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How far do you want to go with your home theatre? You can spend, oh, hundreds of thousands of dollars if you want. Or a couple of thousand could get you a collection of gear that some might call home theatre. But we reckon there’s a sweet spot, beyond which performance and feature benefits diminish relatively rapidly when compared to the monetary costs. And we further reckon that the Denon AVR-X2300W sits very close to that sweet spot.
Recently Denon has added a feature to some of its premium offerings: support for the HEOS multiroom system (see the next review for an example). But if you don’t need or want multiroom, or you’ve gone for a non-HEOS solution, then why spend on HEOS support? The Denon AVR-X2300W does everything, network-wise, that those premium models do, short of HEOS, while also providing 7.1-channel sound, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X three-dimensional sound decoding, and full Ultra High Definition video support.
Now, to details. Seven built-in amplifiers each offer up to 95W into 8 ohms with hi-fi specifications. A software switch provides support for four-ohm loudspeakers. And spare channels can be redirected to do other things, like bi-amp the front speakers or drive a second zone.
There is no provision for the addition of more amplifiers — no pre-amplifier outputs beyond that for the subwoofer (there are two RCA sockets but the signal to both is identical). So two overhead channels is the most possible with this receiver.
It has eight HDMI inputs, including the one on the front, and can rescale video to higher resolutions. All of these support the HDCP copy protection scheme used for Ultra HD Blu-ray, along with High Dynamic Range and Wide Colour video standards. And this is no entry-level receiver, so it includes useful legacy connections — component and composite video inputs, along with optical digital audio (but not coaxial). But it doesn’t convert those inputs to HDMI.
There is a USB socket on the front panel, and Ethernet on the rear. Plus two Wi-Fi antennas, which double as Bluetooth antennas. The Wi-Fi is dual band and supports the various historical standards up to 802.11n.
The set-up wizard is, as usual with Denon receivers, very comprehensive. It even incorporates some animated elements showing you, for example, how to connect the speaker wire to the terminals. Normally we’d skip this, but you have to tell the receiver your speaker arrangements some way or another. We’d opted for a 5.1.2 system: front, centre, surround, subwoofer and two overhead speakers. The system needs to know that it’s that and not 7.1 or 5.1.2 with two front wall speakers, or some other arrangement. So we went through the whole process, and quickly learned which bits to skip. If you’re unfamiliar with anything, there’s plenty of clear explanation as you go through the process. At the end you’re asked whether you want Audyssey Dynamic EQ applied. No you don’t.
One routine in setting up home theatre equipment is checking whether the firmware is up to date. The firmware is the computer program that runs within the receiver, enabling its various capabilities. As delivered, this receiver had within the box a note saying that while the receiver is DTS:X capable, this would be provided by a future firmware. That’s by no means unusual.
We’d guess that something like half of all the home theatre receivers, TVs and media players we review have required at least one firmware upgrade during the review period.
This Denon receiver has an auto-update facility, so that it can monitor over the internet whether any new firmware for itself becomes available and download it in the background.
We forced the matter immediately after installing the receiver and set it going on the process which, it estimated, would take 43 minutes. We’d say it took around two-thirds of that time.
Returning to our theme, does this receiver provide you everything you need for a satisfying music and home theatre system? We’d say, emphatically, yes. The completist aspect of our natures would probably prefer, all other things being equal, four overhead speakers, while the most that the receiver can support is two. But the whole speaker allocation process in Dolby Atmos and Dolby Surround is very effective and we have to admit that often the differences between having two and four overheads can be quite subtle.
As is the difference between five and seven channels around the edges of the room. We’d say that, with a crude estimation, you’re getting something like 90 or 95% of the full experience of 7.1.4 even if you’re using only 5.1.2.
That’s certainly what we experienced with our favourite test moments, such as the elevator and the water pool scenes in Hunger Games; Mockingjay Part 1 delivered by Dolby Atmos,
and this receiver was engrossing with its fully encompassing surround fields. Likewise, stereo and 5.1-channel content was enhanced nicely with Dolby Surround to produce real-feeling overhead sound elements.
