“Takes home cinema to the next level”
FOR Punchy sound; lots of detail; impressive dynamics AGAINST Nothing particularly at this price
“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 AVRX2300W (£500) but now we’re moving up the chain with the meatier, more expensive Denon AVRX3300W. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much to separate them, so we’re interested to see if the AVRX3300W 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.
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 AVRX3300W gets Audyssey’s advanced Multeq XT32 speaker calibration software, for example. The set-up process takes around 1015 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 AVRX2300W 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 AVRX3300W 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 AVRX3300W has loads of power at its disposal but still manages to sound sophisticated with it.
Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t just a superhero showcase, it’s a fine test disc. Played through Panasonic’s DMPUB900 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 AVRX3300W 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 AVRX3300W could justify its price premium over the AVRX2300. 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 AVRX3300W 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?