I haven’t worked with Denon products for quite a while, but my experience with them in the past has been quite good. So when I went into our A/V room and saw the DHT-1311XP, I was quite intrigued by how their entry-level home theatre system would be.
Design and Features
The box was quite heavy, and I needed the help of a colleague, to unpack and set up the entire system. Inside the box, there were 5 satellite speakers, one subwoofer and a mother of an A/V receiver. The DHT-1311XP is actually a combination of the AVR-1311 A/V receiver (110W x 5-channel) with the SYS-391HT 5.1 speaker set.
Denon calls the DHT-1311XP ‘A Home Theater in a Box’, and it has 2-way front and centre speakers along with 2 full range surround speakers and a 100-watt subwoofer. Together, this home theatre system delivers 650 watts of sound and has loads of cool features including 3D support, 4 HDMI outs and 1 HDMI in, dock connectivity for your iPod and each of the AV receiver’s channels has its own identical power amp for improved clarity.
The first thing I noticed about this home theatre system was the build quality. The receiver itself looks and feels solid, but there are certain things about it that just don’t seem right. For instance, the aux input is covered with a flimsy piece of plastic that just pops out when you press into it. Another thing I noticed was that the cables provided looked really cheap, stringy and low budget. The least Denon could have done is provided thicker, better quality cables. But besides that, the buttons and knobs on the player have been fitted quite well, and seem like they’d last for a while.
The receiver itself looks nice, with just the right amount of buttons on it, including the HDMI input select, surround mode select dimmer and source select. There also is a 3.5 mm auxiliary input for your iPod or other portable media player and a headphone jack. The subwoofer is quite large, and feels solid, but the satellite speakers don’t fare so well in my eyes. The first thing I noticed was how light they were, although Denon seems to have put a nice finish on them.
Connecting the speakers to the system was a real pain in the a*s, as the inputs were really flimsy and plasticky. It has one of those systems where you have to unscrew the plastic caps and then shove the wires in. This took us at least 15-20 minutes, and quite frankly, I didn’t appreciate that very much. The back panel has a ton of inputs, and apart from the regulars like HDMI, composite, component and AM/FM radio, they’ve also added an iPod dock connector, which can be used with one of Denon’s iPod docks. Obviously they haven’t included the dock, because all these companies have evil agendas to make you buy more of their stuff.
The remote for the DHT-1311XP seems to have been designed by some obsessive-compulsive nut, as almost the entire thing is symmetrical. There’s an equal number of buttons from top to bottom. Hell, they’ve even added a separate switch to power the damn thing on and off! The only place that’s not symmetrical is in the centre of the remote where the navigation and volume control buttons are, so maybe there’s some hope for the poor designer after all. The remote does have some good features, though, such as an audio delay button in case of latency in sound. In fact, I used this function, and can confirm that it works very well. And if you have a Denon iPod dock, you can even control your iPod with the remote.
When we were finally done, we decided to test it with a 3D disc. So we hooked up the player to a 3D blu-ray player and watched a little bit of this documentary called Spacestation 3D.We watched it on a mammoth of a TV, the LG Infinia LX9500, and the experience was really good. We also watched a little bit of The Last Samurai and the picture reproduction was very nice indeed. Wish I could say the same for the audio quality, though.
Denon has really disappointed me with the audio quality of this product. I tried playing a few tracks off of an audio CD, and was met with some really harsh treble and mids at high volume. The bass was quite loud, but wasn’t thumping in my rib cage, as I'd expected. I had to turn it down, as I thought I’d go mad or even worse, deaf if didn’t. In fact, I tried turning up the levels all the way up, and the satellite speakers started crackling really loudly. Whoa! Scary!
But at medium levels, music sounds pretty good on this. I’d recommend you to use the normal stereo mode, as this lets the sound get distributed only to the left and right channels and give you a tighter sound. Of course, there are other modes to choose from such as multi-channel stereo, PL II cinema and DTS Neo: 6 cinema. One more disadvantage of this system is that there’s no way to even EQ the sound to improve it.
The sound quality while watching movies is quite passable. One awesome quality that this home theatre possesses is the quality of dialogue reproduction, which is really good. I could actually feel the intensity of the words being spoken while watching ‘The Last Samurai’ on Blu-Ray. But I noticed during the war sequences that the swords hitting each other felt like they were actually hitting me, and not in a good, realistic way. The sounds were way too sharp and my ears actually started to hurt after a point, so I had to turn the volume down further. In my opinion, movie audio sounds best in the PL II mode.
So the moral of the story is that you can watch movies and listen to music with this home theatre system, but don’t expect spectacular sound while watching hardcore action scenes, playing games, head-banging to heavy metal or stomping your feet to the latest electro grooves. OK, who am I kidding?! It isn’t a very good system, and I wouldn’t recommend my friends to buy it.
This home theatre system is Denon’s entry level one, but that is not an excuse enough for being an also-ran. Sure, it’s a whole lot better than a lot of stuff available, but it certainly does not justify the price tag, which is approximately Rs. 39,900. And don’t forget that you will also have to buy a Blu-Ray player to go with this, which will empty your pockets further. I’m not saying that this is the worst I’ve ever heard, but Denon could’ve done way better.