PS64D8000FM Samsung plasma TV
Denon X7200W – XT 32, 11.2 capable with nine amps inbuilt, twin sub out, Atmos and Auro capable
Marantz PM 11S3 : 2 channel stereo amp with HTbypass and 100W per channel driving the front pair of 804D
Rotel RMB 1572 - 250w per channel power amp for Front Heights
Oppo BR player BDP 105 as CD transport and HT source
Marantz NA11S1 as a DAC and network player
Apple TV (Gen 1) X 2 for music and photos
HTM4s centre, Radius 90HD for front height
B&W 805s for rear back
Monitor Audio RXFX in dipole mode for side surrounds
JL Audio E112 (two units) located at right rear and front left
Anthony Gallo A'Diva for ceiling Atmos placement and "Voice of God" placement
QED XT Revelations for front and centre speakers
QED Micro speaker cable for the surrounds
Audioquest Cinnamon HDMI for Oppo to amp
Aiborg flat HDMI cable, LHS and AQ Forest HDMI cable - amp to TV and other sources
Audioquest Snake subwoofer cable
Blue Jean subwoofer cable
Wireworld Oasis 6 & 7 Interconnects
Wireworld Oasis 6 power cables
Assorted Xindak, PS Audio and other power cables
Assorted Xindak, PS Audio and other power cables
MK wall power sockets
PS Audio Juice Bar
Rhodium Right Angle Plug adapters for USA power cables
Auralex subdude platform and Mopads under centre speaker
Da lite screen
Glass optical cables
To meet the new 3D sound experience, I did another round of renovations and re-built my home theatre room. I also added two new subs, sited them in new positions with some expert help..
First, I will go through a summary my thought process for buying this amp.
I decided that I wanted the smartest ‘brains’ for my HT system, as movie viewing dominates my time, and music was secondary, but when I listen to music, I still want a solid experience. So a good HT AV amp is needed and it should not be too shabby for music. I would then use a proper stereo amp for critical two channel listening.
Right now we are at an important crossroad, with three new 3D sound formats all coming up within the space of one year: Atmos, Auro and DTS X.
So why the 7200?
I sold my Denon 4520 (http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2013/01/denon-avr-4520-review-ht-and-audio.html ) last year, and have been awaiting the arrival of the new 3D sound formats since I got wind of this. At that time, there was scant information, only that Atmos, and Auro may arrive, and now we have these two formats as well as DTS X on the near horizon.
In addition, I managed to add the four speakers required for Atmos: Top Fronts + Rears, and also a VOG : Voice Of God. I also retained my original Front Heights which will come in handy for Auro.
With this in mind, I held back initially when the first wave of Atmos amps hit the market, and I soon realised that you have to really go in with your eyes and ears open.
The main caveats:
- none of the current amps are HDCP 2.2 compliant fully, only Onkyo is partly compliant.
- only Denon and Marantz have the fully Audyssey XT 32 implementation which includes HT Sub EQ, which is very useful in sorting those difficult subwoofer placement and equalisation issues.
- Pioneer and Yamaha amps don't use Audyssey at all and rely on their own forms of auto-EQ.
How about processors?
Well currently, you have Onkyo, and Marantz options, and again subject to the same issues as the amps.
So since a AV amp is essentially a processor with built in amps, that's not a bad thing, and if I wanted to listen critically, I can use my stereo amp.
Another thing to bear in mind is how many amps do you possess?
A full 3D surround experience will have 11 or even 13 channels, and that will required a lot of amps. Most amps have a max of 9 built in amps, and that means you need at least an external amp with two or more channels.
Note that only the Denon 7200 allows the same freedom of amp assignment as the older 4520, where you can assign the internal amps freely.
As for the HDCP 2.2 issue, well you can either get the new Denon 7200, or Marantz AV 8802, and pay for a new HDMI board (I really hope we get a free upgrade) when it comes out, or hope a dual HDMI 4k Blu Ray play comes out and allows you to bypass the HDCP 2.2 issue.
There's no guarantee this will work, despite what you may read in AVS, simply because no one has tried it yet.
As for 4k, there is also very little commercially available software to buy, and it may be 2016 before it becomes pervasive.
So the options:
- if you are like me, and are in the market soon for a new amp, you can get something with Atmos for < $2000.
Your options are available from Onkyo, Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, Pioneer etc. If you want HDCP 2.2, then there's only Onkyo.
But note the issues I posted before.
If you want Audyssey, then only D & M have it and Atmos.
- if you can wait, it is likely that as technology progresses, Atmos, Auro and even DTS X will trickle down to the lower end amps in 2015 or 2016. And if you can wait until 2016, then the fight between these three formats will probably end by then allowing a winner/s to emerge and you can bank on the winning format.
It's heady times, and for some, embracing new technology is fun in itself, but for the less daring or those who don't like to on the cutting edge, then masterly inactivity is in order.
