Denon AVC-X8500H Review: A big and beautiful monster
Tech Week score:
The Denon AVC-X8500H is the first 13.2 channel AV amplifier on the market. Offering unsurpassed sound quality, the AVC-X8500H works with all modern surround formats – Dolby Atmos, DTS: X and Auro 3D, and its 13 channels reproduce sound in a maximum 7.2.6 configuration without the need for external amplification. The AVC-X8500H, like the entire DENON line of AV receivers, carries HEOS wireless technology for integration into the modern home’s multi-room system, and also supports music streaming via AirPlay.
With nearly 110 years of Denon audio design and manufacturing, the AVC-X8500H is one of the most technologically advanced and feature-rich AV amplifiers ever on the market. The 13-channel AV amplifier, hand-built in Japan, uses 13 discrete amplifiers using custom-made DHCTs (Denon High Current Transistors) rated at 150 watts per channel (8 ohms, 20-20 kHz, 0.05% THD 2-channel). This allows you to get high-quality and powerful sound with any set of acoustics, up to the Auro 13.1 configuration, which includes 5 upper channels of the second level and a center channel of the third level.
For maximum sound quality and wide dynamic range with minimal distortion, the Denon AVC-X8500H is equipped with 8 AKM AK4490EQ 32-bit D / A converters from the audiophile series of Velvet Sound chips.
The Denon AVC-X8500H amplifier will become the center of the entire home’s music network with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth ™ wireless source connectivity, Apple AirPlay ™ streaming and HEOS wireless multi-room technology. Users can listen to music in different rooms from a variety of sources, including high-definition DSD files as well as FLAC, ALAC and WAV formats.
Denon AVC-X8500H is equipped with an advanced set of functions for control and compatibility with integration solutions from other manufacturers. It has IP control capabilities and Control4 ™ SDDP (Simple Device Detection Protocol) certification. The RS-232C serial port is also used for direct connection to home automation system and control equipment, and the IR remote control input provides remote control compatibility for other components in your system. Our new HDMI Diagnostics software makes it easy for installers to properly connect and diagnose HDMI audio and video connections from various sources.
The Denon AVC-X8500H features Audyssey MultEQ XT32 Automatic Correction System, which includes a full suite of advanced Audyssey Platinum DSP algorithms. MultEQ XT32 analyzes the sound of each speaker at eight points and adjusts the sound of each speaker for the correct frequency response and phase. In addition, the AVC-X8500H supports the new professional Audyssey MultEQ Editor application, which allows users to more accurately analyze and adjust sound to the specific acoustics of the room and tailor the sound to the personal preference of the listener.
The Denon AVC-X8500H amplifier works with the most advanced video formats and is fully compliant with the latest HDMI and HDCP 2.2 standards on all eight HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs. The AVC-X8500H supports 4K Ultra HD 60Hz video, 4: 4: 4 color resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR), video pass-through, and BT.2020 21: 9 resolution. Therefore, the AVC-X8500H is able to work with all new players for 4K Ultra HD video – Blu-ray players, TV / game consoles, and other 4K Ultra HD sources. In addition, it can support legacy video formats by upscaling standard analog and digital video to 4K Ultra HD resolution. Dolby Vision compatibility is also supported, eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel with support for object-oriented surround formats) and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma). eARC will be activated via a 2018 firmware update.
The Denon AVC-X8500H is at the heart of a wireless network with full Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity and Apple AirPlay streaming capabilities and wireless multi-room audio technology. Users can explore, view and play music in every room from a variety of sources, including high resolution DSD files (2.8 and 5.6 MHz), FLAC, ALAC, and WAV.
Consumers can send voice commands to the connected Amazon Alexa device to control various functions including power on / off, volume, mute / unmute, music play / pause, external input switching, and play supported streaming services.
The Denon AVC-X8500H has IP control capabilities for integration with major third-party control devices and Control4 SDDP (Simple Device Detection Protocol) certification. An RS-232C serial port is available for direct connection to external home automation and control equipment, while the rear panel IR remote input provides remote control compatibility with other components in your home theater system.
Just two years ago we were surprised at the first 11-channel Denon receiver, and now, trying not to confuse anything, we are connecting 15 pairs of acoustic “bananas” to the outputs one after the other. The 23-kilogram theatrical colossus contains all conceivable 3D sound decoders, the most advanced 8K switch, and a lot of power terminals with a power of 150 watts each …
It leaves an indelible impression both in size and weight. The height of the laconic front panel is almost 20 centimeters! The depth of the body is even greater than the width – 48 centimeters. His Japanese colleagues have already dubbed him a “monster”. And it really fits with the largest and most expensive theater heavyweights from America.
