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A Denon AV receiver and Dolby Atmos speaker package drive this brilliant home theatre system

Dolby Atmos home cinema system
(Image credit: Future)

This complete Dolby Atmos surround system uses four current What Hi-Fi? Award winners and teams them up with a speaker package that would have been right up there for a gong, but for one flaw – a flaw that we remedy in this set-up.

Dolby Atmos is now supported through a wide range of products including TVs and soundbars, but there's no real substitute for having a full-size surround sound package and AV receiver that can make the most of the audio format.

In this set-up, we do that with the aid of a speaker package that uses separate, dedicated up-firing Dolby Atmos speakers that completely immerse you in the on-screen action. We've also added a projector for the complete home cinema experience and teamed it up with not one, but two 4K HDR sources, courtesy of Apple and Panasonic.

The system

Projector: Epson EH-TW9400 (Pro Cinema 6050UB) (£2549 / $3999 / AU$4999)
AV receiver: Denon AVC-X3700H (£999 / $1199 / AU$2699)
Blu-ray player: Panasonic DP-UB820EB (£290 / $500 / AU$719)
Speaker Package: Triangle Borea BR08 5.1 (w/Atmos) £2594 / $4073 / AU$6298
Video streamer: Apple TV 4K (£169 / $179 / AU$249)
Total: £6801 / $9950 / AU$14,964

Projector: Epson EH-TW9400

Epson EH-TW9400 projector

(Image credit: Future)

Let’s kick things off with Epson’s Award-winning EH-TW9400 (known as the Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB in the US), a projector on the edge of greatness. At the money, it belongs in a category of machines positioned just before the big step up in price to native 4K projection – it uses Epson’s 4K Enhancement pixel-shifting technology to display that higher resolution.

It’s a tried and tested method that has proved pretty solid, whether performed by Epson, or by projectors made by other manufacturers. Of course, it’s not a native 4K chip, but you’d be looking at about twice this price to get that. At the moment, unless you can spend double, the EH-TW9400 is as good as it gets.

It is astonishing how much brightness this projector can produce – at a claimed 2600 lumens, it is streets ahead of the competition, and bright enough to watch films even in moderately lit conditions.

Detail levels are solid – even dark ones. The result is that night scenes (at this price level they tend to be more dark grey than black) still have plenty of differentiation. This ability to shade lends the picture a fantastic sense of depth, especially when watching HDR footage, and sets the Epson apart from the competition.

AV receiver: Denon AVC-X3700H

Denon AVC-X3700H AV receiver

(Image credit: Future)

With the picture taken care of more than competently at the price, it’s time to move on to the all-important audio side of this home cinema set. Denon has ruled the roost as far as AV receivers have been concerned for the past few years, and the AVC-X3700H is right in the sweet spot as far as bang for your buck is concerned. 

After a quarter of an hour or so of letting the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 calibration tech do its work, and a bit of manual fine-tuning, this new Denon bursts into life, grabbing our attention and holding it tight for the duration of our testing.

The energy of the performance is immediately striking. There’s great muscle, but this is also a lithe and well-defined sound. It’s a combination of solid dynamic expression, which enthuses each vocal line as much as differentiating one gunshot from another, a sharper punch and greater clarity that allows you to get deeper inside the soundtrack and become more immersed.

The scale and authority is mightily impressive for a home cinema amplifier costing a little over a grand, but Denon has still managed to get the basics right, too. There is plenty to feed the system’s subwoofer, but you wouldn’t say this is a particularly bassy presentation; rather it is well balanced, open at both ends, and smooth throughout its frequency range.

Speaker package: Triangle Borea BR08 5.1

Triangle Borea BR08 5.1 speaker package

(Image credit: Future)

On the subject of the subwoofer, that is the one change, hinted at above, that we would make to the Triangle package we have chosen as the voice of our system. Our main issue with the package is with the sub, which we said in our review is “lacking definition to the point of being distracting”. That’s why we would not buy the Tales 340 subwoofer that Triangle suggests for this set-up but would instead replace it with the impressive, and highly musical, Wharfedale Diamond 12 SW10 subwoofer – for about the same price.

Do that, and you’ve got a wonderful surround speaker package. We have combined a pair of the large BR08 towers up front with two BR03 standmounters performing surround duties and the BRC1 centre. Crucially, we have supplemented the system with the upward-firing BRA1 height speakers to create a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos-capable system. 

You do need to take care with set-up here. After much trial and error, we end up with the speakers around 1m into the test space and only slightly angled towards the listening position.

Once that’s done, we are pleasantly surprised by the system’s warmth, musicality, and responsiveness. The broad scale and detail that the BR03s can offer as surrounds mean that action sequences and music-heavy scenes are served particularly well.

We view Gravity in all its Dolby Atmos glory. As Sandra Bullock tries to contain a fire on the ISS, the deep rumbles of combustion and banging of the shutter overhead have a threatening amount of weight and appear to be above the viewer, the speakers providing an impressive amount of volume and range for their size. 

Swapping to the opening of Roma, the delicate 360-degree soundscapes of birds and distant planes feel nicely projected vertically. There’s plenty of dynamism when it really counts, and in the climactic scene in which Cleo walks into the sea, the crashing and splashing of the waves is conveyed with authority and gusto.

Blu-ray player: Panasonic DP-UB820EB

Panasonic DP-UB820EB Blu-ray player

(Image credit: Future)

To join this system’s leading trio, we bring in a top-notch 4K Blu-ray player and an excellent video streamer.

Panasonic’s DP-UB820EB borrows much of the picture processing technology that you find in the company’s flagship 4K machine, the DP-UB9000, but costs less than half the price. Which makes it an absolute bargain for a system such as this. It supports all major HDR formats, and delivers a hugely immersive and impactful picture, backed up by a strong audio performance that provides a more muscular, grown-up sound than many budget players.

We fire up the player with Blue Planet II in 4K and HDR10, and are greeted with a detailed, sharply drawn picture that is vibrant and immersive. The clean, noise-
free image looks realistic and easily draws you in to admire details and textures.

Video streamer: Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K video streamer

(Image credit: Future)

Our final Award winner in this impressive quintet is Apple TV 4K. The bread and butter of the Apple TV 4K’s experience is its picture quality and we are pleased to report that the new model puts in a terrific performance, with improvements over its already-excellent predecessor in terms of contrast, black levels and brightness, all of which creates an image with slightly more impact. 

The picture is otherwise the same as that of the older model – which means it is the best of any video streamer we have tested. It’s not up there with a good 4K Blu-ray player, but it is the next best thing, producing an image with all of the punch, definition and dynamism necessary to genuinely thrill.

And now that Apple is producing more and more bespoke content to go with the 4K movies and shows you can buy and download, the Apple TV 4K is right up there as the best streamer you can get, and is the cherry on the top of this home cinema confection.

Verdict

This system is as close as you can realistically get to a ‘proper’ Dolby Atmos sound without actually having speakers plumbed into your ceiling – the Triangle Borea package includes speaker toppers that will angle the sound up to bounce it off the ceiling to your listening position. Together with a fantastic AV receiver, an Award-winning projector, top-class Blu-Ray player and our favourite video streamer, this is a package worth auditioning.

MORE:

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How to set up your AV receiver and get the best sound

How to set up your home cinema speaker system

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Jonathan Evans

Jonathan Evans is the editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and has been with the title for around 15 years. He has been a journalist for more than a quarter of a century now, working on a variety of technology and motoring titles, including Stuff, Autocar and Jaguar. With his background in sub-editing and magazine production, he likes nothing more than a discussion on the finer points of grammar. And golf.