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Denon AVR-X4000 Sound Quality & Conclusion

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For listening tests I had a mish mash of speakers thanks to the other reviews going on during my time with the AVR-X4000. I still had the Polk Audio LSiM703 bookshelf speakers on loan, so they ended up as my main speakers. The center speaker was my trusty MartinLogan Motif, with Definitive Technology BP7006 (built-in subs) rear speakers, an Emotiva X-Ref10 subwoofer and an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player.


SACD: Alison Kraus + Union Station: LiveAlison Kraus + Union Station - Live: SACD

Alison Kraus = awesome. Union Station = awesome. Together = mind blown! SACDs are hard to come by these days, and are quickly becoming obsolete thanks to HiRes downloads and Blu-ray, but there are still plenty of SACD gems to come by. You may just have to look a little harder, okay, a lot harder. Track 1, “Let Me Touch You For Awhile” starts out with the audience cheering and slowly fades to Kraus’s voice backed up by Union Station’s instrumentation. The X4000 handled this track with the utmost delicacy and pin point imaging. The standup bass was noticeably more defined with Audyssey engaged, but the acoustic guitars had a fuller bottom octave on Direct and Pure Direct modes. “Bright Sunny South” is about as lively as this 2 disc collection gets. Dan Tyminski takes over vocals as Kraus plays the fiddle and the audience claps along in the background. The AVR-X4000 had no problem belting out the track louder and louder, until I had to stop for the sake of my ears. Granted, the LSiM703s aren’t particularly hard to drive, but with a rated sensitivity of 88dB they aren’t particularly easy either.

 

Pandora and AirPlay: Various

After finishing with HiRes tracks, I figured it would be good practice to really test out the streaming features of the AVR-X4000. After all, I would bet that for many consumers the majority of music pumped out by this network the-civil-wars-barton-hollowreceiver will not be from a disc. When streaming Apple Lossless files through AirPlay (downsampled to 44kHz/16bit), the experience was phenomenal. Michael Buble’s “The Best Is Yet To Come” has a big dynamic swing that was maintained through the streaming process. And tracks like Block Party’s “Mercury” had no discernible audible difference from the original CD. I tried to test Denon’s Restorer, which adds a little treble and bass bump to compressed music, but it was not available for use with AirPlay. So, I switched over to Pandora, set it to my Civil Wars station, and let it rock. Many audiophiles scoff at streaming services like Pandora, but some of these services can stream at decent rate. Pandora tracks are 128kbps MP3s (192kbps for Pandora One), and Spotify can stream at up to 320kbps. Needless to say, Pandora sounded great. I played around with the Restorer, and found that it made a noticeable and positive difference on most tracks. Most people will appreciate the slight bass boost, but I was worried the treble boost would make songs from artists like Mumford and Sons a little harsh, but it never did.

 


Blu-ray: Star Trek (2009)star trek 2009

If you’ve been around Audioholics long enough, you know we’re fans of Star Trek, some might call us Trekkies. Even though greedy, I want to have the two largest sci-fi franchises, JJ. Abrams, directed this 2009 adventure, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I queued up the second scene, where young Kirk takes his stepfather’s 1965 Corvette Stingray careening off a cliff. The sound stage was big and enveloping, with clear dialogue from the center speaker and wide pans across the front. The upper treble was a bit much for me, but that was thanks to the Polk’s natural brightness. Even at high volumes, the X4000 never showed signs of strain. I actually noticed detail in the next scene I had never noticed before. As young Spock slams a rival Vulcan to the ground you can hear a sharp breaking of glass that adds another layer of realism to the encounter. Throughout the movie, the bass from my dual subs blended in smoothly with the use of Audyssey. The beam from the drilling rig during the destruction of Vulcan was guttural. And when the Enterprise jumps out of warp and lands in the middle of the Romulan trap, I felt like I was stuck in a holosuite with the safety protocols disabled. Yeah, it sounded good.

Suggestions for Improvements

Thus far, my review has been rather glowing, but I do have some complaints. Receivers are starting to come with WiFi and/or Ethernet switches built in, but not the Denon AVR-X4000. I really like the idea of an Ethernet switch as nearly every new home theater device has network capabilities. However, it can introduce unnecessary noise into the system. If Denon implements an Ethernet switch on any of their higher end receivers, I hope they provide the option to disable unused ports, as Sony did with their STR-DN2800ES I reviewed. As for WiFi, it would be nice to see an external dongle packaged with the AVR-X4000. Built-in is great for TVs or Blu-ray players, but receivers are often located in racks or furniture that can kill a wireless signal.

Denon AVR-X4000 Network Streaming 

Denon AVR-X4000 Network Streaming

Throughout my review, I also noticed a few bugs. For example, when in stereo mode the X4000 wouldn’t send a signal to the sub. I was employing an 80Hz crossover for the mains, but the bass wasn’t being routed to the sub, it just vanished. I also had a weird issue where it would employ the Audyssey EQ to the mains, even when set to L/R bypass mode. The first oddity was resolved after rerunning Audyssey, but the second issue persisted. I didn’t let these bugs influence my overall scores of the AVR-X4000 because our review unit was the first one off the product line, meaning Denon hasn’t had an opportunity to fix any issues yet.

