- Manufacturer & Model
- Denon AVR-X8500H 13.2-Channel AV Receiver
The industry’s first native 13.2-channel AVR, Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction, compatibility with Auro-3D/Atmos/DTS:X, HEOS wireless performance, voice control through Alexa, Siri, and Google, promised HDMI 2.1 upgrade path.
The Denon X8500H is an industry first, providing owners the ability to power systems as large as 7.2.6 without the need for external amplification. It provides access to all three of the industry’s immersive codecs, in addition to a range of wireless audio options. While the X8500H currently carries HDMI 2.0 video performance, owners are guaranteed future access to HDMI 2.1 upgrade kits. Overall, performance is flawless, making the X8500H one of the top AVRs on the market.
When Denon originally announced its new flagship AVR-X8500H 13.2-Channel AV Receiver, I was quick to raise my hand for a demo sample. Why? Because it, by design, is like nothing else the market has ever seen. The X8500H is the industry’s first AVR to offer 13 channels of performance without the need for external amplification. That means home theater fanatics can power up to six Atmos channels and seven multi-channels – or any number of other immersive configurations in between – all from one box. Toss in cutting edge technology to accommodate 4K video, all three immersive codecs, streaming and multi-room audio, world class room correction, and more, and the X8500H shows like a superstar on paper.
Since its 2018 launch, the X8500H has remained in high demand, delaying our ability to snag an early review sample. However, once Denon caught its breath and shipped one to my office, it was game on. And as you can imagine, it was one game that was insanely fun to play. The bulk of this review has been completed for quite some time, but I’ve opted to hold its release in hopes of re-installing the receiver for evaluation of Denon’s recent IMAX Enhanced firmware update. Alas, special circumstances have forced my theater room offline for the last four months, making that portion of the evaluation impossible. So, instead of further delaying publication, we’ll add any pertinent IMAX Enhanced details in the months ahead.
(Editor's Note: This review has been updated since Denon released firmware enabling IMAX Enhanced. Impressions can be found in the Performance section of this review.)
Kicking the Tires
The X8500H delivers everything you’d expect from a $4,000 receiver (and more), including a substantial physical presence. Just lifting the receiver from its box leaves a notable impression, as its extended depth (19”) and hefty weight (51.4 lbs) dwarf that of the typical AVR. In my case, the X8500H replaced a Marantz SR7012 and the receivers’ 20-pound difference felt much more significant than one might think.
The receiver’s bold physicality extends well beyond its dimensions and weight, as its topside grille provides a glimpse of its gorgeous electronic innards. Lifting the grille reveals 13 (yes, thirteen) discrete Class A/B amplifier modules flanking a massive high-current power transformer dressed in fancy graphics. And two robust heat sinks sit proudly overtop of four fans, primed and ready to keep things cool as the X8500H conducts business. The landscape is completed by complex layers of circuit boards littered with micro-SMDs, processors, capacitors, and the like, neatly interconnected by ribbon cables and Molex connectors.
The front flip down door reveals extremely convenient controls.
Moving around to the front, the X8500H presents two large knobs positioned on either side of a top-mounted LED display and a thick brushed aluminum door. That door conceals a range of convenient operational controls along with several source buttons, single HDMI 2.0 and USB ports, and stereo headphone and Audyssey microphone jacks. When left the closed, the door keeps the X8500H looking rather clean-cut and unassuming, however laser etchings across the top-edge of the faceplate serve as a stately reminder of the receiver’s elite technological nature.
For all of the front side’s classy character, it proved to be the only source of any negatives (albeit, minor negatives) from a review perspective. First off, I was disappointed to find that Denon didn’t include front-mounted RCA jacks (a matter convenience for those of us that want to quickly plug and unplug a source, such as a computer running Room EQ Wizard). Secondarily, for the coin, I’d expect a bit more of a weighted feel from the master volume knob. While Denon’s solution is adequate, the receiver’s hefty price tag and flagship status are deserving of a knob that exudes refinement. Oddly, the smaller input selector knob (found on the left side of the face) provides a heavier notched feel, emphasizing the volume control’s deficiency. And finally, the receiver’s front door is unnatural to open, requiring an awkward push along the door’s bottom edge (a maneuver that isn’t readily obvious). To Denon’s credit, the door’s operation is detailed in the manual’s fine print, but those looking for quick access will likely be frustrated by the lack of a push-release or top-edge finger hold.
