Some of the top audio equipment manufacturers like Denon know exactly how to build the best home theater receivers enthusiasts can buy. But making budget home theater receivers can be more challenging because features have to be removed and specs need to be toned down to meet that reasonable price point. Figuring out what compromises to make is key to making a good budget AV receiver and so far consumers are better off getting a midrange home theater receiver since the most affordable ones are often lackluster. But Denon is hoping to change the landscape of affordable home theater receivers by launching a small family of models all priced under $700. $700 would normally get you a pretty good unit but the Denon AVR-E400 is looking to steal the spotlight as the top tier model of Denon’s 2013 budget lineup.
Denon hasn’t changed its formula in building quality home theater receivers so the AVR-E400 doesn’t really stand out compared to other models. But the Denon AVR-E400 still looks clean and minimal because it is still a budget AV receiver after all. The Quick Select buttons below the status display are perhaps the most useful out of the front buttons since they provide quick input source toggles if you plugged the source in the right labeled HDMI port on the back. These buttons blend in with the other thin buttons but they are all clearly labeled.
There are not as many connection ports on the front compared to some of the existing home theater receivers and that is not a bad thing. Rather than seeing the usual composite inputs, you are treated with a single HDMI port so you can conveniently hook up any portable device that utilizes HDMI audio and video. Smartphones, digital cameras and laptops can plug right in but since this works like any other HDMI port on the back of the receiver, you can actually put other components as well. 5 additional HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output are found on the back so you should prioritize those first. There isn’t much else found on the back aside from the usual speaker terminals, audio in jacks and limited component and video in jacks so make sure you look at a picture of the back of the AVR-E400 before deciding to purchase. Going back to the speaker terminals, they sport a refined design that makes it easier to hook up the speaker wires.
The Denon AVR-E400 has the same power-amp circuitry as the other new budget 2013 home theater receivers but the AVR-E400 drives a little bit more power rated at 185 watts. That is enough for the Denon AVR-E400 to handle a 7.1-channel speaker system or a combination of a 5.1-channel system and another pair of speakers located in another room. Multi-zone and Multi-source is supported in the most basic way possible but it could be good enough for a lot of people.
Being one of the budget models, one very nice thing that is worth noting is how simple it is to set up the AVR-E400. The new setup assistant function guides you step by step in configuring the various aspects of the home theater receiver. Even if you didn’t plug in the speakers yet, the assistant even shows an exact image of the speaker terminals along with some highlights so you know exactly where to make the connections. With Audyssey Auto Setup and EQ Technology in tow, all the appropriate speaker optimizations are made to match your speaker setup.
The setup even includes the network configuration which is one of the other main highlights of this model. An Ethernet cable is required to establish a connection between the receiver and the wireless router. When connected to the Internet, you can utilize online music streaming services like Pandora, SiriusXM and Spotify. Even without an Internet connection, the networking features are pretty rich. With Apple AirPlay support, you can take your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch and stream any multimedia files wirelessly to the AV receiver. The USB port on the front can be used as well if you want to charge the device or have an older iPod model. PCs connected to the same network as the home theater receiver can stream music and photos as well. Denon also released the Denon Remote App for iOS and Android devices allowing you to control various aspects of the receiver right from a supported phone or tablet. With your phone or tablet combined with the Denon Remote App, it becomes a suitable replacement to the remote that is included. But the remote isn’t entirely useless as it already comes with AAA batteries and it has a friendly button layout.
If you don’t have a 7.1-channel speaker setup or don’t need the multi-zone support, you can actually get the Denon AVR-E300 and save about $200 while still enjoying all the features mentioned so far. But another set of features that are exclusive to the Denon AVR-E400 are the video enhancements. Every HDMI port can handle 4K video as well as upscale lower resolution content to 4K quality if you happen to have one of those highly expensive and massive 4K displays.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
The Denon AVR-E400 is currently available for $600 which is a great deal already for a 7.1-channel home theater receiver. The overall audio performance is good and it should enhance your Blu-ray titles and gaming experience. It is a solid solution to consider if you want hassle-free setup and plenty of networking features to play around with. It is also a refreshing shift in Denon’s strategy and it should convince more people to get a good home theater receiver. In fact, budget consumers that have a basic HDTV and no home theater receiver are the biggest winners here. If none of your home theater components support any wireless technologies, the Denon AVR-E400 can fill in the gap nicely while tying in all the components together and enhancing the audio experience. Even when the AV receiver is turned off, the HDMI components still stay connected.