Denon AVR-X4400H 9.2 Channel AV Receiver Review
It's a case of incremental improvements
What is the Denon X4400?The Denon AVR-X4400H is the latest mid-range AV Receiver from the company and it follows on from last year's excellent AVR-X4300H. The new receiver offers many of the same features as the previous model, with a 9 x 200W amplifier and 11.2-channel processing and pre-outs. The X4400 also uses the same high resolution 32bit DAC, includes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support and Audyssey MultEQ XT32/LFC room equalisation with support for the Audyssey App. There are eight HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs that all supply 4K 60Hz, HDCP 2.2, Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range – HDR10, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). There's also Denon's HEOS multiroom system with support for WiFi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Tidal.
This year Denon have upgraded certain audio components and added AL32 Multichannel processing and Bass Synch technology, plus Auro-3D comes as standard (it was previously available as an optional extra for £149). Also new for this year will be Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) support which will be added via a firmware update later. The other big difference is the price, with the X4400 costing £1,299 as at the time of writing (November 2017) compared to the £899 cost of the X4300 when we reviewed it earlier this year. Whilst Brexit has clearly had an impact on Denon pricing and the X4300H had already benefitted from price reductions by the time we reviewed it, that's still a fairly large price differential even allowing for the addition of Auro-3D. So let's see if the X4400's performance can justify its higher price tag.
DesignUnless you actually looked at the model number in the bottom right of the front panel, you wouldn't be able to tell the X4400H and X4300H apart. The two receivers are identical in terms of their design, with a source selection dial on the left and a larger volume dial on the right, along with a power button to the bottom left. In the centre there’s a large, informative and easy-to-read display which shows the source, the processing and which channels the receiver is outputting. Beneath this display is a drop down flap, behind which you’ll find some basic controls, an extra HDMI input, a USB port, a composite video input, a stereo analogue input, a headphone jack and a connector for the Audyssey setup microphone.
As with the X4300, the overall design is both minimalist and functional but remains attractive and very well made. The front plate is composed of aluminium and the general build quality is excellent with a fetching brushed metal finish. There's a rigid construction to minimise resonance and improve stability and the receiver retains the feeling of a well engineered mid-range product. The X4300H measures 434 x 339 x 167mm (WxDxH) without the rear antenna attached and 434 x 389 x 236mm (WxDxH) with them on, whilst the receiver weighs a decent 13.7kg. Depending on your preference, the X4400 comes in a choice of black or premium silver but our review sample was the former option.
The X4400 is identical to previous models with the same attractive design and excellent build quality
Connections & ControlAs with front panel, so it goes for the rear, with the X4400H having exactly the same connections as the previous X4300H. Not that that's a bad thing because the X4400 boasts an impressive set of inputs that should cover every eventuality. There are eight HDMI inputs, seven at the rear and one at the front, as well as three HDMI outputs. There is an output for your main monitor, which will support Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) after a firmware update, as well as an output for a second monitor and an output for a second zone. All of the HDMI inputs and outputs support 4K at up to 60Hz, as well as High Dynamic Range (HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG), Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) and HDCP 2.2.
Whilst HDMI will undoubtedly be your main choice of connection, the X4400H also has a comprehensive set of legacy connections with six stereo analogue inputs, a phono stage with a grounding connector, two coaxial digital inputs and two optical digital inputs. There are also two component video inputs and one component video output, along with four composite video inputs and two composite video outputs. There are built-in AM and FM tuners, with provided aerials, along with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities thanks to a pair of booster antenna. If you prefer to use a wired connection, there is also an Ethernet port, along with two 12V triggers, IR in and out and an RS232 serial connector for system control.
Finally there are colour-coded binding posts for up to eleven different channels, depending on how you configure the X4400H. There are only nine channels of built-in amplification, which means that unless you add an additional two channels of amplification you are restricted to either a 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 speaker configuration for immersive audio. The binding posts are presented in a single line to make accessing them easier from the front and above, they are of decent quality and can accept bare wire, spade connectors or banana plugs. Since the X4400 has 11.2-channel processing there are also pre-outs for up to 11 channels, along with dual subwoofers.