The backside of the X8500H is loaded - literally - with connectivity.
Journeying around back, the X8500H presents an intimidating sea of connectivity comprised of commonly found digital and analog options, including grounded phono and 7.1 multi-channel inputs. Closer inspection reveals excellent labeling (some of which is color coded) that makes set up and operation simple and streamlined. Each of the seven rear HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs are fully capable of handling modern 4K video demands (4K/60p, HDCP 2.2, Dolby Vision, HLG, and HDR10 HDR, wide color, 4:4:4, and eARC). And for those of you with an eye to the future, Denon says that X8500H owners will have access to an optional HDMI 2.1 upgrade kit, eliminating any concerns of obsolescence as the next HDMI specification takes hold.
Overall, Denon’s choice of packing materials and various accessory contents (which include an Audyssey microphone, a portable microphone stand, a multi-functional remote control, cable labels, and more) are exactly what you’d expect from a top manufacturer. If you’d like to watch the X8500H get unboxed and see its included contents, simply click on the video link below.
We could spend pages combing over the X8500H’s technical prowess. Rather than bore you with extreme detail, let’s spotlight a few of the receiver’s more unique features. At its heart, the X8500H is designed to provide owners with a world class immersive audio experience, possessing the ability to process and power a 13.2-channel speaker array comprised of six Atmos channels and seven multi-channels. That’s quite a bump from the typical 5.1.2 and 7.1.2 processing that average to above average receivers natively output. Of course, owners aren’t tied to running six Atmos channels, as the X8500H can be used to run a high-end 11-channel experience with the added benefit of additional height channels, front width channels, or a centrally mounted Auro-3D Voice of God speaker. And for those of you that prefer a smaller single room arrangement, the X8500H can easily shift gears and provide power for two additional zones of speakers.
To bolster the X8500H’s industry-leading immersive game, Denon endowed the receiver’s backside with 30 gold-plated speaker posts, allowing for 15 different speakers to be connected at once. And while the receiver can only process and power 13 channels at any given time, the extra two can be used to run a 7.2.6 Atmos array consisting of Front Height, Top Middle, and Rear Height speakers, while simultaneously reserving a centrally mounted Voice of God speaker or Center Height channels for moments when Auro-3D is used. This allows users to seamlessly switch between the two disparate immersive formats which require different speaker arrays for optimal playback.
Speaking of Auro-3D, much like other recent Auro-capable Marantz and Denon receivers, Sound United ships the X8500H with Auro-3D unlocked and ready for action. That fact, for me, is a huge selling point. Of course, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are also included, making the X8500H a relatively rare bird when it comes to accommodating all three immersive codecs.
The X8500H houses four fans for cool running operation.
Power-wise, the receiver is rated to deliver 150 watts per channel (8 ohms, 20Hz-20kHz, THD 0.05%, 2ch driven), backed by AKM AK4490EQ 32-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converters dedicated to each of its 13 channels and two new dual core SHARC DSP processors capable of performing some 10 billion floating point computations per second. For anyone requiring power output beyond the X8500H’s capabilities, the receiver houses 15 pre-outs to match the deployment flexibility offered by its supplied speaker posts.
Wirelessly speaking, the X8500H carries dual antennae for stable Wi-Fi connectivity, complemented by Bluetooth, Apple Airplay 2, Sound United’s fantastic HEOS multi-room platform, access to networked DNLA servers, and built-in support for various streaming services including TIDAL and Spotify.
On the Hi-Res Audio front, the receiver’s front USB port and network capabilities open access to 24-bit/192 kHz Apple Lossless, FLAC, and WAV lossless playback, along with DSD 2.8 MHz and 5.6 MHz audio tracks. Additional file compatibility includes WMA, MP3, and MPEG-4 AAC.
