Denon AVC-X8500H review

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“The Denon Flagship AVC-X8500H powers the next generation of home theater with the world’s first 13.2 channel AV Amplifier that supports the latest immersive audio formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D. Built-in HEOS technology supports Amazon Alexa* and takes music listening to the next level with wireless whole-home audio.”

Specifications:

The technical blurb:

“The Denon Flagship AVC-X8500H powers the next generation of home theater with the world’s first 13.2 channel AV Amplifier that supports the latest immersive audio formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D. Built-in HEOS technology supports Amazon Alexa* and takes music listening to the next level with wireless whole-home audio.”


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Associated test equipment:
PS64D8000FM Samsung plasma TV
Denon AVC X8500H
Marantz SR 7010 – 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 Dynaudio Confidence 1 Platinum
Sony UDP X800
(Sony UBP X800 Review )
Marantz NA11S1 as a DAC and network player
Dynaudio Confidence C1 and Centre Platinum front and centre
Usher 520 rear back
Monitor Audio RXFX in dipole mode for side surrounds
JL Audio E112 (one unit) 
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
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
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

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First, I will go through a summary my thought process for buying this amp.

It’s been a while since I upgraded my amp. I went through the Denon 7200, (great amp for HT), to the Marantz SR 7010, which stayed in my system for quite a while and now with the advent of HDMI 2.1, as well as more channels for surround, I felt that it was time for an upgrade.

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. My past experiences with Denon and Marantz were all good, so it made sense to go for them, and since they typically have the latest features, whilst retaining their musical roots, it felt like the logical choice.
I would then use a proper stereo amp for critical two channel listening.

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The three new 3D sound formats all: Atmos, Auro and DTS X have been with us for about three years, with Auro more or less being relegated to the sidelines in terms of user adoption, whilst Atmos equipped titles have outnumbered DTS ones by more than three times. And this amp can do all three, with the cost of the Auro upgrade included.

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The caveat?

 The MSRP of a new 8500 is around twice of the lower end models, and about 1k more than the Marantz SR 8012, which comes with a toroidal transformer and other audiophile bits.


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Specifications:

The technical blurb:

“The Denon Flagship AVC-X8500H powers the next generation of home theater with the world’s first 13.2 channel AV Amplifier that supports the latest immersive audio formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D. Built-in HEOS technology supports Amazon Alexa* and takes music listening to the next level with wireless whole-home audio.”

Some important info online:

Some photos of the innards:

Other pics and cool info:


The Japanese website has some of the most in depth info:

https://www.denon.jp/jp/product/hometheater/avreceivers/avcx8500h

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https://www.denon.jp/jp/product/hometheater/avreceivers/avcx8500h




Some useful improvements that I like (the bits in bold in particular):

- Upgradable to HDMI 2.1
- 7+1 HDMI inputs and 3 out at the back
- 15.2 main zone pre-outs vs.
- 13 channels of power
- ISF Certification (allows different Day/Night video calibration settings per input)
- Bluetooth, HEOS 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
menus will now be reserved for more global adjustments)
2 pieces of 32 bit all in one dual processor Sharc DSP processors ADSP 21573
- The 4 ohm capability.
- Audyssey XT 32 AND Sub EQ
- Audyssey app (at extra cost USD 19.99)
- AKM 4490EQ DACs. The best in the business right now. Same ones as in the 7200 and also the AV 8802 processor
- 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
- free Auro 3D (via a future firmware update)
- hand built in small batches, with better panel construction including triple chassis construct, copper plates to help disseminate heat
- DTS Virtual:X
- Dialogue Enhancer


What I disliked:
- 44 0000 uF of capacitance which is down, considering the same caps are used for only 9 channels in the 7200.
-     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)
- no more tuner(of course some may like it, and decide it means less interference)
- four fans
- no web control

The biggest difference?

That would be:
- more channels
- new DSP chips
- Dolby Surround upmixer

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Plus the potential to upgrade to Auro-3D. And there is also talk of DTS X in 13 channels for this model in a later upgrade.


Differences between the Marantz SR 8012 and the Denon AVC X8500H



Marantz SR 8012
Denon AVC X8500H
Remarks
DSP chipset
ADSP 21487 (4)
ADSP 21537 (2)
aka Griffin Lite
Power
11 channels
13 channels

Capacitance
? 44 000uf
44 000uF

Processing capability
11
13

Pre-outs
11
15

Transformer
Toroidal
Square

Chassis
Copper
Triple layer
Denon – hand built in small batches
Weight
17.4 kg
23.6kg

Sound enhancements
HDAM modules
DDSC AL32 processing

HDMI
2.0b
2.1 (via an upgrade)

DAC
AKM 4458VN
AKM 4490EQ (one per channel)

Power consumption
780W
900W

Audyssey APP support

Paid extra
Paid extra

RC 5 trigger
Activates other Marantz products
nil

Remote
Backlight button
Motion sensor backlight







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This is one heavy amp!







How to reset the amp:
How do I reset the microprocessor or do a network reset?

When the AVR is acting up or doing something strange, try the following steps before resorting to a microprocessor reset:

1. "Restart" - set the AVR to Standby and press/hold the power ON button until "Restart" is displayed on the front panel.

If no joy, then ...

2. Soft reset - set the AVR to Standby and unplug the power cord for about 10 minutes, then plug back in the power cord and turn ON.