Is 95 watts of power enough? Most certainly with a sensible choice of loudspeakers. One wouldn’t go for something applying a weird load to the amplifiers, but anything of average or higher sensitivity, and impedance characteristics which aren’t ridiculous, will do the job nicely. This receiver certainly drove our loudspeakers to eminently satisfying levels, while exercising fine control over them.
Of equally vital importance these days is video handling — or, more precisely, carriage. HDR and wide colour spectrum (BT.2020) video from our Ultra HD Blu-ray players were happily passed through by the receiver to the TV, with full support for the HDCP 2.2 requirements of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, even up to 60 frames-per-second Ultra HD. All those issues from a couple of years ago where one had to choose between 10-bit colour and Ultra HD copy protection compatibility have now gone.
While this receiver might not form part of the HEOS multiroom ecosystem, its network audio capabilities were otherwise excellent. Indeed, we wouldn’t be surprised to discover that big chunks of the network audio handling was simply adopted from the Denon DNP-730AE Network Audio Player (a unit we use in one of our reference systems). The capabilities appeared to be similar.
Last year Denon released a new control app for its recent receivers (shown left). We used the Android version. It worked pretty well. In fact, we’d say that with normal people it will work very well. We tend not to use these things like normal people, putting things through their paces fully, so we did manage to get it a bit confused on a couple of occasions. It got stuck in Spotify Connect, for example, when we were controlling it with the Spotify app on our desktop computer, rather than switching to Media Player mode as we asked. Or refusing to allow a third-party DLNA app running on a different device to take control. (Oddly, the Spotify app showed two Denon receivers available for playback — this one, and a ‘Denon AVR-1300W’. We have no such receiver in our system, but we did review it last year, so perhaps it was remembered in our Spotify profile. It went away when we tried to play some music to it.)
As for audio support, the receiver was omnivorous. We sent all manner of music to it using its own and the aforementioned DLNA app. It supported our FLAC files up to 192kHz sampling, and Direct Stream Digital up to the double speed 5.6MHz versions. Gapless music files were handled properly, which is to say gaplessly.
Don’t worry Apple folk — you aren’t left out. The receiver fully supports audio via Apple AirPlay. Indeed, as we’re writing these very words we’re enjoying Robben Ford’s debut album, the live Discovering the Blues, playing in the iOS music player on an iPad mini 4, transferred via AirPlay to the receiver. And fine sounding it is, too.
Denon receivers incorporate a network interface. You access it simply by entering its IP address in the web browser of a computer or device connected to the same network to which the receiver is connected. This doesn’t provide operational control, but does allow full access to all the set-up menus so you can make changes. More importantly, you can use this to save your set-up to a file on the computer. This must take quite the amount of work by the receiver because the page tells you that the receiver cannot be used during this process, which takes about ten minutes. It’s probably worth doing, though, because then you can restore all the settings should something go wrong and you have to do a factory reset at some point. (Not that we’re suggesting such a possibility is likely. For us the receiver worked perfectly.)
Ah yes, the sweet spot. We’d suggest that the Denon AVR-X2300W AV receiver is sitting right on top of on it.
+ Fine balance between features and cost
+ Excellent network features
+ Good Audyssey setup
- Cannot support four height channels
Tested with firmware: 3600-0916-3041
Power: 7 x 95W (8 ohms, 20-20,000kHz, 0.08% THD, two channels driven)
Inputs: 8 x HDMI, 2 x component video, 2 x composite video, 4 x analogue stereo,
2 x optical digital, 0 x coaxial digital, 1 x USB, 1 x Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Outputs: 2 x HDMI, 1 x 0.1 pre-out (2 sockets), 7 pairs speaker binding posts, 1 x 6.5mm headphone
Zone: 1 x analogue stereo, assignable amplifiers
Other: 1 x set-up mic
Dimensions: 434 x 167 x 339mm
Warranty: Three years