“Takes home cin­ema to the next level”

FOR Punchy sound; lots of de­tail; im­pres­sive dy­nam­ics AGAINST Noth­ing par­tic­u­larly at this price

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

“The X3300’s power is up to 180W from the 150W of the 2300. You could be for­given for not ex­pect­ing a huge step up in per­for­mance, but you’d be wrong”

In the same way a vam­pire ac­quires a taste for blood, we’ve got a taste for Denon’s new range of AV re­ceivers. Our ap­petite was whet­ted by the bril­liant AVRŠX2300W (£500) but now we’re mov­ing up the chain with the meatier, more ex­pen­sive Denon AVRŠX3300W. At first glance, there doesn’t ap­pear to be much to sep­a­rate them, so we’re in­ter­ested to see if the AVRŠX3300W can jus­tify the £300 price pre­mium, or whether you’d be mad to pay it.

Plac­ing the 3300 and its sib­ling next to each other re­sults in a game of spot the dif­fer­ence. The chas­sis look al­most iden­ti­cal, save for an ex­tra five cen­time­tres of depth on the X3300W. An in­spec­tion of the front pan­els shows they’re iden­ti­cal, with di­als, but­tons and con­nec­tions, in­clud­ing a HDMI in­put and head­phone socket, all match­ing up. The only dif­fer­ence is the model num­ber in the bot­tom cor­ner.

Wafer-thin walls

Around the back, the X3300 fea­tures a sim­ple, fuss-free lay­out which has been a cen­tral theme of re­cent Denon amps. There’s no short­age of con­nec­tions, with eight HDMI in­puts for high-def­i­ni­tion and Ul­tra HD sources. They’re all ca­pa­ble of 4K 60Hz passthrough and are HDCP 2.2 cer­ti­fied.

The Denon can up­scale con­tent to 4K res­o­lu­tion, but we’d sug­gest al­low­ing your 4K TV or pro­jec­tor to carry out these du­ties. Else­where there’s a de­cent spread of dig­i­tal con­nec­tions and some legacy ana­logue video op­tions for hook­ing up older kit.

On the face of it, it’s hard to see where any of that ex­tra money has gone – even the re­mote is copied from the bud­get model. But when you start tick­ing off the fea­tures, a few more dif­fer­ences start to ap­pear.

The AVRŠX3300W gets Audyssey’s ad­vanced Mul­teq XT32 speaker cal­i­bra­tion soft­ware, for ex­am­ple. The set-up process takes around 10Š15 min­utes to com­plete, and once all the speaker lev­els and dis­tances have been taken (and checked man­u­ally), we’d rec­om­mend ex­per­i­ment­ing with Audyssey pro­cess­ing modes turned on and off.

Un­less your walls are wafer thin and you’re plan­ning on lis­ten­ing in the small hours of the morn­ing, we would turn ‘Dy­namic Vol­ume’ off. Even its light set­ting mutes the Denon’s far-reach­ing dy­nam­ics.

Our con­cerns over the lack of coax­ial dig­i­tal in­puts on the AVRŠX2300W have been ad­dressed and you’ll find a cou­ple of in­puts fit­ted to this big brother. There’s more of a cus­tom in­stall slant to the 3300, with a RS232 port, 12V trig­ger out, Cre­stron Con­nect sup­port and Zone 2 au­dio and video all present.

The Denon’s abil­ity to de­code all main­stream home cin­ema sound for­mats, in­clud­ing Dolby At­mos, is par for the course for home cin­ema amps at this price. This in­cludes Dolby At­mos 5.1.2, with DTS:X com­pat­i­bil­ity a soft­ware up­date away.

Users look­ing for sim­ple mu­sic stream­ing have a num­ber of op­tions at their dis­posal, in­clud­ing Spo­tify Con­nect, Air­play and Blue­tooth. In­ter­net ra­dio and stream­ing from a NAS de­vice on your home net­work are also sup­ported.

Wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity is aided by the amp’s abil­ity to work on both 5GHZ and 2.4GHZ wave­bands, although wired eth­er­net would al­ways be our first choice for a more sta­ble con­nec­tion.

But stream­ing isn’t lim­ited to low-res files beamed from a smart­phone or tablet. The Denon AVRŠX3300W can han­dle a range of file for­mats across a net­work, in­clud­ing 24-bit/192khz PCM and DSD in both sin­gle and dou­ble speed form.

Shi ing up a gear

Denon has gone to a lot of trou­ble in re­cent years to sim­plify its AV amps with­out com­pro­mis­ing fea­tures, and de­serves to be ap­plauded for that. Set-up is sim­ple, with the amp’s Set-up As­sis­tant guid­ing you through ev­ery stage of the process, from strip­ping your speaker cable to set­ting up for At­mos.