I also noticed that HDMI standby pass through is a little limited because you can’t switch inputs when the receiver is off. You have to power it on, switch it to the input you want, and then turn it back off again. The “Quick Select” buttons are also a little limited. They can only set the volume, DSP, and input for the main zone. It would be much more convenient if they could also modify zones 2 and 3. This way, a consumer could simply click one button and the speakers in all three zones would power up to proper input(s). This would be great for hosting parties. Denon might also think of adding a screensaver. I noticed some ghosting on my Panasonic plasma from listening to Pandora for a long period of time with the TV turned on.

Finally, the “Back” button on the remote does not work when you are adjusting a setting in the menu. You have to click “OK” to stop editing the setting, then click “Back” to exit the menu. Hitting “Back” once should back you out of editing and cancel changes, and hitting it a second time should exit you from the current menu.

Conclusion

If you read the entirety of this Denon AVR-X4000 receiver review, I bet you could guess what my conclusion will be. This thing rocks! It can do everything I would expect of a $1299 receiver, but doesn’t go too feature happy that it abandons sound quality. In my mind, the AVR-X4000 is definitely worth the extra $300 over the AVR-X3000. With the AVR-X3000 you lose Audyssey MulEQ XT32 & SubEQ HT, zone 3, speaker pre-outs, and are limited to a 7.2 system. At the same time, some other receivers in this price range have features the AVR-X4000 lacks, like WiFi, an Ethernet hub, or Netflix streaming, but none of them offer the flexible streaming and simultaneous switching options this baby does. And most everyone looking at this receiver is bound to have a TV, Blu-ray player, or other device that can handle these features anyway. I’ve got to hand it to Denon. I haven’t been this impressed by a receiver in a long time. Well done. Denon hit one out of the park with the AVR-X4000.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Multi-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
Two-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
Network FeaturesStarStarStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStarStar
Ease of SetupStarStarStarStarStar
FeaturesStarStarStarStarStar
Remote ControlStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarhalf-star
About the author:
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Cliff, like many of us, has always loved home theater equipment. In high school he landed a job at Best Buy that started his path towards actual high quality audio. His first surround sound was a Klipsch 5.1 system. After that he was hooked, moving from Klipsch to Polk to Definitive Technology, and so on. Eventually, Cliff ended up doing custom installation work for Best Buy and then for a "Ma & Pa" shop in Mankato, MN.

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Recent Forum Posts:

YAGI1980 posts on January 12, 2017 04:27
Hello.
I have a Denon AVR X4000 but I don't now how to manually setup speakers impedance to 8 ohms.
Please a little help!
Tnx!
PENG posts on March 05, 2014 07:20
ReUpRo, post: 1021322
In typical Owner Manual style, that's neither here nor there. I'll PM Gene and see if he can get someone from Denon to give an unequivocal response.
True. This is mostly a gimmick since one can buy a dedicated pre-pro for the cost of that AVR.

Thanks in advance. By the way turning off the power amp completely does has some “green” merit and should help the unit run a touch (very little I guess) cooler. Even just disconnecting the input has some green merit but not much at all, just a side note, still nothing to do with SQ. I suppose it also depends on the power supply design, if the prepro section has its own completely independent power supply then in preamp mode I would expect the power amp side power supply to be deenergized, in theory anyway. I do doubt that is the case for the 4311 and 4520 but I am sure Gene could find out if he wants to.
ReUpRo posts on March 04, 2014 23:31
PENG, post: 1021295
I read that before but not sure if it is just internet hearsay or fact. Page 98 of the manual says “When the preamplifier mode is used, the built-in amplifier operation of this unit is stopped, and interference to the preamplifier from the power amplifier can be reduced”.
In typical Owner Manual style, that's neither here nor there. I'll PM Gene and see if he can get someone from Denon to give an unequivocal response.
PENG, post: 1021295
I believe most people won't notice a difference regardless. it is a feature that may make some people happier, but then those people probably don't believe in AVR to begin with.
True. This is mostly a gimmick since one can buy a dedicated pre-pro for the cost of that AVR.
PENG posts on March 04, 2014 19:12
ReUpRo, post: 1021180
The receiver only disconnects the amps from inputs without shutting them off. I wonder why Denon chose to implement it like that?

I read that before but not sure if it is just internet hearsay or fact. Page 98 of the manual says “When the preamplifier mode is used, the built-in amplifier operation of this unit is stopped, and interference to the preamplifier from the power amplifier can be reduced”.

I believe most people won't notice a difference regardless. it is a feature that may make some people happier, but then those people probably don't believe in AVR to begin with.
dwaleke posts on March 04, 2014 13:03
There are a few sites that sell the X4000 for ~$899 shipped new.
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