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Denon AVR-X3500H AVR Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Denon AVR-X3500H Home Theater Audio Video Receiver (AVR). It is kindly loaned to me by a member. The AVR-X3500H is a 2018 model but it is still available from Amazon for US $599 despite having a retail price of US $999. If it performs, this is a very attractive price.

The front panel of the unit is the same as any other AVR:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver Home Theater Review.jpg

The volume control though has a much nicer feel than most other AVRs.

If there is a setup button on the front, I must have missed it as I could not find a way to program the unit without the remote control.

The back panel is as expected:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver Home Theater Back Panel Connectors Review.jpg

The speaker connectors were beefy enough for my heavy wires I use which I appreciated.

For testing, I reset the unit which put me in a wizard which was useful but then got stuck without a cancel button on room EQ. Somehow I got out of it but was not easy.

The on-screen graphs were not that attractive but did the job.

The amplifier modules use the same flimsy heatsinks many other AVRs use. Here, they made a mistake of running two wide ribbon cables over the left and right channels which likely block convection cooling fair bit. In use, during my normal testing those two challens felt pretty warm, eventually leading to amp limiting power output to some 35 watts or so. I then ran my regulated power test which caused the unit to shut down and go internal protection. I put a fan on it and it would again shut down. Clearly these AVRs are not designed for continuous duty operation.

I had a heck of a time getting my PC's Nvidia HDMI to route through the AVR-X3500H. It would only provide 1080p resolution at 4:2:0 causing color bleed due to interpolation there. And a fuzzy screen on my 4K display. Messing with menus and settings in Windows did not help. Worse yet, ASIO4ALL interface would not see the Nvidia HDMI audio channels at all. If you are planning to use a PC to drive this AVR, better be sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

DAC Audio Measurements
For this portion of the testing, I did not connect any speakers to the output terminals as to avoid stressing them. I then ran my HDMI tests by using Roon using WASAPI interface to play a couple of test files starting with our 1 kHz tone:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC HDMI Audio Measurements.png


The default output at full volume was quite a bit higher and clearly clipping. So I lowered that to 2 volt but unfortunately performance was still lousy as you see. SINAD is dominated by harmonic distortion and not noise. Clearly the output is beyond its comfort factor (shown later). For now, the ranking is poor:

Best DACs in Home Theater AVR Review.png


And among AVRs:
Best AVR DAC Measured.png


Here is the jitter test showing copious amount of jitter components:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC HDMI Jitter Audio Measurements.png


As noted, I needed to use another interface in order to be able to run the rest of my tests so I opted to use Coax input for the following. First, let's compare the dashboard to see how it performs relative to HDMI:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax Audio Measurements.png


Overall score remains the same but disappointing to see additional sidebands around our main tone of 1 kHz. Jitter test shows that in detail:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax Jitter Audio Measurements.png


The sidebands beyond that are also elevated.

Intermodulation distortion relative to level shows that this DAC is designed for low level of output:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax IMD Audio Measurements.png


Even we back off from clipping though, performance still falls short.

Fortunately noise rating is good:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Filter response is typical:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax Filter Response Audio Measurements.png


Linearity was surprisingly good:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax Linearity Audio Measurements.png


I could not run multitone test because it requires 192 kHz support and the coax input doesn't go that high.

AVR Amplifier Audio Measurements
I tested the amp using both digital (coax) and analog input. Let's start with analog:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Analog Audio Measurements.png


Nice to see above average performance here relative to other AVRs:
Best Home Theater AVR Tested.png


It is also above average for amplifiers in general but of course well shy of state of the art:
Best AVR Review 2019.png


Frequency response extended quiteh high indicating it is not digitized:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Analog  Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


This is without running Room EQ.

Signal to noise ratio was not as good as the DAC section:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Analog SNR Audio Measurements.png


Crosstalk was especially poor:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Analog Crosstalk Audio Measurements.png


This is what I see in $30 amplifiers. The concern here is not that you don't have enough channel separation but that what bleeds into the other channel many be worse than its own distortions.

Most important is power versus noise and distortion. Let's start there with 8 ohm and analog input:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Analog Power into 8 Ohm Audio Measurements.png


The AR-X3500H massively outperforms the two NAD products in noise and distortion while matching the power rating. And on that front, the amp is exceeding its rated power.

For variety and to better simulate use case, I tested the Coax input to drive the amp. Here is the dashboard again:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax Audio Measurements.png


Sadly noise floor has gone up causing SINAD to drop a couple of dBs. One things digital input would be preferred to an analog input from noise front but here, we take a step back. There is a reduction of spurious tones though higher up in frequencies so it does some good there.

Anyway, running with that to measure 4 ohm performance gets us this:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax Power into 4 Ohm Audio Measurements.png


Again, the NAD T777 V3 is left in the dust with respect to noise and distortion.

Note that the amplifier is not rated for 4 ohm but works anyway.

Here is the regulated output test that caused the amplifier to shut down (sweep is from 20 khz down to 20 Hz):
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Analog 20 to 20 kHz Power into 4 ohm Audio Measurements.png


I later ran the test from 20 to 20 kHz and it produced almost the same power starting at 20 Hz. But oddly again it shut down at the same 60 Hz point. The mains noise may be confusing the analyzer causing it to stay there longer leading to shut down. Not wanting the amp to be damaged, I did not try to run the test any further.

