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Denon AVR-X4700 AVR Review (Updated)

amirm

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#1
This is a second review of the Denon AVR-X4700 AVR. It was kindly purchased by a member and drop shipped to me. It costs US $1,700 from Amazon including free shipping. I will explain the reason for the revision in a bit. For now, I will cut and paste some of the information from the first review for completion.

The industrial design of the Denon AVR-X4700 is similar to many other AVRs:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI Review.jpg

We have the typical back connections:


In use, the unit was robust, never shutting down in 2-channel testing. However, the right side of the unit where I think the front left and right channels exist, got very hot. It was so hot that it was uncomfortable to touch the top of the case even though it is 1 inch or more removed from the heatsink. There is a fan under them but it did not come on. I worry about long term reliability of this unit so I suggest assisted cooling if you are going to use it anywhere near full power.

For testing, I turned off the eco mode and operated the unit with just two large front right and left speakers. For some of the tests, I selected the 11 channel mode which allowed me to reassign them to "external amp" which provides better performance in that configuration. Alas, there is no way to do the same for the center channel which is a miss. In this regard, there is no improvement over the last generation AVRs.

Reason for Second Review
The original review measurements showed significant degradation of AVR's performance when measured using HDMI input as opposed to Toslink input. This was surprising to me as I had not seen much discrepancy in the past reviews (sans jitter and such). This resulted in some harsh comments from me regarding the unit and vote of non-confidence.

Subsequent to the review, Denon Engineering contacted me and shared measurements with me which did not at all show the problem I was seeing. They ran the same measurements on the Denon AVR-X3600 (last generation model) that showed similar or same performance. Their work was first class and I could not find any fault with their methodology. I think I can speak for them that they could not see or explain why I would get different results.

The one significant difference in our setup was that they used an APx585 analyzer which has built-in HDMI output and I was using my desktop workstation as video output. So we chased many paths to try to identify why we were seeing such drastically different results. Many hours were spent in this analysis followed by late night conference calls to sort through this. Right when we thought maybe the explanation is too hard to find, we had a breakthrough. I realized that in my testing I was setting the AVR for 2-channel configuration with Front right and left speakers set to Large, and all other channels configured as "None." The output path form my PC however was 8 channels (determined by Intel GPU HDMI implementation in my Intel CPU). I had turned off all channels beside left and right assuming that would simulate simple 2 channel playback. Well, turned out this was the problem!

AVRs have channel mapping to deal with configuration differences between input audio streams and playback capability. You may for example use the AVR with just two speakers for living room sound while playing 7.1 channel Blu-ray content. AVR will then use its internal mapping to mix down the high input channel count to stereo. For reasons that are unknown at this point but is being investigated by Denon engineering, when feeding only two channels to AVR but in 8 channel configuration, and the AVR is configured as just Left and Right speakers, the noise level goes up substantially and there is potential for clipping on maximum level signal. The former was responsible for lower performance across many measurements. The latter was responsible for unusually high distortion in multitone test.

Fortunately the fix was simple. I simply turned on all the speakers for 7.1 configuration while still continuing to feed the AVR the same way I was before. With all channels configured, the stereo audio data was no longer changed since no mapping was required and performance shot way up. Since vast majority of you are using AVRs with multiple channels enabled anyway, the issue that caused the problem should not be something you see.

Note that the amplifier measurements were not impacted so we did not focus on them. I will just be cutting and pasting them from the original review to this thread.

These new measurements fully supersede the data in the original review. So please do not refer to the other set anymore.

AVR DAC Measurements
The heart of the audio subsystem in an AVR or processor is conversion of digital audio samples to analog. So we always start there by tapping the "pre-out" from the back of the unit instead of using speakers (to eliminate the effect of amplifiers). Let's start with HDMI input and leaving the unit as shipped (i.e. front amps connected):

[this is the old measurement -- I did not re-run it because it is limited by the amp being on as opposed to configuration issue above]



We see the typical high harmonic distortion due to internal amplifier stressing the power supply causing the DAC to underperform. Fortunately in this amplifier we can turn them off for the fronts as mentioned and this gets us an improvement: [new measurement]

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI Audio Measurements.png


The results are far better than in the original review and now actually outperforms the Coax input:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround Coax Audio Measurements.png


Using the more common HDMI result gives this ranking for AVR-X4700H:
Best Surround DAC Review.png


And among AVRs/processors tested so far:

Best AVR DAC Performance Measurements.png


We can see the much improved dynamic range using HDMI:
Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI Dynamic Range Audio Me...png


On the right I am showing Denon Engineering results with kind permission from them. As you see, they are getting a few dB better result. This may be due to unit to unit variation or some other factor not yet investigated. I am not worried about it though as it is in the same ballpark.

