Denon make their latest AV receivers future proof
What is the Denon AVR-X3200?The AVR-X3200W is the latest mid-range AV receiver from Denon and replaces the excellent AVR-X3100W that we reviewed earlier in the year. The latest incarnation retains all the features that made that receiver so good but adds a host of new ones that provide an impressive degree of future-proofing. There's seven channels of amplification at 180W per a channel, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, Dolby Atmos, Audyssey MultEQ XT, networking features, AirPlay and Spotify Connect. New for this year are HDMI 2.0 inputs and outputs with support for HDCP 2.2, along with DTS:X decoding that will be added via a free firmware update later in the year. Despite all these features the X3200W only retails for around £749 as at the time of writing (August 2015), making it a very competitive proposition within its peer group. Denon have been on a winning streak recently, so let's see if the AVR-X3200 can keep that going.
DesignIn terms of its design the X3200W looks identical to the earlier model, with a classic AV receiver layout that uses a big source select (input) dial on the left hand side and an even bigger volume dial on the right. Under the input dial is the power button, in the middle is a large and informative display that is easy to read from a distance and beneath this are some simple control buttons. These can be used to select tuner presets, turn on or select sources for Zone 2, dim the display, check the status or quickly select certain inputs without needing to cycle through the input dial.
The mid-range nature of the X3200 is evidenced by a slightly plastic feel to the control buttons and the absence of a drop down flap. Instead the additional inputs are visible directly beneath the control buttons and include a 6.3mm headphone jack, an additional HDMI 2.0 input, a USB port and a 3.5mm connector for the setup microphone. The overall build quality is very good considering the price point and the receiver comes in black with a brushed metal effect on the front plate. The Denon measures 434 x 388 x 167mm (WxDxH) and weighs in at 11.3kg.
Despite its mid-range status, the X3200W looks well engineered, with a decent level of build quality.
Connections & ControlAside from the front inputs already mentioned, the rest of the connections are at the rear and here you'll find seven HDMI 2.0 inputs and two HDMI outputs. Including the additional HDMI input on the front that makes a total of eight inputs and all the HDMI connectors support HDCP2.2 with the main HDMI output supporting ARC (Audio Return Channel) and the second HDMI output covering another zone. There are also two optical and two coaxial digital inputs, five analogue inputs, three composite video inputs and two component video inputs. The AVR-X3200 has stereo analogue outputs for the second zone, along with 7.2-channel pre-outs and seven speaker terminals arranged in a line for easier access. In addition there are aerial connectors for the built-in AM and FM tuners, IR in and out, a 12V trigger and an RS232 serial connector. Finally the Denon has built-in WiFi (b/g/n) and Bluetooth but there's also an Ethernet port if you prefer a wired connection.
The remote control supplied with the X3200 is a stripped-down affair that reflects Denon's efforts to make their receivers as easy to use as possible. The remote is made of black plastic, has a brushed metal effect and is light weight but comfortable to hold. It uses a simple button layout that is both intuitive and easy to operate with one hand. All the frequently used commands are kept within easy reach and there are direct keys for all the sources at the top of the remote. You also get volume and channel controls, direction buttons for navigation, playback controls, quick select keys and sound modes at the bottom. Overall its a well designed and effective remote control and our only complaint would be the lack of a backlight.
Whilst you could use the controls on the front of the receiver itself, the most likely alternative to the provided remote control is Denon's free remote app. Whether you use an iOS or Android smart device, the app makes a great substitute for the remote control and it solves the problem of not having a backlight when using it in a dark room. Although the current app isn't quite as slick as some of the competition, it does include all the controls you'll need to effectively control the AVR-X3200W. Denon will soon be launching an updated version of the AVR remote app that promises a redesigned interface and a new control screen that has a static top and bottom and a dynamic middle section.
Denon AVR-X3200W Unboxing Video
Features & SpecsAs far as Denon's entire line-up is concerned the number of features is impressive and the X3200W is a good example of just how much even one of their mid-range receivers has to offer. The big news this year is the addition of DTS:X to compliment the Dolby Atmos encoding that was introduced last year. The X3200 doesn't support Auro-3D but that's not really an issue and both Atmos and DTS:X can use the same speaker configuration which makes things easier. DTS:X and DTS Neural: X will be added via a free firmware update later in the year. The other big upgrade this year is the inclusion of HDMI 2.0 with support for HDCP2.2, which means the AVR-X3200W will be able to handle all the new 4K formats, along with 3D, CEC and ARC. There's also built-in video processing with scaling up to 4K resolution and ISF certification.
