Denon AVR-X3300W 7.2 Channel AV Receiver Review
Featured packed, yet it remembers to sound good too...
What is the Denon AVR-X3300W?The Denon AVR-X3300W is the latest mid-range AV Receiver from the company in the £800 price range (at the time of writing November 2016) which offers the latest in immersive audio technology from Dolby Atmos (5.1.2) and DTS:X. It offers up 7 channels of amplification which are rated at 180W with one channel driven at 6 Ohm. Ultra HD 4K video is also supported with full HDCP2.2 support and full 4K/60p pass-through that handles 4:4:4 colour, HDR and BT.2020 signals.
It is also full of useful features such as networking with dual band WiFi and Bluetooth built-in, set up assistant which walks you through the full set up procedure of wiring the X3300 for various configurations, various streaming services and file type playback which includes DSD, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV support.
There is a lot of competition at this price point so the Denon is not only going to need to meet expectations when it comes to features but it will need to offer a real upgrade in the sound quality stakes and after some European tuning and added engineering tweaks will it deliver? Let’s find out.
Design, Connections and Control
The Denon AVR-X3300W is a new model but you would be hard pressed to tell that is the case looking at the design of the unit alone. Not a lot has changed in the world of AV Receiver design in the last decade and the Denon takes on the very familiar rectangle box with the two knobs and a central display approach. In fact it looks identical to the X3100W and X3200W models that preceded it, so much so you would need to check the model number on the chassis to find out which is which. However this is no bad thing, really, as it has the same bullet proof build quality and nicely brushed metal front plate as the predecessors.
The front left side has the source select dial with the power button below and to the right is the volume knob. In the middle we have a nice wide and easy to read digital display and directly under this are some control buttons and fast access keys for the most used inputs. Below these buttons are some inputs which on more expensive models would be hidden under a drop down flap, but at this price point they are clearly on show. Despite this it doesn’t look cheap and the inputs are limited so as to not look busy. We get a headphone jack on the right side and to the left is one HDMI2.0 input, a USB slot and the 3.5mm Audyssey mic jack. The AVR-X3300W measures in at (WxHxD) 434 x 167 x 389mm and weighs 10.8Kg which is slightly smaller and lighter than most of it competitors, but don’t let that fool you when it comes to power and sound quality.
Around the back of the X3300W we have a slight redesign over the X3200W it replaces with Custom Installation control at the heart of this change. We see the 12v trigger as well as IR in and out and a full RS232C control port added to the left side of the back plate making them easy to reach and separate from the other connectors. The rest of the connections are much the same as last time with a nicely laid out and easy to follow set of connectors divided into logical blocks. At the top are probably the most used of all and those are the seven HDMI2.0a input slots (eight if you include the front panel) and two outputs which are all HDCP2.2 compatible and will take 4K/60p, 4:4:4, HDR, BT2020 signals, making the X3300W compatible with all the new standards as they presently stand. To the left of the HDMI slots are two coax and optical digital inputs.
Below the digital and HDMI inputs are a block of analogue video connections which include composite and component options and below these are analogue legacy RCA connections some of which match up to the video inputs above them. To the right are a set of pre-out RCA connectors for 7.2 channels, as well as stereo Zone 2 and to the bottom left of the back plate AM and FM antenna slots make up the remaining connections. The speaker terminals are all mounted to the bottom of the rear chassis and are colour coded and match stickers provided in the box which attach to the speaker cables. This makes set up easier for beginners and experts alike. It is good to see Denon design the rear connections area in a simple to understand and logical way that helps users set-up the AV Receiver correctly. This is extended further with the Set-Up Assistant feature in the menu system.
The AVR-X3300W is controlled by a fairly basic, yet very intuitively laid out remote that has a nice brushed metal effect to match the main receiver front facia design. The actual remote is plastic but it has a high quality feel about it and is a good weight to hold neatly in the hand and reach the main buttons. The most used keys are within easy thumb reach as they are centrally mounted with volume, option and set up all close together with the menu direction keys and enter button. Our only criticism of the remote control is the lack of a backlight, which is criminal on a home cinema product which will in all likelihood be used on a darkened room. You can get around this issue by using the iOS and Android remote app which has been improved to be more intuitive to use than the version I tested last year and offers complete control over the X3300.
The X3300 is feature packed and includes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
Features and Specifications
The AVR-X3300W is a 7.2 channel AV Receiver that includes decoding for the new immersive audio formats of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. You can have a maximum of 5.1.2 speaker set-up for both or you can stick with a 7.2 speaker set-up and ignore the immersive formats. Sadly there are only 7.2 pre-outs on the X3300W which means you can’t add more amplification to get 7.1.4 and the processing on-board is not capable of that. Some users may turn their noses up at ‘only’ being able to do 5.2.2 (two sub outputs) but if you are using the Denon in a small room where the side speakers are tripoles or similar, or the rears are behind the listening position in a small space, the addition of two overhead speakers does work very well. In larger rooms you may start to find there is a gap in the rear of the sound stage when compared to a full 7.1.2 or 7.1.4 set up depending on surround placement and it is a shame you can’t add amplification to upgrade the X3300W. So you need to be sure of what you want to do with immersive sound before deciding on this AVR. If you’re sticking to 5.1 or 7.1 then there are no such issues to worry about.
