REVIEW: DENON AVR-X4400H 9.2 CHANNEL AV RECEIVER
On the outside, Denon's AVR-X4400H appears identical to its predecessor, the AVR-X4300H, which we reviewed in January 2017. We take a closer look at this year's release and the improvements made.
9.2 Channel AV Receiver
Often overlooked and rarely used to their full potential, room correction systems can take a home theatre’s performance to a whole new level.
The best solution is the combination of room acoustic treatment and room correction or DSP to achieve 'home theatre nirvana’.
Dedicated acoustic treatment (bass traps, acoustic panels etc.) is not always practical, or possible, particularly in spaces that double as the main living room.
For these applications, room correction alone is paramount to bringing out the best sound in a home theatre.
Denon, has been a long-time proponent of room correction software, partnering with Audyssey Laboratories in 2003. In fact, their dreadnought-like AVR-5805CI released back in 2005 was the first to feature inbuilt room correction.
Since then, Audyssey has evolved, culminating in its ‘gold-standard’ XT32 room correction software that's included in Denon’s AVR-X4400H and above.
Denon’s AVR-X4400H ($2,999 RRP) is a 9.2 channel AVR, that can power two front speakers, one centre speaker, two rear speakers, two rear back speakers, two height speakers and two powered subwoofers (7.2.2).
If you want four height speakers, you will either have to forgo rear back speakers (5.2.4) or invest in a two-channel amplifier to power a 7.2.4 configuration.
If you're happy with a 7.1 configuration, you’ve got the option to power a second pair of Zone 2 speakers in another part of the house. Alternatively, step down to a 5.1 configuration, and you have the option of Zone 2 plus Zone 3 audio.
Adding HEOS Wireless Multi-Room Audio Technology, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and network audio streaming to the mix means the X4400H there’s a multitude of options for multi-room audio.
The X4400H is ready to decode Dolby Atmos, DTS: X and Auro 3D soundtracks right out of the box. High-resolution audio playback including FLAC, ALAC and WAV and DSD files is supported.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
On the outside, the AVR-X4400H appears identical to its predecessor, the AVR-X4300H, which we reviewed in January 2017.
Sporting a black aluminium chassis and brushed metal faceplate, the X4400H is quite typical in design. Either side of the LED display are large dials, the smaller of the two reserved for source selection, the larger for volume control.
Apart from the power button, all other buttons and connections are located behind a large pull-down flap. The pull flap opens to reveal a 4K/ HDCP 2.2 HDMI input, USB input, analogue video and audio input, headphone jack, Audyssey microphone input and menu navigation controls.
Like the predecessor, the rear of the X4400H has seven assignable HDMI inputs providing 4K/60 Hz pass-through, 4:4:4 resolution, HDR and BT2020 support. The X4400 also supports Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG).
Denon builds on the generous number of HDMI inputs, with three HDMI outputs. With the X4400H, Denon have introduced Enhanced Audio Return Channel, otherwise known as ‘EARC’. However, to make full use of EARC your other devices will need to be HDMI 2.1 compatible.
In addition to DTS:X, Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D, the X4400H will decode DTS HD Master, DTS Virtual: X, DTS Neo: X, DTS Neural: X, Dolby True HD, Dolby True HD, Dolby Pro-Logic 2 and good ole’ Dolby Surround.
As far as I am aware, the Denon AVR-X4400H is the only AVR at this price-point that offers Auro 3D decoding. Where 2016’s AVR-X4300H offered Auro 3D decoding via a paid update, the X-4400H decodes Auro 3D right out of the box.
The X4400H also has a decent range of legacy video inputs, with two assignable component video inputs, one component video output and three assignable coaxial video inputs and two outputs.
These are rounded out with five assignable analogue audio inputs, a phono input and two optical and two coaxial audio inputs.
With 11.2-preamp inputs, an external amplifier can be connected for extra power if desired. There’s also AM/FM connections, two subwoofer outputs, dual 12V trigger inputs and a single RS232 input. The X4400H can be connected to your network either via Wi-Fi or ethernet.
Finally, there are 11 pairs of colour coded speaker binding posts, laid out horizontally across the back of the X4400H. The speaker posts are of decent quality and what I would expect from an AVR at this price-point.
Denon says there are also many refinements over the X4300H including the DAC and amplifier circuits.
The remote is unchanged from last year and is the same remote that’s provided with all Denon’s AVR’s. It is worth noting that the remote supplied with the X4300H and the models above it are programmable. It's not going to win any prizes for style or design, but it sits comfortably in the hand and is very functional.
The X4400H also ships with an Audyssey mic, cardboard microphone stand, cable labels, AM/FM antennas and a power cord.
Build quality is solid, and once again what I would expect from an AV Receiver at this price point.
HEOS: THE HEART OF YOUR MULTIROOM
Featuring the HEOS architecture, the AVR-X4400H and AVR-X6400H offers multi-room wireless streaming. With the AVR-X4400H or AVR-6400H already a wireless music zone, simply add other HEOS products (such as wireless speakers and sound bars) to create more audio zones.
During the review of the AVR-X4400H I also used a HEOS 3 wireless speaker in another room. Setting the X4400H and HEOS 3 wireless speaker up for multi-room audio was a simple affair. After downloading the HEOS app (iOS and Android), 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-X4400H) and in the dining room via the portable HEOS 3 speaker.