As mentioned in the previous section, the remote app will also be getting an overhaul this year and Denon have added DSD and AIFF streaming capabilities to the existing support for MP3, WMA, AAC, ALAC 96/24, FLAC 192/24 and WAV 192/24. The X3200 includes Denon's Setup Assistant and Audyssey MultEQ XT. The receiver comes with a dedicated setup microphone, a cardboard stand and stickers to identify the different speaker cables which is a nice touch. As already mentioned there are eight HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs, along with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. There's networking capabilities with DLNA 1.5, AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Internet radio, not to mention built-in AM and FM tuners. The AVR-X3200 has 7-channels of built-in amplification at 180W per a channel and 7.2 pre-outs, with options for assignable speakers and bi-amping.
The X3200 might be a mid-range model but it's packed with features including both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Setup & OperationAs with all of Denon's receivers, there is a very handy setup wizard that takes you through the entire process. This approach seems sensible, making the AVR-X3200 far less intimidating to anyone who might be unfamiliar with multi-channel AV receivers. The wizard covers everything from choosing your speaker layout to setting up your various inputs and outputs and any additional zones. The wizard also checks the polarity of your speakers and the volume of your subwoofer before taking you through the Audyssey MultEQ XT room equalisation process using the included microphone. If you have a tripod you can attach the microphone to that but if not, you can use the included cardboard stand.
The audio calibration process takes readings from up to eight positions in order to measure test tones from all the connected speakers and any subwoofer and thus determine the sizes, crossovers, distances and levels, before equalising for the effects of the room itself. Although for most people we would recommend using the Audyssey software to setup your X3200W and perform the room equalisation, you also have the option to perform a manual setup if you prefer. In testing we started with a basic 5.1 speaker configuration, before moving onto a 7.1-channel setup and finally testing the X3200 with Dolby Atmos. That involved using the receiver in a 5.1.2 configuration with two overhead speakers.
Dolby Atmos & DTS:X TestingThe AVR-X3200 is one of the first receivers to be released that supports both of the new object-based audio formats - Dolby Atmos and DTS:X - which are designed to deliver a more immersive experience through the use of additional height or overhead speakers. We were able to test the X3200W's Dolby Atmos capabilities using a 5.1.2 configuration that included two overhead speakers but Denon have yet to release the DTS:X firmware update, so unfortunately we weren't able to test that feature yet. Although looking at the available speaker configurations in the setup menus, it would appear you have the choice of either two height or two overhead speakers where DTS:X is concerned. Since the X3200 only has seven channels of amplification and 7.2-channel pre-outs, the receiver is restricted to a 5.1.2 setup and can't support a 5.1.4, 7.1.2 or 7.1.4 configuration. If the most you can handle in your room is a 5.1.2 setup then that's not an issue but if you hope to expand your immersive audio experience through additional amplification later then that isn't an option with the AVR-X3200W.
We applaud Denon for trying to make the connections, setup and control of the X3200 as simple as possible.
Denon AVR-X3200W Video Review
We started off with a number of 5.1-channel soundtracks to run the AVR-X3200W in and test its capabilities in this configuration. The receiver did a great job of decoding Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, producing an overall sound field that was well balanced and cohesive. As always the 5.1-channel mix of Gravity proved a great test of the X3200's abilities to steer effects around the soundstage but it also handled the more bombastic battle scenes of The Water Diviner with ease. The latter film's soaring score filled the front soundstage but dialogue remained clear, even during the sandstorm sequence that gave all the speakers and subwoofer a good workout. The Denon certainly had enough power to go loud without ever becoming brittle or losing focus.
We then moved on to a 7.1-channel configuration and the result was a slightly more enveloping rear surround soundstage, although how much more enveloping will depend on the size of your room and the type of rear speakers that you use. Certainly the highly engaging 7.1-channel soundtrack on Pacific Rim gave the X3200W plenty of opportunity to shine in terms of the immersive surround sound field that the receiver could produce. The serious levels of low frequency effects in that film also put the subwoofer through its paces and the AVR-X3200 managed to effectively integrate the bass with the front speaker array. The Audyssey room equalisation was also quite effective, although not quite as flexible as the more sophisticated versions found on more expensive Denon receivers.
One of the big selling points of the X3200W is its ability to decode Dolby Atmos, so we set it up in a 5.1.2 configuration, which is the only option available. Whilst it would have been nice to have had additional pre-outs to allow for a 7.1.2 configuration, the reality is that in an average sized room a 5.1.2 configuration will still deliver an immersive surround experience, especially if you use tripole speakers to fill the gap where two back speakers would be. Using the Dolby Atmos version of Gravity, the X3200 did a great job of reproducing that film's highly directional sound mix. It was certainly more immersive than the standard 5.1-channel mix and the two overhead speakers were used extensively to draw you into the action and even without the two rear speakers sounds moved smoothly around the room.
