One of the big surprises at CES 2007 was what we didn't see in the home-theater space. Despite expectations that a slew of next-gen A/V receivers would debut, Sherwood Newcastle was the only brand of note to announce a receiver offering HDMI 1.3 connectivity and built-in support for Blu-ray and HD DVD-friendly Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding. But now that CES is history and the 2007 product cycle is ramping up, details on new receivers are finally starting to leak out: Home Theater Blog posted details on five new Denon receivers that it says will debut in the summer.
According to the site, Denon's "08" model line will be released in two phases: two high-end models in July, followed by three more affordable models in September. Both the $2,500 AVR-4308CI and $1,600 AVR-3808CI are said to include four HDMI 1.3 inputs, support for internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio decoding, built-in Ethernet connectivity for digital media steaming (plus Wi-Fi on the AVR-4308CI), and redesigned graphical user interfaces (not unlike the one found on the Sony STR-DA5200ES). Supposedly, they'll be followed two months later by the AVR-1508, the AVR-1708, and the AVR-2808. The 2808 allegedly will offer the same HDMI 1.3 support and internal Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD decoding as the higher-end models. While the 1508 and the 1708 will lose the onboard next-generation audio decoders (like today's receivers, they should accept linear PCM soundtracks via HDMI with no problem), they will retain HDMI 1.3 compatibility.
That sounds like yet another impressive receiver lineup from Denon, but there's a big caveat: The company issued a firm "no comment" when we asked about the rumors. That said, a little creative searching reveals that these details jibe with at least some of the information that Denon revealed behind closed doors at CES. Furthermore, the July to September timetable lines up with the summer/fall release schedule that Denon has adopted in recent years, allowing the company to showcase its refreshed product line at September's CEDIA trade show (note last year's July 26 announcement, for example). Likewise, it's widely believed that the components needed for this new generation of receivers--the chipsets and core electronics that enable HDMI 1.3, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD decoding, and next-generation analog/digital video conversion--won't be available to any manufacturer until spring at the earliest. (It's no coincidence that Sherwood Newcastle's HDMI 1.3 receivers are scheduled for release during that same summer time frame; other brands will be joining the pack as well.)
So while this news remains firmly in the rumor category, it certainly has a strong whiff of verisimilitude. While the details (such as pricing and exact features) are likely to change, we're betting that the new Denons will be pretty close to what's being reported on Home Theater Blog. Each of the alleged models--the AVR-4308CI, the 3808CI, the 2808, the 1708, and the 1508--look to be feasible updates of the existing AVR-4306, AVR-3806, AVR-2807, AVR-1707, and AVR-1507 (two of which are CNET Editors' Choice recipients). At least, we're hoping these rumors turn out to be true. If they're anything close to the leaked specs, these receivers will be the most crave-worthy home audio products in a long time.