(June 4, 2020) If it feels like home theater has been stuck in rut for the last six months, you’re not dreaming. Bogged down by the dreadful impacts of COVID, the AV world has been relatively stagnant and bleak, which makes today’s featured news all the more enticing. Thanks to the fine folks at Denon and Sound United, a new era of mid-priced AVR performance has been established... let the games begin!
Denon’s all-new X-Series is comprised of four highly competent models, giving enthusiasts access to powerful technologies across a range of price points. The 13.2-channel AVR-X6700H ($2,499) headlines the group, boasting 11 channels of onboard amplification (140 watts per channel, 8 ohms, 2ch driven) and dual independent sub-outs. Next in line is the 11.2-channel AVR-X4700H ($1,699) and AVR-X3700H ($1,199), both of which possess 9 channels of power (125 watts and 105 watts per channel, respectively). Much like the X6700H, these models also carry dual independent subwoofer outputs. And, finally, Denon anchors the new models with the affordable AVR-X2700H ($849), which delivers 7.1-channels of output backed by 95 watts per channel. The 2700H also carries dual sub-outs, but these are presented in parallel, representing a slight downgrade from its X-Series mates.
For those of you wondering, Denon’s AVR-X800H (reviewed here) will remain king of the X-Series hill, serving as the brand’s flagship AVR for the remainder of the year.
On the streaming front, the new X-Series gives you everything you’d expect, including Sound United’s excellent HEOS Built-In platform, in addition to Roon Tested capabilities. Of course, wireless features also include Bluetooth and Apple’s AirPlay 2, along with onboard access to popular streaming services like Amazon Music HD, TIDAL, Pandora, Spotify, and more. While HEOS Built-In is designed around an intuitive and user-friendly app-controlled music playback experience, it also allows owners to build and manage a complete whole-home wireless audio system comprised of other HEOS capable equipment and wireless speakers.
While most home buyers won’t be moved by custom integrator features, Sound United’s engineers have injected all four models with several integration tools such as an 8K HDMI diagnostic mode (for troubleshooting cables and other HDMI issues) and SRM Remote System Monitoring (Domotz Pro or OvrC). Additionally, the models carry a “Sports Bar” mode that allows for an HDMI input source to be combined with multiple audio sources.
In terms of notable new tech – and this might be one of the most exciting features – the AVR-X6700H will ship with DTS:X Pro decoding. This makes the X6700H one of the only (if not the only) sub-$2,500 AVRs to have this level of DTS:X functionality. The “Pro” version boosts overall support from 11.1 to a mammoth 30.2 channels of output. Of course, this only matters for enthusiasts operating six or more immersive height channels, but it’s a huge step forward for the DTS:X platform and a noticeable gain for systems that already enjoy 7.1.6 Atmos playback. Additionally, the X6700H’s 13.2 channels of processing allow owners to build multi-purpose system layouts capable of supporting every immersive format (including Auro-3D and IMAX Enhanced).
Speaking of IMAX Enhanced, the format is finally enjoying mainstream attention thanks to blockbuster titles (as opposed to documentary and educational media). Unfortunately, the X2700H does not carry IMAX Enhanced support (nor does it support Auro-3D). Buyers looking for IMAX Enhanced will need to bump their budget $350 higher for the X3700H or $850 higher if Auro-3D playback is desired.
Audyssey’s top-flight Mult-EQ XT32 room correction is included with every model accept the X2700H, and is now capable of storing two sets of Audyssey data for different listening scenarios. For example, a system can be calibrated to accommodate an audience in a wide seating area, while simultaneously maintaining the ability to re-tool performance for a single listening position. Additionally, the X3700H, X4700H, and X6700 all have a “Pre-Amplifier” mode, which provides a clear signal path when external amplifiers are used.
On the HDMI front, 2.1 takes center stage, providing the bandwidth needed for true 8K video, top HDR formats, frame rates as high as 120p, 12 bit and BT2020 color, and brightness levels reaching 10,000 nits. While these kinds of capabilities are still developing in the home theater space, upcoming gaming consoles from Xbox and Playstation will certainly benefit as they support 8K/60p and 4K/120p content. Also, Variable Refresh Rate, Quick Frame Transport, and Auto Low Latency Mode performance will ensure modern gaming systems deliver lightning-fast and smooth graphics devoid of noticeable lag.
Home theater enthusiasts will appreciate HDMI 2.1’s ability to handle HDR formats that optimize video on a frame-by-frame basis using dynamic metadata, in addition to the ability to enjoy immersive sound via Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC). Even more exciting is the introduction of Quick Media Switching, which eliminates blackouts when switching between content that contains different frame rates (note, this feature only works if the source, AVR, and display are QMS capable).
If you’ve dabbled in the world of 4K video, then you know the pains of deciphering signal information and equipment compatibility. The X-Series helps eliminate confusion with a straight-forward interface that analyzes and relays key information about incoming video data (resolution, type of HDR, color space, pixel depth, latency, QMS, and Quick Frame Transport), while displaying a television, monitor, or projector’s HDR and resolution capabilities, along with key 2.1 capabilities.
The rollout of new X-Series AVRs begins in June, with the arrival of the AVR-X4700H and AVR-X6700H. The AVR-X3700H and AVR-X2700H are due to begin shipping during July and August.