As well as the latest immersive audio the AVR-X3300W also has the capability to handle the very latest in video signal standards with pass through of 4K/60p, 4:4:4, 10bit, HDR, BT2020 signals as well as built-in video processing and scaling to 4K resolutions (although we would always recommend pass through and letting the display handle the scaling). All eight HDMI2.0 inputs and two outputs are also fully compliant with HDCP2.2 copy protection for 4K broadcast, streaming and disc based formats. The AVR also handles 3D, CEC and ARC through the HDMI inputs/outputs. The X3300W is also fully ISFccc certified with specific ISF day and night memories to save settings available.
As is expected even at this price point the AVR-X3300W comes equipped with the latest version of Audyssey MultEQ XT32 with SubEQ that will for the first time be able to be used with the Audyssey App on iOS and Android. This App was not available at the time of our review testing but it will offer both professionals and consumers more detailed information and options to edit results from the auto calibration process, such as a curve editor, mid-range compensation control and other useful features so you can save, edit, load and view your results. The App should be available soon and will cost around 20 euros. There is also advanced subwoofer calibration within this version of Audyssey with Sub EQ which helps integrate and even out low frequencies within the sound system, usually a weak point of auto EQ software systems. It is also specifically intended for dual subwoofer installations. Within the X3300W packaging is a cardboard tripod which is to be used as the microphone stand for the supplied calibrated Mic. This will help all users get the mic at the correct listening level for the eight Audyssey measurements, which improves the EQ results over other methods.
The Denon also has built-in WiFi with 2.4GHz/5GHz dual band support and Bluetooth along with Airplay compatibility and Network Audio streaming, internet radio and Spotify connect. It will also handle high resolution audio streaming with support for DSD (2.8/5.6MHz), FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV and includes gapless.
Finally there is also the scope for use in custom installations with pre-outs, IR remote, 12V trigger and RS232 as well as support for Crestron Connected.
How was it tested?We integrated the Denon AVR-X3300W AV Receiver in to our reference home cinema system situated in a dedicated bat cave room. It was powering a full set of reference MK MP300 Series speakers we reviewed recently, with two X12 subwoofers. We also connected a Panasonic UB900 UHD Blu-ray player via HDMI on pass-through to a JVC DLA-X7000 D-ILA projector. We fully tested the set up assistant feature to make sure it worked correctly in terms of steps to take etc. and we also did a manual speaker distance, crossover and volume set up using a digital SPL meter within a room we know really well and also run the full Audyssey auto EQ procedure including the sub EQ features.
Sound QualityWe tested all possible arrangements and soundtracks with the Denon AVR-X3300W from 2.1, 5.2, 7.2 and 5.2.2 to compressed Dolby Digital Plus streaming tracks to Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray. We also tested the receiver with two channel audio from CD, Hi-Res files and streaming services.
Over and above everything else the Denon is a multichannel receiver for home cinema use first and foremost and we started with TV content in the shape of ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix. This has a 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus soundmix which includes fantastic sound design effects and environments. We watched the last two episodes of season one with the X3300 and it managed to convey the dense environments and low frequency threat of the ‘thing’ every time it was present onscreen. Gun shots and explosions were also handled in an upfront and direct manner with plenty of details heard amongst the debris of ricochets and dust or concrete flying around. Within the mayhem it was also possible to still clearly hear the dialogue on screen, even the screaming kids within the climax of the final scenes were audible and the sound mix remained realistic.
Moving to 7.1 we run a few of our favourite Blu-rays with the Denon and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is still a recent disc that impresses on multiple viewings. With almost all the test discs soundtracks we listened to it was possible to distinguish that the AVR-X3300W has a certain degree of warmth to its output that doesn’t take away from the bombastic in your face delivery required by tracks like Star Wars, but there is also a noticeable roll off at the highest frequencies and the midrange is a little fuller than its competitors. We are used to the Yamaha RX-A3050 with these MK speakers as they make up our daily reference system and the 3050 is a more forward and neutral sounding AVR in comparison, but can get close to the edge of being sibilant with some material. The Denon doesn’t match that sound, but instead is probably best described as a little more laid back and rounded. These are not negatives but rather observations of the slightly different nature and direction the brands take with their sound. As a 7.1 home cinema receiver the Denon is a superb mid-range model with a lovely balanced and forceful presentation that manages to keep the subtlety along with the bombastic explosions of a Sci-Fi movie. If you have the room behind the listening position we would recommend running the X3300 in a 7.1 configuration to get an immersive soundstage without worrying about overhead speakers.
MORE: What is Dolby Atmos?
