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Denon AVR-X5200 AV Receiver Review

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If it's Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D that you're after, then this is the receiver for you

by Steve Withers Jan 21, 2015

  • SRP: £1,699.99

    What is the Denon AVR-X5200

    The Denon AVR-X5200W is the company's mid-range Dolby Atmos enabled audio/video receiver, sitting above the AVR-X4100W and below the AVR-X7200W in their range. It is a nine-channel receiver that includes support for surround sound formats up to 11.2 channels (with added amplification) and includes built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. The X5200W also supports Ultra HD 4K and Apple's AirPlay, along with a remote control app and, for a fee of about £100, you can add support for Auro-3D via a firmware update. The X5200 was originally available for £1,699 but can now be picked up for around £1,400 as at the time of the review (January 2015).

    Design

    It doesn't seem as though any of the AV receiver manufacturers are planning to rock the boat as far as overall design is concerned and Denon is no exception. So the X5200 sports the classic receiver layout, with a large input dial on the left and a large volume dial on the right. Whilst sandwiched between the two is a large and informative display and beneath this is a drop-down flap. The X5200 has an attractive black brushed metal finish and the build quality is excellent.
    Aside from the input and volume dials and the power button, the front facia is very clean, with everything else being hidden behind the drop-down flap. Here you'll find a set of basic controls and some additional inputs, including an HDMI connector and a USB port; along with a headphone jack and a socket for the setup microphone.
    Denon AVR-X5200W  Design


    The X5200 has the classic look of a Denon AV receiver, with a clean facia and a simplified set of connections.

    Connections

    Denon have been quite successful in reducing the number of legacy connections at the rear. This makes sense not only because most people rarely use them but also because it makes the rear of the receiver far less intimidating. Although they haven't been eliminated completely and there are still component and composite video connections, along with analogue, coaxial and optical inputs and outputs. In addition there are eight HDMI inputs (seven at the rear and one at the front) and three HDMI outputs, the main one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel).
    Denon AVR-X5200W  Connections
    Denon AVR-X5200W  Connections

    We had no issues with HDMI handshaking but that can be very device specific, so we can't guarantee there won't be any. Aside from the HDMI ports, other useful connections include a LAN port, sockets for the AM and FM tuners, two 12V triggers, an IR Flasher and an RS232 port for serial control. There are also twin antennas at the rear, which provide both built-in WiFi and Bluetooth; along with pre-outs covering various speaker configurations, two subwoofers and multiple zones. Finally Denon has sensibly laid out the four-way speaker terminals in a line to make them easier to access and also clearly marked and colour-coded them.

    X5200W Remote Controls

    The X5200 comes with a well designed remote that allows the maximum of control without the need for excessive clutter or too many buttons. In fact the remote is very sensibly laid out, with well spaced and large buttons that make it quite ergonomic in use and comfortable to hold. Our only complaint would be the lack of a backlight, which made it tricky to use in a darkened home cinema.
    Denon AVR-X5200W  X5200W Remote Controls
    Denon AVR-X5200W  X5200W Remote Controls

    Thankfully you don't have to use the provided remote control with the X5200 because Denon also offer a free remote app as an alternative. The app is available for both iOS and Android and whilst it isn’t as slick as some of the competition, it does include all the controls you'll need and proved an effective alternative, especially in the dark. Alternatively, if you happen to be near the receiver and want to quickly change something, you can also use the controls on the front.

    The X5200 is a breeze to setup and control, with a well designed menu system and plenty of flexibility.

    Setup

    Denon have been trying to make their receivers as easy to setup and use as possible and the X5200 is a good example of their success in these areas. There is a very handy setup wizard that takes you through the entire process, so even a complete novice shouldn’t have any problems. This approach is sensible and makes the X5200 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. Denon even provide colour coded tags for all your different speaker cables which is very handy when you have up to 12 channels to connect.