In terms of control, owners can use the included motion-activated backlit remote, a smart TV remote, or one of several apps. While the free Denon 2016 AVR Remote app is a tad clunky, both the HEOS and Audyssey MultiEQ Editor apps are excellent options for controlling and fine tuning playback. Additionally, the X8500H also works with Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google Home for simplified voice control.
Denon's Setup Assistant provides users with an excellent interface.
Thanks to Denon’s Setup Assistant, the X8500H self-guides owners through the complexities of installation and hook-up. Even the greenest of users will find the Assistant easy to follow as it provides simple instructions for various speaker arrangements, connecting sources and outputs, and the like. The entire process culminates with Audyssey’s top shelf MultEQ XT32 room correction analysis, which utilizes a supplied microphone and stand to fine tune output. Using various test tones, Audyssey measures speaker distances, sets levels and crossover points, and equalizes sound to best match a room’s environment. For an extra $20, owners can purchase the Audyssey app (Android and iOS) for enhanced control over the entire process, including before and after results comparisons, adjusting EQ frequency ranges, and saving/loading calibration results. It's worth noting the app isn't used in conjunction with the Setup Assistant, rather it's used immediately after setup, thus allowing owners to skip the Assistant's onscreen calibration prompts. I’d highly suggest making this app a purchase priority.
Much like the Setup Assistant, the X8500H’s menu system is well designed. It’s simple to navigate and chock-full of features, such as Zone control, network diagnostics, manual speaker settings, Stereo Mode settings for 2-channel listening, lip sync adjustments, renamable source inputs, and so much more. There’s even a selectable “Set Up Lock” that protects against unwanted access to menu systems. In all, the X8500H can be easily customized to deliver a fantastic home theater experience.
A look at the Audyssey MultEQ app, available for iOS and Android.
For review purposes, I integrated the receiver with a 7.2.6 speaker system utilizing SVS’s Ultra Towers (2), Ultra Center (1), Ultra Surrounds (2, side surround), Ultra Bookshelfs (2, rear surrounds), Prime Elevation (8, Front Height, Top Front, Top Middle, Rear Height), and SB16 subs (2). Other equipment and sources included an OPPO UDP-205 4K Universal Disc Player, a JVC RS520 4K projector, TIDAL, Spotify, Pandora, and a USB memory stick.
Room EQ Wizard results for the Left channel plus subs pre (green) and post (red) calibration.
The Audyssey correction process proved to be highly effective at integrating my system’s subs and speakers, and was fairly spot-on with post correction channel level settings. Above, you can see a before and after measurement of the system’s Left channel and subs (crossover set at 80Hz). As for other integration, such as joining my home’s Wi-Fi network and linking TIDAL and Spotify to the HEOS app, each was successfully connected on first attempts.
(20th Century Fox)
Entering the performance evaluation stage of the review, there were two questions weighing heavily on my mind: (1) would six Atmos channels (versus four) lend to a significantly better immersive sound experience in my 14’ x18’ x8’ theater room and (2) could the X8500H truly command a clean 13-channel presentation, even without the crutch of externally amplified subwoofers?
We’ll start with the second question first, as it’s been asked by several readers in private emails. Of course, the answer may vary from system to system, but I found the X8500H carried more than enough muscle to drive my SVS Ultra Atmos system (sans subs) to very loud levels without distortion. I threw quite a few demanding songs its way, such as Meat Beat Manifesto’s “I Got the Fear, Part 3,” Lorde’s “Pure Heroine,” and Whethan’s “Good Nights,” and was able to take volume levels to roughly 105-109dB with room to spare. That kind of performance was realized while using both Dolby Surround and Multichannel Stereo playback modes, having noted “super clean bass and squeaky clean highs.”
I noted similar performance characteristics while running through movie demo scenes from Deadpool 2 and Deepwater Horizon, as immersive output was “clean, responsive, and on point, straight to reference levels.” And with subs integrated across all channels? Forget about it! Performance was off the charts amazing, leading me to give the amp section a swift stamp of approval.
