3D cinema powerhouse takes aim at Sonos
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.
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.
The Denon AVR-X4300H is available now for RRP $2999.