    The wizard also checks the polarity of your speakers and the volume of your subwoofer(s) before taking you through the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 (Pro) room equalisation process. Denon include a dedicated microphone that you connect into the front of the X5200 during the setup process. If you have a tripod, then the overall process is easier but in case you don’t, the manufacturer helpfully includes a cardboard stand to help you out. The audio calibration process takes readings from up to eight positions in order to measure test tones from all the connected speakers and any subwoofers and thus determine the sizes, crossovers, distances and levels, before equalising for the effects of the room itself.
    Denon AVR-X5200W  Setup
    Once you have run the Audyssey software, you can then fine tune the setup manually either via the menu system or using the network feature. We started with a basic 5.1 speaker setup, before moving onto a 7.1 setup, followed by 5.1.4 and 7.1.2 configurations for Dolby Atmos and a 9.1 configuration for Auro-3D. We then added two additional channels of amplification, so that we could test a full 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos configuration.


    What is Dolby Atmos?

    There are a number of competing new audio formats, all of which are designed to offer a more immersive surround experience. The first to hit the market was Dolby Atmos, which is a multi-dimensional and object-based audio format that can be included within Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. It adds additional overhead and width speakers in order to create a more immersive surround experience. The X5200 offers the choice of either a 5.1.4 (four overhead speakers) or a 7.1.2 (two overhead speakers) configuration using the nine channels of built-in amplification. However if you add two more channels of amplification, you can also create a 7.1.4 configuration or a 9.1.2 configuration with additional width speakers. For more information on Dolby Atmos read our handy guide.

    What is Auro-3D?

    The other new immersive audio format is Auro-3D and this takes a very different approach to Dolby Atmos when it comes to immersing the listener. Instead of height speakers and an object-based approach, Auro-3D uses more traditional channels and a three layer system to add both height and overhead speakers. The basic Auro-3D setup uses extra height speakers over the front left and right and rear left and right speakers to create a 9.1 setup (the usual 5.1 plus four height channels). There is also the option to add a 'Voice of God' speaker directly above the listener, creating a 10.1-channel configuration and an extra height speaker over the centre channel to get an 11.1-channel configuration.

    Finally, you can add all these to a 7.1-channel layout to create a 13.1-channel configuration with five height channels and the 'Voice of God' channel. The X5200 can support a 9.1-channel configuration or, if you add extra amplification, a 10.1-channel configuration with the 'Voice of God' channel overhead but it can't handle either the 11.1- or 13.1-channel configurations. Auro-3D is delivered through the PCM tracks on a normal Blu-ray disc, so it's completely backwards compatible and there are a number of Auro-3D music Blu-rays available but, to date, no movies have been released in the format. You can read more about Auro-3D, Dolby Atmos and the forthcoming DTS: X in this article.

    Whether Atmos or Auro-3D can reach mass-market acceptance remains to be seen but we tested both formats.

    Testing the X5200

    Along with our usual 7.1-channel speaker configuration, we have installed four overhead speakers into our home cinema, which means we were in a position to fully test all the usual audio formats and Dolby Atmos. As we mentioned in the setup section, we tested movies with both 5.1 and 7.1 soundtracks before moving to both 5.1.4 and a 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker configurations. We also added a Cambridge Audio Azur 651W 2-channel power amplifier to run the main front left and right speakers, allowing us to create a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos configuration. We used Dolby’s own Atmos demo disc, as well as the Blu-rays of Transformers; Age of Extinction and The Expendables III, both of which have Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

    As luck would have it, the position and orientation of our overhead speakers meant that we could, along with Dolby Atmos, also use them for Auro-3D. Technically the speakers should have been slightly lower down and above the front and rear speakers but they were close enough for our needs. We used the Auro-3D demo disc for testing the new format, which included clips from three Dreamworks Animation movies, along with plenty of musical material and other demos. We also had a couple of Auro-3D music Blu-rays with which to test the X5200. In addition, we listened to an extensive amount of regular two-channel music, with the X5200 in a more purist configuration.

    Denon X5200 Specs & Features

    The X5200 uses discrete circuitry and a power amplifier that delivers 175W into each of the nine channels. The X5200 uses Audyssey MultEQ XT32 (Pro) for the room equalisation and then adds a host of other features such as Audyssey DSX for additional height or width speakers. There’s also Audyssey LFC (Low Frequency Containment) which dynamically monitors the audio content and removes low frequencies that pass through walls, floors and ceilings; which could be useful if you live in an apartment.

    There’s the option for discrete subwoofers and the level and delay can be adjusted for each one separately. Audyssey Sub EQ HT is designed to make the integration of the two subwoofers seamless by compensating for any level and delay differences and applying EQ to both for better bass response. There’s support for almost every surround format currently on the market, including the previously mentioned Dolby Atmos and DTS Neo: X, along with the newly available upgrade for Auro-3D.

