Denon AVC-X6500H 11.2 AV Amplifier Review
Now enhanced by IMAX
What is the Denon AVC-X6500H?The Denon AVC-X6500H is the company's latest mid-range, 11-channel AV amplifier. It sits just below the AVC-X8500H 13-channel flagship AV amplifier, but aside from dropping two channels of amplification and processing, the new model boasts a similar raft of features.
The X6500's AVC prefix rather than AVR means that, like the X8500H, it doesn't have a built-in tuner and thus isn't technically a receiver. However, it has just about everything else, including support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D, with the latter now included as standard.
Other features include HEOS multiroom and support for 4K/60p, Rec.2020, HDCP 2.2 and High Dynamic Range – specifically HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma and Dolby Vision. New this year is Enhanced ARC (eARC), Amazon Alexa voice control, and IMAX Enhanced (added via a firmware update in February 2019).
The Denon X6500H will set you back £2,099 as at the time of writing (October 2018), which is actually quite reasonable, but if you already own last year's AVR-X6400H is it worth upgrading, and is the AVC-X6500 a cost effective alternative to the all-singing, all-dancing AVC-X8500?
DesignThe Denon AVC-X6500H boasts the same slightly revamped design used on the X8500, but don't panic because it doesn't stray too far from the classic AVR layout. It still has a large input dial on the left and an even larger volume dial on the right. Sandwiched between these is an equally large and informative display that helpfully shows you what is being decoded and the channels being input and output.
It's a clean front panel, with only a power button on the bottom left hand corner to break up an otherwise very minimalist appearance. That’s because everything else is behind a drop down flap, although even here, Denon have simplified things with some basic buttons for setup and control, an HDMI input, a USB port, a headphone jack and a connector for the setup microphone.
The build quality is very good, with a nicely-engineered and well-machined chassis. There’s a rigid 1.2mm thick chassis with a double-layered construction and a solid aluminium front panel, along with a reinforced top panel and stabilised high-density feet. There’s an attractive brushed metal matte finish and the Denon comes in a choice of either black or premium silver. The X6500 measures 434 x 389 x167mm (WxDxH) without the antenna and weighs in at 14.6kg.
The redesigned chassis still looks familiar, and the build quality is very good
Connections & ControlThe majority of the Denon AVC-X6500H's connections are at the rear, and here you'll find seven more HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs: one of which supports eARC, another for a second display and a third for zone 2. Enhanced Audio Return (eARC) is a new feature that allows lossless audio to be sent back via HDMI from compatible TVs. There are four composite and two component video inputs along with outputs for both, digital audio inputs (two optical and two coaxial), six analogue stereo inputs, and analogue stereo outputs for zones 2 and 3. There are also stereo analogue inputs for a tuner and a grounded phono input for a turntable, along with a Denon Link HD connector.
There are two 12V triggers, remote control in/out and an RS232 connector for serial control, along with an Ethernet port for a wired connection. In addition, there's a dual antenna system for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi with 2.4GHz/5GHz dual band support, as well as Apple AirPlay 2. For the custom installers, the Denon not only supports RS232 control, but also IP control, web control, and app control. There's also a web browser user interface and smart remote management.
The X6500 has 11.2 channels of pre-outs, allowing you to connect the Denon to outboard amplification if you wish, and also two active subwoofers. There are 11 pairs of speaker binding posts, and you can assign different configuration options for the 11 channels of built-in amplification. All the terminals are gold-plated, and the binding posts are presented in a single line with colour-coding, to make wiring up the speakers easier.The X6500 includes Denon's standard mid-range controller, which is similar to the higher-end one included with the X8500, but lacks the backlight. Instead there are phosphorescent buttons that glow in the dark, but frankly, they aren't that easy to read when the lights are out. Otherwise, it's a well-designed zapper that is sensibly laid out, with large buttons that make it quite ergonomic in operation and comfortable to hold. However, if you don't want to use the provided controller, Denon also offers remote apps for both iOS and Android which includes all the controls you'll need, making them an effective alternative.
There's a shed-load of connections, but the otherwise well-designed remote lacks a backlight
Denon AVC-X6500 Features & SpecsThe Denon AVC-X6500H has 11 channels of built-in amplification that can deliver 205W (6 ohm, 1 kHz, 1% 1ch Drive) thanks to a mono block construction, discrete power supplies, and high-grade audio components. It can also decode 11.2-channels, with support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D. The X6500 can handle speaker configurations of 7.2.4 for Atmos and DTS:X, and 11.2 for Auro-3D. This year Denon has added DTS Virtual:X, although why you would want to use virtual channels when you have 11 at your disposal is a mystery to me. Other features include D.D.S.C. HD Digital (32-bit), AL32 Multichannel Alpha Processing, Clock Jitter Reducer, and Compressed Audio Restorer.
The X6500 features the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room acoustic measurement system, with Audyssey Dynamic Volume, Dynamic EQ, and LFC. In conjunction with the supplied microphone, this technology exactly analyses each speaker’s output to optimize the overall listening experience. With the additional Audyssey MultEQ Editor App (available for purchase), more advanced users can further customise their setup. The app offers the chance to not only run a full automated setup but to then customise that setup – including checking the speaker detection and room correction results, along with target sound options, midrange compensation, curve editor, MultEQ Filter Frequency range and Audyssey settings.