Just like the front panel and rear connections, the remote control supplied with the X4400H is identical to the one included with the X4300H. That means it's 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 intuitive to follow and easy to operate with one hand. All the most commonly used buttons are centrally positioned, including volume and channel controls, and direction buttons for navigation. At the top are the source selection buttons whilst playback controls, quick select keys and sound modes are at the bottom. It remains a well designed and effective remote control but it's a shame that Denon still haven't added a backlight.Although the provided remote remains the easiest way to control the X4400, Denon also offer a free AVR Remote app that is available for both iOS and Android smart devices. The app is an effective substitute for the remote control and also solves the problem of not having a backlight when in a dark room. The remote app operates in conjunction with the HEOS app, allowing you to move seamlessly from one to the other. This is a nice touch, allowing you to easily control all the functions on your X4400H using the remote app and also use the receiver as part of the HEOS multiroom system. All you need to do is switch into the HEOS app by pressing the icon at the top, allowing you to control all the devices in your multiroom system. We remain impressed by Denon's remote apps and, like the receiver itself, they are well designed and intuitive to use.
There's a comprehensive set of connections and a decent remote but still no backlight
Features & SpecsThe X4400H is as feature-packed an AV receiver as you're ever likely to see, with just about every audio and video format covered. Starting with the amplification, the X4400 features a power amplifier section with all nine channels configured identically, employing discrete high current capable power transistors. Each channel is rated at 200 watts and all channels are able to safely drive lower impedance speakers (down to 4 ohms). The sound has been upgraded using a new selection of audio parts, with careful attention being paid to balancing the sound of the new components and replacing any discontinued parts – as a result the X4400 is slightly heavier compared to last year's X4300.
Along with the amplification, the X4400 features a 32-bit AKM AK4458VN digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) on all channels. An independent DAC PCB minimises interference from other digital circuits, thus ensuring consistent high fidelity and precise channel matching across all channels for the best listening experience. Denon have also added DDSC-HD AL32 multi-channel processing previously only included on their flagship receivers. This processing is designed to provide ultra-high-resolution digital audio filtering and precision for all audio channels, thus delivering a natural soundstage with enhanced imaging.
Denon have also added Bass Sync, which again was previously only available on their more expensive models. This feature corrects any delay in low frequency effects (LFE) for content recorded in multi-channel such as Blu-ray discs, where the recorded LFE may be out of sync and delayed. The X4400H also features high resolution audio decoding with multiple lossless file types including ALAC, FLAC and WAV at up to 24-bit/196kHz along with compatibility for 2.8/5.6MHz DSD files (DSD is the audio coding format used on SACDs).
The X4400H 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 services including TuneIn, Internet Radio, Spotify, Soundcloud, Tidal, Napster and Deezer.The X4400H is equipped with a dual antenna system for robust and error-free music streaming, featuring Bluetooth and Wi-Fi with 2.4GHz/5GHz dual band support, as well as Apple’s AirPlay for direct music playback from Apple’s iDevices. Thanks to the Denon AVR Remote app you can control all the receiver’s operations, as well as a connected Denon Blu-ray player if you have one. When combined with the HEOS app, you can easily control all your music and multi-room streaming features.
Of course one of the main selling points of the X4400 is its support for all the surround and immersive audio formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D built-in. Since the X4400H has nine channels of amplification you can run a 7.2.2 or 5.2.4 immersive audio configuration without the need of an external amplifier. The receiver includes 11.2-channel pre-outs, so if you do add an extra two channels you can run a full 7.2.4 speaker system.
The X4400's video section is fully compatible with the latest HDMI and HDCP 2.2 specifications and can handle any 4K Ultra HD source, along with High Dynamic Range (HDR10, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma), wide colour gamut (BT.2020) and eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel; via a future firmware update). Thanks to the three HDMI outputs, you can connect a TV and a projector in the main room, whilst playing back different content on a second zone screen. The receiver also includes video processing with 4K upscaling and ISFccc calibration controls.
