I'm still listening at really high levels do get descent volumne, about -5 dB, does this sound like a red flag to anyone?
My two front speakers a little older JBL floor standing speakers, the 2309 set them to large, I set the crossover freq for the sub at 80 hz. It also let's me set a crossover freq for the fronts and the center, currently set to 60 hz, should I change that to 80 hz or is it good to have some overlap. I've got a nice sub, mfw-15 so want that to handle as much of the bass if possible.
If you've got older, inefficient speakers, you may need to crank the volume more to get the sound level you need. On my setup, -20 to -25 is blasting for music, I don't think I would ever go to anything higher than -10.... but on HD movies, I'm regularly at -10. So it's not necessarily anything to be alarmed about.
You should set the sub's crossover higher, at 120Hz -- this is a high-pass filter for the LFE track, if you set it too low you will lose a little LFE info (check out the audyssey thread and read about sub settings). This is separate from the speaker crossovers, they don't necessarily need to match up.
For your front towers, you have three options with the Denon:
1. Set them to Large, set SUB to LFE only -- the towers will play full range, and the Sub will get LFE signals only (plus crossed-over low frequencies from your center which I assume is set to SMALL).
2. Set them to Large, set SUB to LFE+MAIN. The towers will play full range, the sub will get LFE and ALSO will "double up" the low-end bass below the crossover frequency. For example if you set fronts to LARGE, sub to LFE+MAIN, and crossover the fronts at 60Hz, the fronts will play everything (20Hz-20kHz), the Sub will play LFE, and the sub will also double up the bass on the fronts below 60Hz.
3. Set your fronts to SMALL, cross them over at 60Hz or 80Hz, and just let your nice sub do all the heavy lifting. This will take some of the load off your receiver, since the low-frequencies will be driven by the sub's amp, and you may find this helps with the volume issue as the receiver doesn't have to work so hard.
Other strange thing which I'm sure I'll work out, the dvd keeps defaulting to Stereo for the surround mode and then I manually change it.. What do I do to keep it at a default dolby digital setting? I'm using an hdmi dvd player (not blu ray or hddvd).
First, make sure that "AUTO SURROUND" is set to yes in the setup of the Denon, so it remembers your settings.
But, this sounds more like a DVD player settings issue. I bet you are sending two-channel and the Denon wants to go to Stereo. Make sure in your DVD player (I assume you are using HDMI for audio and video, right?) that the HDMI audio settings are set to "bitstream" or something like that.
One way to check is to look at the display of your 2309 and see what channels you are receiving. Play a normal DVD that you know has a 5.1 soundtrack (either DD or DTS, whatever) and select that soundtrack, play the DVD, and look at your display -- on the left side it shows what input channels you are getting, on the left it shows the channels it is outputting.
If only two squares are lit up on the left, then the Denon is only receiving two-channel info and you need to change a setting on your DVD player.
You can also press the "STATUS" button, on the left below the display, and it will tell you what you are getting. If it says "PCM 44.1 kHz" then you are getting 2-channel from the DVD player. It should say "DOLBY DIGITAL 3/2/.1" or something similar for a 5.1 soundtrack.