You can configure the Denon in a 5.2.2 Atmos set up with overhead or sound reflecting Dolby speakers. If you have a long room with space behind the listening position you may find that the back of the soundstage appears weaker than the rest when using side surrounds and overhead speakers in an Atmos set up. That is certainly how we have our reference room set up with the Denon as we can’t power our back surrounds due to the limitations of the X3300W. There are solutions to this such as positioning the side surrounds further back behind the listening position to fill that gap. If you decide to use Dolby up firing speakers you could put them on top of the front or rear speakers in such a configuration. So there are plenty of possible solutions to experiment with. In terms of performance we spun up the 2009 reboot of Star Trek on 4K UHD Blu-ray with its Dolby Atmos soundtrack and set about testing the Denon. We found the use of overhead speakers work extremely well in creating a very good immersive soundstage around the listening position. The opening battle of the film is a great example of being cast right into the centre of the scene with workstation sounds, radar blips and pulses, phaser blasts and explosions all enveloping the soundstage with excellent layers to everything going on in 3D space. Dialogue remains anchored to the characters as they appear on screen, with the rest of the environment enveloping the listening position with fantastic realism, even though we don’t know what an actual Starship sounds like (and in space there are no explosion sounds in a vacuum). The Denon has a direct and powerful attack with its presentation that remains focussed and a touch warmer than competitors. It’s a superb mid-range performer that managed to power some of the best 4 Ohm reference speakers with ease and present all our test clips with authority and excellent dynamics. We were very impressed with its movie performance.
MORE: What is DTS:X?
We could also say the same for the Denon’s two channel presentation. It managed all the various test clips from Metallica to Annie Lennox and everything in-between without really breaking into a sweat. Again it was obvious that right at the top of the frequencies there was a subtle roll off so nothing ever got close to being sibilant and we didn’t encounter any signs of distortion at all. We also noted a little more warmth to the midrange which helped with vocal presentation and separation was also excellent with a nice wide soundstage up front. We were suitably impressed with the stereo prowess of the X3300W and it also managed a decent stab at most genres of music including a nice openness with well recorded classical tracks and realism with solo piano heavy compositions. Overall for the majority of users the Denon succeeds in providing a very good two channel performance along with a superbly dynamic movie presentation and we couldn’t find any major faults to complain about at all.
Denon AVR-X3300 Video Review
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
- Excellent sound quality
- Superb 7.1 receiver
- HDMI2.0a and HDCP2.2
- Bluetooth and dual band WiFi
- Good build quality
- Excellent value for money
- Only 7.2 channels
- No backlight on the remote
- Restricted to 5.1.2 Atmos and DTS:X
Denon AVR-X3300W 7.2 Channel AV Receiver ReviewAt £800 the Denon AVR-X3300 makes a very compelling case for itself as an all-round AV Receiver with the latest surround sound formats, features and performance. It is extremely well built with a sturdy chassis and solid design. It follows the traditional AVR layout with an easy to read large display in the middle and an uncluttered front panel. Around the back it is laid out sensibly to help with easy installation and an on-board set up assistant feature helps with keeping things simple. This includes colour coded speaker terminals for the seven channels of amplification. The sleek and easy to use remote control rounds-off the package out of the box.
We also get the latest in autoEQ technology from Audyssey MultEQ XT32 with SubEQ which works extremely well and will help out those with awkward shaped rooms or compromised installations (to keep partners happy). There's also a range of connections and features for custom installation including Crestron Connected and there will soon be an App available to fine tune Audyssey to professional levels of detail.
Getting to the main ingredients of the X3300W we have support for Dolby Atmos (5.1.2) and DTS:X immersive audio formats and the Denon manages to give an excellent performance with both as well as ‘normal’ 7.1 and 5.1 TV and movie content. It is also an excellent two channel performer with CD, NAS files or hi-res streaming - there is an impressively wide sound field and superb dynamics. It even has enough power and poise to run our 4 Ohm reference MK MP 300 system without any issues at all. The new video standards are also catered for with full 4K/60P, 4:4:4, HDR and BT2020 signals accepted and passed through with added 4K scaling also available from the Denon which is also ISFccc certified. To round off we also get full networking control from built-in dual band WiFi, Bluetooth and various streaming services including file support for DSD, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV.
Overall we are struggling to find many negatives with the AVR-X3300W at the price point and it turns in an excellent performance with a range of formats, codecs and files. It is a superb all-rounder that offers an entry in to immersive audio if you want it, or a superb 7.1 full-on system with networking and more at the touch of a few buttons on the excellent remote App.
In terms of competition the most direct would be the recently reviewed Yamaha RX-A1060 which is £300 more expensive for the same 7.2 channel set up and features. The Yamaha is a little better built and offers more in terms of DSP sound programs if those float your boat, but otherwise they appear to be identical in terms of features - but the sound experience is slightly different. To find out which suits you most you would really need to demo the pair. The main point here is that to better the specifications and end performance of the Denon AVR-X3300, you are going to have to spend a lot more more than £800 and as such it gets our Best Buy badge.
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Value For Money9
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