The X4400H features the advanced Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room acoustic measurement system including Audyssey Dynamic Volume, Dynamic EQ, LFC and SubEQ HT. 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.
Finally the X4400H is equipped with a range of features to provide enhanced control capabilities and compatibility with 3rd party and custom integration solutions including Crestron Connected. This includes operation through IP control, either via wired LAN connection or Wi-Fi. For direct connection to external home automation and control equipment, the receiver is also equipped with an RS-232C serial port. Whilst for simpler integrated control set-ups, the X4400 features an IR (infrared) remote control input on the rear panel, allowing remote control compatibility with other components in your system.
The receiver is feature packed but, despite this, it remains easy to set up and operate
Setup & TestingThanks to Denon's Setup Assistant, the X4400H is easy to set up and the wizard takes you through the entire process step-by-step. The Setup Assistant has been upgraded but still offers simple, clear and concise instructions, covering 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 Denon's ‘rocket’, which is essentially a 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 the effective automated room equalisation but there is the option to perform a manual setup if you prefer.The menu system remains well designed, with a simple layout that is as intuitive to use as the rest the receiver, making it easy to customise the setup to your specific needs. In testing we started with a basic 2-channel system, before moving on to a 2.1-channel setup, followed by a 5.1-channel speaker configuration and then a 7.1-channel layout. After that we tested the X4400H’s immersive audio capabilities with both Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D. We used 5.1.4 and 7.1.2 speaker configurations before adding two more channels of amplification and running a full 7.2.4 speaker configuration with three front channels, two side channels, two rear channels, two subwoofers and four overhead speakers. We used a range of content including movies and music in 5.1, as well as movies with 7.1, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D soundtracks. We used CDs, SACDs, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray as our primary sources along with high resolution audio files and various streaming services including Tidal.
Denon AVR-X4400H Video Review
PerformanceHaving previously reviewed the near-identical AVR-X4300H we had a fairly good idea what to expect and the AVR-X4400H didn't disappoint. The new receiver has the same nine channels of built-in amplification with a peak output of 200W per a channel and, as a result, it can more than handle the average-sized living room. The Denon isn't as powerful as some more expensive models but it certainly has sufficient energy to go fairly loud without becoming brittle. It's also capable of driving all nine channels in a 5.1.4 or 7.1.2 configuration, making it a great choice for anyone looking to run an immersive audio system from a single box. You also have the option of using additional amplification to run the front left and right channels. which could be an effective method of boosting the overall performance.
As usual we started our testing in a 5.1-channel configuration and first we watched a few TV series on Netflix such as Star Trek Discovery and Stranger Things 2. They are both fairly active and bass heavy soundtracks and the X4400H handled them with ease, drawing all the detail from their Dolby Digital soundtracks and delivering an open front soundstage combined with some aggressive use of the surrounds and plenty of low frequency effects. Dialogue remained clear, the music was spread across the frontal array and effects were steered around the room with precision. The deep bass that accompanies the 'Upside Down' in Stranger Things 2 was well rendered and nicely integrated, whilst the overall performance managed to disguise the lossy nature of the compressed soundtracks.
When we moved on to lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, the results were even more impressive. The 5.1-channel soundtrack for the film Interstellar uses plenty of dynamic range to surprise the audience, often going from very quiet to very loud in an instant. The X4400 handled these transitions well, proving extremely responsive, whilst other scenes allowed the soundtrack to use all the speakers to surround the viewer in the audio environment. When we switched to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which has an excellent 7.1-channel mix, the results were even better. The brilliantly conceived opening sequence is a masterclass in sound design with the breathing of the apes, the falling rain, the sound of movement in the trees and choral music all mixed together. The soundtrack slowly builds and when the hunt begins, the entire sound field burst into life and the Denon handled the change in dynamic range extremely well.
