DENON AVR-X2500H

AV re­ceiver with HEOS If seven chan­nels are enough for your needs, Denon’s mid-price re­ceiver is bulging with both qual­ity and fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the HEOS plat­form.

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How much of an AV re­ceiver do you need? If you’re shop­ping for one, it’s a real and fun­da­men­tal ques­tion, to­gether with your price level. Clearly we’d all love to have the very top-of-the-line stuff, like Denon’s de­li­cious AVC-X8500H home theatre am­pli­fier which we re­viewed re­cently, and which I was us­ing un­til a few weeks ago, or the Marantz and Yamaha range-top­pers also fea­tured in this is­sue.

But the re­ceiver sit­ting at the cen­tre of my home theatre sys­tem as I write this is this rel­a­tively mod­est Denon AVR-X2500H. Price? Just a lit­tle more than one quar­ter of the cost of the AVC-X8500H. And you know what? I’m find­ing it strangely sat­is­fy­ing.

Equip­ment

That’s partly be­cause Denon has been quite clever in re­cent years at choos­ing the most, well, ‘rel­e­vant’ fea­tures to re­tain at each price point, while shed­ding the less nec­es­sary things.

One nec­es­sary thing is a good num­ber of am­pli­fier chan­nels. The Denon AVR-X2500H has seven of them, each rated at 95 watts into 8 ohms (two chan­nels driven) across the full au­dio band­width at in­audi­bly low lev­els of dis­tor­tion. All the amps also sup­port 4-ohm loads, al­beit with a mode switch to en­sure the out­put isn’t over­driven.

But I should note that it is lim­ited to those chan­nels, there be­ing no pre-am­pli­fier out­puts (apart from that for the sub­woofer) to al­low ex­pan­sion, so it is lim­ited to seven chan­nels. You can have 7.1 chan­nels or 5.1.2 chan­nels, but not 5.1.4 or 7.1.2, even with the ad­di­tional of power am­pli­fiers. That said, as I’ve of­ten men­tioned, two over­head chan­nels de­liver, in my view, some­thing like ninety per cent of the ex­pe­ri­ence of four over­head chan­nels.

Of course, the re­ceiver sup­ports Dolby At­mos and DTS:X, along with both com­pa­nies’ sys­tems for en­hanc­ing reg­u­lar sur­round by ex­tract­ing and us­ing height con­tent.

Well, it hasn’t dropped ev­ery­thing that’s al­most use­less. It still has com­pos­ite and com­po­nent video in­puts and out­puts. I think I’d have pre­ferred the au­dio pre-outs, but then I don’t have any gear that re­lies on ana­logue video con­nec­tions. Or, in­deed, much that could use them even if I wanted to.

But there’s plenty of dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing eight HDMI in­puts (all sup­port UHD and HDCP 2.2) and two HDMI out­puts. The only weak­ness there is that both S/PDIF in­puts are op­ti­cal. If you have, say, a CD player with coax­ial dig­i­tal out, you’ll be out of luck. (There must be dif­fer­ent ver­sions of this re­ceiver in dif­fer­ent mar­kets, for the down­load­able man­ual does show the pres­ence of a coax in­put.)

And of course there’s both Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth. The Wi-Fi is dual band with sup­port up to the 802.11n stan­dard. The Blue­tooth only sup­ports the ba­sic SBC codec, with­out the higher qual­ity aptX vari­ants or AAC.

The resur­gence of vinyl con­tin­ues. This re­ceiver has phono in­puts for mm car­tridges (and an earth­ing point). Last year’s model didn’t.

Set­ting up

This re­ceiver uses the Audyssey MultEQ XT sys­tem for speaker and room cal­i­bra­tion. Note, this is not Audyssey MultEQ 32. I sup­pose it uses lower res­o­lu­tion to do its dig­i­tal sig­nal pro­cess­ing. I can’t say that I found it de­fi­cient, and clearly things have been im­prov­ing with Audyssey MultEQ in re­cent years. I’ve of­ten com­plained about auto cal­i­bra­tion sys­tems pick­ing the wrong speaker sizes and cross­over fre­quen­cies for my speak­ers. Not this time. They were all ex­actly what I would have cho­sen had I done it man­u­ally.