If neither of the above resolves the issue, then you'll need to either do a network reset (if network related) or a microprocessor reset. You'll also want to reset the microprocessor before doing anything else if you purchased the AVR as an "open box" or demo/used/refurb unit to ensure all settings are returned to their original factory defaults. Prior to doing a reset, you can SAVE the config file to a USB thumb drive so it can be LOADed after doing the reset (SETUP - GENERAL - SAVE&LOAD).


Network Reset (“Amp Assign”, “Speaker Config.” and “Video” settings are not reset)

1 - Turn ON the power using ON/STANDBY.
2 - Select the HEOS Music source
3 - Simultaneously press/hold the "DIMMER" and ">" buttons for at least 3 seconds.
4 - Release your fingers when "Network Reset" is displayed on the front panel.
5 - "Complete" will display when the reset has completed.

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Microprocessor Reset (aka "Reset to original factory settings")

1 - Turn off the power using ON/STANDBY.
2 - Press and release ON/STANDBY (as you normally would when powering on the AVR) while simultaneously pressing/holding the "INFO" and "BACK" buttons on the front panel
3 - Remove your fingers from the two buttons when "Initialized" appears on the front panel display.

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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.

Setup:

Like it’s predecessor the 7200WA, 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.


The remote control is quite similar to the older one from the 7200, 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. It is cute, and yet it’s actually quite useful.




I personally felt the HT experience without Atmos or DSU was very similar to the older 7200. The steering has improved vastly IMO, over the older 4520.

But the real improvement was when you try out the new ‘3D’ sound formats, and add a whole layer of sound. It’s more than just sound that emanates from higher up.  When you  engage Atmos or DTS X the surround experience is taken to a new level. Each has it’s virtues and there is enough discussion which warrants a whole new post, but they do sound quite different.

If you have the 7200, and will only use 11 channels, I would suggest you hold onto that for now. No doubt there is some additional drive, and certain aspect of the steering seem better, but without a head to head comparison in the same room with both amps, it’s hard to know which is superior. Suffice to say, the 8500 seems to have a clear swift steering, and the sonic bubble is immensely immersive.  The clarity is amazing and yet, your ears won’t be ringing hot from a sound that’s too shrill. Those who really prefer their treble to be razor sharp will prefer the Onkyo house sound instead. But you will lose Audyssey XT 32.

Movies with suspense and atmosphere benefitted the most, and if you have room for all six overhead speakers, it’s a wonderfully immersive experience. When you partner it with a nice set of speakers, you can really retrieve details; it was clear without being fatiguing.

I really like 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.

We have all gotten spoilt by Audyssey XT 32 and in particular the Sub HT EQ, which allows calibration to be done with great ease, but you still need to check the levels and tweak them after that. It’s impressive in the way it relieves the user’s burden, but certinaly some elbow grease and extra work with a SPL meter will do a lot of good. However the Denon has made the previously daunting task of setting up a solid and seamless surround home theatre experience much simpler.

The amp section is meaty and the internal power section of this amp will be more than sufficient for most speakers that one will buy to partner this amp I used it with my 4ohm Dynaudios and they did not sound weak or seem to require more power. However if you have a decent power amp, you may feel that the Denon have less grip. But this is only if you compare it with a very good power amp.


In stereo or Pure mode, there is a decent attempt at making good music. But compared to the PM 11 S3, it still falls short, and the soundscape tends to be flat and two-dimensional.

If you needed to summarise the general sonic signature of this amp, it tends to the neutral to warm side, probably due to it’s AKM Dacs, It is in between the Marantz amps and the Onkyo 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, and if you do not have an expensive stereo setup, you will be quite happy with it.

Compared to my Marantz SR 7010, there is a distinctive difference in sonic signature, it's a tad less warm, but you get more in your home theatre experience, more bite and that may appeal to the HT fans.

I also made extensive use of the Airplay function, which I found to be very impressive. The Bluetooth experience was interesting, but ultimately lo-fi. I will be testing out the other functions in due course.

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 very solid, it’s a step or two up from the 7200. The sheet metal is solid, and the amp is well put together.

It also has two 12v triggers, and whilst it can do 15.2 outputs, you can only use 13.2 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.

Network control

There are some plus and one big con. There is a new HEOS app, which allows integration into the entire HEOS ecosystem, and you can control some parts of the amp with the Denon 2016 AVR app, but you lose web control. To me this is a big minus. You can’t check or change settings from the comfort of your PC, neither can you switch it on and off via your computer. Boo…

So where does all this put the amp?

Well, if you have the older non Atmos amps, and but won’t be upgrading to 3D sound anytime soon, there is no need to lose too much sleep over this one. The improvements are mainly in the realm of the home theatre. 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. It is also Auro capable and you have the most number of channels of any processor under 10 grand.

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Now how about the 7200WA? Well as I mentioned, if you don’t intend to utilise the full complement of outputs, and won’t be using HDMI 2.1, then you are pretty set.  This ex flagship still holds it’s own. Powerful and well equipped. It could be the bargain of the year for those who do not need or want more than 11 channels. Many places are offering good deals on this amp now. Don’t overlook it for almost 1.5k less.
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If you are in the market for a 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 HDMI 2.1(via a paid upgrade).

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Pros:
13 channels usable at once
Big transformer that can power 13 channels
Well built - best of all the big brand HT amps right now
Does all three flavors: Auro, Atmos and DTS X
Potential for HDMI 2.1

Cons:
Expensive
You need to pay for the HDMI 2.1 board upgrade
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No web control


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 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the review sir!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the review. I'm soon in the market for the 8500 or the Marantz 8012. Not decided yet. It's gonna be great either one. And a full set of Klipsch spkrs with two subs. Can't wait!

    ReplyDelete

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