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Denon AVR-X3500H AVR Review

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amirm

amirm

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I wonder if this measurements taken in a pure direct mode ? Maybe the measurements improve slightly ?..
Is there a pure direct mode? The analog inputs were not digitized so I don't think there is any processing after I reset it.
 

North_Sky

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I agree; for a small budget of $600 (on sale) what can you expect...top notch measurements all around? This is a full featured receiver...Alexa, XT32 EQ, HEOS, eARC, streaming (all), four powerful DSP chips, ...made for sale...all the features kids want.

If you want more power and better DACs (ESS Sabre Pro), looks elsewhere than Denon.
Eg.; Arcam, JBL, some Yamaha flagship AVR models, or go higher up the Denon receiver ladder.

* Flimsy heatsink, and poorly positioned transformer in the X3500H ... scary!
You get what you pay for ($600), for the FEATURES. And it has preouts.

** There is a Pure Direct (X3500H) audio mode.
https://usa.denon.com/us/product/hometheater/receivers/avrx3500h
 
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nintendoeats

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This has probably been discussed elsewhere, but to me it seems utterly unsurprising that these receivers don't meet the standards of the other audio device classes reviewed here.

Consider the price, 1000 USD (or 600 USD?). That has to cover the cost of 7 high-power (for consumer) amplifiers and 8 DACs. Those devices all have to live together in the same box, sharing heat and electrical noise. They also have to coexist with circuits to handle all of the extra features that people expect: GUIs, decoders, networking devices, media playback, DSP, etcetera. These add cost and electrical complexity. Then there is the software licensing for all of the various formats the device can decode. Also, the ADC (and possibly upscaler) that converts analog video signals to something you can send to your TV over HDMI. Don't forget about the cost of all those connectors on the back, and the complex PCB you need to get them all routed correctly (how well-seperated can the traces really be with that much routing to do?). All of this needs to fit in a standard size box with poor ventilation, and if you must have a fan it had better be completely silent (and not introduce yet more electrical noise, or much more cost).

Imagine the only components were the DAC channels: that's 125 USD per channel. In the ASR reviews, 250 USD seems to be about where you start paying more for features than performance (on average). Of course, there are cheaper good-quality DACs and there are economies of scale to take advantage of. Still, it seems unreasonable to expect AVR manufacturers to achieve the same results with the same budget when you consider all of the limitations I mentioned above. We haven't even considered the amplification stage.

Imagine you had a standalone box that decoded the DTS/Dolby stream, then sent that signal to 4 standalone stereo DACs, which were connected to 4 standalone stereo speaker amplifiers. Add an HDMI switchbox (without ADC, since most people don't need one anymore). You could probably do this for 1000 USD. Not only would it be inconvenient and complex, I'd bet that the quality at that price would be comparable to the results here at best.

And to address the elephant in the room, if Amazon is selling it for 600 USD then one wonders if 1000 USD is one of those imaginary prices that doesn't really mean anything. That would make the actual cost per channel much lower. It also raises the topic that retailers take a huge chunk of the MSRP. Many boutqiue audio manufacturers primarily sell equipment through their own stores, so that huge cost to the consumer is reduced (meaning that a Schitt price is not exactly comparable to a Denon price).

TL;DR: This performance is about what I would expect considering the complexity and design restrictions of the device under test, when compared to the budget available for design and manufacturing.
 

milosz

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Although it would be hard to arrange, I think it would be interesting to do a blind A/B/X study to see if many could reliably hear the difference between something like this mediocre unit and a home theater setup with SOTA DAC quality on a mix of Blu-Rays & DVDs- music+video discs (concerts) and some cinema discs (movies).

For stereo music playback, with high quality speakers or headphones, I would be ready to believe that the middling-low quality of the DAC in this thing could be audible, but even there I'd like to see results of a proper experiment to see if all/ many / some / few / none listeners could tell the difference from a SOTA DAC.
 

raistlin65

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Is there a pure direct mode? The analog inputs were not digitized so I don't think there is any processing after I reset it.

The pure direct mode on my X4200W will even turn off the screen. The idea is that it minimizes anything that might cause electrical interference. Be interesting to know if there's actually a difference between the direct mode and the pure direct mode in the output. Might be just another audiofoolery feature.
 

RickSanchez

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This has probably been discussed elsewhere, but to me it seems utterly unsurprising that these receivers don't meet the standards of the other audio device classes reviewed here.

Consider the price, 1000 USD (or 600 USD?). That has to cover the cost of 7 high-power (for consumer) amplifiers and 8 DACs. Those devices all have to live together in the same box, sharing heat and electrical noise. They also have to coexist with circuits to handle all of the extra features that people expect: GUIs, decoders, networking devices, media playback, DSP, etcetera. These add cost and electrical complexity. Then there is the software licensing for all of the various formats the device can decode. Also, the ADC (and possibly upscaler) that converts analog video signals to something you can send to your TV over HDMI. Don't forget about the cost of all those connectors on the back, and the complex PCB you need to get them all routed correctly (how well-seperated can the traces really be with that much routing to do?). All of this needs to fit in a standard size box with poor ventilation, and if you must have a fan it had better be completely silent (and not introduce yet more electrical noise, or much more cost).