It’s for real, folks.
Using the HEOS app, I was able to quickly switch between a variety of sources. One moment I was enjoying “Take the Money and Run,” on Pandora, only to switch to songs on my TIDAL favorites list within seconds. HEOS, for me, is a rock star solution that functions seamlessly and logically, providing handy access to various sources and output controls. It’s practically indispensable.
2-Channel listening fell right in line with expectations, delivering a sound stage loaded with life and composure. And while I dabbled with the receiver’s various processing modes, that kind of listening doesn’t exactly float my boat (though, I did note that “Mono Movie Mode” projected an interesting front-loaded effect). The one exception is Auro-2D, which I discussed in my recent Auro-3D Exploratory Review. For me, Auro-2D remains the best stereo to multi-channel upmixing package on the market and the X8500H didn’t disappoint.
Speaking of Auro-3D, outside of running through a few demo clips on a 9.1 arrangement, I didn’t spend a tremendous amount of time evaluating the receiver’s 3D capabilities. If you’d like to read an in depth evaluation of the Auro playback experience (using a Marantz SR7012 and SVS’s Prime Elevation speaker), click here. For purposes of this review, it’s worth noting the X8500H completely matched experiences relayed in that piece.
I did, however, spend a significant amount of time running the X8500H through the DTS:X and Dolby Atmos gauntlet using an Atmos arrangement consisting of Front Ceiling, Middle Ceiling, and Rear Height channels. First things first, buyers need to understand that DTS:X only utilizes 11.2 channels for playback. In the case of the X8500H, the receiver’s processor directed DTS:X encoded immersive material on Ex Machina, Furious 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows 2, and Despicable Me 2 to the system’s Front Ceiling and Rear Height channels, completely skipping the Middle Ceiling speakers. And the processor (likely at the behest of DTS) doesn’t allow DTS:X material to be upmixed to 13 channels via Dolby Surround. Ironically, at the time of publishing this review, Atmos material could be processed by Neural: X (but, like DTS:X, Neural:X only utilizes four immersive channels), however legacy DTS-HD MA encoded content could be upmixed to all six immersive channels using Dolby Surround.
Still with me?
When it came to Atmos material, the X8500H took advantage of all six ceiling channels for native Atmos films such as Deepwater Horizon, Deadpool 2, Passengers, Baby Driver, Unbroken, and Gravity (Diamond Luxe). And as I allowed the X8500H to literally blow my home theater enthusiast mind, I couldn’t help but think back to the decade’s old 5.1 versus 7.1 debate. Does the use of rear sound channels actually provide a better experience? For many, the answer is a resounding “no,” however I’ve always found 7.1 to deliver a worthy uptick in performance (hence my interest and willingness to run a system with seven multichannels). And when it comes to Atmos, my experience says that ceiling channels vastly outperform Atmos modules, and four ceiling channels are a significant experiential boost over two.
So, that leaves us with the X8500H’s special trick of bringing two more speakers to the immersive mix. And for my money, the ability to run a full set of front, middle, and rear Atmos channels helped to make the entire immersive experience more cohesive and seamless. It simply boosts the Atmos machine one level higher, as sound movements (such as the Dolby Atmos Demo Disc's helicopter clip) move with a gapless flow that just sounds better. That boost was even noted when running A/B upmixing comparisons between Dolby Surround and Neural:X for Lone Survivor’s original DTS-HD MA encode (which led me to note that Dolby’s use of six ceiling channels adds a “palpable vibrancy to the presentation, upping the impact and emotion of the film”).
Atmos flicks, such as Deadpool 2, made for a jaw-dropping experience, as the X8500H unleashed glorious sonic terror throughout my room. From the thunder of Colossus flying a jet overhead to the punishing slam of gunshot blasts and intense action sequences, multichannel sound pans and overhead activity were consistently smooth, and bass pounded with integrated perfection. The amount of precision laced audio realism was insanely spectacular. That experience was realized from film to film, especially during a viewing session of Deepwater Horizon, which took my theater room’s audio output to heights so delicious and enthralling, it brought an AV tear to my eye.
