Almost a year after the introduction of Apple’s AirPlay technology – which is an easy way to stream audio, video and photos from a Mac or iOS device over a local network – we’re finally being able to buy non-Apple products which support it.
One which we’ve covered online is Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin Air, and another is this Denon AV receiver.
An AV receiver, for those of you who might not know, is a controller that accepts audio and video from various sources, decodes and processes the signals and outputs them to a TV or projector and anywhere from two to eight speakers.
In my home-theatre setup, for example, my Denon AVR-2805 takes an HDMI signal from a Blu-ray player, sends the 1080p video to my plasma TV, decodes the surround sound using one of many Dolby or dts options and sends it to five speakers and a subwoofer. But switch the input to CD and it shuts off the video circuits and subwoofer completely and sends a pure stereo signal to the front two speakers only. It even turns off the front display to minimise distraction from the music.
As you can imagine, AV receivers have to be updated regularly to keep up with constantly changing technologies. This latest Denon isa 7.2-channel model packed to the gunwales with the latest tech; most importantly, AirPlay, 3D-friendly HDMI 1.4a and Audio Return Channel. The latter lets you use a single HDMI cable to send video to a TV, and to bring the TV tuner’s audio back to the receiver – eliminating the need for extra audio cabling. The catch is, your TV also has to be ARC-enabled as well.
The AVR-3311 also has six HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, features Dolby TrueHD, dts-HD Master Audio and Dolby Pro Logic IIz surround- format decoding, and AL24 Processing Plus – which upscales 16-bit sound quality to 24-bit. It supports three zones, and even comes with a second remote for use in another zone.
But on to AirPlay – the feature most Apple users will be interested in. The surprise here is that the AVR- 3311 isn’t Wi-Fi-enabled, so to use AirPlay it has to be connected to your router via Ethernet. This isn’t always possible (think long cables or data points next to your AV gear), so a Wi-Fi option really should be offered.
There are no AirPlay details in the manual, but setup is simple – as soon as I plugged the Denon into our router it could be seen as an AirPlay option on all our Macs and iOS devices. Choosing it automatically rerouted the AV to the receiver, which showed the track name and elapsed time.
It worked well … most of the time. At times, once a connection was made via AirPlay, the receiver would freeze and needed to be turned off and on. At other times, once playback had been stopped the connection dropped and couldn’t be made again until another device had been paired.
Other benefits for iPod and iPhone users are a direct-digital USB input with on-remote playback controls, plus a free iOS app. However, there’s no on-screen display for showing album art and the like.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice.
The Denon AVR-3311 is a top-quality AV receiver, with technology that makes your sound and vision hear and look great. But would I buy it for AirPlay? Not yet. Denon isn’t alone in having AirPlay glitches, though; the technology itself needs attention.