Denon AVR-X2300W

FOR Re­fined, in­sight­ful sound; great dy­nam­ics; well equipped AGAINST Poor con­trol app

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We don’t envy Denon. De­sign­ing a re­place­ment for the ex­cel­lent AVRX2200W can’t have been an easy task. That Award-win­ner marked a re­turn to form for a brand that has strug­gled by its own high stan­dards in re­cent times.

The X2200W rolled back the years with a com­bi­na­tion of ex­cel­lent sound and a fea­ture list no ri­val could bet­ter. So how do you re­place an Award-win­ner? Judg­ing by this new am­pli­fier Denon’s an­swer seems to be ‘very care­fully’.

At first glance, a com­par­i­son be­tween the old and new mod­els sug­gests lit­tle has changed. They look all-but iden­ti­cal, shar­ing a well thought-out con­trol lay­out and clear dis­play. Round the back, the 2300 fea­tures slightly re­or­gan­ised con­nec­tions, but the com­pany’s de­ter­mined drive to make its AV amps more ap­proach­able keeps things as sim­ple as they can be with­out com­pro­mis­ing us­abil­ity.

Denon hasn’t skimped on the con­nec­tions. This amp has eight HDMI in­puts, all ca­pable of 4K 60fps passthrough and HDCP 2.2 cer­ti­fied. Others in­clude a sen­si­ble spread of op­ti­cal dig­i­tal and ana­logue stereo in­puts, plus le­gacy ana­logue video op­tions such as com­pos­ite and com­po­nent. While not a ma­jor omis­sion, it’s in­ter­est­ing to note there isn’t a dig­i­tal coax avail­able.

Fea­ture fi­esta

Else­where this am­pli­fier is about as loaded as these things get. It will de­code all cur­rent home cin­ema sound for­mats from Dolby and DTS, in­clud­ing Dolby At­mos in 5.1.2 form. The abil­ity to han­dle DTS:X is a soft­ware up­grade away, ex­pected later this year. Spo­tify Con­nect, Air­play and Blue­tooth are all sup­ported, as is in­ter­net ra­dio and stream­ing from a NAS de­vice on your home net­work.

Denon has tried hard to make this am­pli­fier sta­ble when us­ing wi-fi, and it works well in our test rooms. Help­ing mat­ters is a new-found abil­ity to work in the 5GHZ wave­band along with the 2.4GHZ of its pre­de­ces­sor. Even so, we would still stick to us­ing an eth­er­net cable for the ex­tra sta­bil­ity it pro­vides.

Streams in full flow

The 2300 will stream just about ev­ery for­mat across a net­work in­clud­ing 24-bit/192khz PCM and DSD in both sin­gle and dou­ble-speed form. The lat­ter, along with the abil­ity to stream AIFF files, is new for this model. The X2300W’S power out­put is un­changed and rated at 7 x 150W per chan­nel. Im­pres­sive, but it should be noted that – just like ev­ery other ma­jor AV amp man­u­fac­turer – Denon is quot­ing fig­ures mea­sured un­der very gen­er­ous con­di­tions (six ohm load, 1khz, one per cent THD and only one chan­nel driven).

That out­put drops to a claimed 95W per chan­nel into an eight ohm load, mea­sured across 20Hz-20khz with two chan­nels driven. The lat­ter is closer to the way mea­sure­ments are taken with tra­di­tional two-chan­nel kit.

While the head­line fea­tures have hardly changed be­tween this and the last model, it is clear Denon has put in a lot of work at cir­cuit level. Com­po­nent qual­ity has gone up and great ef­fort has been made to re­duce noise lev­els.

Set-up is as easy as it gets. The menus are sim­ple and easy to fol­low, while the built-in Audyssey auto set-up sys­tem is ac­cu­rate and fuss-free.

The com­pany not only sup­plies a ded­i­cated mi­cro­phone for auto-set-up pur­poses – par for the course – but also a folded, adjustable card­board mic stand,

“As the film ap­proaches its fi­nale, the amp is happy to move up through the gears, de­liv­er­ing a spa­cious sound­field of sta­ble and pre­cise move­ment”

which holds the mi­cro­phone at an ap­pro­pri­ate height. Go through the whole Audyssey process and you’ll have to take mul­ti­ple mea­sure­ments. It’s a bit te­dious but worth it in the long run, and you only have to do it once.