We now have better than 18 bits of dynamic range which puts my mind at ease with respect to clearing the 16 bit hurdle of CD format.

The IMD performance is also much improved since the sloping down portion of this graph is dominated by noise:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI IMD Audio Measurements.png


Denon Engineering had better results here but due to me not specifying the tone configuration for this test, they used a different one as noted. Regardless, we are back to the type of performance I expect to see in good AVRs.

Noise floor in J-test is now the same for both inputs which is good:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI and Coax Jitter Audio ...png


Even though I use a lot of filtering, noise can still impact linearity test. Here are the much improved results:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI Linearity Audio Measur...png


This is extremely good, showing accuracy to almost 20 bits!

Now we get to the key test of multitone:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI Multitone Audio Measur...png


Gone are the high intermodulation spikes caused by overflow condition previously. And we once again land on better than CD distortion-free range which is good.

I noted in the original review that the DAC reconstruction filter attenuation was not as high as I wanted. Fortunately there is improvement here as well as noise was hiding the true response of the filter:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI Filter Response Audio ...png


Likewise the original THD+N vs frequency test showed high level of distortion+noise+spurious tones which is now much improved:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI distortion and noise v...png


In discussions with Denon Engineering, they made a good comment that this test pulls in filter artifacts due to its wide bandwidth yet it is labeled "THD+N." So I changed the title of the test to make it more clear that it is measuring everything that is not the one frequency under test. I also made another run at 192 kHz sampling so that the spurious images due to the filter get pushed out of band. This is reflected in the graph in green. I plan to run this test this way from now on.

With the AVR-X4700 (and all of 2020 series Denon AVRs) you can only turn off the amp for the front channels, or all the channels. If you want some other configuration, then you are dealing with amplifier clipping and lowering performance depending on how much you turn up the volume. To show this I measure at different output levels to identify the best performance:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround HDMI THD+N vs Output Level ...png


As you see, the best performance is around 1.1 volts which produces over 100 dB SINAD (dashboard uses 2 volt output so gets lower SINAD). With the amp turned on, the highest you can go is 1.4 volts before clipping occurs and performance drops precipitously. So make sure to look up the specifications for your external amplifier to see what its "sensitivity" is that generates its maximum power. If it is below 1.4 volts, then you are good.

Streaming DAC Performance
I used the Heos App to stream our 1 kHz tone. Here is the dashboard:

Denon AVR-X4700H 8K Home Theater Receiver AVR Dolby Atmos Surround Heos Streaming Audio Measur...png


This is the same performance as Coax input so the hardware pipeline must be the same.

I also tested using Airplay streaming via Roon player. That produced 92 dB SINAD due to truncation to 16 bit (limitation of Airplay).

EDIT: here are the output impedance measurements and performance into 600 ohm:


It is fairly high output impedance. So don't load it down below 12 k Ohm.

When I tried it with severely low 600 ohm load, it naturally dropped a lot of output level but distortion remained good:



-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[The rest of these measurements are cut and paste from the original review]
Analog Pre-amp Measurements
I always test to see if analog input works better or as good as digital in AVR as that allows me to then compare the amplifier in them to output amps. Here is that performance:



We see that performance is a couple of dBs better than Toslink indicating the ultimate limit of the analog buffer/volume control/gain stage. Not a great news but does allow us to run the amplifier tests with analog input, telling us its best case performance.

AVR Amplifier Measurements
As usual, we start with our dashboard of 1 kHz tone, 5 watts output into 4 ohm load:



his is actually above average for an amplifier:


And among AVRs:



Notice that it is sitting very close to the 3600H indicating the same design.

Frequency response is identical in all CD modes which surprised me:


Maybe it never digitizes this input? Anyway, it is good to see such wide bandwidth and dead flat response in audible band.

Crosstalk is not that great but fortunately that is not a huge audible thing:



Dynamic range is nearly as good as 3600H:



We have a bit more power than 3600H:




And into 8 ohm:


Finally testing to see frequency dependency on power and distortion+noise:


Conclusions
It goes without saying that new measurements completely changes my outlook on AVR-X4700H. It now ranks in the upper tier of home theater AVRs. Not only that, the company behind it is excellent to work with. Despite my harsh original review, they came to the table ready to work through this with no ill will. I am especially appreciative of Rainer Finck of Denon/Marantz Europe who spent many hours with me on the phone and in email to brainstorm. He was also the conduit to Denon Engineering in Japan which worked hard to chase any theory we came up with. It was also a pleasure to work with Sound United personnel in US in final resolution and planning of this update. This was one of the best experiences I have had working with a company on a review!

Anyway, I am happy to now recommend the AVR-X4700H. I will take all the eggs you want to throw at me for not doing so the last go around. :)

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.
 
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Matias

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#2
Nice happy ending.
 

John Galt

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#3
Great update!
 

