's a small difference, but once you hear it it's hard to go back. Denon's approach is still quite musical in the digital age and I found the 1907 better sounding that my recently returned Outlaw 1070 which exhibited a typical midrange harshness that I hear in many lower end units. The Denon however was smooth, silky and easy to listen to. My SVS subs are self powered and so thunderous that they often steal the show, but the Denon did what good audio gear should do: It disappeared and let the material shine.
Switching over to two channel stereo, I pulled out a pair of Paradigm 20's and went through a few CD's of Lyle Lovett and Nora Jones. The Denon was less revealing then some separates I've heard of course, but the sonic character was very pleasing and musical. Tossing in Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was as much fun as would be expected from any find amp. If I could note a flaw it might be that the Denon is not always going to be as bright (on some speakers) as some listeners might like, but a single notch of treble is all that is required. Soundstage was notably shallower than high end combos, but at this price point I'm picking nits for sure. The 1907 is an obvious example of very good amplifier technology trickling down to the mid-fi market, just as it has with speakers in recent years.
I don't know if this is the "best" unit for around 500 bucks, but I do prefer it to Onkyo, Yamaha and Outlaw amps costing a few hundred more. Some will want HDMI switching and bump up to more expensive Denon units. The sonic character of the Denon's are all in the same camp, so I don't think you can go wrong. A friend of mine is powering a good set of B&W speakers with a lower end Denon amp and he's quite happy. With so many home theatre receivers out there finding one can be a daunting and doubtful task, but the Denon's seem to have found their niche of sonic quality that makes them popular and I can hear why.