REVIEW: DENON AVR-X4300H NETWORK AV RECEIVER
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It was back in the early days of DVD that I first encountered a Denon receiver. There I was making myself comfortable on a friend’s lounge as he loaded Contact into his newly acquired DVD player, and turned up the volume on his Dolby Digital equipped Denon Receiver.
Much like Jodie Foster’s character in that movie, I had a life changing experience that day. Granted… meeting the alien incarnation of your dead father is kind of a big deal, but so was experiencing my first DVD!
At that time the home theatre market was rapidly gaining momentum and with Audio Video Receivers (AVRs) being the only way to get digital surround sound at home, it seemed like every manufacturer was producing AVRs.
Already a long established and well-respected name in audio, Denon was quickly establishing themselves as a brand offering quality AVRs with the latest developments in surround sound decoding. Sure, there were cheaper offerings available, but Denon was a brand that stood head and shoulders above them in terms of sound quality.
Roughly 16 years later and most, if not all those cheaper offerings have long since disappeared from the market. Their manufacturers have since focused their attention elsewhere.
The Denon name however, is still synonymous for offering quality AVRs with innovative technology.
As of today, Denon has 12 AVRs in their range, starting with the entry level X520BT, all the way to up to their flagship AVR-X7200WA. The subject of our review, the AVR-X4300H is an upper-mid range AVR with an RRP of $2,999.
The AVR-X4300H is a 9.2.2 channel AVR, which means it can support 2 front speakers, 1 centre speaker, 2 rear speakers, 2 rear back speakers, 2 subwoofers and 2 overhead speakers. Add an external 2 channel amplifier and it can be expanded to an 11.2.2 AVR (4 overhead speakers). In addition to supporting Ultra HD (4K/60 Hz full-rate pass-through, 4:4:4 color resolution, HDR and BT.2020), the X4300H can decode the newer Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. If you want to take things a step further, the AVR-X4300H can also be upgraded for Auro 3D.
With built in HEOS Wireless Multi-Room Audio Technology, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and network audio streaming, the AVR-X4300H is ready to become the hub of a Multi-Room Audio system. High-resolution audio playback is also supported, with the X4300H capable of decoding FLAC, ALAC and WAV files.
The AVR-X4300H is equipped with Audyssey’s ‘platinum’ XT32 room correction software. With the inclusion of Sub EQ HT in the Audyssey XT32 suite, it provides DSP tailoring of two subwoofers and 4 times the sub filter resolution than found in Audyssey’s XT room correction software. This means better control and stronger tighter bass for dual subwoofer setups.
What’s in the Box?
The review unit was finished in a black coated aluminum chassis. The front panel of the X4300H (finished in black brushed metal), has a large volume dial located on the right hand side of the LED display and another smaller dial to the left of the display for input selection. All buttons (with the exception of the power button) are housed behind a pull down flap.
The AVR-X4300H, has seven assignable HDMI inputs with 4K/60Hz full-rate pass-through (4:4:4 resolution, HDR, BT2020) and two HDMI outputs. There’s also a set of component video and composite inputs, along with five analog audio inputs and optical and composite digital inputs. The X4300H has 11.2 pre-amp inputs for connection to external power amplifiers. Network connection can be accomplished either by cable, or wirelessly without the need for adaptors.
The AVR-X4300H’s remote is a little on the larger side (which suited me just fine), but fitted quite snuggly in the hand. Unfortunately the remote is not back-lit and lacked a dedicated button to toggle the X4300H’s LED display on and off. I know I’m being a little picky here, but I find ambient light a distraction and the ability to access this function quickly, without the need to go into the AVRs onscreen menu would be very useful.
The included quick setup guide prompted me to connect the AVR-X4300H to a monitor (TV or projector) via HDMI and follow the on-screen instructions. Firing up the Denon for the first time, you’re greeted with a rather slick and easy to follow GUI, which guides you through everything from speaker and source connection, through to calibration (more on that shortly).
The X4300H has a total of 11 rows of speaker binding posts (22 in total). Rather than opting for top/bottom (red above black) placement, Denon have placed the binding posts in a single row (red next to black). With this type of configuration you have plenty of room to work when connecting speaker cables. The AVR-X4300H features two independent subwoofer inputs, critical for determining correct distances, levels and room correction with two subwoofers.
The AVR-X4300Hs easy to follow GUI made the Audyssey calibration very simple. Denon have left nothing to chance here, with the onscreen display showing exactly where the included calibration microphone and stand should be placed during the process. Denon have even gone as far to include a cardboard microphone stand, should you not have your own. Audyssey did set my front bookshelf speakers to large (as has every other type of calibrations software I have used), but it was simple enough to change them back to small after the calibration was complete.
