Exciting times for us, as we’re getting our hands on the first AV receivers for 2013: stepping up now is the Denon AVR-X2000. Denon hopes its new X-series of amps will have the X-factor that, if we’re being harsh judges, hasn’t quite been there for a few years. The AVR-X2000 is right on the £500 price sweet spot, and takes the place of the four-star Denon AVR-2113 from the 2012 range.
The AVR-X2000 is a 7.1-channel amplifier – so you get just the one subwoofer connection. All the speaker terminals, including those for an optional second zone, have banana plug-compatible terminals and are neatly laid out on a surprisingly clean-looking rear panel.
The X2000 delivers 95W per channel of power in to 8 ohms, and, of course, supports the full range of now typical digital sound processing – including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital IIz (the latter for adding front height channels to create a 9.1-channel speaker set-up).
You shouldn’t be short of HDMI inputs (there are seven here in total, with one on the front of the receiver), and future-proofing is covered in the X2000’s 3D and 4K compatibility.
There’s 4K upscaling of digital and analogue video sources, and there’s an ARC (Audio Return Channel) on the single HDMI output, too. Twin HDMI outputs on AV receivers are becoming more common (they let you run two displays, such as a TV and a projector) though this probably isn’t an issue for most users – so we won’t grumble too much here.
As all the big brands in the AV receiver market have done, from Onkyo to Pioneer to Yamaha, Denon is focusing on network connectivity. However, the AVR-X2000 isn’t wireless-capable out of the box, so you’ll need to make use of the ethernet connection to connect the receiver to your home network. That’s our preferred method anyway, though – it’s a more robust connection.
On the subject of wireless, there is support for Apple AirPlay, bringing wireless streaming from iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and iTunes on computers, and DLNA 1.5, which means support for streaming DLNA-certified devices, including 24-bit/192kHz hi-res WAV HD and FLAC HD audio files. There’s no sign of Bluetooth, though, which is a stand-out feature of Onkyo’s 2013 AV receivers, such as the £500 TX-NR626.
Connect the Denon AVR-X2000 to your home network and you can also access a range of streaming services. Spotify and Last.fm, increasingly common on home cinema devices, are present and correct here, as is the apparent internet radio app of choice, vTuner. Flickr photo streaming is supported, too.
A new Denon setup assistant greets us when we turn on the X2000, alongside a new look interface. Fast and easy set-up is the plan here, and it works well enough. As usual you’re prompted to connect the supplied mic and run through the latest Audyssey set-up, after which you can manually adjust distances, levels or get started with other features such as network connectivity.
Like the receiver’s front and back panels, the AVR-X2000’s new interface looks clean and clear, with a simple series of main menus that leads you to all the key modes and features. In our listening rooms we opt to turn off the room-correction and EQ options, which seem to be on as standard, and sit back to enjoy the action.
The Last Stand, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to Hollywood blockbuster action, is a good test of sound (and vision) – and immediately the Denon has our attention. We like to play our movies loud, but the level of excitement and engagement mustered by this new X-series amp is immediately impressive.
Even at more sensible volumes, it’s clear that there’s nothing reserved about this amp’s delivery; it’s edge-of-the-seat stuff, and brilliant entertainment. It’s fair to say that in recent times this hasn’t particularly been a particular characteristic of Denon’s AV receivers.
In no time we’re happy with the more upbeat delivery we’re enjoying. At the bottom end there’s no issue with soft bass notes slowing the pace – the low frequency performance, whether as part of explosive action or when it comes to soundtracks and music – is tight and agile, punchy and expressive.
At the high end of the frequency range, where a silky-smooth delivery is more welcome, the AVR-X2000 does occasionally sound a touch bright when played at high volume, but at moderate levels it isn’t an issue. Dialogue otherwise is clean and expressive, intonations in character’s voices (Arnie’s perhaps less so…) are apparent where they might not be on rival amps.
This Denon is simply revealing more. The Skyfall soundstage is big and brimming with insight, with every shuffling foot, every morsel of debris, apparent in our listening room. Effects fly around with seemingly effortless ease, too – the X2000 is adept at steering effects from speaker to speaker quickly and precisely.
Play some music and switch the amplifier to stereo mode – which we’d certainly stick with for music – and the Denon’s detail retrieval and willingness to entertain come to the fore once more.
While we never want to make excuses for movie sound performance with a multichannel amplifier, we tend to find it necessary with stereo music. Here, listening to Apple Lossless rips of Andy Stott’s Merciless streamed from iTunes using AirPlay, there’s little by way of obvious compromise.
Good dedicated machines will always have the advantage, but there’s nothing off-putting in the Denon’s stereo music delivery, which makes the inclusion of Spotify, internet radio and AirPlay all the more useful – not to mention the digital USB input on the front for iOS devices. While this connection would charge Android devices, it wouldn’t play music in our tests, so it looks like iOS-only here.
Denon Remote app
All this clever connectivity is topped-off by an excellent Denon Remote app, which affords you basic control of your amplifier from a tablet or smartphone (though there isn’t a dedicated iPad app, so you'll have to settle for an enlarged version of the iPhone offering, see picture above).
That includes the ability to control your Spotify account in a much more manageable way compared with using the supplied remote: album artwork appears on your device, and on your TV screen, and all told it’s slick, fast and easy.
Denon AV receivers haven’t ruled the roost for a while at this price, but with the AVR-X2000 it has an excellent chance. This amp might not tick every single specification box, although we’d wager that the majority of people will be more than happy, but in terms of performance – and most pertinently, simple sound quality – it ticks all our boxes and then some.
That lively treble at high volumes is worthy of mention but elsewhere we can heap nothing but praise. Detailed and entertaining, punchy and powerful, the X2000 delivers good stereo playback alongside brilliant surround sound performance.
If you’re in the market for a £500 AV receiver, there’s always a hugely competitive list of products jockeying for attention – but there’s no doubt that the Denon AVR-X2000 will be in the mix.