The sys­tem does ask for at least three mea­sure­ment po­si­tions, and up to eight. It also sug­gests, when you get to the end, that you switch on Audyssey Dy­namic EQ. Don’t. That’s like a su­per­charged Loud­ness con­trol. The idea is se­duc­tive, but it ig­nores that we are used to the dif­fer­ent fre­quency bal­ances we hear at low lev­els. ‘Cor­rect­ing’ them makes things sound ar­ti­fi­cial.

All that’s part of a wiz­ard that guides you through set­ting up ev­ery­thing, from wiring the loud­speak­ers (it even il­lus­trates how much in­su­la­tion to strip), though Audyssey, to con­nect­ing to your home net­work. The eas­i­est way to con­nect to the in­ter­net is just to plug in via Eth­er­net. But there are mul­ti­ple ways of set­ting up Wi-Fi, in­clud­ing us­ing an iOS de­vice to feed net­work con­nec­tion in­for­ma­tion di­rectly to the re­ceiver.

One small thing, but im­por­tant in my view: the full menu sys­tem can be used prop­erly with­out a pic­ture on the TV (although there is a full OSD, of course). Got a prob­lem that needs fix­ing in the pic­ture? You can play with the menu. Want to change some­thing when you’re lis­ten­ing to mu­sic and don’t want to switch on the TV? Same thing. That also works with the ‘Op­tion’ but­ton, which brings up a con­text sen­si­tive menu of ad­just­ments.

Au­dio

As I said at the out­set, this re­ceiver left me strangely sat­is­fied, de­spite hav­ing so re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced Denon’s high-end home theatre am­pli­fier. I guess in part that was be­cause

I was us­ing high-qual­ity, but well-be­haved loud­speak­ers. If you’re go­ing with truly ex­otic speak­ers you’d prob­a­bly want more in the am­pli­fier depart­ment.

But for all rea­son­able con­di­tions, most peo­ple will love the per­for­mance of the Denon AVR-X2500H. The Dolby At­mos and Dolby Sur­round de­cod­ing was ex­cel­lent, as was DTS:X. The two-ceil­ing-speaker ver­sion of over­head sound worked very nicely to add to the en­com­pass­ing feel­ing of movies. I also played quite a few LPs us­ing this re­ceiver and its phono in­put. By de­fault the in­put level was a touch on the low side. This is not a prob­lem so long as I re­mem­bered to re­duce the level be­fore play­ing some­thing on an­other in­put. But tak­ing a les­son from my time with the AVC-X8500H, I ex­plored the menus and found the abil­ity to ad­just the rel­a­tive level of the in­puts by up to 12dB in ei­ther di­rec­tion.

Video

One of the things you should do with this re­ceiver is change the video set­tings, es­pe­cially if you have a re­cent, high qual­ity Ul­traHD TV. By de­fault, the re­ceiver is set up for “stan­dard 4K 60p 4:2:0 8-bit video sig­nals”. But if you go into the “Video/4K Sig­nal For­mat set­tings” and change it to “En­hanced”, the re­ceiver

sup­ports “high qual­ity 4K 60p 4:4:4, 4:2:2 or 4K 60p 4:2:0 10-bit video sig­nals”.

In the “Video/Out­put Set­tings”, I see that you can now choose a Video mode of “By­pass”, which elim­i­nates all video pro­cess­ing. That means no OSD lay­ered over the pro­gram video, but if you want the great­est pu­rity, and the abil­ity to change the vol­ume with­out it be­ing in­di­cated on-screen, this is ex­cel­lent.