    On the video side, the X5200 can pass Ultra HD 4K at up to 60p and even supports image processing for 4K 60p, 4:4:4 and 24-bit video. It can also upscale lower resolution video, including analogue video and standard definition content, at up to 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution over HDMI and there’s ISF calibration controls. There are eight HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs, along with video support over HDMI for additional zones, as well as support for ARC (Audio Return Channel).

    The addition of built-in WiFi and Bluetooth is very welcome and setting up both was very quick and easy, especially with the free remote app. The X5200 also supports DLNA, AirPlay and playback of DSD (2.8 MHz) and FLAC 192 kHz files over connected networks or via USB. There's also support for ALAC and WAV, as well as gapless playback and all the usual lossy formats; so whether you listen to music over your network, via USB or on a disc of some sort, the X5200 can meet your needs.

    The X5200 can also be set up and operated by a home computer on the network via IP control, either via wired LAN connection or via Wi-Fi wireless connection. In addition to the available smartphone remote apps, there's also the new Denon remote app specifically for tablet devices, and it's available for iPads, Android tablets as well as the Kindle Fire. Finally you get support for the ubiquitous Spotify, along with built-in AM/FM tuners and Internet Radio.

    The X5200 is feature-packed and the addition of Dolby Atmos and Auro-3D is just the icing on the cake.

    Denon X5200 Movie Sound Quality

    As we would expect from Denon, the X5200 proved to be a very capable surround sound performer. When listening to 5.1-channel soundtracks the receiver did a fantastic job of delivering an extremely dynamic sound field. The surrounds were lively and energetic, whilst sounds and effects were seamlessly panned around the room. The front soundstage was open and detailed and dialogue remained clear and focused on the centre channel. Music was well defined and the entire sound field remained tonally balanced, helping to envelope the listener with clarity and precision. Moving to 7.1-channel soundtracks merely opened up the rear a bit more, whilst retaining all the strengths we found with 5.1-channel mixes.

    When we moved onto Dolby Atmos soundtracks the results were as impressive as we hoped, with the additional overhead speakers really opening up the immersive nature of the audio. The dimensional effects of the object-based mix meant that pinpointing specific sounds became much easier and the sense of spacial awareness was remarkable. We tried various demo material in 5.1.4, 7.1.2 and finally 7.1.4 and all sounded great; although the full 7.1.4 experience was superb. Whilst there might only be a limited amount of Atmos-encoded material available at the moment, you can give any 5.1- or 7.1-channel mix the 'Atmos' treatment using the Dolby Surround setting.

    This proved to be highly effective, giving all our favourite surround soundtracks a new lease of multi-dimensional life. We're not saying that it's going to make all films sound as though they've had a genuine Atmos-mixed soundtrack because clearly it would be impossible to replicate the object-based approach that the new format uses. However by channelling certain sounds to the overhead speakers it does open the overall sound field out, creating a greater sense of immersion. We watched How to Train your Dragon 2 and the 7.1 mix really came alive during the flying sequences, with sounds whirling all around you. Even an older film like Gremlins, which has a 5.1 mix, seemed to benefit during a scene where the protagonist was in the kitchen and the gremlins were moving around in the attic.

    Finally we moved onto our Auro-3D 9.1 setup and whilst the approach may differ from Dolby's Atmos, the results were just as impressive. Although we didn't have the overhead 'Voice of God' channel, we found that the convenient positioning and orientation of the overhead speakers resulted in a wonderful sense of dimensionality. The Auro-3D demo disc includes some great material recorded using multi-layer microphones and the results were very impressive. In one you felt as though you really were standing in a square in Amsterdam, in another a huge tractor drives straight past you and in yet another one, two helicopters fly directly overhead. When the demo switched between turning the height layer on or off, the realism created by the additional channels was very apparent.

    Whilst no films have been released in the format to date, the three scenes on the demo disc (Rise of the Guardians, The Croods and Turbo) all sounded fantastic, especially the scene from Turbo. However it isn't just movies that benefit from Auro3D, music and live music in particular, can sound incredible in the new format with a genuine sense of spacial awareness. Whilst there aren't currently any movies available, there is an ace up Auro-3D's sleeve in the form of the 'up-mixer' that can add a greater sense of immersion to any material. In one demo we listened to a mono recording of Marvin Gaye's I Heard it through the Grapevine and with Auro-3D the entire song suddenly opened up and filled the room.

