Denon AVR-X8500H – The World’s First 13.2CH AV Receiver – First Look.
Product Model: AVR-X8500H
Weight: 51 pounds
Availability: January 2018
I have been a loyal fanboy of Onkyo, and then Denon products for several decades, but after the Japanese Tsunami they scaled back their product line to a much more basic range and they let staff go at Denon HQ, some of which I had known for several years. I feared that their return to providing some of the groundbreaking hardware and technology of yesteryear, like Denon Link, the AVP-A1HDCI, DBP-A100 and AVR-5803 was all in the past. Especially after they were acquired by the D&M Group and I was told by management that there were no plans to replace their flagship preamplifier, the AVP-A1HDCI, the center piece of my audio and HT system.
Well, I am now hopeful that with Denon in the hands of Sound United the company is returning to the high-end audio market, once again, with the release of the AVR-X8500H. Although the AVR-X8500H is NOT quite in the same receiver class as the monstrous AVR-5803 (which I also own) or AVR-5805 flagship products from yesteryear. It still offers the most advanced processing currently available in a receiver, promising future expandability to extend its life and help reduce the users fear of obsolescence. (It has almost identical video and audio signal processing to its sister product from Marantz, the AV8805, the world’s first 13.2 pre-amplifier, but includes 13 power amplifiers, each rated at 150 watts.)
The new Denon AVR-X8500H 13.2 Channel Flagship Receiver currently supports HEOS, Amazon Alexa, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro 3D and the latest UHD Video Formats (not HDR10+). (Auro 3D, eARC and HDMI 2.1 support are all upgrades.)
It is rumored that this receiver is hand-assembled in small batches in Japan, at the same factory as the discontinued flagship AVR-5805. This is unusual as many Japanese receiver companies have their production based in Malaysia or Vietnam. Hopefully it is an indication of their attention to detail and quality for this product.
Denon clearly decided to pull no punches with this model packing in most of the current audio and video formats and supporting an additional pair of height channels and amplification to make it easier to switch between speaker layouts for Dolby Atmos/DTS:X and Auro 3D.
Supporting 13 channels of power amplification, 15 sets of assignable speaker terminals and 2 line level sub outs, the receiver incorporates custom-made Denon High Current Transistors (DHCT) and discrete monolithic amplifiers rated at 150 watts per channel (2 channels driven). This allows the full support of sound from immersive object-orientated formats, such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or Auro 3D, without any external power amplifiers. A firmware upgrade is available for the AVR-X8500H that enables support for Auro 3D, 13.1 surround sound decoding, providing for the full three-layered speaker layout including top and height center channels.
Denon Link (DL), designated HD, is still carried, together with their AL32 audio processing. Unfortunately the new DLHD RCA connection is not compatible with the old RJ45 DL1/2/3 or 4 connection as the technique used to reduce data/clock jitter, has been re-engineered.
The receiver is designed to be at the center of a whole house wireless music network, supporting connectivity over both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with Apple AirPlay streaming. Supporting Hi-Res lossless file formats to include DSD (5.6Mhz) and FLAC (HD), ALAC and WAV all at 192/24. It will be interesting to see if an upgrade will be offered to support MQA.
A couple of unique features of this AV receiver are that it has a ‘pre-amp’ mode that disconnects the power amp section when using it to drive active speakers using the pre-outs, and it supports vertical stretch for anamorphic lenses.
HDMI & HDCP
The receiver fully supports the HDCP 2.2 specifications and is upgradeable (for a fee), to support 8K video passthrough, part of the HDMI 2.1 specification. It’s current video processing supports:
- 4K Ultra HD 60Hz video
- 4:4:4 Pure Color sub-sampling
- High Dynamic Range (HDR)
- 21:9 video
- 3D and BT.2020 pass-through
- It can also support older video sources by upscaling standard and high definition analog and digital video content to 4K UHD. Dolby Vision, eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) compatibility are also supported. eARC will be enabled via a firmware update in 2018.
My only question is, will it also be upgradable to support HDR10+?
The receiver comes with the full Audyssey Platinum suite of audio processing which includes Audyssey MultEQ XT32 automatic room acoustic correction, Audyssey Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ and Audyssey Low Frequency Containment (LFC). This software package also supports the Audyssey MultEQ Editor App, allowing the user to adjust the sound to correct for specific room problems, and tailor the sound to the user’s personal preferences.
Acknowledging the ongoing smart home developments, and in support of Denon’s IN.Command and HEOS (Home Entertainment Operating System) technologies, they have included; Amazon Alexa’s Smart Home Skill for Entertainment Devices, Apple AirPlay and whole-house wireless music compatibility. Users voice commands may be used through an Amazon Alexa device to natively control various functions, including power on/off, volume, mute, music play/pause, input switching and playback of supported streaming services.
IN.Command has also been upgraded to support control features like IP control and Control4 SDDP (Simple Device Detection Protocol). An RS-232C serial port is still available to directly connect to external home automation and control equipment, as is an IR remote control input enabling control compatibility with other less sophisticated components in the home theater system. The receiver also includes Denon’s new “HDMI diagnostics” mode to help installers troubleshoot HDMI related audio and video issues during installation, using just the front panel of the receiver together with Denon’s guide.
For more information please visit Denon here.