3D cin­ema pow­er­house takes aim at Sonos

SoundMag - - Review - Writ­ten by Steve May

Denon’s AVR-X4300H com­bines HEOS mul­ti­room com­pat­i­bil­ity with a full arse­nal of 3D Au­dio codecs

There’s more to this nine-chan­nel AV behemoth than just high per­for­mance home the­atre The AVRX4300H is the first Denon AV re­ceiver we’ve seen to fea­ture HEOS mul­ti­room au­dio sup­port built-in. That means it can be used in a whole home mu­sic sys­tem, as well as rais­ing the roof with Dolby At­mos Blu-rays.

In truth, there’s not much that the AVR-X4300H can’t do. Not only does it sup­ports both Dolby At­mos and DTS:X sur­round and height de­cod­ing, there’s even an op­tion to up­grade to Auro 3D (the most es­o­teric of all the 3D sound for­mats) early next year. If you’re de­ter­mined to em­brace ev­ery im­mer­sive au­dio sys­tem out there, this AVR is a great bet.

With nine chan­nels of am­pli­fi­ca­tion, the AVRX4300H will sup­port 7.1.2 or 5.1.4 Dolby At­mos speaker lay­outs. If you feel the need for even more loud­speak­ers in your liv­ing room, there’s pro­cess­ing and pre-amp sup­port for 11.2 chan­nels. All you need is an ad­di­tional stereo power amp. For our au­di­tion, I ran the AVR-AX4300H in 7.1.2. Given the choice I would al­ways opt for seven chan­nel flatbed sur­round, be­fore adding At­mos.

Build qual­ity is very good for a mid-range model. It fea­tures a cop­per plated chas­sis with mono block con­struc­tion. On the rear there are seven HDMI in­puts, with an eighth be­hind the front fas­cia flap. All sup­port HDCP 2.2 with 4K 60Hz pass through.

There are also three HDMI out­puts. That means you can feed a TV and pro­jec­tor in the main view­ing room, with the third HDMI de­voted to sec­ond zone view­ing.

Other con­nec­tions in­clude a bunch of com­pos­ite and com­po­nent in­puts, plus four dig­i­tal au­dio in­puts (two dig­i­tal op­ti­cal and two coax­ial), six ana­logue stereo pairs, plus phono (MM) sup­port, Eth­er­net and a front mounted USB port. The re­ceiver up­scales all ana­logue sources to the HDMI out­puts.

There’s also dual band (2.4 and 5GHz) Wi-Fi, Eth­er­net plus Blue­tooth. Just screw on the aeri­als pro­vided in the box.

And if you own a Denon DBT-3313UD Blu-ray player can also take ad­van­tage of the Denon Link HD coax­ial link to re­duce jit­ter.

There’s na­tive Cre­stron Con­trol Sys­tem, plus RS232 and dual 12v trig­gers, so pro-sys­tem builders will find plenty to play with too.

Set up is sim­pli­fied by the Denon Setup As­sis­tant. This highly graphical user in­ter­face greatly aids sys­tem set up. It’s now a sta­ple across both Denon and Marantz AV re­ceivers. It’s a fuss free way of con­nect­ing and con­fig­ur­ing the re­ceiver.

Cal­i­bra­tion comes via long stand­ing part­ner

Audyssey. Here the im­ple­men­ta­tion is the high spec MultEQ XT32 ver­sion. With it you can mea­sure up to eight lis­ten­ing po­si­tions. In­cluded in the box is the usual card­board mi­cro­phone stand, use­ful for mak­ing mea­sure­ments at the cor­rect ear height. SubEQ is also on hand to co­or­di­nate paired subs in a sys­tem.

Other niceties in­clude Audyssey Dy­namic Volume and Dy­namic EQ. The former helps al­le­vi­ate un­wanted jumps in volume while the lat­ter re­tains dy­nam­ics even at low volume. There’s even a

Low Fre­quency Con­tain­ment mode, which uses psy­choa­cous­tics to con­tain deep bass. But who buys a re­ceiver like this to put the muf­flers on?