    The same was true when watching the Blu-ray of the movie Red Tails, where the aerial dogfights completely enveloped us and sounds moved seamlessly around the room. This film was the first theatrical release to have an Auro-3D 11.1 soundtrack but the Blu-ray only has a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and no PCM track to deliver Auro-3D. So unfortunately although the film was mixed in the format, and despite rumours to the contrary, there is no actual Auro-3D track on the Blu-ray disc itself.

    As with any new format, just how effective it sounds will come down to the skill of the sound designers and mixers - this will apply to both Atmos, Auro-3D and any another other format for that matter. However the ability to effectively use these new formats on content that wasn't originally created for them, certainly opens up more possibilities. The real decider will be the level of studio support, although the lack of compatibility in speaker configurations won't help when it comes to mass market acceptance. Whatever happens at least with the X5200 you have a choice of either, or indeed both, formats and, if nothing else, Atmos and Auro-3D both sound fantastic.

    Denon AVR-X5200W Video Review


    Denon X5200 Music Sound Quality

    This is often an area where AV receivers struggle but the X5200 proved to be as capable a performer with two-channel audio as it was will all the multi-channel formats we tested. In fact it handled two-channel music extremely well, with the new Waterboys album - Modern Blues - sounding very impressive. The soundstage was nicely open and the X5200 did a great job of reproducing Mike Scott's Nashville recordings. So when you consider the networking and Bluetooth capabilities, the X5200 becomes a genuinely capable partner for music.

    As is often the case, we felt the most effective results were gained by running the Denon in its Pure Direct two-channel mode without the subwoofer, although if you prefer to use your sub with music that also works very well. Aside from streaming music from our network and via Bluetooth, we also tried through USB and AirPlay and, overall, the X5200 delivered excellent results. Where possible we try to keep the resolution of our music as high as possible but we did find that the Denon could also be surprisingly sympathetic to heavily compressed sources.

    Whether it's surround sound, immersive audio or music, the X5200 does the lot and it does it well.

    Conclusion

    9
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Impressive sound quality
    • Excellent surround performance
    • Dolby Atmos and Auro3D support
    • Plenty of great features
    • Easy to setup
    • Great design and build quality
    • Very flexible

    Cons

    • Remote app is rather basic
    • No backlight on remote control
    You own this Total 10
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Denon AVR-X5200 AV Receiver Review

    Is it worth buying?

    There are obviously a large number of AV receivers available, even if you're looking for ones that support Dolby Atmos, so it's a competitive market place. However the design, features, flexibility and performance of the Denon AVR-X5200W, make it a strong contender for anyone looking to buy a new receiver. The level of features and overall specifications are second to none and the ease of setup and well designed controls and menu systems make it a very attractive proposition.

    The performance was excellent, regardless of which audio format you choose, and the Dolby Atmos decoding was incredibly immersive. If you want support for Auro-3D the choices are more limited and, in terms of mass market receivers, only Denon and Marantz currently provide that option. Yes you'll have to pay an extra fee for the privilege but it seems a small price for cutting-edge technology and the X5200 doesn't disappoint in terms of the quality of its Auro-3D performance.

    What are the alternatives?

    If it's just Dolby Atmos that you're interested in then Yamaha's RX-A2040 provides a great alternative, with a wonderfully implemented multi-channel performance, superb build quality and plenty of features. There's also Pioneer's SC-LX58 which again delivers in terms of performance, build quality and features. However the most obvious competitor comes from the X5200's own stablemate - the superb Marantz SR7009.

    This uses exactly the same internal architecture as the Denon, so you get all the same audio formats and features, including the optional Auro-3D upgrade. The X5200W has slightly more power in terms of amplification but otherwise, the SR7009 looks very tempting, especially as it can now be picked up for £999. However if you're looking for a genuinely impressive AV receiver that delivers in all the important areas, then look no further than the Denon AVR-X5200W.


    The Rundown

    Sound Quality

    9

    Features

    9

    Connectivity

    9

    Build Quality

    9

    Value For Money

    9

    Verdict

    9

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