As with all of Denon’s amplifiers and receivers, the X6500 supports Denon's HEOS multiroom system, which means you can enjoy your favourite music anywhere – and everywhere – around your home. You can share music stored on your home network, via Internet radio or from streaming services with HEOS wireless speakers, or even other HEOS-capable receivers, throughout the house. The system can be controlled using the free HEOS app and supports a wide range of streaming services including TuneIn, Internet Radio, Spotify Connect, Soundcloud, Tidal, Napster and Deezer.
The amplifier is DLNA certified, has gapless playback, and supports MP3, WMA, and AAC lossy formats, along with FLAC (192/24), WAV (192/24), ALAC (192/24), and DSD (5.6) lossless formats. New for this year is Apple's AirPlay 2, which officially supports multi-room playback that allows you to stream to multiple devices directly from your iPhone at home and synchronise playback between them. Another new feature is Amazon Alexa voice control, which allows you to play music, switch inputs, and change volume by simply using vocal commands. The final new feature is IMAX Enhanced, which will be added via a firmware update in February 2019.
MORE: What is IMAX Enhanced?
There are more features than you can shake a stick at, including IMAX Enhanced
Setup & OperationThe X6500 is easy to install thanks to Denon's excellent Setup Assistant. This wizard takes you through the entire process step-by-step, offering simple, clear and concise instructions that cover everything from choosing your speaker layout to connecting the speakers and the various inputs and outputs, as well as any additional zones. It also checks the polarity of your speakers and the volume of your subwoofer(s) before taking you through the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room equalisation process using the included microphone.
If you have your own tripod you can attach the microphone to that, but if not you can use the included cardboard mic stand. The audio calibration process takes readings from up to eight positions, measuring test tones from all the connected speakers and any subwoofers, in order to calculate the sizes, crossovers, distances and levels, before equalising for the effects of the room itself. We would recommend that most people just use this effective, automated room equalisation but there is the option to perform a manual setup if you prefer and, if you buy the Audyssey App, you can also customise the setup.The menu system is well-designed, with a simple layout that is as intuitive to use as the rest of the amplifier, making it easy to customise the setup to your specific needs. If you own an Amazon Echo or Dot and want to take advantage of the Alexa voice control skill, it's fairly easy to set up. Simply open the Alexa app and select Skills and then add HEOS Home Entertainment to enable. Once you've done that, all you need to do is go to Smart Home in the Alexa app menu and choose Devices and Discover or say “Alexa, discover my devices" and select HEOS AVR. Now you're good to go.
In testing, I started with a basic 2-channel system, before moving on to a 2.2-channel setup, followed by a 5.2-channel speaker configuration and then a 7.2-channel layout. After that I moved on to the immersive audio formats, using a 7.2.4 setup for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. For testing, I employed a range of content including movies and music in 5.1, as well as movies with 5.1, 7.1, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. As my primary sources, I used CDs, SACDs, DVD-Audio discs, Blu-rays and Ultra HD Blu-rays, along with high resolution audio files and various streaming services including Spotify and Tidal.
Setup is as easy as ever, and if you have Amazon Alexa you can even use voice control
Denon X6500 PerformanceThe Denon AVC-X6500H proved to be an extremely capable performer, handling everything I threw at it with consummate skill. Denon certainly knows how to put together an amplifier, and the X6500 had no issues driving a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 704 S2 floorstanding speakers. I knew my room well enough to simply place the speakers carefully, adjust the levels and distance and I was good to go.
The result was a lovely performance with two-channel music, and the amplifier had more than enough power to comfortably drive these two sizeable speakers. There was a lovely front soundstage that had width and depth, plus some excellent stereo imaging. As a result, instruments were placed effectively across the front of the room, and the detail retrieval was equally as impressive.
Listening to the original Memphis recordings of Primal Scream's Give Out But Don't Give Up was a joy, with the two opening rockers being delivered with aggression and pace. The guitar riffs ripped through the room, and the drums were delivered with a timely precision. The later, more contemplative tracks were also lovely, with a pleasing mix of bluesy guitar and piano, and some lovely backing vocals.
I then moved on to 5.1 multichannel audio by adding a Bowers & Wilkins HTM72 S2 centre speaker, a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 707 S2 bookshelf speakers for the rears, and a Bowers & Wilkins DB4S active subwoofer. The result was immediately impressive, and I loved the way the Denon was able to steer effects seamlessly from one speaker to another. It was no slouch with music either, and the 5.1 mix of Appetite for Destruction by Guns 'n' Roses sounded fantastic.
In order to run a full 7.1-channel system, I added a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series bookshelf speakers for the rear back channels, and I was off and running. I watched the recent 4K discs of the original X-Men Trilogy, and the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks were superb, with the first two films boasting excellent 5.1 mixes, and the third film's 6.1 mix being equally as impressive. The sub delivered plenty of low-end grunt, while the Audyssey room EQ did a good job of integrating the bass and creating a tonally-balanced soundstage. The X6500 lacks the raw power of the X8500, but it was able to run this 7-channel system without sounding constrained.