Sim­i­larly con­tentious is the In­tel­li­gent Eco power mode. There are two Eco modes, Al­ways On and Auto. The lat­ter only ap­plies Eco set­tings when the volume is low. Leave it run­ning in ‘al­ways on’ mode though and you risk un­wanted dis­tor­tion. This Eco set­ting is deemed so im­por­tant by Denon it ac­tu­ally has a ded­i­cated but­ton on the re­mote con­trol.

Wire­less mul­ti­room is a hugely en­ter­tain­ing new fea­ture. Eat your heart out SONOS. Pre­vi­ously, if you wanted to plumb your home cin­ema sys­tem into a HEOS mul­ti­room set up, you had to go to the bother of adding an HEOS pre-amp to your equip­ment stack.

To test the X4300H’s HEOS in­ter­op­er­abil­ity, I part­nered it with the HEOS 1 HS2 com­pact net­work/Blue­tooth speaker.

Play a CD on your Blu-ray deck, se­lect that in­put as the source on the AVR through the HEOS app, and you can send mu­sic through both your cin­ema sys­tem and the HEOS 1 si­mul­ta­ne­ously. You can also share movie sound­tracks, al­though Dolby/DTS bit­streams play out of sync with any con­nected HEOS speaker.

Per­for­mance is first rate. The re­ceiver sounds smooth and re­fined, though per­haps not quite as rich as Denon’s are tra­di­tion­ally know for. There’s a se­ri­ous amount of power on tap. The claimed out­put is 9 x 200w (into 6 Ohms). This de­liv­ers ex­plo­sive slam for those big movie mo­ments, but is also deft at paint­ing a more at­mo­spheric sound­stage.

The spine-tin­gling hor­ror The Con­jur­ing 2 (Blu-ray) has an un­set­tling Dolby At­mos en­coded score that re­ally sells the ben­e­fits of 3D au­dio. The score, by com­poser Joseph Bishara, fea­tures plenty of dis­cor­dant strings but the AVR-X4300H never shrieks or shiv­ers.

Sound is steered around and above with spooky ac­cu­racy. Mul­ti­chan­nel imag­ing and de­liv­ery are ex­cel­lent. When Ed War­ren (Pa­trick Wil­son) tries to per­suade the ghost of Bill Wilkins to come forth and talk (chap­ter 8), there’s a rip­ple of creaks and groans around the room.

Rain fills the At­mos chan­nel, be­fore oth­er­worldy foot­steps thump on the floor­boards over­head. Such is the re­al­ism of At­mos, that it re­ally does sound as if you have a visi­tor from be­yond stomp­ing around the house.

I’m used to hav­ing things ex­plode across the front sound­stage in Dolby At­mos, but this eerie creak­ing was an en­tirely dif­fer­ent kind of sonic thrill.

In re­al­ity, there’s not a lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween DTS:X and Dolby At­mos sound­tracks. Hav­ing both codecs on­board just gives you the ul­ti­mate choice when it comes to con­tent.

How­ever, the DTS Neu­ral: X up­mixer is ar­guably the best op­tion when it comes to ex­trap­o­lat­ing ex­tra in­for­ma­tion from non ob­ject-based au­dio sources. It’s par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive with video games. Play­ing Bat­tle­field 1 (PS4), up­scaled with Neu­ral: X, was a vis­ceral thrill.

The X4300H is an ex­cel­lent mu­sic player, at its best with hi-res sources. In ad­di­tion to 24-bit/192kHz WAV and FLAC, and 24-bit/96kHz ALAC/Ap­ple loss­less, the X4300H also plays DSD in both 2.8 and 5.6MHz vari­a­tions.

The X4300H’s DSP en­gine fea­tures four fourth­gen SHARC DSP pro­ces­sors. AL24 Pro­cess­ing Plus pro­vides high-res dig­i­tal au­dio fil­ter­ing for the main stereo chan­nels, de­signed to even out the mid-range and en­hance clar­ity.

Con­clu­sion

Over­all, the Denon AVR-X4300H com­bines classlead­ing func­tion­al­ity, with an easy go­ing mu­si­cal­ity and enor­mous power re­serves. It’s ter­rific with two-chan­nel au­dio, but re­ally shines in full-blown home the­atre mode. Add in the sheer fun of HEOS mul­ti­room, and you have a solid gold win­ner.

Rat­ing

5/5

The Denon AVR-X4300H is avail­able now for RRP $2999.

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