MZKM

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#5
You have mentioned again that the center channel doesn’t benefit from the amps turning off unless going full 11ch mode. I assume for those with just 3.1 setups and 3ch of amplification, this is not a limitation?

Also, I am not understanding why the output voltage [distortion] is higher with the amps turned on [off], shouldn’t it be the opposite?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #6
Do you think this configuration issue affected your RMC-1 review?
No, I did not test the RMC-1 using HDMI. At least I don't think I did. :) I also tested a Yamaha AVR I have and it did not have this problem.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #7
You have mentioned again that the center channel doesn’t benefit from the amps turning off unless going full 11ch mode. I assume for those with just 3.1 setups and 3ch of amplification, this is not a limitation?
You mean if you turned off all the amps? If so, correct.
 

tparm

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#8
Thanks for the hours you've put into this research with Denon. Speaks highly of you both. Going froward it will be interesting to see how AVRs test using the new setting.

It is still interesting you achieved the numbers you did with the X3600.

Safe to assume the X3700 review is to follow soon?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #10
Also, I am not understanding why the output voltage is higher with the amps turned on, shouldn’t it be the opposite?
I think you are misreading the graph. The AVR can produce the same voltages in either configuration. It is the distortion that changes (vertical axis). Output voltage is on the horizontal axis.
 

MZKM

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#11
I realized that in my testing I was setting the AVR for 2-channel configuration with Front right and left speakers set to Large, and all other channels configured as "None." The output path form my PC however was 8 channels (determined by Intel GPU HDMI implementation in my Intel CPU). I had turned off all channels beside left and right assuming that would simulate simple 2 channel playback. Well, turned out this was the problem!

AVRs have channel mapping to deal with configuration differences between input audio streams and playback capability. You may for example use the AVR with just two speakers for living room sound while playing 7.1 channel Blu-ray content. AVR will then use its internal mapping to mix down the high input channel count to stereo. For reasons that are unknown at this point but is being investigated by Denon engineering, when feeding only two channels to AVR but in 8 channel configuration, and the AVR is configured as just Left and Right speakers, the noise level goes up substantially and there is potential for clipping on maximum level signal. The former was responsible for lower performance across many measurements. The latter was responsible for unusually high distortion in multitone test.

Fortunately the fix was simple. I simply turned on all the speakers for 7.1 configuration while still continuing to feed the AVR the same way I was before. With all channels configured, the stereo audio data was no longer changed since no mapping was required and performance shot way up. Since vast majority of you are using AVRs with multiple channels enabled anyway, the issue that caused the problem should not be something you see.
If you set the HDMI output to 2ch and you set the amp to 2ch, is the performance equally as good?
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #12
So still not as good as the X3600H on anything, except for amplifier power?
Denon Engineering testing showed them to be similar. But mine still shows a differential as you note. I have requested a 3600H sample which they are going to send me once they have one (they are not easy to find).
 

Lbstyling

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#13
If I have read this right. The AVR performs significantly better as a processor to external power amps then?
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #14
If you set the HDMI output to 2ch and you set the amp to 2ch, is the performance equally as good?
Correct. I should have noted in that in the review.
 

carlob

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#15
Even with amps off that doesn't clear the 2,5V needed for a NC500, right? To be clear, if I want to use this as a pre-pro with Hypex nc500 modules.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #16
If I have read this right. The AVR performs significantly better as a processor to external power amps then?
Not quite. If you need external amplification and that amplifier requires more output than 1 volt or so that typical AVR outputs before clipping on its pre-out, the Denon feature of letting you turn off the amps provides significant advantage. It also runs cooler that way.
 

Archsam

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#17
This is the definition of going above and beyond the call of duty.

Thank you Amir and also to the Denon team. They are now on my radar for future considerations should I ever consider going into the AV realm.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #18
Even with amps off that doesn't clear the 2,5V needed for a NC500, right?
I did not measure more than 2 volts on RCA out as that is the max for that "standard." I could do so later. For now, I think it will continue the trend on that graph which is still pretty good.
 

P_M

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#19
.....
The output path form my PC however was 8 channels (determined by Intel GPU HDMI implementation in my Intel CPU). I had turned off all channels beside left and right assuming that would simulate simple 2 channel playback. Well, turned out this was the problem!
......
.....
Fortunately the fix was simple. I simply turned on all the speakers for 7.1 configuration while still continuing to feed the AVR the same way I was before. With all channels configured, the stereo audio data was no longer changed since no mapping was required and performance shot way up.
Is it not possible to just configure your PC output to 2 channels ?
 

peanuts

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#20
i would give it the headless panther just based on the weakass clipping at 1.4V. what normal people using this would think their cdplayer outputs more than a preamp? even some experienced audiophiles dont understand gain and just toss any amp on the outputs.
 
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