The addition of four overhead JBL Control Ones allowed me to run a full 7.1.4 system, and it was at this point that the Denon's ability to run all 11 channels at the same time really put some strain on the built-in amps. It still sounded very good, but I did feel that the amplifier would have benefited from a bit more power, especially when dealing with a very aggressive mix where a lot of the channels were being used simultaneously.
The awesome Dolby Atmos soundtrack on Ready Player One is a good example, and during the opening car race the sound designers throw in everything but the kitchen sink. The X6500H did an excellent job of delivering all the channels, steering sounds through a 360˚ sound field, and integrating the low-frequency effects. However when listening at near reference levels, as Kong arrives I felt that amplifier was reaching the limit of its ability to drive all the channels and maintain a cohesive soundstage. As a result, the X6500 lacks the headroom that you'll find on more powerful, but also more expensive amplifiers.
Having said all that most people, myself included, don't often listen at reference levels, and at more sensible volumes the X6500 was a great performer. What I particularly enjoyed was the precise and detailed nature of the immersive audio decoding. Watching Sicario 2: Soldado, there's a scene where a character walks out to a helicopter. The camera is in front of the character and the sound of the helicopter initially comes from the back two speakers. As he approaches the helicopter, the sound moves to the rear side and overhead channels, before moving the front overhead channels. It's a cracking piece of sound design that was seamlessly rendered by the Denon.
Of course, the X6500 also supports DTS:X, and I have recently been working my way through the Harry Potter films, all of which include new mixes in that format. Watching The Goblet of Fire, I was struck by how active the new soundtrack was, with extensive use of the overhead channels. The X6500 did a superb job of delivering all this immersive audio action – from the Quidditch World Cup at the start, through to the dragon chase, and the entire underwater sequence, this amplifier delivered a lively and entertaining surround experience.
These days the majority of new releases boast an Atmos or DTS:X object-based mix, but the chances are you'll still have plenty of legacy discs that use 5.1/6.1/7.1 mixes. I dug out an old favourite and popped The House of the Flying Daggers into my player. The Denon handled the famous drum sequence impeccably, with precise imaging and tight bass, while the addition of the Dolby Surround and DTS Neural:X upmixers gave the soundtrack more space without losing the focus. If you're a purist I'd stick to listening to a soundtrack as it was mixed, but I'm always surprised at the effectiveness of these upmixing features.
Video SummaryAnother excellent AV amplifier from Denon, but a bit more power wouldn't go amiss
- Impressive sound quality
- 11.2 amplification and processing
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D
- IMAX Enhanced
- Extensive connections
- Unrivalled set of features
- Flexible setup
- Solid build quality
- Attractive design
- Amps could be more powerful
- No backlight on the remote
- No built-in tuner
Denon AVC-X6500H 11.2 AV Amplifier Review
Denon AVC-X6500H VerdictThe Denon AVC-X6500H is another great model from a company that really knows how to put an AV amplifier together. It boasts an attractive design, a well-made chassis, and carefully thought-out remote and user interface. It has a comprehensive set of features and extensive connections, but despite this it's easy to set up. The Audyssey room EQ works very well, and the performance with multichannel audio is impressive. The amplification is solid, but I sometimes felt that it could use a bit more power when driving all 11 channels. My only other complaint would be the lack of a backlight on the remote, although if you desperately need a built-in tuner this isn't the model for you.
If you already own the AVR-X6400H there is little reason to upgrade because the X6500 is largely the same amplifier. In fact, if a built-in tuner is important to you then you'll probably want to stick with previous model. In terms of new features there's the addition of eARC, AirPlay2, and Alexa voice control, along with an upgrade to some of the internal components. However these are mainly incremental improvements, and their importance will largely depend on the individual. As for IMAX Enhanced, the jury is out on this feature until we actually get a chance to fully evaluate it. However, if you're looking for a new 11-channel AV amplifier, then the Denon AVC-X6500H is great value and highly recommended.
What are my alternatives?It depends on your budget but if you can afford £3,499, then the Denon AVC-X8500H is definitely worth considering. Not only does it include all the same features and more, but the 13-channels of built-in amplification are even more powerful. In addition, Denon has committed to ensuring that the X8500 remains the flagship model for the next couple of years. After witnessing the updates to the AVR-X7200 first-hand, I believe Denon to be entirely genuine in that promise.
The Marantz SR7013 is also a viable alternative, with an identical set of features (plus a tuner) and a lovely design. It only has nine channels of amplification built-in, but you can always add two more if needed. It's also cheaper at £1,749 and sounds great with music as well.
Another possibility is the Arcam AVR390, which can be picked up for £1,999. This AV receiver doesn't have quite the feature set of the X6500H, and only has seven channels built-in, but that amplification is more powerful and you can always add four more channels if necessary. What you do get is Dirac Live and exactly the same processing as the AVR850, making this a superb multichannel performer for the money.
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Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,099.00
Value For Money9
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