The re­ceiver can scale up all in­puts to UHD out­put. And I have to say, it did a re­mark­ably good job of it. When I put on my 576i/50 test clips, they looked way sharper on a 65-inch UHD TV than they should have, way more de­tailed. And both sharp­ness and in­creased de­tail was man­aged with­out much in the way of vis­i­ble pic­ture dis­tor­tion. Fur­ther­more, I used these clips be­cause they are effective at dis­clos­ing weak­nesses in pro­gres­sive-scan con­ver­sion. They failed to dis­close any weak­ness at all on that front.

How about 1080i/50, you ask? Well, on my usual tor­ture tests there was just one slight slip at the most dif­fi­cult point, where the film-sourced con­tent was briefly treated as video-sourced. And that was it. I’d say this re­ceiver stands in the top decile for pro­gres­sive scan con­ver­sion with 50 hertz con­tent.

Net­work au­dio

As you’d ex­pect, this re­ceiver has strong net­work au­dio ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Per­haps the most likely way peo­ple will use it will be with the HEOS app. As with all mod­ern Denon net­work-ca­pa­ble gear, this re­ceiver can be­come a player as part of a multi-room HEOS sys­tem, but it can be hand­ily used with the app stand­alone. One rare ca­pa­bil­ity of the HEOS sys­tem is pip­ing in­puts from one de­vice to an­other. So if you do have other HEOS de­vices through­out your home, you can do things like play an LP us­ing the phono in­put of this re­ceiver, and have the sound go to any room, or sev­eral rooms, in your home.

Us­ing the HEOS app, the re­ceiver hap­pily played my high res­o­lu­tion FLAC files (up to 24 bit, 192kHz sam­pling), and DSD in both reg­u­lar and dou­ble speed ver­sions. The sound was a de­light. The unit also works as a DLNA ren­derer so I was able to send the same files us­ing other apps. Oddly, while ev­ery­thing else worked fine I no­ticed that when I sent DSD to the re­ceiver us­ing my pre­ferred Bub­bleUPnP app (on An­droid), the re­ceiver re­ported it was re­ceiv­ing not DSD, but 16 bit, 192kHz PCM. Other DLNA player apps pro­duced the same re­sult. I went through the set­tings of the DLNA soft­ware on my NAS to see if I’d some­how switched on some kind of transcod­ing func­tion, but all that was switched off. I do like to sort out these anom­alies. In this case I couldn’t. I also tried a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent types of server soft­ware on the NAS, and a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent apps, all with the same re­sult. One up­side: the HEOS app couldn’t play DSD256 tracks be­cause the re­ceiver doesn’t sup­port that for­mat. But some­how these also were turned into 16-bit 192kHz PCM when played with reg­u­lar DLNA soft­ware. (Although peo­ple who pur­chase DSD256 mu­sic are un­likely to ap­pre­ci­ate the con­ver­sion.)

Con­clu­sion

The Denon AVR-X2500H is a first-class mid-priced AV re­ceiver that will do just about ev­ery­thing that most users could want. The ad­di­tion of a phono in­put has sim­ply en­hanced its ver­sa­til­ity. Stephen Daw­son

“you can do things like play an LP us­ing the phono in­put of this re­ceiver, and have the sound go to any or sev­eral rooms, in your home...”

Denon AVR-X2500H AV re­ceiver with HEOS

The Denon of­fers a healthy eight HDMI in­puts (in­clud­ing one on the front), and all are fully com­pat­i­ble for 4K UHD sig­nals. There are two HDMI out­puts. There’s now a turntable in­put in ad­di­tion to line level in­puts. Both dig­i­tal in­puts are op­ti­cal, withou

HDMI in­puts Au­dio in­puts Speaker op­tions

▶ Denon’s re­ceiver de­sign uses dis­crete high-cur­rent am­pli­fiers on all chan­nels, with each rated at 95W into 8 ohms (two chan­nels driven across the full au­dio band­width at in­audi­bly low lev­els of dis­tor­tion). All the amps also sup­port 4-ohm loads, al­beit with a mode switch to en­sure the out­put isn’t over­driven.

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