REVIEW: DENON AVC-X6500H 11.2 CHANNEL AV SURROUND AMPLIFIER
We loved Denon's AVC-X8500H AV Amplifier so much when we reviewed it last year, so we just had to get the X6500H smaller sibling in to see just how it compared to the behemoth.
11.2 Channel AV Surround Amplifier
AUD $5,199 RRP / NZD $7,499 RRP
It's been almost a year since we reviewed Denon's AVC-X8500 AV Receiver. My review at the time was full of praise for the behemoth, so much so I purchased the review unit. A decision I might add that I haven't regretted!
The question then, was how much better could the AVC-X8500H ($5,999 RRP) be, compared to the AVC-X6500H ($5,199 RRP) smaller sibling?
On paper, the differences are apparent, but what if you don't need the extra channels of amplification- could there be that much difference between the two in terms of performance?
The AVC-X6500H shares more than a few similarities with its big brother. For one, lacking a tuner, it's technically not a true AV Receiver (or 'AVR'). Instead, it's an AV amplifier, or more specifically an 'audio-video controller', hence the 'AVC' in the name.
And just like the X8500H, it features a monolithic amplifier design, each of its 11 channels rated at 140 watts (two channels driven 8 ohms, 20 Hz – 20kHz 0.05%). In reality, this number is going to be substantially lower with multiple channels driven.
The AVC-X6500H derives its processing muscle from four SHARC DSP processors. And, in true Denon fashion, the AVC-X6500H will decode pretty much any available sound format you throw at it, including, IMAX Enhanced, DTS HD Master, DTS:X, DTS Virtual: X, DTS Neural: X, DTS, Neo: X, Dolby Surround, Dolby True HD, Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D.
With the added connectivity including HEOS Wireless Multi-Room Audio Technology, AirPlay 2 Alexa, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and network audio streaming, the AVC-X6500H is capable of becoming the hub of a Multi-Room Audio and audio streaming system.
High-resolution audio is supported, with the X6500H decoding up to 24-bit/192 kHz ALAC, FLAC and WAV lossless files, as well as DSD 2.8 MHz and 5.6 MHz tracks via network sources and its front USB input.
Denon continues its long-standing partnership with Audyssey, the AVC-X6500H equipped with Audyssey's premium XT32 and Sub EQ HT room.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX
I must admit that I was a little disappointed when I first took the AVC-X6500H out of the box. While all Denon AVRs are much the same in terms of appearance, the X6500H was dwarfed by my AVC-X8500H.
In fact, in terms of both size and appearance, it's much closer in size to its little brother, the AVC-X4500H, even sharing the same dimensions as the X4500H. Fortunately, lifting it out of the box, it soon became apparent the AVC-X6500H had some 'heft' to it.
Likewise, a peek at its interior confirmed that X6500H has more in common with the architecture of the X4500H than the X8500H. However, unlike its more mid-priced counterpart, it's standing room only, as the AVC-X6500H is packed to the gills with technology.
Featuring the classic AVR look that Denon favours, the X6500H's fascia is finished in brushed black aluminium, with the volume and source dials located either side of its large LED display. Except for the power button, all other controls are located behind a large pull-down flap, giving the AVC-X6500H a clean, minimalistic look.
The AVC-X6500H's forward-facing inputs are also located here including a 4K/ HDCP 2.2 HDMI input, USB input, headphone jack and Audyssey microphone input.
As to be expected from an AVR at this price-point, the AVC-X6500H has a wide range of connections, including seven assignable HDMI inputs which support 4K/60 Hz pass-through, 4:4:4 resolution, HDR, BT2020, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG).
In addition to its seven HDMI inputs, the AVC-X6500H offers three HDMI outputs, with EARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) via its main HDMI output.
Including its tuner and phono inputs, the AVC-X6500H has ten analogue audio inputs, multizone inputs, 11 channel pre-outs, dual sub outputs, composite and component video inputs and outputs, two coaxial audio inputs, two optical audio inputs, 2 x 12V trigger outputs, 1 x IR input and an RS232 connection.
Rounding out its comprehensive range of connections is an ethernet port, wi-fi antennas and eleven high-quality gold plated speaker binding posts - six of which are assignable.
The box also included an Audyssey microphone, cardboard microphone stand, cable labels, power cord and of course remote control. The included remote control lacks the LCD of its bigger brother and as with other Denon remotes, looks somewhat pedestrian in terms of appearance.
Some of the remote control's buttons are a little small. However, the upshot of this is that you're going to find everything you need to control and navigate the AVC-X6500H's extensive menus directly from the remote.
