Denon X4100 Review



First the technical blurb:


This amp is almost identical to last year’s model, the 4000 and the new feature most are looking at will be Atmos, the potentially game-changing new sound format that promises to bring home theatre to a whole new level (pun intended).

So it has 7 channels of amps, pre-outs to allow 9 channel processing, Audyssey XT 32 and Sub EQ as well as lossless sound formatting.


Accompanying system:

 B&W 804d Front channels; 805s rears, HTM4s centre,
Anthony Gallo A’Diva as ceiling Atmos speakers in Top Front and Rear positions
KK 808 (two units) KK 12012 single unit
Oppo 105
QED Revelation speaker cables for the fronts and Centre; QED Micros for surrounds
Rotel RMB 1572 to drive the Top Rears


This was about a simple exercise to try out Atmos in a domestic setting, and also to listen to the KK subwoofers, but the Denon was also central to the demo, so I decided to write down my comments on it.

I am pretty familiar with the Denon sound and their AV amps, having owned the 2809, 4311 and the 4520.

This amp was a mid-range amp and the lowest priced currently to boast XT 32 AND Atmos.

It is made in China if you must know…

Removing it from the box was simple enough, and interestingly it came with a little cardboard thing that you could fold into a tripod if you don’t own one for the Audyssey calibrations. Nice touch..


The other nice thing was the User Interface, which has been improved upon, and takes you through the setup very nicely.

It makes it almost idiot proof and you can almost skip the manual.. however if one decides to go for the maximum 9channel setup with Atmos in the form of a 5.2.4 system, you can’t re-direct the internal amps to power up the Rear Tops. Instead you need to use an external power amp to do this. The amp gives a mighty loud click when it does this.

I hope a future firmware fix solves this and gives better amp assigning.

The remote was very usable, and hooking it up was equally simple. As for the amp, it’s a little tinny, and built to a budget, but there were no loose bits. The power amp section is rather lightweight, and you can see that the money was mainly spent on the tech, and the internal chips rather than the power… however if you feel an urge to add more amps, there are 13 pre-outs, although you can only use 9 of them at once.

We hooked it up for a 5.2.4 setup, and after a short run in period, we were off…

Audyssye was done simply and fast, although on initial setup it forces one to use at least three sitting positions to calibrate. You could use all eight if you like…

So how does it sound?

First, in ‘plain’ lossless Tru HD and DTS-HD, the amp performs quite well and with such high quality subwoofers around, and a relatively small space, there was no issue driving the floorstanders in ‘small’ speaker mode.

I did not try and music apart from some Blu Ray concerts as the main focus was on the home theatre performance.

The sound was surprisingly good, and effects were crisp and easily made out, and steering was first class. In fact if all you need is a 7 or 9 channel processor / amp, it will be hard to go past this and spend more on a fancy processor if HT is all you are keen on.

Effects, soundtracks and dialogue were all clear, and you can also make adjustments easily. It’s a nice touch that they put back the Quick Select buttons back on the remote, and you also get BluTooth and Wifi as well as a LAN connection.

Now for Atmos, and here is a caveat first…

Atmos is not meant to make those ceiling speakers so prominent and Audyssey actually runs the surrounds, Top speakers all too loud… turn them down a bit for a more immersive yet realistic experience.

And the benefit of Atmos is very soundtrack dependent. In those explosion heavy, action packed loud movies, you will get info overload and the Atmos speakers won't make their presence felt as much.

BUT, it's about the Atmosphere, i.e. the speakers should not draw excessive attention to themselves. It should be a blend of sound, so you feel that you are sitting within a cocoon..

Try it without turning up the Atmos channels too much..

So what about Atmos?

Firstly, I like it.. It's a subtle addition and the DSU component does make a difference. Ceiling speakers work, but avoid turning the volume up too much..
As for which ceiling speakers work better, IMHO, small footprint ones that are easy to mount, and can be directed work nicely. They don't need to have a lot of bass, as your sub can take care of that.
They need to have a wide dispersion but brand matching isn't too important. Audyssey can help with this.

You do get a third dimension of sound, and that helps provide a higher level of home theatre experience, for the right movie, and also for those who understand that it’s not meant to fix a poorly engineered soundtrack.

On a more personal note:

Having owned three previous Denon amps plus a few Marantz ones.. if music counts, I have yet to find great improvements in sound quality for music in upgrading from the 2809 to the 4520.. for HT, sure, there is significant improvement, and now the Atmos equipped X4100 is a whole new level, but I won’t expect too much out of the musical capabilities of these AV amps. I use my stereo amp for critical listening.

Hence I won’t be too caught up with the DACs and their S/N ratio etc… specs are only one part of the entire equation.

If you are looking for a mid-range to budget AV amp for 7-9 channels, this amp should be on your audition list, especially if you are going to install Atmos. If not, also consider last year’s models for some savings.


Do note that this amp does not come with the HDCP 2.2 chip, so how that pans out for 4k Blu Ray is something that is still up for debate.
______________________________________________________________
 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

5 comments:

  1. Hello Pete,

    Would like to ask a couple of qouestions.
    Regarding music listening you got ANY difference from 4520 and i mean even less worse or even a bit better?
    And, maybe happens u have listen marantz sr7009 so u could compare these two pieces?
    i am asking that for some reasons.
    one is that i can find plenty reviews regarding sr7009 full of goods words but bery few for 4100.
    another reason that matanzt and denon are same company so u think regarding music performance that what i am interesting more they will be same level or the gonna be differences?
    i would go with marantz but i have to spend 400 euro more than 4100 and if i am gonna give this amount i must have no doupts that i am getting a lot more.

    thanks
    George

    ReplyDelete
  2. IMHO, it doesn't sound better or worse than the older 4520. But I use it mainly for HT.
    I have my Marantz based stereo system for music.
    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello
    You mentioned you listen your stereo amp for critical. What do you have as stereo or what would you recommend based on your experience?

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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