When it comes to ease of setup, Denon’s well and truly at the top of their game. Connect the X4400H to your TV or projector, and you're greeted with a very slick GUI which is both comprehensive and easy to follow.
The GUI will guide you through the setup, from connecting speakers and source devices through to speaker and room calibration.
Advanced users will probably find themselves skipping over many of the steps, but the process is worth completing if nothing more than to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
One of the drawcards of the Denon X4400H and Audyssey’s XT32 Room Correction software is SUB EQ and its ability to set individual delays and trims with dual subs. This is a very welcome inclusion when you’re dealing with two subs, particularly when placement options are limited.
In my experience, room correction systems and in particular Audyssey, can be unforgiving of bad microphone placement, so it pays to take your time with this step.
Best practice is to follow the instructions to the letter; place the microphone on a tripod at head height, don’t measure outside the speaker’s axis and don’t place the mic too close to a wall or the back of a chair.
Listen to the results with your ears and if needed, re-run the calibration. If you’re an advanced user, consider purchasing the Audyssey MultEq Editor app.
audyssey multeq editor app
If there’s been an area that Audyssey has drawn criticism, it would have to be its lack of customisation. While other PC based EQ systems have allowed users to customise anything from curves to EQ filters, traditionally there has been very little that could be changed in Audyssey.
The release of the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app has changed all of this. Compatible with all Denon’s seven-channel network AVRs launched in 2016 and after, the app is available for purchase for $20 US from both the App and Good Play Stores.
Designed for both enthusiasts and professionals, the MultEQ App was created by Audyssey Laboratories and Denon’s parent, D&M Holdings. The MultEQ app replaces the more expensive Audyssey Pro software.
After downloading the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app and locating the X4400H on my network, the MultEQ app essentially took control. As with a standard Audyssey calibration (which can still be completed directly from the X4400H), the app identifies the speakers, sets distance, size, crossover and applies EQ from 20Hz- 20kHz.
Data is sent from the AVR to your mobile device, where it’s stored until you’re ready to upload it to the AVR. As I soon discovered, it’s best to save the initial calibration and make a copy to work from.
With the initial calibration completed, it’s possible to view and customise the speaker detection results, high frequency roll-off, Midrange Compensation, EQ curve and the MultEQ Filter Frequency Range.
As I have come to expect from most room correction systems, Audyssey incorrectly identified my speakers as large. However, from the app I was able to change the size, crossover, distance and level of each speaker.
It’s also possible to turn off Midrange Compensation, which creates a 4db dip at 2kHz. With the curve editor, you can alter the curve at any point and by selecting the MultEQ Filter Frequency, you can limit the frequency range to which EQ is applied.
If for example, you only want EQ applied to the lower frequencies, you can pick the range to which it’s applied to different speaker groupings, FR/FL, C, SR/SL for example.
It’s also possible to make and save multiple calibrations to your mobile device and upload them as needed. Likewise, if you make a mistake, it’s easy enough to delete the file.
If you are already familiar with ARC or Dirac, much of this not going to be anything new. It gives Audyssey a much-needed overhaul and pulls it more in line with its competitors. There were times I would have preferred to work with a mouse and a PC interface, but I have to admit it’s hard to beat the convenience of an app, which is always at hand.
If this sounds a little daunting, simply forgo the MultEQ app and the AVR-X4400H will guide you through the calibration process, as painlessly as possible.
The 2017 remake of Flatliners didn’t exactly break any box office records. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable flick when not taken too seriously.
Denon's X4400H created a sound field that had both an excellent sense of height and width. This was helped in no small part by the X4400 upconverting the soundtrack to Neural: X which engaged the height channels.
The soundstage the X4400H created was big enough to place smack bang in the middle of the action. Combined with excellent channel steering and strong surround presence, the X4400H delivered both an immersive and engaging home theatre experience.
Switching to the DTS:X soundtrack of American Made took things up a notch again, with the improved placement of objects within the sound-field.
Acoustically, my room presents a few challenges. Just like the X4300H, the X4400H produced some very tight and clean bass thanks of course to Audyssey's DSP and correction.
The Dark Tower’s 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack sounded both dynamic, yet in control, delivering some of the best bass performance I have heard in my home theatre.
The dialogue was clear and intelligible, the only occasion I had to listen harder than normal was in the Gunslinger’s hushed gravely tone.
Connected to 4 and 6-ohm speakers, the X4400H’s internal amplifiers proved themselves capable of driving my speakers to the volume levels needed for an engaging movie watching experience.
Denon's X4400H did sound airier and even more musical than the X4300H I am very familiar with, but frankly, I was splitting hairs to pick the difference.
The Denon AVR-X4400H exuded all the traits which I have come to expect from Denon, namely excellent dynamics, accurate channel steering and an immersive listening experience.
The X4400H's ability to decode pretty much anything you can throw at it, plus the benefit of the clean, taut bass it produces, outweighs its competitors arguably more polished overall high-end sound. It still delivers a heck of a good movie watching experience, and that is where it shines.
Spend some time setting the parameters of the AVR-X4400H correctly and making full use of Audyssey, and you will be in for an excellent movie watching experience.
For more information visit Denon.
Further reading: AV Receivers Forum
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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