The overall build quality of the AVC-X6500H was excellent and while there were some similarities between it and the AVC-X8500H, notably the pull-down flap, it doesn't quite meet the lofty standards of the AVC-X8500H.
If you've set up a Denon, or for that matter, Marantz AVR recently, not a lot's changed. Rather than being a criticism; however, that's a compliment, as when it comes to set up, both brands offer the slickest and most easy to use setup procedures in the business.
As with most modern AVR's, connect the AVC-X6500H's HDMI output to your display, power it up and it will guide you through everything from setting up speakers and source devices to audio calibration.
If you consider yourself a seasoned AV veteran, there's nothing to stop you jumping straight in - all of the AVC-X6500H's connections and menus are clearly labelled.
I connected the AVC-X6500H to VAF Signature i91 MKII front and centre speakers, VAF Signature i90 rear surround speakers and Sonique in-ceiling speakers. The low end provided courtesy of two custom-built 10” VAF Gravatis subs.
The AVC-X6500H's main HDMI output was connected to my Sony VPL-VW270ES 4K projector. Source devices consisted of both a Panasonic UB-9000 UHD player and 4K Apple TV which were connected directly to the AVC-X6500H.
Having utilised only seven of the Denon's eleven amplifiers in my 5.2.2 home theatre, I bi-amped my front speakers with the X6500H's surround back speaker terminals.
If you opt to use the automated setup process, the AVC-X6500H will automatically select the appropriate 'speaker-template'. Should you choose to jump straight in, this will need to be completed manually, along with telling the X6500H which, if any, speakers have been bi-amped.
As with all of the speaker templates I have encountered, the X6500H's are customisable to varying degrees. While I imagine most will use the AVC-X6500H with seven or more speakers, there is the option to select a 'full bi-amp' template in 5.1 configurations.
As with all Denon AVR's, room correction can be completed directly from the AVC-X6500H. Should you find yourself wanting more control over the EQ process, it's worth investing the extra 20 dollars in Audyssey's “MultEQ” app.
The AVC-X6500H may share the same dimensions as the mid-range AVC-X4500H; however, in terms of sheer power, there's no comparison.
Despite being 11 years old, The Dark Knight has an outstanding soundtrack which has only benefited from the upgrade to Dolby Atmos on the 4K disc.
The scene as the Dark Knight tries to thwart the Joker's assassination of Harvey Dent in Gotham's undercity motorway is a standout, providing the AVC-X6500H with the opportunity to flex its muscles.
And flex it muscles it did, lending explosions and collisions an excellent sense of weight and sonic impact. While the high volume levels I used for playback didn't bother the AVC-X6500H in the slightest, it wasn't able to muster quite the same sense of authority or ease in which my X8500H delivered with the same content.
Turning to more recent fare such as 2018's excellent Aquaman the X6500H once again turned in a powerful and dynamic performance. As I've come to expect from Denon AVR's with true dual sub outputs and Audyssey XT32, bass performance was superb. My Veritas subs delivering bass that was tight and controlled yet impactful thanks to the Denon.
The X6500H is undoubtedly capable of digging right in to deliver a detailed and nuanced performance. Likewise, in terms of channel steering, the X6500H was an excellent performer, deftly steering the various underwater effects from Aquaman and torpedoes from Hunter Killer expertly around my listening room.
With The Wolverine locked and loaded in my UB-9000, the AVC-X6500H soundstage wasn't quite as large as I have come to expect from my AVC-X8500H. In fairness to the X6500H though, the difference may have been noticeable, but it certainly wasn't day and night.
The dialogue was always clear and succinct, never faltering, even during The Wolverine's more frantic moments.
There's a decidedly 'Denon' sound to the AVC-X6500H that reminded me of both the AVR-X4300H and AVR-X4400H. Specifically, the AVC-X6500H has a clean, precise sound, characterised by a large, wide soundstage, with excellent channel steering.
It's obvious the AVC-X6500H has been made to bring out the best from Hollywood Blockbusters, and in this regard, it excels. Its strong-robust amps, coupled with excellent processing abilities, make the AVC-X6500H a superb choice for the heart of a serious home theatre system.
The AVC-X6500H didn't sound as natural as the AVC-X8500H, nor could it match the effortless fashion in which the X8500H powered my speakers, but that kind of performance is going to set you back nearly an extra $1,000.
Denon may not classify its AVC-X6500H as a flagship AVR, however, rest assured it still sounds every bit a flagship AVR.
If you have the opportunity to entertain the more expensive AVC-X8500H, I would encourage you to listen to both. But rest assured that the more affordable AVC-X6500H is both a powerful and very competent AVR that's going to impress.
For more information visit Denon.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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