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