The upmixing capabilities of the X4400 take the form of Dolby Surround, DTS Neural:X or Auro-3D Neuraliser and all three proved to be very effective. You have the option to use any of the three upmixers on both Dolby and DTS soundtracks and although we couldn't say which was the best, they were all capable of taking the 5.1 or 7.1 source and upmixing it to use all 9 channels or even 11 if you've added two more channels. We used the new Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind for testing and the upmixing features were able to give the impression that UFOs were flying overhead, even though we know the track wasn't actually mixed that way. We don't usually approve of processing a soundtrack to make use of more speakers but we definitely found that these upmixing features are able to create a greater sense of immersion without adversely affecting the overall sound experience.
Naturally things kicked up a gear once we moved on to genuine immersive audio soundtracks and we tested the X4400H with test discs and films that had Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D mixes. Starting with Dolby Atmos, the recent Ultra HD Blu-ray releases of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and Transformers: The Last Knight both have marvellous immersive audio mixes that made full use of the object-based sound design. There is extensive use of the overhead channels, with very active surround channels and pin point location of effects as they are steered around the room with precision. The soundtracks both created a three dimensional sound field that was under-pinned by some tectonic bass that rattles the room. This was also true of the DTS:X soundtracks that we tried, with both Serenity and Apollo 13 boasting great new immersive audio mixes that surround the viewer, placing them in the middle of the action. The low frequency effects (LFE) channel was effectively rendered in both cases, with the bass nicely integrate into the rest of the soundstage. Finally we listened to Red Tails and Pixels in Auro-3D and both made good use of that formats height channel, delivery an active and realistic sound field that moved sounds around you with great accuracy.
Finally we moved on to stereo and multi-channel music and the X4400 proved equally as adept in this area with a pleasing degree of musicality. We listened to the new Waterboys album Out of All This Blue, which is a very eclectic collection of musical styles, all of which the Denon handled with skill. The receiver kept pace with the rockier tracks, retaining the driving beat of the drums, whilst there was a delicate touch to the fiddle playing on the country influenced songs, along with a well defined brass section on the R&B numbers. In terms of streaming music we listened to tracks by Public Service Broadcasting on Tidal and again the receiver did an excellent job, whilst the support for HEOS multiroom added to the potential musical sources and also allowed us to listen on our HEOS 1. When it came to multi-channel music such as Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips on DVD-Audio and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon on SACD, the Denon reproduced the enveloping musical mixes with precision. Ultimately the X4400H is simply a great all-rounder that is sure to please anyone looking for an assured and fun AV receiver.
The X4400H is a great performer delivering superb sound quality and surround decoding
- Excellent all-round performance
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D
- Superb set of features
- HEOS multiroom support
- Easy to setup and intuitive to use
- Nicely designed and made
- Still no backlight on the remote
Denon AVR-X4400H 9.2 Channel AV Receiver ReviewThe Denon AVR-X4400H is an excellent AV receiver that delivers a great performance and a comprehensive set of features. It's fair to say that AV receivers have reached a point of critical mass and manufacturers are struggling to find new ways to differentiate one generation from the next. The X4400 is a good example of this quandary as it adds a few incremental improvements over the previous AVR-X4300H but isn't much different in terms of overall performance. So we get the same amplification and DACs, although Denon have upgraded some of the audio components and added a few features previously found on their higher end models. There's support for immersive audio with not only Dolby Atmos and DTS:X but also Auro-3D included right out of the box. The X4400H can pass HDR, including Dolby Vision and HLG, as well as eARC with the latter added via a future firmware update and there's support for HEOS, which is Denon's multi-room system.
The thing is that almost all of these features also apply to the X4300H, which makes it difficult to justify the additional cost of £400. That's not to say that the X4400 isn't a great performer with a controlled and reasonably powerful sound that delivers immersive audio with precision and authority. There's also a degree of musicality to the performance, making the Denon a great all-round choice for anyone who wants a receiver that ticks all the boxes without breaking the bank. The design, build quality and connections are excellent and the extensive features all work extremely well, with HEOS in particular being a useful addition. The Denon AVR-X4400H certainly does enough to compete with similarly priced AV receivers, making it worthy of recommendation, but it does struggle against its own predecessor. So if you are on a tight budget the cheaper X4300H makes for a viable alternative, although you'll need to be quick before stocks run out.
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