Imagine the only components were the DAC channels: that's 125 USD per channel. In the ASR reviews, 250 USD seems to be about where you start paying more for features than performance (on average). Of course, there are cheaper good-quality DACs and there are economies of scale to take advantage of. Still, it seems unreasonable to expect AVR manufacturers to achieve the same results with the same budget when you consider all of the limitations I mentioned above. We haven't even considered the amplification stage.

Imagine you had a standalone box that decoded the DTS/Dolby stream, then sent that signal to 4 standalone stereo DACs, which were connected to 4 standalone stereo speaker amplifiers. Add an HDMI switchbox (without ADC, since most people don't need one anymore). You could probably do this for 1000 USD. Not only would it be inconvenient and complex, I'd bet that the quality at that price would be comparable to the results here at best.

And to address the elephant in the room, if Amazon is selling it for 600 USD then one wonders if 1000 USD is one of those imaginary prices that doesn't really mean anything. That would make the actual cost per channel much lower. It also raises the topic that retailers take a huge chunk of the MSRP. Many boutqiue audio manufacturers primarily sell equipment through their own stores, so that huge cost to the consumer is reduced (meaning that a Schitt price is not exactly comparable to a Denon price).

TL;DR: This performance is about what I would expect considering the complexity and design restrictions of the device under test, when compared to the budget available for design and manufacturing.


Agreed. It's even more incredible to think that you can get pretty much all of the same capabilities for half that price (USD ~$300) if you don't need as many HDMI inputs nor as much per channel power. (And you're willing to downgrade from Audyssey MultEQ XT32 to regular MultEQ.)

Makes me wonder if Denon (or any other major AVR manf) would think about their major lines differently. Denon has their S- and X- lines, with each successive model in each line offering a little more power, some more inputs and/or outputs, some bumps up for Audyssey room EQ. Is there a market for a line of AVRs that strips out a bunch of features but bumps up the audio/video capabilities? For example: a line that has no voice assistants, no room EQ (no mic either), no HEOS ... sells for about the same MSRP ... and has better DAC chips and maybe a better internal implementation.

Something like that would be very interesting to me, but I can imagine there might not be much demand for those products overall. At the relatively budget end of the AVR market I'm guessing the vast majority of consumers want features, convenience, and maybe wattage. SQ is important too but it's taken as a given based on brand reputation, marketing, and/or subjective reviews.
 

Timbo2

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To Denon: こんなに下手くそな機械を恥じるべきだよ、てめえらが仕事をもっとしっかりしてると信じていたのに。

ちょっと厳しいと思います。That's a little harsh. But it's not their finest effort by a long shot.
 

nintendoeats

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Something like that would be very interesting to me, but I can imagine there might not be much demand for those products overall. At the relatively budget end of the AVR market I'm guessing the vast majority of consumers want features, convenience, and maybe wattage. SQ is important too but it's taken as a given based on brand reputation, marketing, and/or subjective reviews.

This is my thought also. I speculate that the cost of developing those products would not be worthwhile (it's cheaper to sell one SKU that appeals to more people). If they took a super high-end model and removed the tat, maybe that would make sense? In that case, they might be concerned about cannibalizing high-end sales without selling enough low-end units to make up the loss.
 

direstraitsfan98

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I used the previous model AVR, the X3400H for a good year with my KEF LS50! I never had any qualms with it. So it certainly has enough power for 85dB sensitive loudspeakers.

By the way something to note since I doubt Amir was using this AVR for it's intended purpose: when you have the video processing active, that is, if you're outputting anything thru the HDMI, the amplifier runs quite hot after a few hours. I would imagine this cuts down the lifespan of the amplifier significantly. I have no doubt that many will begin to fail in 5-10 years.
 

nintendoeats

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By the way something to note since I doubt Amir was using this AVR for it's intended purpose: when you have the video processing active, that is, if you're outputting anything thru the HDMI, the amplifier runs quite hot after a few hours. I would imagine this cuts down the lifespan of the amplifier significantly. I have no doubt that many will begin to fail in 5-10 years.

My 3808CI gets quite toasty as well. On the other hand, my old Sony AVR thermally shut-down a couple times, so I try not to worry about it with this one :p
 

peng

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Is there a pure direct mode? The analog inputs were not digitized so I don't think there is any processing after I reset it.

Yes there is, and in pure direct mode it doesn't get digitized for sure. In Stereo, I would think it gets digitized, but perhaps ( just perhaps as I am not sure) only if you engage Audyssey or the graphic equalizer.

I have had the X3400H (basically the same as the 3500 except the so called IMAX enhanced mode) in one of my two channel systems and compared with my 250 W Parasound Halo A21 paired with my Cambridge audio analog preamp for about 10 days. I heard no difference whatsoever but I was using the analog inputs only, with my external DACs such as the Mojo. Your measurements confirmed the analog input performance was much better so that explained why I thought the X3400H was an excellent unit even for serious two channel hifi.. I traded it in after about 10 days, for the X4400H as I wanted to use in my 7.1.4 HT, to replaced the Marantz AV8801.