We watched Insurgent in Dolby Atmos and the scenes that used the additional speakers most effectively still sounded good in 5.1.2, even though we originally listened to them on a 7.2.4 system. The scenes set inside the test simulations retained their sense of hyper-real immersion, making them more visceral than simply watching in normal surround. The X3200W offers the chance to enhance Dolby TrueHD soundtracks with the Dolby Surround Upmixer but, unlike with Denon's more expensive receivers, this wasn't an option with DTS-HD MA soundtracks. However despite any perceived limitations, the AVR-X3200 still delivered a great all-round performance with film soundtracks, be they normal mixes or object-based versions, and the fact that Denon will be adding DTS:X soon makes the X3200W all the more impressive.
As we have often found recently, the AVR-X320W proved that just because a receiver is great with multi-channel film soundtracks, that doesn't preclude it from being good with music as well. We were testing Cambridge Audio's new CXU universal Blu-ray player at the same time as the X3200, so we ended up throwing a great many different audio sources in its direction. We went through CD, HDCD, DVD-Audio and SACD discs, along with high resolution audio from Blu-ray, and overall the X3200W handled each different format with great skill. Regardless of whether the music was two-channel or multi-channel, the Denon delivered a wonderfully cohesive soundstage that retained a degree of musicality along with a little warmth.
When it came to stereo recordings there was excellent separation with nice localisation and placement of instruments, whilst high-resolution multi-channel recordings like Roger Waters Amused to Death really gave the receiver a chance to show its full capabilities. We also streamed music to the X3200 from our network media server and again the receiver handled whatever we threw at it from lossy MP3 recordings to lossless high resolution content. Of course the higher the resolution the better the audio experience but the Denon handled lossy recordings surprisingly well, making them quite listenable. If you use Denon's HEOS multiroom system, you also have the option of adding a HEOS link to send audio all around your house from the X3200W.
The AVR-X3200 delivered a clear and detailed sound that worked just as well with movies or music.
- Excellent sound quality
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding
- HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 support
- Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth
- Impressive features
- Decent build quality
- Great menus and setup
- Limited to 7 channels
- No backlight on remote
Denon AVR-X3200W 7.2 AV Receiver Review
Should I buy one?
There's no question that the AVR-X3200W is another great receiver from Denon, that combines an attractive design and a decent level of build quality with great features, an impressive performance and a competitive price. Thanks to Denon's sensible policy of simplifying the front panel, rear connections and remote control, installation was easy and the addition of a cardboard stand for the setup microphone and stickers to identify the different speakers cables are both nice touches. The menu system is also well designed and intuitive to use, whilst the setup procedure and Audyssey room equalisation were very effective. The addition of HDMI 2.0 and HDCP2.2 on the 8 inputs and 2 outputs gives the X3200W a good level of future-proofing, as does the inclusion of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding (with a free firmware update that is coming soon). The remote control is simple but effective, with only the lack of a backlight worth mentioning, whilst the remote app is very good and will also be upgraded soon.
There's built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, along with AM and FM tuners and Internet radio, not to mention DLNA, AirPlay and Spotify Connect. The file support is also impressive allowing you to stream high resolution audio to your X3200 and take full advantage of the receiver's excellent audio performance. This is of course the most important area and once again Denon have delivered the goods where it matters, with a clean and detailed sound that still managed to retain Denon's trademark warmth. The receiver has plenty of power allowing it to drive a fairly large system at quite loud volumes without losing any sense of cohesion. When listening to music the AVR-X3200 produce an open front soundstage and retained this whilst adding lively surrounds and great steering with surround content. The bass was also well integrated into the rest of the sound field and overall this was a great performance making the X3200W an ideal choice if you're looking for a mid-range receiver with a degree of future-proofing.
What are my alternatives?
As things currently stand the Denon AVR-X3200 delivers a level of performance and price that sets it apart from most of the competition. The Yamaha RX-A850 is a similarly specified receiver but it costs more and doesn't include DTS:X, which shows what great value the X3200 offers. Ironically the receiver's biggest competition will come from Denon itself, with the AVR-X2200W offering most of the same features (although not as much power) at an incredible price of only £499. Alternatively if you want greater flexibility in terms of immersive audio, then the AVR-X4200W offers 13.2-channel pre-outs, more power and superior Audyssey room EQ but at a higher price of £1,099. So if you're on a tight budget you might consider the cheaper X2200 and if you've got a bit more to spend you could go for the X4200 but, in the £700 to £800 price range, you won't find a better combination of performance features and price than with the Denon AVR-X3200W.
Value For Money9
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