Now that soundbars come with both five, seven and nine channels – many of them with the 3D audio formats Dolby Atmos and DTS: X – who needs a big and ugly amplifier with a dullion channels, like the Denon AVC-X6700H? And a bunch of speakers that belong? I’ll tell you this: It’s the one who wants proper cinema at home. In fact!
A soundbar is basically meant to compensate for the crappy sound in newer TVs. The bigger the screens, the bigger the gap between picture and sound experience, and here the soundboard saves the day. If you are not overly demanding.
Never mind the most affordable amplifiers
Gradually, there have been increasingly tougher sound boards, some even have separate, wireless rear speakers. The best soundboards have become good enough that I no longer bother to recommend people to buy a surround amplifier for 4-5000 kroner. Sure, it sounds better and tougher, but it takes up space, it’s not pretty, and it’s simply more complicated than a soundboard. Therefore – you should first use the living space for separate components: Clean up with something proper!
Denon has hit the big time with its new X700 series, not least when it comes to equipment and format support. The AVC-X6700H is the top model in the series, made to make the movies really come to life. With as much rumble and bang as you want, while the sound quality is always top class. Which of course also benefits music. In other words, this can be the amplifier for you who really want to move the Oslo Colosseum into the living room!
Dolby Atmos and DTS: X
Today, you never hear about home theater without Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. These are 3D sound formats, which in addition to sound around you also provide sound from above. This helps to increase the requirements for the number of channels, and is the reason why it actually makes sense to invest in an 11.1 amplifier, as here.
You get 3D sound by actually mounting speakers in the ceiling (2-4 is typical), or you can buy special elevation speakers that are placed on top of the front and possibly the rear speakers, which then shoot the sound up into the ceiling, whereupon it is reflected down on the listener. It works, but not as well as ceiling-mounted speakers.
Simulated sound from above
In addition, the Denon AVC-X6700H has got so-called Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization and DTS Virtual: X, which using advanced digital processing simulates height channels based on a traditional speaker setup, completely without height speakers. This works even worse than with elevation speakers, but if you absolutely can not control it, it can give an extra great illusion of 3D sound compared to having it turned off.
The AVC-X6700H supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS: X Pro, where Pro means that the number of speaker channels has been expanded compared to regular DTS: X. Among other things, it is possible with a ceiling channel over the center speaker (Center Height). And since DTS: X is totally object-based instead of channel-based, all movie and game titles with DTS: X audio tracks will benefit from the extra channels. DTS: X Pro is just a decoder algorithm, which is now possible thanks to increased processing power.
For the record, Dolby Atmos is also object-based, but has physical channels at the bottom, in combination with metadata that places the objects. This has some limitations, such as Dolby Atmos not supporting Front Wide or Center Height.
Dolby Atmos and DTS: X are competing formats that do almost the same thing. But not quite, and where DTS: X works with any Atmos speaker setup, Dolby Atmos will not necessarily work as well with a fully optimized DTS: X setup with speakers. As mentioned Front Wide and Center Height.
As if two different 3D audio formats are not confusing enough, the Denon amplifier supports a third format called Auro 3D. This can produce even more high-resolution sound, but requires a different speaker setup, where each speaker on the floor or wall preferably has a corresponding speaker in the ceiling. This is a very narrow format, almost without titles. I would therefore not bother to set up the speakers in this format.
If you want a speaker setup that you can use for everything, then set it up according to Dolby Atmos. That means a 5.1 or 7.1 system with two or four speakers in the roof as well.
The amplifier is marked IMAX Enhanced. This means that it supports IMAX, and we promise that a whole range of Sony movie titles will be rolled out during the autumn and winter.
It’s a little difficult to deduce from the marketing nonsense what IMAX Enhanced really is. On the image side, it appears to be a separate dynamic HDR format packed next to the regular static HDR10. If your TV supports IMAX Enhanced, you get the full IMAX feel. If not, the video titles are displayed with standard HDR10.
On the audio side, however, it is DTS: X that applies to IMAX. And the Denon amplifier already supports this, regardless of any IMAX logo.
8K video and HDMI 2.1
What is very interesting, however, is that the Denon amplifier supports 8K video signals, and also 4K with a full 120 Hz frame rate – and also variable frame rate which is useful for gamers. All this is embedded in HDMI 2.1, and so is eARC, which means that the amplifier receives high-resolution audio from the TV, directly through the connected HDMI cable. If you want, you can therefore connect all your video and game sources directly to the TV and extract the sound in high definition to the amplifier, through a single HDMI cable.
The speaker system
Our fixed speaker setup in the test room is a Procella THX system in 7.1 configuration, with a pair of ceiling-mounted Martin Logan SLM for Atmos content. Because the amplifier has 11 channels, I put on a couple of extra speakers for the height channels. For the occasion, I use B&W AM-1, which is actually a pair of outdoor speakers, but which then has wall / ceiling mounts included, and which makes the job easier.
The amplifier has automatic speaker calibration with the Audyssey XT-32, which adjusts all the speakers to give almost the same sound balance in the room. It is therefore not so bad that not all the speakers are of the same brand and type, if you do not select Direct sound mode, whereupon the EQ settings are bypassed. I myself do this only on music in stereo; otherwise I use Audyssey Reference audio mode.