If I understood right, the shutting down issue at higher preamp output happened only when you ran the full bandwidth sweep right? Gene at Audioholics.com had the X3300W higher than 4 V, before it clipped, but that was the single tone test. When he did the continuous sweep on the $3,500 Marantz SR8012, it shutdown too well before it reached 2 V, and things got ugly above 1.5 V as well iirc. That's why he suggested people use the 11.1 configuration because then you can assign the preout to FL and FR and it would then disconnect the power amps. Obviously you cannot do that with the 3500 because it is limited to 7.1, but you can do it with the X3600H and any of the X4000H series.
 

peng

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I used the previous model AVR, the X3400H for a good year with my KEF LS50! I never had any qualms with it. So it certainly has enough power for 85dB sensitive loudspeakers.

By the way something to note since I doubt Amir was using this AVR for it's intended purpose: when you have the video processing active, that is, if you're outputting anything thru the HDMI, the amplifier runs quite hot after a few hours. I would imagine this cuts down the lifespan of the amplifier significantly. I have no doubt that many will begin to fail in 5-10 years.

I used it on my LS50 and R900, also no issues, sounded as good as my separates but I used external DACs with it so may be that's why. I think the bad results Amir got might have been due to the continuous freq sweep instead of the usual single tone like 1 kHz other sites did. As explained by Gene over at AH, he attributed the issue to the fact the that there is no preamp mode so the power amps are always connected even with no speakers connected. Someone the power amp clipping (voltage at the rail) and the protective system might be the culprit..
 

RickSanchez

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By the way something to note since I doubt Amir was using this AVR for it's intended purpose: when you have the video processing active, that is, if you're outputting anything thru the HDMI, the amplifier runs quite hot after a few hours. I would imagine this cuts down the lifespan of the amplifier significantly. I have no doubt that many will begin to fail in 5-10 years.

While I can't speak to its impact on performance, all of Denon's 2018 + 2019 AVRs have what they call "Eco Mode". I'm sure individual mileage would vary but it could make a meaningful difference in reducing heat output.

A bit out of date but I found this thread helpful in understanding Eco Mode, in particular post #6:
https://www.avsforum.com/forum/90-r...86-denon-s-eco-mode-what-does-do-exactly.html
 
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amirm

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If I understood right, the shutting down issue at higher preamp output happened only when you ran the full bandwidth sweep right?
That's correct but before I ran that test, it had already limited power without notice. I had to power cycle it to get it to full power for the sweep.
 

peng

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I agree; for a small budget of $600 (on sale) what can you expect...top notch measurements all around? This is a full featured receiver...Alexa, XT32 EQ, HEOS, eARC, streaming (all), four powerful DSP chips, ...made for sale...all the features kids want.

If you want more power and better DACs (ESS Sabre Pro), looks elsewhere than Denon.
Eg.; Arcam, JBL, some Yamaha flagship AVR models, or go higher up the Denon receiver ladder.

* Flimsy heatsink, and poorly positioned transformer in the X3500H ... scary!
You get what you pay for ($600), for the FEATURES. And it has preouts.

** There is a Pure Direct (X3500H) audio mode.
https://usa.denon.com/us/product/hometheater/receivers/avrx3500h

The Denon has the AK4458 chip, same as the one in the flag ship Anthem and flagship Marantz SR8012. You have to go all the way to the Denon AVR-X8500H or the Marantz AV8805 AVC to get the better AK4490. The AK4490 would be comparable to or slightly better than the ES9026Pro in the flag ship Yamahas.

So I highly doubt the poor performance is due to the DAC chip itself, but more likely due to power amp being still connected even with no speakers connected. Only the flag ship Denon (not the Marantz unfortunately) has a preamp mode that disconnects the power amp. The X3600H, X4500H and up do have the option to disconnect just the front left/right channels, by a cheating step in the amp assign procedure.
 

Rja4000

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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.
Hi Amir

I understand what you mean and I agree with that.
Maybe my words above were too extreme.
.
I didn't mean this measurement is useless.
It's just that it is a "secondary goal" for most people.
0bviously, unless your power amp has more sensitivity than usual, this goal is missed.
It's also good to know if the DAC is pulling down performance.
So yes, this measurement is useful.

But the performance for the main goal of the integrated is overall better than what the DAC section results at 2V suggests.
 
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peng

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That's correct but before I ran that test, it had already limited power without notice. I had to power cycle it to get it to full power for the sweep.

I know it is unlikely but it would be great if you could get you hands on a 3600 or 4500 that allows the FL and FR amps disconnected, so that you can actually measured the DAC performance like you did on external DACs without the protective feature acting against you and may be bad influence from the power amp that you yourself alluded so before if I remember correctly, when you measured another avr, the Yamaha RX-A1080?
 
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But the performancd for the main goal of the integrated is overall better than what the DAC section results at 2V suggests.
The issue with lower voltage is that desktop DACs also improve often at lower outputs so that gap remains to some extent.

That aside, my power measurements using coax input do use the product as intended by stringing the DAC and amp together. That combination right now performs far below what we can do with separates. So to some extent the individual scores are still representative.
 
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