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Denon AVR-X7200WA Listening Tests

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Let’s cut to the chase, you likely won’t be considering the Denon unless you’re mating it with some sort of immersive audio setup.  You also won’t be considering this flagship model unless you’re out to impress not just your friends but also your entire neighborhood that you have the A/V setups to end all setups.

Upmixing Traditional Sources to Immersive Audio

The first part of my listening consisted of concentrating on an Atmos 7.1.4 configuration and Auro-3D 10.1 configuration.  I played a series of traditionally encoded 5.1 and 7.1 Blu-ray discs as well as stereo sources with the Dolby Atmos and Auro-Matic Upmixers.  Dolby and Auro both realize all too well that it’s going to take years for there to be a rich catalog of immersive audio-encoded Blu-ray discs.  The Atmos and Auro-Matic Upmixers' purpose is to take legacy formatted content and upmix it to an immersive audio experience.

Let me say it up front that I am not a fan of artificial processing.  It usually doesn’t work great with all content and I personally view it as a way to mask inadequacies in a system, I’ve rarely heard such DSP-processing convince me to keep it turned on for the long haul.  

The Denon X7200WA made me a convert—well, sort of.  Focusing on the Atmos upmixer, I have no idea how the engineers at Dolby created this algorithm, but it’s scary good on just about every single multi-channel source I threw at it.  It was even pretty good on some stereo sources.  For example, I played the trailer for Avengers Age of Ultron (stereo source) from my AppleTV.  During one of the trailer’s scenes the Avengers jet swoops down and passes overhead.  Darn it.  Wouldn’t you know that the Dolby upmixer was able to extract the jet’s audible cues to seeming perfection!   That jet’s audio passed up and over mimicking the on-screen action.  

The soundstage was an immense, enveloping sensation. The experience was like going from a hallway and into a stadium where you immediately sense the space of the arena.  Everything just opened up.  It was fantastic.  

However when playing stereo sources, I found that the Dolby upmixer was too aggressive by about 1.5 - 2.0dB on the surrounds and rears to the point of being slightly distracting.  It was almost as though someone figured that people would want to know sound was coming from the surround speakers.  If the surrounds were slightly less aggressive, then this upmixing could finally be one of the first products to change my tune about this type of processing.  With Auro-3D, I did not find the surrounds to be as aggressive so I actually preferred it.

Trailers, TV, and movie sources in stereo were one thing.  Audiophile stereo music sources didn’t fare as well.  In fact, I didn’t like the ambient processing at all. I chose to turn it off.  Because of the flexibility the Denon gave me, I set one source for two-channel audiophile music and another for two-channel movies using the Dolby upmixer.

While stereo upmixing was a mixed bag, 5.1 and 7.1 Multichannel Blu-ray discs and digital sources were a completely different story. I think that having the discrete center channel and surround mixes must have made all the difference with the Atmos Upmixer.  Tron Legacy, for example was absolutely superb.  When Flynn enters the grid, the sense of the digital world is so much more engaging and convincing with the Dolby Atmos Upmixer. When the Recognizer zooms down to capture Sam Flynn you’re completely surrounded (no pun intended) by the sound.  But here’s the really important thing I want to emphasize.  The Dolby Atmos upmixer sounded very natural.  There was nothing over-the-top about it.

But all that listening was just an appetizer before the main course.  I couldn’t wait to experience all-out audio assault from fully mastered Dolby Atmos Blu-rays—at least the titles I’d care to watch. (Note: I didn’t receive native Auro-3D content and was unable to test it fully and DTS:X was not ready at the time of this review. I’ll be covering Auro-3D with the Denon in more detail in the Beale Street Audio review)

Atmos-Encoded Blu-ray Discs

MadMax

That time finally came with the release of Mad Max: Fury Road on Blu-ray.  I saw Fury Road in the theater so I already had a sense of what the movie experience was like sans Atmos. I played Fury Road in 3D, figuring what better way to test out 3D audio than by complementing it with 3D video.  If you’re a doubter about the merits of 3D video, Fury Road makes you a believer. While it’s not an UHD/4K stream, I didn’t have any HDMI issues pushing the higher bandwidth requirements of 3D video through the Denon.

The opening scene, where Max looks over a desolate, dystopian, and apocalyptic horizon was like someone removed all the walls from my listening space.  There were no more speakers anywhere.  There was just…. open space.  The Denon masterfully crafted this illusion scene after scene.  Not once did the Denon ever trip up in weaving the illusion of a three-dimensional audio space. Let me tell you that such an audible sensation provided an intense backdrop and complement to the visual action taking place on-screen. 

Things just got better from there.  The explosive soundtrack wasn’t bound by a two-dimensional sound space.  The soundstage was an immense, enveloping sensation.  To put it another way, the experience was like going from a hallway and into a stadium where you immediately sense the space of the arena.  Everything just opened up.  It was fantastic.  

From that vast operatic stage came some of the cleanest, crispest, and most intelligible dialogue and detail.  The Denon didn’t break a sweat at any point in time in rendering that Atmos mix with all the impact you could imagine.  On several occasions I was anticipating—no, expecting—a muddying of the dialogue or some audible cue to go awry.  That never happened, not even once!  The Denon, SVS, and Beale Street Audio combo was phenomenal.

When Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, enters the confines of the canyon to try and execute her pre-arranged pact for passage, the Denon clamped down on the SVS and Beale Street speakers down to the finest details.  We all know the sensation of what an echo sounds like in a canyon.  Well, the way this combo handled all those audible cues as the voices echoed and decayed in the distance was eerily good.  Such examples demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that immersive audio isn’t about gimmicks. It’s about how immersive audio can bring a finite space to life.  The Denon-anchored system knocked it out of the park.  

Popping in Insurgent, continued the same experience and I decided to test the differences between the Atmos and regular surround mix.  Through the AVR-X7200WA, I was able to do a quick A-B between the two mixes at the press of a button.  

On the opening chapter, Kate Winslet’s voice dances in space around the listening position.  Listening to this chapter on the Denon in Atmos was an etherial experience. Going from the immersive Atmos track down to the regular surround mix yielded a physical disappointment. The Denon did a great job of rendering the regular mix—don’t get me wrong.  But after hearing how the Denon presented Atmos mix, I felt myself less engaged and less involved when I went from the Dolby Atmos mix down to the regular mix.  It was a letdown!

Fifth Element AtmosThe Fifth Element was just released on Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos track and I couldn’t resist seeing how the X7200WA would handle what is probably one of the all-time “go-to” demo discs.  The very first note in the opening credits lets you know that the mix on this disc is something special.  My room completely disappeared.  Again, the sensation was crazy.  I found myself in deep, cavernous space. As the credits gave way to the asteroid field and then to the spacecraft engines, the immersive sense was awesome.  It didn’t matter if I was watching the tomb scene, Bruce Willis fling his taxi through the city, or the climactic crescendo with the Diva in the celestial cruise opera house, the Denon had the Fifth Element living up to its demo-worthy reputation. 

On all these discs, I increased the volume to ear-deafening, reference levels.  The Denon handled everything with finesse and ease. Only at the highest audible levels did I start to hear some instances of distortion and strain creep in, but those could have been due to a number of other factors.  All in all, the Denon seized command of all those SVS and Beale Street speakers, and ordered an audio barrage of the highest magnitude.  Want a word for the experience with the Denon AVR-X7200WA? How about “Awesome.”  That sums it up.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

AcuDefTechGuy posts on April 28, 2017 12:46
PENG, post: 1184850, member: 6097
I agree with TLSG that with so many things jammed in one box will likely affect it's longevity but I am confident if use normally it would last longer than 5 years. I also agree with you that one should not pay full price for such flag ship unit, especially now when the updated model will be out within months. $1,500 is probably my upper limit too.

The Outlaw won't out perform the Denon but has much better chance to live twice as long.

I would just wait for Amazon to sell the X4000 series for $799 brand new.
PENG posts on April 27, 2017 16:01
AcuDefTechGuy, post: 1184814, member: 26997
Yeah, I would just get the Denon 7200 without any external amps.

I agree with TLSG that with so many things jammed in one box will likely affect it's longevity but I am confident if use normally it would last longer than 5 years. I also agree with you that one should not pay full price for such flag ship unit, especially now when the updated model will be out within months. $1,500 is probably my upper limit too.

The Outlaw won't out perform the Denon but has much better chance to live twice as long.
AcuDefTechGuy posts on April 27, 2017 13:07
Yeah, I would just get the Denon 7200 without any external amps.
lovinthehd posts on April 27, 2017 12:56
Asif1980, post: 1184678, member: 82490
How do we compare emotiva XMC-1 vs Denon X7200WA??

I understand one is pre-processor and other is AV receiver with Immersive audio format support.

Lets set aside amplifier/immersive audio section in denon and compare both products processing capabilities.

Will denon+outlaw 7140 power amplifier out perform emotiva XMC-1+outlaw 7140 and which is worth the money spend?

Denon has more channels of processing so would depend on the speaker set you desire to an extent. Dirac gets good reports, but Audyssey XT32 works very well. If using the same amp then performance should be equal in that respect (and the 7140 is not much different from the onboard amps in the 7200). Cost for the Denon vs XMC1 plus amps would be the better comparo.
AcuDefTechGuy posts on April 27, 2017 12:51
That Denon will be sweet if Amazon has their 50% off sale when the new models roll out.

In Direct Mode (no EQ of any kind), they will sound the same if played at the same exact volume.

Whether one is better than the other, it depends on what you do with them. The big difference among AVR and processors will be the features and EQ.

For example, I would unequivocally take the Denon over anything else that does not have Audyssey Dynamic EQ (DEQ).

AFAIK, the only new products that have Audyssey DEQ include Denon, Marantz, and McIntosh.

But some people prefer ARC (Anthem) or DIRAC (Emotiva) or other EQ systems.

So the salient difference is DIRAC vs AUDYSSEY (for me it's the DEQ), not Emotiva vs Denon or Pre-pro vs AVR.

But you might want to keep an eye on Amazon or Fry's during the late Summer, or Fall & Winter. You might see the Denon 7200 for $1,500 brand new.

So to answer your question, I would take the Denon over Emotiva.
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