To evaluate music in stereo, I have used our floor-standing Sonus faber Olympica III, which are very good and which easily reveals an amplifier.
Denon has a very simple step-by-step setup, which rents you by hand through speaker setup and source connection. Sure, for someone who has done this a lot before, it seems almost banal and takes extra time, but you are almost guaranteed not to go wrong.
The speaker calibration takes a while, as you should calibrate at least six microphone positions in the room, preferably eight. Before you turn around, half an hour has passed. And afterwards you may need to fine tune manually, especially the crossover frequency, and the distance selected for each speaker you may want to change slightly. But only if you are comfortable with this, otherwise you just leave the auto settings. Our front speakers are almost always set to “large” when in reality they are “small”, so I have to correct this myself. Otherwise, it presents problems when you have to raise the sound level with a lot of bass in the soundtrack.
I’m always impressed with Denon’s home theater amplifiers, when it comes to the ability to render dialogues clean and open in a large and airy soundscape. The AVC-X6700H also convinces here, and the dialogues on Gemini Man with Will Smith in the lead role are crystal clear and realistic. The film does not have the massive “larger than life” soundtrack that characterizes typical action movies, but instead has taken a more documentary approach. This does not mean that things do not happen, or that there is a lack of dynamics in the soundtrack. On the contrary! But it requires that you turn up the volume a good deal before you feel like bringing out the popcorn.
The Denon amplifier shows off well with its natural sound, and the three-dimensional Dolby Atmos soundtrack builds up during the super-smooth movements of this 4K Blu-ray movie, which is shot and shown at 60 frames per second. This just makes it all even more documentary. In contrast to the insanely incredible, and also miserable, script. But it will be a completely different story.
The amplifier does a very good job of presenting the sound. The only thing is that I feel it goes a little in compression when loud rifle and pistol shots are fired, when it is set to play with reference level – ie the same sound level as in the cinema. Then the dialogues also sound a little more coarse-grained than I want, so I end up reducing the sound a bit, and rather accept that there are more powerful amplifiers out there.
The machines take over
Far more spectacular is the soundtrack in Terminator: Dark Fate. Suddenly the subwoofer picks up speed, and the popcorn flies between the walls when machines and people meet in another insane showdown.
The Denon AVC-X6700H emphasizes the entertainment value of hefty home theater. Even the world’s best soundboard, the Sennheiser Ambeo, is nowhere near this. You also will not be able to extract this home theater power from an affordable surround receiver, you have to be in this class.
But I still miss the last little thing. The amplifier lacks surplus to the most dynamic transients when the sound level approaches the reference level. One solution could then be to put on an extra power amplifier for the front speakers (the Denon amplifiers from AVC-X3700H and up have “pre out” on all channels). I know, another box, but it can be considered if you find that you need a little extra push.
Denon’s strength has always been air and details with true-to-life sound balance, rather than the very worst power, but I remember being even more impressed when I tested the AVR-X6400H a couple of years ago. I definitely think it had even more air and size, although this is a little hard to say without having them side by side for comparison. By all means, it sounds both tough and very good, I just think I’ve heard Denon even better before.
The H at the end of the name stands for Heos, which is Denon’s streaming platform. Almost no matter what music service you swear by, it is supported by Heos, and easily controlled with the Heos app on your mobile. The interface is very user-friendly, and reminiscent of Sonos.
Stereo music played through Sonus faber Olympica III works really well, and the amplifiers can easily take the place of a pure stereo amplifier. You do not get quite as transparent sound on classical music as with the Marantz PM7000N, which can do exactly the same as the Denon when it comes to music and sound in two channels. The Marantz has even more air, the cymbals sound more fine-meshed, and where the Denon reproduces a nylon string guitar with a slightly more metallic character, the Marantz is simply more musical.
Electronic pop and hip hop, and other music you want to play loud, get more power with the Denon amplifier. But you can easily find a stereo amplifier for half the price that does a better job tonally. I suspect it may be in the digital conversion, but I can not be sure.
Music in surround, signed the 2L release Magnificat, however, spreads out in the room that no stereo amplifier can. When the Denon amplifier is allowed to use all the amplifier channels, it draws a sound image that hangs in the air, with the instruments very accurately placed in a three-dimensional room. Here it starts to smell magic in earnest. Just a little more resolution and I had been sold.
The Denon AVC-X6700H is a highly capable home theater amplifier that supports everything you need for new audio and video formats. Including 8K video passthrough.
In terms of sound, the amplifier is very good, and especially with 3D soundtracks like Dolby Atmos, it shows what it is good for. You simply do not get this sound from amplifiers in lower price ranges.
The amplifier lacks the final touches to the tone structures, and it could have been even more powerful. Then you can see in the direction of the even rawer top model AVC-X8500H from the previous series, which continues for another generation, and which will be able to be upgraded to HDMI 2.1 in the near future.
As a surround music communicator, the AVC-X6700H is compelling. In stereo, I would say that it gets tough competition from amplifiers for down to 10,000 kroner, so be aware of your needs in advance.
All in all, a great amplifier, but it must withstand fierce competition in its field.