Once you’ve taken all the read­ings it’s a good idea to check them for ac­cu­racy. For crit­i­cal lis­ten­ing we rec­om­mend keep­ing the var­i­ous Audyssey pro­cess­ing modes o£ and stick­ing to the plain vanilla set-up. It works best in our ex­pe­ri­ence.

The re­mote looks un­changed from last year and is none the worse for that. It’s a neat unit with clearly la­belled but­tons and an in­tu­itive lay­out. We like it. We’re far less taken with Denon’s 2016 con­trol app. We tried both IOS and An­droid ver­sions and nei­ther proved par­tic­u­larly sta­ble, crash­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Ready for ac­tion

Our ref­er­ence sys­tem is made up of Cam­bridge’s CXU Blu-ray player, Pana­sonic DMP-UB900 4K Blu-ray player and PMC’S Twenty 23 7.1 sur­round pack­age, cou­pled to KEF R50 At­mos speak­ers. Ep­son’s EH-TW7200 pro­jec­tor car­ries out dis­play du­ties. Once up and run­ning the X2300W sounds beau­ti­fully bal­anced. We use it in a va­ri­ety of modes – 5.1, 7.1, stereo and Dolby At­mos 5.1.2 – and it never fails to

im­press. We start off with a Blu-ray of Pixar’s Brave and like what we hear.

Voices are ren­dered beau­ti­fully. There’s weight, nat­u­ral warmth and ar­tic­u­la­tion in the midrange that leaves most ri­vals sound­ing me­chan­i­cal in com­par­i­son. This am­pli­fier is great at sub­tleties – lowlevel dy­namic shifts are de­liv­ered with skill and with­out over­state­ment. It all helps to draw the viewer more into the ac­tion on the screen.

Pre­ci­sion in the sound­field

As the film ap­proaches its fi­nale, the amp is happy to move up through the gears, de­liv­er­ing a spa­cious sound­field packed with sta­ble and pre­cise move­ment of growls and screams. The bear fight is de­liv­ered with plenty of en­thu­si­asm and no short­age of punch. This Denon can play loudly too, cer­tainly enough to fill all but the largest of rooms.

Mov­ing onto the lu­di­crous but fun San An­dreas shows that this Denon lacks lit­tle in terms of scale or au­thor­ity. We watch as build­ing after build­ing col­lapses, and love the au­ral im­pact the amp pro­duces. There’s plenty of at­tack and floor-rum­bling bass but also a good sup­ply of de­tail, so we’re never left in any doubt as to what’s hap­pen­ing.

Even so, the Yamaha RX-V581 de­liv­ers the sound with even greater mus­cu­lar­ity and scale. The im­pact of those build­ings crash­ing is felt as much as heard, and the Yamaha’s depth and con­trol of its bass is even bet­ter than the Denon’s, which can sound a touch po­lite in com­par­i­son. But the 2300’s com­bi­na­tion of in­sight, agility and režne­ment is hard to over­look. It’s a pol­ished, en­ter­tain­ing per­former.

The story re­mains pos­i­tive with stereo mu­sic. Whether you lis­ten through the line stages, HDMI, op­ti­cal or Blue­tooth, the Denon’s easy-go­ing bal­ance re­mains un­changed. While no sub­sti­tute for a de­cent stereo amp such as the Marantz PM6005 – no other sim­i­larly priced AV amp we’ve heard is, ei­ther – the 2300 ren­ders a co­he­sive and mu­si­cal pre­sen­ta­tion that it’s hard not to like.

One thing’s clear: the 2300 is bet­ter than its pre­de­ces­sor. It’s clean­er­sound­ing and picks up a greater amount of low-level de­tail, and is more pre­cise with it. Voices come through with im­proved clar­ity and pre­ci­sion. One of the big­gest up­grades is at bass fre­quen­cies, where the 2300 sounds far tauter and more ag­ile.

In a broader per­spec­tive, the Denon AVR-X2300W’S ar­tic­u­late and sub­tle per­for­mance out­weighs any mi­nor is­sue we have with it, and it of­fers the most cap­ti­vat­ing per­for­mance when faced with the fierce com­pe­ti­tion of­fered by Yamaha and Pi­o­neer. As things stand, this is the finest £500 AV amp you can buy right now.

NEW CIR­CUITRY The Burr Brown PCM1690 DAC chip in­side the Denon is car­ried over from its pre­de­ces­sor, but there’s a new power sup­ply for the on-board MW/FM tuner, de­signed to re­duce cir­cuit in­ter­fer­ence

You couldn’t re­ally ask for bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity – or greater com­pat­i­bil­ity with AV sound for­mats

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