Pros Component system sound with a HTIB size. Superior quality of workmanship. Unbelievable (until you try it) sound quality. Many more listed in the review.
Cons A very all-inclusive, complex manual with a skimpy index that doesn't list the many items covered in the manual.
Summary At age 60, but still a geek and ex-audiophile, I'm at the point in my life where I wanted to simplify things. Yes, my expansive component Home Theater system was great...but it still required constant tweaking and manipulation...mostly just because all the features and capabilities there there...not because they actually needed adjusting.
We have two home theaters...the high end components of the primary one were recently stored away and replaced by a Bose Lifestyle 48, which is a very nice (and simple) system...but I needed something even more simple (and with only a 2.1 speaker configuration) for a 10x12 alcove area in our FROG for a private theater, where I didn't have room for rear speakers. Enter the Denon 301.
I lugged this thing home, all the while telling myself there was no way it would ever live up to my expectations, but since it was not optimally setup at the store for a decent demo...this was my only option.
From opening the box to being completely setup was maybe 15 minutes. In fact, it's packaged so well that unpacking it takes longer than setting it up. Default setting were all set to flat, so you have to tweak it to suit your tonal preferences, but that's a good thing.
I was absolutely blown away by the sound this tiny little system puts out. If you have it setup against a wall, with another wall reasonably close behind you, you're in for a real surprise...especially if you are a non-believer in virtual speakers. The left and right rear virtual speakers sound almost as if they are really there! Granted, this system is best suited for two, very friendly, people, as you have to be in the center of the sound field, but even outside of it the sound is great.
The remote: first one I've seen that is done right. All the controls you need to use a lot are on the front, and all the buttons you need occasionally are on the back behind a clever little door. Very cool, Denon!
I only have two (very small) nits about the system. First, the neon blue light that circles the power button is a bit too bright...thus distracting from your overall vision that should be focused on the TV. Second, the manual is VERY complex and all inclusive...but very few things are even mentioned in the index, so it's difficult to find answers to your questions without spending a lot of time thumbing through the manual.
I have this paired with an Hitachi 42HDX62 Director Series Plasma and I simply could not be happier. FWIW, this replaces a very expensive Klipsch speaker system). Thanks, Denon...for disproving that small HTIB systems are inferior. Yes, it's a bit expensive...but in the grand scheme of things...it is well worth it.
Pros great high-end, beautiful mid-range, decent video upconversion, interesting and useful features
Cons movie audio playback: no presence, poor bass
Summary There is much to love about this unit. We bought this unit for our bedroom, as we wanted something small but still sounds great for audio and video playback. Unfortunately, the movie audio playback leaves so much to be desired that we (regretfully) returned it.
The high-end audio playback was superb for such a small and affordable (compared to our main stereo) system. Great detail, but never harsh.
The mid-range was equally great. Movie converstaion was clear and understandable.
The HDMI output upconversion was also good. Not quite to the level of detail as our other player (a Sony DVP-NS90V), but very usable. No other player is required, leading to a very small visual footprint. [Note: while it has auto output select, for us it selected 480p output, which was not very impressive. After manually trying all choices, we found 720p the best. Make sure to try all choices.]
Nice feature set. While the iPod (and, in fact, any USB memory stick) at first felt like a gimick, my wife really liked it.
There was absolutely no "presence", that is, the feeling from a good stereo that you are there. The low-end was missing. The "virtual surround" was pitiful. We tried everything: increased the subwoofer volume, increased the bass, even used a SPL meter. We could get the bass up, but there was still to presence, and it just made the mid-range muddy.
The manual also left a bit to be desired. Several typos, and many places in which the manual didn't explain what each feature did, but just detailed how to set it.
Pros can we say IPOD love the controll on the screen! HDMI output,
Cons large power cable will not fit home entertainment stand, HDMI was somewhat difficult
Summary I got this system since I have an apt. It was small HTIB. I didnt want to have to run a bunch of cables to have to take it down when I buy a house. Looked at Bose but the idea of putting all my music onto CD in MP3 format to put on the lifestyle system didn't make me happy. The two cons I mentioned are small to me but scored high on the agrivation factor. I have two degrees and the directions for HDMI were horrible. Maybe I should head back to school. IMPORTANT notes on the HDMI 1. there is sliding switch on the back that should be set to HDMI. 2. on the back of the remote in the seldom used button area is also a HDMI button this switches between 1080 and other outputs. I didn't really notice these in the manual untill 45min of messing with the general HDMI option. Other than that this system is working to the best of its capabilities.
Pros HDMI output, sleek design, sound quality easy setup
Cons difficult to navigate owners manual, could not play certain CDs
Summary This is my first home theater system I was contemplating between 5.1 system versus 2.1 system since my room was small I went with the 2.1 Let me tell you the two speakers are powerful. I saw the movie "The Incredibles" it was phenomenal you really feel you have 5.1 system. the price is a bit expensive but I think its well worth it.I can not play certain CDs I am not sure why I am able to play those CDs in my car DVD player and standard DVD player but my Denon would not play them. If anyone may know why please respond. Otherwse I am a happy customer.
Pros Excellent sound, easy setup, attractive and compact
Cons Needs repaired out of the box
Summary First the bad news. This player had to go back to Denon for an “HDMI Output Fix” about 3 weeks after I bought it. When connected to my display by the HDMI connector and playing a DVD, the display would go black for about 2-4 seconds every 20-30 minutes while the soundtrack played without a glitch. The video would then return to normal. This happened consistently with every disc.
When the repair on a relatively new component has a name, you know it’s gotta be a known defect. Per the terms of their warranty, Denon shipped it back for free, but I ended up eating the cost of shipping it to them (~$30) to repair a flaw that they knew about when they sold me the unit. I’m a little steamed about that, plus the fact that I didn’t have use of my new $1300+ dollar machine for the two weeks it was in the shop! Shame on Denon! They should have communicated the problem to all the owners, issued a recall, expedited the repair and paid shipping and insurance both ways. I spoke with a Denon rep who told me that this problem was common but somewhat display dependent.
Now the good news. It has worked flawlessly since being repaired. Video output looks excellent on my 42 inch display. It’s still a little tempermmental when it comes to handling flawed discs, but that’s a problem for a lot of players—both cheap and expensive ones.
The sound quality is excellent. It possesses a strong, deep bass that sounds awesome on blockbusters. For music, the bass is balanced and the mids and highs have a nice presence. The soundstage soundstage is quite good for normal CDs and truly awesome on SACD and DVD audio. It’s hard to believe there are only two satellites and a sub.
This system also receives outboard digital audio signals over coaxial and optical cables. My TV has an optical output for HDTV, so now I can take advantage of some of the excellent Digital Dolby 5.1 audio on programs like Soundstage and Austin City Limits, “The Tonight Show” and broadcast movies.
The remote is simple and straightforward, with the commonly used buttons nicely laid out on the front and the “geek” buttons all hidden on the back behind a door.
Compact and attractive.
Very good sound quality from all sources
Very good video output quality with upconversion to 720p and 1080i
“Surround” sound without the surrounds and the accompanying mess of wires
Very easy setup
Excellent remote control
May need “repaired” right out of the box to work properly—Denon is less than helpful when it comes time fixing this problem. Last time I checked, they still hadn’t placed an advisory on their owner’s site.
Overall, I like this product a lot, but I am going to deduct four points for Denon selling a product with a known defect and not publicizing it to owners or covering all of the costs of repair (including shipping).