However, unlike them, the AVC-X8500H does not try to gain additional “authority” due to the thick metal plate of the facade, massive base and casing, under which there is sometimes more emptiness than electronics. The apparatus created in Shirakawa represents a completely different school of engineering. Construction materials were used rationally here in Japanese, and the main weight falls on the filling, with which it is literally packed to the brim.
Inside, strictly along the central axis, there is a 1.6-kilowatt shielded transformer with a W-core weighing 8.2 kg. It is surrounded by a pair of imposing sections of output stages (by the way, they are physically divided into “left” and “right”), bristling with large aluminum radiators. And the rear panel has a whole “pie” of boards responsible for switching and networking functions, decoding, processing and signal conversion.
Do not think that the AVC-X8500H chassis has signs of cheapening and lack of rigidity. It is made in a completely different way from the mass receivers. Side panels made of sturdy aluminum profiles, a double rear wall and a front panel, which is completely shielded from the rear, play the role of load-bearing elements. This “force perimeter” tightens the perforated casing from above, and the lower steel three-layer part (3.6 mm thick, including the platform for the power supply) gives the entire structure the necessary anti-vibration properties. The flagship AVC-A1HD, designed back in 2007, had a similar architecture. Incidentally, the development of the new model, which has been going on for three years, was led by the same person who worked on the uncompromising seven-channel “unit” – Yuki Takahashi.
Have you noticed that the name of the new item begins with “AVC”, not “AVR”? That’s right – Denon assigned such indexes only to top multichannel without a tuner. I don’t think that the absence of a penny module for receiving FM / AM radio on board will upset anyone today. A network connection opens access to thousands of web radio stations and completely replaces the terrestrial radio. Add streaming, all wireless communications and rich possibilities for the traditional connection of external sources … However, I see no point in delving into the full functionality – it is exhaustive. Therefore, we will focus only on the key points.
The digital path is unparalleled in the past. The new generation DDSC-HD 32 Bit proprietary topology is based not on four separate silicon chips, but on two most modern dual-core DSP Griffin Line based on a similar SHARC architecture, working with high-speed four-channel DDR3 memory. This gave the processor a powerful boost in performance and made it possible to implement 15-channel signal processing. Thanks to it, we see in front of us the world’s first AV device capable of decomposing an object-oriented Atmos stream according to configuration 7.2.6 (i.e., into six ceiling speakers) or according to 9.2.4 (with raised front channel doubles).
All digital processing is performed only in 32-bit format – the required recalculation of incoming 16-, 20- and 24-bit streams is performed by the AL32 Processing multichannel scheme. Digital-to-analog conversion is generally carried out on a separate board, which contains eight two-channel AK4490EQs. These chips came out four years ago, but are still considered the best representatives of the 32-bit / 768 kHz class delta-sigma DACs. Finally, the entire digital section is powered separately through a filter circuit with custom-made ELNA capacitors from Denon.
Now let’s go through the analog tracks. The AVC-X8500H provides not only a 15-channel Preout, but also a 7.1 multichannel input, and not all receivers now provide such a possibility of supplying a signal to the endpoints along a short path. The power amplifiers themselves, I think, are simply masterpieces. In all 13 channels, we see powerful single-stage outputs on complementary pairs of high-current DHCTs (as in the best Denon integrated circuits) – these transistors were developed in collaboration with Sanken. Special attention is paid to the suppression of distortion caused by thermal instability. All transistors inside one section are not attached directly to the radiators, but through a single massive copper plate 2 mm thick. Heating control sensors are located directly on the substrate, and the entire thermoregulation system is configured in such a way to avoid the limitation of the current flowing through the semiconductors due to temperature micro-jumps. Each channel is powered separately – it has its own rectifier and smoothing buffer.
Anticipating listening, for which, for the sake of sports interest, we decided to use all 15 output terminals, I want to thank the developers for the visual display of the rear panel on the monitor, which shows which signal is coming to certain physical terminals – this simple “feature” significantly simplifies the connection and subsequent configuring. But at the same time, I came up with the idea of insufficient study of buy-amping options. Now, tell me, who would even want to connect acoustics in a 5.1 circuit in a two-wire way (and such a unique feature is inherent in the AVC-X8500H)? In my opinion, instead of this purely hypothetical function, it would be better to provide fine tuning for the buy-or even tri-amping itself. That is, in order to be able to set levels, frequency corrections and time delays individually for low, medium and high bands, causing the corresponding configurations in the profile.
