For this first home cinema receiver review, we decided to install the Denon AVR-X3000 in our living room. Is Denon’s leading home cinema receiver from its 2013 range any good’ Is it as easy to install and use as it looks? Has the promise of 24 bits / 192 kHZ HD audio file, AirPlay, DLNA network protocols and Spotify compatibility been kept? Does the Denon AVR-X3000 deliver quality HD image? Here are some of the answers…
Its true power on 5 or 7 channels
The Denon AVR-X3000 is a 7.2 model which can deliver up to 105 Watts per channel at 8 Ohms. It is equipped with a 1080/4K video scaler, an Audyssey MultiEQ XT auto-calibration and support a wide variety of digital audio files which can be read from any memory stick or USB hard drive but also from any local network thanks to the AirPlay and DLNA protocols.
It’s never easy separating the good from the bad when talking about the power developed by home cinema receivers. Denon is one of those brands which reports the ?useful power? of its different models.
Manufacturers generally carry out two or three series of power measurements. The first is expressed with the lowest impedance load supported by the receiver, 4 Ohms or 6 Ohms, at 1 kHz (by producing a shrill sound in the medium range), for a single channel (and not 2, 5 or 7) and with a distortion rate close to 1 % (which is a lot). In these unrealistic and dreadful conditions, any manufacturer can give a three figure power measurement. This is good for sales brochures but not for your hearing.
The second measurement is expressed in the same conditions, but with a variable distortion rate…much to the satisfaction of the manufacturer. The Yamaha RX-V775 home cinema receiver, the main competitor of the Denon AVR-X3000, delivers 160 W for 10% distortion. Denon states 180 W for 1% distortion. This type of measurement, whilst it allows us to compare two receivers, is not completely realistic.
The third measurement is the one which interests us the most. Power is measured with an impedance of 8 Ohms (which complies with most speakers), from 20 Hz to 20 kHz (an audio signal ranging from bass to treble), for two channels (in stereo) and with a distortion rate of 0.08 % (a hi-fi value). In these conditions, the Denon AVR-X3000 develops 2 x 105 W, or 210 Watts. This is the receiver’s ?useful power?.
In order to determine genuine power on 5 or 7 channels, you need to get out your calculator. On 5 channels, the Denon AVR-X3000 theoretically develops 42 W (210/5) and on 7 channels, 30 W (210/7).
Is it enough?
The answer to this is yes. For speakers with sensitivity higher than 88 dB, used with an active subwoofer and in a 30 m² room, it is unlikely that the Denon will reach its limits. However, without a subwoofer, at a high volume, limits could be reached and distortion perceived (aggressive sound pushed forward and possibly interference). Having said that, 30 W injected into 7 speakers is the equivalent of a sound level higher than 110 dB, which is huge for a living room measuring 30 m².
Control knob and connector layput
Denon talks a lot about the ease-of-use of their amplifiers. Since 2012, all their amplifiers have been greatly simplified ? including front and back panels and remote control. As regards the Denon AVR-X3000, the front panel features a circular input switch, 4 shortcuts for the most common inputs, a zone switch, a volume potentiometer, HDMI and USB inputs, a microphone input and a headphones output. The front panel is rather sober when compared to Onkyo home cinema receivers or Yamaha home cinema receivers for example. The LED display is compact but is extended due to the large glossy plastic cover.
The back panel is a nice surprise, as it clearly demonstrates a good sense of organisation. Speaker terminals are arranged horizontally and cables inserted vertically, i.e. you don’t have to bend down to carry out any maintenance work. Terminal heads are a good size and screw threads are efficient. Each terminal is compatible with banana plugs but not with forks.
The top part is for S/PDIF and HDMI digital audio inputs. Connecting the optical cable from a new source is really easy when sitting down in front of the receiver. Carrying out the operation blindly hardly poses a problem. We can’t, however, say the same thing about Denon’s competitor brands.
As digital audio inputs are not connected to a video input, each one can be assigned.