Diving even deeper into the world of cutting-edge immersive sound, the X8500H’s IMAX Enhanced capabilities were evaluated using Journey to the South Pacific (4K UHD Blu-ray, IMAX Enhanced). Much like I experienced with standard Atmos and DTS:X encoded discs, the X8500H was quick to identify South Pacific’s immersive status, displaying “IMAX DTS:X” on the receiver’s front display. Once confirmed, I settled in for some underwater fun. The resulting soundstage was spectacular, dripping with the watery sonics of activity in the ocean. And while stunning, it’s nearly impossible to know if South Pacific’s enhanced audio presentation is noticeably better than a straight DTS:X equivalent. However, it is important to note that IMAX Enhanced processing did engage and audio output was simply stunning.
The Denon X8500H is a certified 800-pound immersive audio gorilla. Godzilla in a tux. A phenomenal piece of AV gear.
Not to mince words: Denon’s X8500H 13.2-Channel AV Receiver is – hands down – the best AVR that’s ever graced my home theater room. It’s an enthusiast’s dream machine, carrying the incredible ability to conduct terrific 2-channel and 7.2.6 channel immersive sound presentations without the help of bulky standalone amplifiers. Toss in extras, such as HEOS, Auro-3D, and the promise of HDMI 2.1 upgradability, and the X8500H is likely the most complete commercially available receiver on the market.
The X8500H’s biggest drawback is a price tag that sits one dollar shy of the $4,000 mark, which is a hefty sum to pay for a flagship product. That said, it’s an investment that should ride smoothly for years and years to come. If you’re looking for the best all-in-one immersive sound receiver package, the X8500H should sit squarely atop your short list. I cannot state this strongly enough: Emphatically Recommended.
X8500H 13.2-Channel AV Receiver Specifications
- Number of Power Amps: 13 (Front L/R, Center, Surround L/R, Surround Back L/R, Height 1 (Front wide) L/R, Height 2 L/R, Height 3 L/R, Height 4 Front Wide L/R)
- Power output: 260 watts per channel(6 ohms, 1 kHz, THD 10%, 1ch driven); 190 watts per channel (6 ohms, 1 kHz, THD 0.7%, 2ch driven); 150 watts per channel (8 ohms, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, THD 0.05%, 2ch driven)
- Speaker Impedance: 4 - 16 ohms
- Preamplifier Section Input sensitivity/impedance: 200 mV / 47 kohms
- Frequency Response: 10 Hz - 100 kHz — +1, –3 dB (DIRECT mode)
- S/N Ratio: 102 dB (IHF-A weighted, DIRECT mode)
- FM Tuning FR: 87.5 - 107.9 MHz
- AM Tuning FR: 520 kHz – 1710 kHz
- Power Supply: AC 120 V, 60 Hz
- Power Consumption: 900 W (Standby 0.1 W, CEC standby 0.5 W)
- Correction: Audyssey MultEQ XT32, LFC, Sub EQ HT, Dynamic Volume and DynamicEQ
- Video: 4K/60 Hz, 4:4:4 color resolution, HDR, BT.2020, Dolby Vision and HLG
- Hi-Res Audio Support: High resolution DSD (2.8/5.6MHz), FLAC, ALAC and WAV support
- Wireless Audio: HEOS, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer, Network Audio Streaming
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 17.1” x 7.7” x 19.0” in
- Weight: 51.4 lbs
- HDMI: 8 (Front 1)
- Component (video): 2
- Composite (video): 4
- Phono: 1
- Analog Audio: 6
- Digital Optical / Coaxial: 2 / x 2
- USB (front): 1
- HDMI Monitor / Zone 2: 2 / x 1
- Component: 1
- Composite Monitor: 1
- Audio Pre-out (SW): 15.2 ch
- Zone 2 / Zone 3 Pre-out: 2.0 ch
- Phones: 1
- Ethernet: 1
- Microphone Port: 1
- FM Tuner Antenna: 1
- AM Tuner Antenna: 1
- RS232 /12 V Trigger out: x 1 / x 1