I guess what gets in the way – for this you will have to completely redo the Audyssey MultiEQ XT32 room correction software. But I would also appreciate the possibility of purely manual adjustments to the buy-amps even without the possibility of auto-calibration, because this is a real step towards achieving coherent sound from the speakers, the importance of which for musical stereo modes cannot be overestimated. Hopefully I can be heard at Denon headquarters, but in the meantime, we have everything ready for the first tests. after all, this is a real step towards achieving coherent sound from speakers, the importance of which for musical stereo modes cannot be overestimated. Hopefully I can be heard at Denon headquarters, but in the meantime, we have everything ready for the first tests. after all, this is a real step towards achieving coherent sound from speakers, the importance of which for musical stereo modes cannot be overestimated. Hopefully I can be heard at Denon headquarters, but in the meantime, we have everything ready for the first tests.
Atmos, configuration 7.1.6: in the lower tier we have the center, front, side and rear speakers connected, and in the upper tier (on the ceiling) there are a couple of systems standing behind the sofa line, a couple slightly in front and a couple of speakers above the front. Distance settings in the menu are actual – by rangefinder. Levels – by ear. The division frequency is standard, 80 Hz. All tonal corrections are turned off, and in the menu “Audio” / “Surround sound parameters” the item “Sound control” is additionally deactivated (in Denon receivers, this is the only way to turn off dynamic compression completely).
The effect made itself felt immediately – Atmos programs, which previously seemed not so much informative as simply spectacular, generated a powerful immersive effect. A lot of objects were added to the “heavens”, they took on an orderly appearance, actually became “atmospheric” and no longer lost their integrity, “walking” on the ceiling. There was a feeling that the visual component went beyond the projection screen – all actions in the movie became very easy to track only by the sounds materializing both above you and in the entire surrounding hemisphere.
But movies – even music programs (for which the object-based coding method is far from the best) sounded much more picturesque! Especially those that are concert recordings – almost complete immersion in a club or stadium “live” with all its impressive atmosphere. By the way, the AVC-X8500H has one very useful setting – “Bass sync” (it works in addition to those set by the bass manager). With it, you can reduce the inertia of the large speaker of the subwoofer to almost zero and thereby achieve a clear shock attack and rhythm without long dances around the phase, frequency and level control on the bass machine. The only complaint about the Atmos format in a musical context is some redundancy in high-frequency details and light synthetic coloring.
The programs in the rival DTS: X format sounded more natural musically – cleaner, more organic, denser. The information flow is shifted from the high spectrum just to the right place – to the middle. But in the cinema, the high-rise effect is no longer so pronounced – that invisible sound “hologram” that Atmos covered us for some reason does not form. And when you listen to “music” in DTS HD Master Audio, you don’t find anything to complain about at all – a good and clean mode in which six speakers on the ceiling are not used at all, and Neutral modes that add a slight virtual pitch to the sound, but soften the dynamics …
In any case, we did not regret at all that we spent several hours connecting all the speakers. With the AVC-X8500H, it has finally become clear what object and multichannel HD systems are generally capable of.
Now let’s see what this handsome guy has to offer us for stereo. The influence of the “direct” playback modes is felt, but not at all obvious – even with the default settings of the path, the streak picture does not degrade either tonally, spatially, or in terms of microdynamics. When playing files over a network or from a flash drive, a qualitative increase is well felt when moving from recordings in 16 / 44.1 to higher resolutions. The fact that the path is quite delicate to music is convinced by the general detailing, well expressed in all parts of the spectrum. There are almost no tinting nuances. The reproduction from digital inputs is expected to be slightly more accurate and plastic than from analog RCA (we avoid double conversion). Switching the analog source to the alternative 7.1 input gives only a small boost in dynamics,
Finally, to test the capabilities of high-current amplifiers, we connected the 140-kilogram Canton Reference 1 K giants to the outputs, and immediately – by-amping, since acoustics with huge twin woofers require extreme control. The AVC-X8500H built a cool stereo space, and from a purely “power” point of view, it did a good job – it printed energetically saturated, shock and impulse components like no other multichannel before in our tests. Well, exactly – a monster …