With four 24 bit compatible S/PDIF inputs (2 coax, 2 toslink), the Denon AVR-X3000 has adequate digital audio connectors for connecting a CD player, a DVD player, a network player or a Bluetooth amplifier. The 7 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs, one being ARC compatible, which allows you to connect a Blu-ray player, a satellite receiver, an Internet receiver, a TV decoder or games console.
The analog connectors are made up of several composite video inputs and YUV (component) whose incoming and outgoing streams can be digitalised and upscaled to 1080p to the HDMI output. Five RCA audio stereo inputs are also present. Concerning outputs, the presence of 7.2 pre-out outputs (for 2 subwoofers) allows the Denon AVR-X300 to be used as a pre-amplifier with power units.
There are enough inputs to connect any audio source and any analog or digital video source. The only downside is that there is no phono input with MM or MC pre-amplifier. We can’t blame Denon for this as most manufacturers have stopped using this function on their home cinema receivers. A receiver such as this isn’t really used for a turntable. A real external phono pre-amplifier would provide better results anyway.
Switching on and configurations
In order to configure the Denon AVR-X3000, you just need to connect it to a television using an HDMI output, preferably the one labelled ARC to implement the audio return. The OSD menu on the television is set out very clearly and the main functions are immediately accessible.
We may as well admit it, we cheated slightly with the Denon AVR-X3000 configuration, as this receiver can integrate a web server, which can be accessed via an Internet browser. Speaker calibration operations cannot be carried out via the receiver’s web interface. The OSD configuration assistant is therefore a necessary step in the process.
Once speakers have been configured, it is time to move on to acoustic calibration using the supplied microphone. Please note that, over the last ten years, Denon has worked closely with Audyssey, who specialises in home cinema acoustic treatment. The Denon AVR-X3000 therefore uses the Audyssey MultEQ XT auto-calibration process.
Calibration operations take approximately ten minutes, depending on the number of connected speakers and measurement points. The Denon AVR-X3000 suggests measuring speaker acoustics and the listening room at 8 different places, including 3 on level with the main listening point.
We advise you to avoid carrying out this operation late at night as it’s quite noisy. The different sounds emitted are repetitive bass to treble sinusoidal signals (?pouit, pouit, pouit?).
As specified earlier, the Denon AVR-X3000 can integrate a web server. To access the web, the simplest way is to browse the network from a computer and double-click on the receiver icon. If this doesn’t work, you need the receiver’s IP address (which can be accessed via the OSD menu for example). Access is also possible on a smartphone or tablet connected to the local network. We were able to easily adjust a few preferences, such as activating the CEC control of the HDMI output and the audio return channel (ARC) from the television.
Firmware updates are also possible using the web server: be patient as it lasts roughly 45 minutes after the file has been downloaded.
Settings aren’t required for connection to the local network. The Denon AVR-X3000 is set to receive an IP address via the DHCP server (setting of all boxes and access routers on the market).
Denon Remote App for iOS and Android
The application for iOS smartphones and tablets and Android allows the Denon AVR-X3000 to be used very easily. Designed to offer access to different sources (HDMI, Internet radio, DLNA audio file servers, etc.), this application is reactive and personalized. A long push on the screen icons allows you to replace them. The favourites function manages Internet radio and FM radio, but also any audio files stored or shared on a NAS. This is convenient as all the audio modes (direct, stereo, DTS, Dolby, etc.) are accessible. The application allows several Denon appliances to be controlled, such as the Ceol N8 for example. Moving from one to the other can be carried out in two pushes.
We connected the Denon AVR-X3000 to different speakers ? Q Acoustics 2050i tower speakers, Klipsch RB-51 compact and Highland Audio Aingel 320c centre with Viard Audio Silver HD12 and NorStone Silver 150 speaker cables. Our HDMI cable was the NorStone HDS-540.
