Denon’s AVR-X3500H AV Receiver Delivers New Features Worth Waiting For
- 7.2CH AV receiver with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D Immersive Surround Sound
- Stereo RMS Power: 105 watts/ch into 8 ohms
- 7 Inputs/2 Outputs HDMI with 4K, HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and HDCP2.2 support
- Denon HEOS, Apple Airplay2
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 17-3/16” x 6-9/16" x 16-1/8”
- Weight: 23.8 lbs
AV receiver manufacturers are often criticized for cramming in as many features as possible, sometimes at the expense of sound quality and build quality, especially in their less expensive products. And it’s certainly true that most customers are unlikely to use every feature that a modern receiver offers. But sometimes it’s hard to know which new features will be considered must-haves a few years down the road, and which will be ignored completely. I remember a time when I couldn’t imagine why a receiver would need a wifi connection, for example, but now it seems essential. Denon’s new $1,000 AVR-X3500H has pretty much every feature you’d expect from a 7.2-channel receiver in 2018, plus a couple of cutting-edge features that haven’t yet arrived in many (if any) competing products. As a side note, we reviewed the older AVR-X3300W which produced respectable bench test results. We expect the same or better from the X3500H.
Like last year’s X3400H, the new AVR-X3500H delivers 105 watts per channel into 8 ohms (0.05% THD, two channels driven), and can be used in either a 7.2-channel setup, or a 5.1.2 setup, with one pair of height speakers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. It offers eight HDMI inputs, three HDMI outputs, and Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction, including individual calibration for dual subwoofers. New for the 2018 model is a built-in phono stage (for moving-magnet cartridges). While the X3400H had limited voice control compatibility via the HEOS control skill for Alexa, the X3500H works with the more comprehensive Alexa Smart Home Skill for Entertainment Devices. This allows the user to control a variety of functions by voice command, including power, volume, input switching, and playback of music streaming services such as Tidal and Spotify. A firmware update enabling Apple’s Airplay 2 wireless platform on the X3500H (and the X3400H) should be available by the time you read this. Custom installers can take advantage of remote monitoring and management of the X3500H via ihiji Invision and Domotz Pro.
eARC and ALLM Audiophiles and Gamers Rejoice!
Perhaps the most exciting features of Denon’s new AVR-X3500H are the receiver’s support (via a future firmware update) for eARC and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), both of which are brand new technologies that will be part of the upcoming HDMI 2.1 standard. It’s too soon for Denon to advertise the AVR-X3500H as being fully compliant with HDMI 2.1, but it’s possible that all of the necessary hardware is there. So, what exactly are these new features? Let’s start with eARC, which is an update to an existing technology called Audio Return Channel. The first generation of ARC is an HDMI feature that allows audio signals to be sent “upstream” on the same HDMI cable that is carrying AV signals “downstream” from a receiver (or sound-bar) to a TV. For example, you’d use one HDMI cable to connect a blu-ray player to a receiver, where the audio is processed. The video signal is then sent from the receiver to the TV via another HDMI cable. But what if you want to stream video via the TV’s built-in apps, such as Netflix, Prime Video, or Hulu? Before the advent of ARC, you’d have to use a separate cable (usually an optical Toslink) to send the audio out of your TV and into your receiver. With ARC, the TV can send the audio signal from your streaming content “upstream” to the receiver, using the same HDMI cable that is already connecting the two devices. The downside is that many of today’s TVs have inferior audio-processing capabilities, and have to downmix surround-sound signals to stereo before sending them out via HDMI using ARC. Even those TVs that can send a surround mix via ARC do so using lossy compression codecs, such as Dolby Digital Plus. If your content has a lossless, full-resolution soundtrack (such as Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio), you’re sacrificing sound quality for the sake of convenience. That’s where eARC comes in. This new technology allows your TV to send the original, full-resolution soundtrack to your receiver with no degradation. Even the newest immersive audio codecs, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, are supported by eARC. You get both zero-compromise audio performance and a simpler, cleaner setup, with fewer cables. That’s a win-win scenario in my book. Current owners of Denon’s AVR-X6400H should note that this receiver will also be getting the eARC upgrade, as will the brand’s new flagship, the $4,000 13.2-channel AVR-X8500H.
Note: eArc will support any audio signal that a normal HDMI input will handle (even high res). It’s up to the TV manufacturer what signal they send back to the AVR.
The second big innovation found on the new AVR-X3500H is support for Auto Low Latency Mode, or ALLM. This is essentially an automatic “game mode,” which allows a receiver or TV to detect when a video game is being played from a compatible gaming console, such as the Xbox One X, and to automatically change the necessary settings to reduce input lag. Improving the input response makes it easier to control video games with precision, but there’s a compromise in doing so. Certain image processing features have to be turned off, and the result is a slightly noisier picture with less accurate color. By automating these settings, ALLM ensures that your gameplay will always be quick and snappy, and that the appropriate picture settings will be in place to maximize picture quality when you watch movies or TV.
Do these new features make the AVR-X3500H a more attractive offering from Denon, or is the race to support the most features doing more harm than good? Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.
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