My 5.2.2 home theatre (5 speakers, 2 subwoofers and 2 overhead/presence speakers) is typically powered by a pre/power combination, consisting of an AVR connected to an external five channel power amplifier. I find this type of configuration gives me plenty of power to drive a range of different speakers, with the ability to swap in and out AVRs as new formats become available.
With my favourite demo Blu-ray in one hand (The Wolverine) and a handful of Reece’s peanut butter cups in the other, it was time to settle in for some serious listening…
Early in the movie there’s a chase through the streets of Tokyo, complete with gun touting Yakuza and a roof-top hopping ninja. While the AVR-X4300H didn’t quite manage to capture the same sense of ‘space’ that I am used to in this scene, there was a greater level of detail on offer from the X4300H.
With the Yakuza still in tow, the action moves to a bullet train, where there’s a show-down between Wolverine and the Yakuza. Once again, I was greeted with a detailed presentation, with excellent channel steering as bridges and signs whipped by Wolverine and his opponent, fighting to stay atop the roof of the speeding bullet train.
There’s a lot of sub engagement in this scene and the AVR-X4300H delivered clearer, tighter, and quite frankly the best bass I have heard in my home theatre to date.
The Prometheus Blu-ray is another film with reference quality audio and video. The DTS-HD soundtrack is underpinned with some serious bass, giving it a strong sense of dynamics. True to form, the AVR-X4300H delivered a very detailed presentation, its excellent channel steering placing me right in the middle of the storm which takes place shortly after landing on the alien planet LV-223.
Bass performance was top notch, with clear, tight bass that only further enhanced the already dynamic soundtrack. Whether it was in the middle of the alien storm, or in quieter scenes, such as Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and David’s (Michael Fassbender) confrontation in the hallways of the Prometheus, dialogue remained clear without the need of enhancement.
As the AVR-X4300H is going to need to drive the multitude of speakers found in your typical home theatre, it was time to disconnect the power amplifier and connect the X-4300H directly to my speakers. The AVR-X4300H turned in an admirable performance for an AVR at this price- point, easily filling my room with a sound that had enough dynamics to create an immersive home theater experience.
While of course it didn’t possess the same level of dynamics or control as when it was connected to an external power amplifier, this level of performance is going to cost a lot more than the AVR-X4300H’s $2,999 asking price.
HEOS: The Heart of Your Multi-Room Audio
Featuring the HEOS architecture, the AVR-X4300H and AVR-X6300H are Denon’s first two AVRs to include multi-room wireless streaming compatibility.
With the AVR-X4300H or AVR-6300H already a wireless music zone, simply add other HEOS products (such as wireless speakers and sound bars) throughout your home to create more independent and controllable audio zones.
During the review of the AVR-X4300H I also received a HEOS 3 wireless speaker. Getting the X4300H and HEOS 3 wireless speaker setup for multi-room audio was a simple affair. After downloading the HEOS app from the Google Play Store (also available from the App store for iPhone users),
I was prompted to connect my phone to the HEOS3 speaker with the provided cable. From there the HEOS 3 took over the setup of my multi-room audio setup, automatically finding and logging into my home network.
After logging into Spotify through the HEOS app I was up and running, enjoying two zones of audio from both the lounge (courtesy of the AVR-X4300H) and the kitchen area via the portable HEOS 3 speaker.
At the time of writing, QualiFi, the local Denon distributor informed us that with the purchase of the AVR-X4300H, you will also receive a free HEOS 3 wireless speaker valued at $499 RRP.
Denon’s AVR-X4300H put in a classy performance. Not only is it capable of decoding all the latest audio standards that 4K UHD and Blu-ray has to offer, it provided a detailed, dynamic performance with excellent channel steering. The inbuilt Audyssey XT-32 room correction software is more than up to the task of taming dual subs, resulting in top-notch bass and greater dynamics.
Some may consider the AVR-X4300H’s neutral sound not as musical, however at its heart the X4300H is a home theatre AVR, made to bring out the best from Hollywood Blockbusters and in this regard, it excels. Match it with the right speakers and you will be in for a rewardable home theatre experience.
If your speakers are not the most sensitive, or you simply want to take things up a notch, add a five (or seven) channel power amplifier and it will take the AVR-X4300H’s already excellent performance to a whole new level.
The Denon AVR-X4300H is available now from Specialist Retailers.
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.