Small home theater systems can function fine without an AV receiver. But it always helps to have one if you really want to take your sound experience to another level. The latest Blu-ray titles utilize advanced codecs to bring out the best audio quality but a home theater receiver is required to harness these capabilities. The problem is that you have to spend a hefty premium on one. There might be some highly affordable models but don’t deliver on the performance. But Denon is a brand known for quality home theater receivers and they actually have an affordable model. The Denon AVR-E200 comes out as an aggressive 5.1-channel home theater receiver priced at $250. Can Denon prove that $250 can deliver a decent piece of equipment? Find out in this review.
The Denon AVR-E200 has very simple looks which should be expected since this is a budget home theater receiver after all. Compared to normal AV receivers, the Denon AVR-E200 weighs pretty light at around 18 pounds. While that is still heavy compared to other home theater components, some of the higher-end home theater receivers weigh twice as much.
The front panel features a single row of thin buttons for basic controls including the source select buttons and Denon’s usual quartet of Quick Select buttons. Along with the usual info display and jacks, the buttons are placed situated on the sunken center portion of the front panel. The volume button and power button are found outside the sunken panel.
The phones and portable media player jacks on the front are pretty standard but there are no composite jacks present. However, Denon decided to put an aux HDMI in on the front which is rather interesting because even some mid-range home theater models lack a front HDMI port. But being an entry-level model, you have to decide if this home theater receiver is best for you because there are only 3 HDMI inputs on the back and a single HDMI out. Therefore, you should go with a higher tier model like the AVR-E300 if you have more home theater components as the AVR-E300 boasts 4 HDMI inputs on the back but is still on the affordable side. That being said, the front panel HDMI input is still a video input despite the AUX label so you should be able to conveniently hook up any device that utilizes HDMI such as a laptop, digital camcorder or smartphone. The back panel also features class 2 wiring speaker terminals along with a minimal amount of digital optical and coaxial inputs, a trio of analog audio inputs and some composite video inputs and outputs.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Denon describes the AVR-E200 as a “Good” home theater receiver because it has the class-leading Denon technologies despite the short feature set compared to the other 2013 models. One advantage of getting a very basic AV receiver is the ease in getting the component set up. It lacks the new setup assistant that other higher-end models have but the setup process is still very straightforward. The simple graphical on-screen display makes it easy to adjust the settings of the Denon AVR-E200. This is the only way to optimize your speaker setup since there is no automatic calibration feature. Because the speaker connections on the back are color-coded, it should be easy to match them with the colored speaker cables. Because there are variable crossover points present, the AVR-E200 is compatible with a wide selection of speakers ranging from the very compact ones to the full-size speakers and subwoofer.
The remote is also simple to use at it has discrete buttons for source selection so you won’t have to cycle through the inputs to find the source you wish to view. It is recommended that you follow the labels of the HDMI ports so you can take advantage of the Quick Select functions on the front panel too. The remote control is ready to go out of the box since the package includes a pair of AAA batteries.
The Denon AVR-E200 may seem minimal on the connectivity side but there is a lot of power under the hood. The AVR-E200 features a fully discrete power amplifier output stage design that has a maximum rating of 165 watts for each audio channel. It also features a Cirrus Logic 32-bit DSP processor. All of these audio specs equate to wide dynamic range combined with low distortion so the overall output is actually very good. Of course, the usual high resolution audio decoders are on-board including DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD so any music concerts and movies on Blu-ray play back wonderfully and the immersive sound experience is there providing that you set up your 5 speakers and subwoofer properly.
The HDMI ports also deserve a closer look because they all have the latest specifications. Each HDMI port features 3D pass through technology allowing you to connect a 3D TV and Blu-ray player if you want to take advantage of the extra dimension. The inputs have a unique HDMI Standby Pass-through mode which keeps your HDMI components connected and accessible even if the Denon AVR-E200 is switched off.
Other items included with the AVR-E200 is an FM antenna and AM loop antenna if you want to use radio and an owner’s manual. This manual is found on the included CD-ROM so you will have to pop it in a computer if you want to use it. A Quick Setup guide is included too so installation should really be a breeze.
If you compare the 3 Denon 2013 models, you will see that the Denon AVR-E200 really has a lackluster feature set. But if you need the basic audio enhancements and you know how to work with the limited connection options, the AVR-E200 can be a perfect buy. $250 is really an amazing price point to reach considering the fact that audio quality isn’t sacrificed so much and there is an HDMI input on the front too. Denon really knows how to design a good AV receiver that caters to a mainstream audience.