We weren’t too sure about Denon’s 2016 AVR Re­mote for Android and IOS when we re­viewed the 2300, but the IOS app at least proves more sta­ble this time round, al­low­ing you to con­trol ev­ery­thing from source se­lec­tion and sound pro­cess­ing modes to speaker set-up.

On pa­per, the 3300’s power is up to 180W com­pared to the 150W of the 2300, so you could be for­given for not ex­pect­ing a huge step up in per­for­mance. But you’d be wrong. It shares sim­i­lar char­ac­ter traits, for sure. Punch and poise are still high on the

"We knew Denon had a great £500 re­ceiver on its hands, but we weren’t sure the AVR-X3300W could jus­tify its price pre­mium over the X2300"

agenda, but you get a sense that there’s more wait­ing in the wings. This Denon seems to have a cou­ple of ex­tra gears.

Sure, with the help of a pun­ish­ing, bruis­ing sound­track it’s able to blow your socks off, but re­ally this is the very least we’d ex­pect when mov­ing up from a bud­get to mid-range AV re­ceiver.

Some amps have no trou­ble sound­ing ballsy and gung-ho, but it’s of­ten done at the ex­pense of subtlety. The AVRŠX3300W has loads of power at its dis­posal but still man­ages to sound so­phis­ti­cated with it.

Im­pres­sive pre­ci­sion

Avengers: Age of Ul­tron isn’t just a su­per­hero show­case, it’s a fine test disc. Played through Pana­sonic’s DMPŠUB900 4K Blu-ray player, the Denon laps up the ac­tion dur­ing the open­ing bat­tle. As Thor dis­patches the bad guys and Hulk smashes his way through an en­emy bunker, low fre­quen­cies are felt force­fully and solidly.

As Hulk and Iron Man’s Hulk­buster bat­tle it out, their bout of fisticuffs re­sults in the lev­el­ling of an en­tire con­struc­tion site. Here, the depths to which the Denon’s bass de­liv­ery plum­mets are mighty im­pres­sive. As the build­ing col­lapses, the power and scale of the de­struc­tion are over­whelm­ing.

Lis­ten to the same com­bi­na­tion of scenes on its more af­ford­able sib­ling and you can im­me­di­ately hear the dif­fer­ence. When Ul­tron in­ter­acts with Jarvis, Tony Stark’s AI as­sis­tant, the AVRŠX3300W drops down a cou­ple of gears. A re­mark­able sense of fi­nesse takes over, paint­ing the scene with a sub­tle brush.

The Denon cre­ates an eerie sense of quiet. Di­a­logue be­tween the two is crys­tal clear and there’s plenty of de­tail and ex­pres­sion to their voices. As the con­ver­sa­tion takes a turn for the worse, it helps draw the viewer right into the heart of the on-screen ac­tion.

As Ul­tron starts to sift through streams of data, sound ef­fects flit be­tween side chan­nels and surge from the back of the sur­round field to the front with im­pres­sive pre­ci­sion. The Denon steers this ef­fi­ciently and pre­cisely, but you still have the sen­sa­tion of be­ing in the mid­dle of a sur­round-sound bub­ble.

The Denon’s sonic bal­ance and abil­ity to punch its way through a movie sound­track stand it in good stead for mu­sic play­back too. Even wire­lessly over Blue­tooth or Spo­tify Con­nect, you’re treated to an en­ter­tain­ing sound. We play Galan­tis’s Run­away and the Denon com­mu­ni­cates the fun and fri­vol­ity of the up­lift­ing dance tune track with­out re­straint. The emo­tive vo­cal starts pro­ceed­ings, and the Denon gives it prime po­si­tion in the sound­field. As the track builds and starts its dy­namic shift, all the sub­tle de­tails make way for an up­lift­ing crescendo of elec­tron­ica.

We knew Denon had a great £500 re­ceiver on its hands, but we weren’t sure the AVRŠX3300W could jus­tify its price pre­mium over the AVRŠX2300. We needn’t have wor­ried. The way it moulds its var­i­ous strengths to­gether while main­tain­ing such bal­ance and fi­nesse should be ap­plauded. If you want to take your bud­get home cin­ema set-up to the next level, the Denon AVRŠX3300W will do just that.

The X3300 has a sim­ple lay­out with eight HDMI in­puts for high-def and Ul­tra HD sources

The X3300 comes with a stan­dard re­mote, or use the IOS app (which proves more sta­ble this time)

It looks sim­i­lar to its X2300 sib­ling, but can the X3300 jus­tify the £300 price pre­mium?

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