However for those who enter the 3D game early, you gain the fun of enjoying sound coming from around you, not only the sides, but also the top. Is this a big deal? Well as always, Your Mileage May Vary or YMMV smiley.gif
It's not life altering with Atmos, and you can certainly live with less. In fact most HT owners are only using 5.1 and there's nothing wrong with that.
So 2015 promises to be very interesting, and for me, I decided :)
The MSRP of a new 7200 is around twice of a 5200 or Marantz SR 7009 / AV 7702.
So the question is do you want to pay that much for these, and have all three formats on board?
Also, for those switching between Auro and Atmos, Auro makes use of the Subwoofer 2 output for the VOG channel, and you will need to re-calibrate Audyssey again when using Auro.
So you will need to re-load a saved configuration file to use Auro and switch between the two. That will take 15 mins or so.
Plus there is scant software of any kind on the ground for all the formats. You can still use the upscaling function to enjoy pseudo-3D sound with older discs.
The technical blurb:
“Welcome the new leader of the 2014-2015 Denon AVR range. Featuring ultimate build quality with a left/right-separated monolithic amplifier design and custom made DHCT (Denon High Current Transistors), the AVR-X7200W guarantees best-in-class sound quality with minimum interferences. Thanks to built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it is perfectly set for all network services including Spotify Connect, AirPlay, Network Music Streaming and Internet Radio. Via its 8 HDMI inputs (including one on the front panel) it handles 4k 60Hz pass through playfully, and even upscales video to 1080p and 4k 60Hz. Now add brandnew Dolby Atmos, triple HDMI outputs with multi-source/multizone functionality and integrated Audyssey MultEQ XT32/Sub EQ HT/LFC to guarantee the ideal calibration of your setup. The unique Denon Link HD function, guaranteeing the ultimate in entertainment pleasure works in combination with AL32 Processing Multi Channel and DDSC-HD32 for higher resolution audio playback. All sums up to the most comprehensive AVR experience we are pleased to offer.”
A link to some important info on the 7200 and what changes have been added is available here:
Having owned the AVR 2309, 2809, 4311 and the 4520 I appreciate what Audyssey could provide, and I was looking forward to seeing what the new 7200 could offer.
Some useful improvements that I like (the bits in bold in particular):
- Upgrade to HDMI 2.0 with 3D, 4:4:4 and 4K/60fps pass through support
- 8 HDMI inputs
- 13.2 main zone pre-outs vs. 11.2 in the 4520
- Potential for an upgrade to HDMI 2 and HDCP 2.2
- ISF Certification (allows different Day/Night video calibration settings per input)
- Bluetooth built in for wireless streaming
- Networking and WiFi built in, with support for DSD and hi-rez (192kHZ) FLAC and WAV files via network stream or USB
- A new “TV Audio On/Off” setting to defeat the annoying auto switching caused by an HDMI-CEC ARC connection
- Return of Quick Select buttons on the remote (as opposed to just on the front panel)
- Return of the "Channel Level" on screen menu for on the fly adjustments to all channels (note that for the first time this setting is per input not per surround mode)
- Expanded "Option" menu for on-the-fly audio/video adjustments (the "Setup" menus will now be reserved for more global adjustments)
- 4 pieces of 32 bit Sharc DSP processors that IMO did make a difference in HT and steering.
- The 4 ohm capability. Even in full swing with all nine channels running, I never felt the amp needed more.
- 44 000 uF of capacitance, same as in the 4520.
- Audyssey XT 32 AND Sub EQ
- new AKM 4490 DACs. The best in the business right now.
- Improved GUI. The entire user interface can now be regarded as a wonderful experience, instead of merely painful for the experienced user, or very daunting for the newbie.
- Ability to save configurations
- Free assign amps
- Built-in Airplay
- Well built speaker posts. Not WBT standard but certainly better than those on amps like the Emotivas or even the NAD / Onkyos.
- Gold plated RCA inputs
What I disliked:
- We lose the network hub
- No second remote
- Only one set of speakers being used displayed – can only display input or output at one time. This was lost with the 4311, and that’s a pity.
- No more Hi Def blue light, and merely “Dolby Atmos” on the LED screen.
- No paper manual – just a tiny get started booklet plus a CD (actually all I need is a big diagram of the rear panel for hookup purposes)
- The remotes code is missing from the manual and is an .exe file on the CD, but that doesn’t cater to the Mac users… see the Denon 5200 manual for this
The biggest difference?
That would be:
- Dolby Atmos (5.1.2, 5.1.4, 7.1.2)
- Dolby Surround upmixer (replaces DD PLII, DD PLIIx, DD PLIIz with both improved ambiance and control), while lower models
will continue to use DD PLII, DD PLIIx, and DD PLIIz
Plus the potential to upgrade to Auro-3D. And there is also talk of DTS X for this model.
Anyway, so how does it all hang together?
As mentioned earlier, I use the Denon mainly in HT, so that’s where I will be spending most time describing it.
Even though the setup was not too bad on the 4520, this amp is one of the easiest to setup, from the way the GUI brings you through the various steps, to the use of the microphone for the calibration, and one can almost forgo the manual in setting up this machine.