The best results in stereo are obtained, unsurprisingly, with the Q Acoustics tower speakers and the Denon AVR-X3000 takes full advantage. Listening is full with rich bass and precise low-medium. Treble seems a bit ?dirty? but this impression soon disappears the more we listen as after a few hours listening, treble becomes precise and fine.
Our first listening session took place in the evening and we were highly impressed by the Audyssey Dynamic Volume technology which proved itself to be high-performing on Dolby Digital tracks and DTS HD Master Audio or PCM. The sound stage loses in opening but dynamic gaps are reduced and we don’t immediately throw ourselves on the remote control at the first door slamming. You can also listen at a low volume with very good sound perception or at a high volume where explosions in an action film are well contained. The Denon AVR-X3000 works well on the explosive soundtrack of Breaking Bad (season 3, Blu-ray edition) and is highly efficient and credible. Watching certain scenes from Avatar confirms this ? everything is under control when the Audyssey Dynamic Volume is running.
Different surround modes
With 3, 4, 5 or 7 speakers connected, the Denon AVR-X3000 offers mastering on 5 or 7 channels, using a stereo or multi-channel signal. The DTS Neo:X process impressed us greatly, just like the Audyssey DSX process. The Dolby Pro Logic IIz is less refined.
Is it adapted to Hi-Fi ?
Not in the true sense of the term high fidelity. Several treatment processes are applied by audio processors, not counting those from the Audyssey MultEQ XT. As with any home cinema receiver, the audio signal is ?cobbled together? for a pleasant listening experience. We listened to a few Internet radio stations, FIP in particular and the result was very pleasant although a little dull a times. Listening to FIP is always a good test for the placing of voices and the AVR-X3000 bangs out the sound, even though the airiness of a stereo amplifier or a small, quality stereo system such as the Ceol N8 is superior. For better home cinema / hi-fi versatility, then you should seriously consider the Denon AVR-X4000.
In any case, the sound delivered by the Denon AVR-X3000 is never aggressive and that is definitely its main quality. Having said that, the sound isn’t dull but always lively. The general balance is good and voices are well integrated. Bass thunders and the Viard Audio Silver HD12 cables are no strangers to this.
AirPlay, DLNA and USB
With our iPad in hand, we never had any difficulty in streaming our ALAC music to the Denon AVR-X3000. If you activate the network stand-by, the receiver is activated as soon as a music file or audio stream (Deezer, Spotify, Youtube, etc.) is sent to it. The playback app manages the volume of the receiver. The LED display shows all information relating to the file you are listening to.
The DLNA support implies that the Denon Remote App application is used in order to look for local network audio servers. Our NAS Synology was quickly detected. The 24 bit FLAC and 192 kHz files are played without any difficulty or silence between files (gapless mode). We didn’t notice any major difference with CD quality files. The LED display also provides information regarding the track being played.
The USB port on the front panel is compatible with USB drives and hard drives with FAT or FAT32 partitions. Audio files played are numerous: MP3, M4A (AAC and ALAC), WMA, OGG, WAV and above all 16 bit FLAC / 44.1 kHz at 24 bits and 192 kHz.
Our HD Zappiti Player Mini performed better when it was connected directly to our television rather than connected via the Denon AVR-X3000. The image was slightly more contrasted and sharp in direct connection. Activating of the cinema mode allows you to enjoy a convincing image. The reduction in video noise is efficient with DVD sources and it can be deactivated (as it is useless with 1080p sources). All these settings can be accessed from the receiver’s OSD menu and also via its web interface.
We’d be hard pushed to not like this Denon AVR-X3000 home cinema receiver, which is easy to implement and can be set via a web server in any Internet browser. It can be controlled using a straightforward remote control and a mobile application. Listening is lively but always well controlled. The Audyssey procedures carry out remarkable equalizing and dynamic compression (can be deactivated) after calibration. The choice of speakers which can be used with the Denon AVR-X3000 is vast as the 600 Watt power supply has no problem working with floor-standing speakers. A more consistent matching of speakers would imply 2 or 3-way tower speakers fitted with 13 or 16 cm drivers.