Finally, here is the FFT spectrum of a 1 kHz tone:

Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Analog FFT Audio Measurements.png


Lack of design hygiene shows spurious tones but they are very low in level and at any rate, much less than class D implementations.

Conclusions
Let's get the worst out of the way first: the Denon AVR-X3500H DAC implementation is quite poor. Clearly no care was included to make it perform well. It is much worse than the amplifier at the limit which is embarrassing. I was about to give it the worst score due to that (headless panther) but the amplifier pulled through. I appreciated the analog inputs not going through mysterious transformations. And low noise and distortion which bettered most AVRs I have tested.

Thermal performance has some issues but not as bad as some other budget AVRs such as Pioneer.

Overall, you have a lousy DAC but a good amplifier with Room EQ at attractive price in Denon AVR-X3500H. As such, it makes a decent option if you have such needs. If it goes on sale, it may be even a better bet.

--------
As always, questions, comments, corrections, etc. are welcome.

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Dj7675

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#5
Is it possible to see DAC measurements at 1.2 and or 1.0 Vrms?
 
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Vovgan

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#6
the Denon AVR-X3500H DAC implementation is quite poor.
Cried my eyes out at the end of the DAC section of this review. No manufacturer should be so cruel as to have their customers read reviews like this.

This is also a What HiFi 5* product for 3 years running (3400/3500/3600). They should have known better.

Amp‘s better performance was predictable - but then again nothing to write home about. I concur with @maty that x4500 is a better machine: upgrading x3500 to x4500 did improve the sound quality of the amp substantially (I used external DAC with both of them). However, the sound card is definitely not much better than the one on x3500 and both of them produce noticeable distortions/harshness in movie soundtracks (same with x6500).

All manufacturers of AVR that were reviewed here so far should really get their thing together and learn from Apple‘s dongle and Topping‘s bundles how to make great sounding products at mass market prices.

Hope that other promising AVRs will continue to be scrutinized here.

@amirm, thanks for this in-depth review.
 
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#7
I wonder how the speaker preouts perform? This is Denon's lowest model with Audyssey MultEQ XT32 and preouts. Some people might be willing to live with the HT performance with the benefits of XT32 if they could run music through their own DAC and attach a power amplifier for the front left/righ speakers for music listening.
 

vkvedam

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#8
Can't imagine X3600H improving on this :facepalm:

Eternal optimist in me is waiting to see a - 100dB beating AVR :)
 

Dj7675

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#9
Can't imagine X3600H improving on this :facepalm:

Eternal optimist in me is waiting to see a - 100dB beating AVR :)
Audioholics uses 1 Vrms for their testing. I think it would be interesting to see what the results would be at that level.
 

amirm

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#10
Is it possible to see DAC measurements at 1.2 and or 1.0 Vrms?
Here is 1 volt:
Denon AVR-3500H Audio Video Receiver DAC Coax 1 volt output Audio Measurements.png


1.2 volt is essentially the same. It goes crazy after 1.5 volt (vol = 80).
 

amirm

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#11
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#12
I hope that you get an Arcam AVR390/550/850/860 to test at some point. Almost the only AVR brand left to investigate even though there are many more models to test on the brands that have been tested so far I thinking that the engineering skills has some carryover between models.
 

Rja4000

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#14
Here is 1 volt:
View attachment 39996

1.2 volt is essentially the same. It goes crazy after 1.5 volt (vol = 80).
It makes probably no sense for an integrated AVR (or any DAC + amp integrated device) to expect 2V unbalanced/4V balanced out of the DAC.

Why should the manufacturer invest in the intermediate output stage, as long as the input of the power amp is matching this level ?

I suggest to first check SINAD evolution vs output level and to use best value (and to perform all standard measurements at that level).
 

Arnandsway

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#15
Could you do a sweep per frequency?
And is it possible to test power over multiple channels? (preferably over 4 channels)
 

amirm

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#16
Why should the manufacturer invest in the intermediate output stage, as long as the input of the power amp is matching this level ?
Because if you use a more powerful external amp you may need that level of drive. And that is the precise use of the pre-amp outs I am testing.
 
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#17
You mean the pre-amp out? If so, that is what the DAC measurements are.
I'm thinking of the pre-amp output without the DAC, but with an analog input.

Based on what I have read in some of your AVR reviews, it seems AVRs struggle with the DAC implementation and/or what signal makes it to the speakers through the power amp even when analog input is used. If the pre-amp output is decent, then it's still possible to get good audio for two-channel music listening by installing a separate power amp (or integrated amp) and using the analog input.
 

amirm

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#18
If the pre-amp output is decent, then it's still possible to get good audio for two-channel music listening by installing a separate power amp (or integrated amp) and using the analog input.
You mean use this giant thing as just a preamp?
 
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#20
I wonder if this measurements taken in a pure direct mode ? Maybe the measurements improve slightly ?..
The most important feature of this AVR is Audyssey XT32. IMO, and it won't work in Pure Direct obviously, but it does add a little hiss to my older Denon AVR that's even audible from up close. So I expect a lower noise floor in Pure Direct.

IMO 3500 looks like a very decent all-in-one package. Relatively beefy multichannel amp with acceptable SINAD, Audyssey XT32, a good (yes, 95 SINAD is good in my world) DAC+Preamp when kept under 1.2vrms, and all of that for just 600$.
 
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