I used up all 11 channels with the help of my PM 11 S3 stereo amp in HT and setup the Rotel 1572 to power the Front Heights. It took a bit more time as the initial setup doesn’t give you the option to customize the amps until the basic setup had been done.
I had already done this before with it’s predecessor, the 4520, and I had programmed the remote to replace the Marantz remote. I wished they had the codes for the Marantz built in, especially since they were cousin companies.
The Audyssey calibration was also faster. The inclusion of labels for the speakers and connectors was a nice touch. The little rocket tripod for holding the microphone was another.
How to reset the amp:
1 - Turn off the power using ON/STANDBY.
2 - Press ON/STANDBY while simultaneously pressing the "INFO" and "BACK" buttons (under front panel flap).
3 - Remove your fingers when "Initialized" appears on the front panel display.
So after all the pre-amble, how does it sound?
I personally felt the HT experience without Atmos or DSU was very similar to the older 4520. The steering has improved vastly IMO, over the older 4311, which was one of the first in the world with Audyssey XT 32.
But the real improvement was when Atmos or DSU was engaged. The surround experience was taken to a new level.
I had previously tried the Denon 4100 for a short period and the surround bubble that Atmos and DSU brings is rather nice, but also dependant on the source material.
Movies with suspense and atmosphere benefitted the most, whereas those shoot them up ones didn’t always demonstrate Atmos as well.
When you partner it with a nice set of speakers, you can really retrieve details; it was clear without being fatiguing. I also feel it’s a little less bright than the 4520.
One nice feature is the Dialogue Enhancer, which is quite useful to help you follow the dialogue on the screen without having to turn up the volume to maddening levels.
Audyssey XT 32 and in particular the Sub HT EQ allows calibration to be done with great ease, but you still need to check the levels and tweak them after that.
You will still need a SPL meter, but the Denon has made the previously daunting task of setting up a solid and seamless surround home theatre experience, very sweet indeed.
The amp section is decent and the internal power section of this amp will be more than sufficient for most speakers. I didn’t really feel the need to upgrade them even when using my B&W 800 series speakers.
Surround effects were crisp, well placed and yet you feel well immersed with the lights down, you lose track of where the speakers are, and simply enjoy the HT experience.
In stereo or Pure mode, there is a decent attempt at making good music. But compared to the PM 11 S3, the soundscape tends to be flat and two-dimensional.
It can drive my B& W HTM4s along with the other speakers to a decent clip, but when you switch to the stereo amp alone, the sonic deficiencies are more glaring.
The bass is stronger, and the soundscape becomes more 3D, with solid separation of the instruments and details.
The general sonic signature of this amp is highly dependent on the partnering equipment and speakers, but comparing it to the older 4520, it edges to the neutral to warm side, perhaps it’s the new AKM Dacs, I am not sure. It tends to be less bright than corresponding Pioneer or Onyko amps. Accurate may be a better term, but it is in between the Marantz amps and the above other two in the relative brightness scale.
The Denon functions best as a HT processor, and a surround processor for music. When pressed into stereo music duties, it’s entirely listenable, but owners of such an amp may want to keep a separate system for music, or at least have a stereo amp with HT bypass in the system to give a stereo performance.
I also made extensive use of the Airplay function, which I found to be very impressive. The sound quality from it was as good if not better than from a direct HDMI input from my Gen 1 Apple TV playing the same lossless songs. And the playback function is simple to use. Kudos to Denon and Apple for this. The Blutooth experience was interesting, but ultimately lo-fi.
Switching back to HT again, and trying out the video section, you will find a very competent video chip for upscaling and the colors are quite good. It’s subtle, but I still prefer to go direct from my Oppo BDP 105 to the TV, but you will lose the on-screen volume and overlay.
With 8 HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, legacy inputs and even a phono input, plus a 7.1 analogue input, you are well covered and won’t lack much in terms of connectivity. The feature list is indeed very impressive. Build quality is decent, but it’s not reference level build. The sheet metal is thin, but the amp is well put together.
It also has two 12v triggers, and whilst it can do 13.2 outputs, you can only use 11.2 at once time.
After a whole night of use, it's quite cool to the touch, but you should still give it plenty of space. I use a laptop fan as well, which is powered by the internal USB port.
So where does all this put the amp?
Well, if you have the older non Atmos amps, and won’t be upgrading to that anyone soon, there is no need to lose too much sleep over this one. Most of the home theatre functions are carried over. The sound quality is comparable and is not a quantum leap in difference.
However, if you want to check out the new 3D sound formats, then you can’t really go wrong with this. Even so, do bear in mind that the Denon AVR X5200W and the Marantz SR 7009 are also Atmos and Auro capable and cost significantly less.
If you are in the market for a mid to high level receiver, or a processor on the cheap with free internal amps throw in, then this amp should be on your shortlist. You get
a considerable number of additional features and later this year, fingers crossed, but you should also be able to see the upgrade to DTS X plus the HDMI board upgrade.
I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.