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Troubleshooting the Denon X3700H AVR and center channel ...

Artsfols

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Recently I upgraded my music and television system from analogue stereo to a 3.1 system based around the Denon X3700H audio visual receiver.
I documented the various perils I encountered along the way on the presumption that this might be helpful to fellow travellers.
I'll amend this orginal post with any errors found by other readers. Please, do your worst.

After the upgrade, my system consists of the following components.

Audio visual receiver: the Denon X3700H AVR,
Input sources:an Apple TV streaming box, a Arcam CD73 CD player, an OPPO BDP-95 Bluray player, and an ASUS PN50 media computer.
Audio output: Totem Arro left-right speakers, Totem Tribe subwoofer with a separate, dedicated Totem mono amplifier, ELAC Debut Reference DCR52 centre channel, NO SURROUND speakers,
Video output: LG B9 OLED 65 inch television.

After completing the interactive startup process provided by Denon and running the onboard Audyssey configuration program, I began the process of working through my configuration one step at a time. I decided to make my Apple TV box work first, then retune the sound profile with the Android based Audyssey program (cost $29 CDN), and then work in the other input sources for the system. I wanted to get one source working properly, and then bring in other input sources. I wanted to break up the process over several shorter sessions so that I could assess and enjoy the fruits of my labour as I went. There's a certain amount of beating your head against the wall in setting up equipment, so, first bit of advice, take breathers and don't get into a lather about frustrations that are bound to arise.

Running the Audyssey program on an Android tablet.

This program worked extremely well for me, but as a software developer I recognize there are many gotcha's with this program. Here's how to avoid the mine field.
* I watched a few youtube videos, but the best I found was Joe Tell's "How I Setup Audyssey Using the MultEQ App on My Denon X4500H - Step by Step Instructions". Concise and complete, this 15 minute video will help you set your bearings and give you a goal oriented approach to setting up a good equalization profile for your receiver. Joe provides a checklist in the comments that is worth printing out and using as a checklist.

Now the gotcha's with the program:
* Joe recommends saving a baseline profile, then making a copy and editing that. You can actually create multiple profiles in this manner, and the receiver will store any two of them simultaneously. But this is a tricky business. First, you need to have a Google Drive in the cloud. If you don't have one, they're fairly easy to set up and learn how to use.
* You have to actively save profiles as individual .ADY files and also restore them, similar to saving and reloading files in a spreadsheet or word processor. The Audyssey program does not direclty manage the profiles for you.
* Make sure the program finds your receiver. This is a common complaint and frustration about the program. The easiest way to do this is to plug your receiver directly into your wifi router, and ensure that your receiver and tablet are functioning on the same local area network. In general, LAN operations are the best way to connect all your computers and multi-zone setups.
(Corollary: avoid Bluetooth, with the exception of smartphone connections for your car stereo or headphones, i.e. when on the move. Get everything you can on to your local network and use Ethernet cable whenever you can, wireless access when you must.)
* I found the function selection box overlaying the frequency curve to be an annoyance. Note that you need to go into the curve editor to view the curve.
* There's a feature called 'high frequency roll-off', but what if you don't want one? I picked one, and did not worry further about it.

Receiver configuration issues

It all worked in the end, but the receiver presents a minefield of overlapping configuration choices, ambiguity and complexity to work through. This is the nature of the beast, I feel, and hard to avoid.
* 'Amp Assign' settings. There is no built-in 3.1 or 5.1 profile. The closest I came was a 7.1 profile with extra amplifier channels used to double amp the front speakers. I'm not double-amping anything for now, and don't have surrounds, but the 7.1 profile is the closest to my setup. The 7.1 profile I selected did work, just leaving some channels unused. But I would have preferred a distinct 3.1 and/or 5.1 profile even though it would function no differently from the 7.1 profile I selected.
* The receiver offers an 'Audyssey Setup' as well as a 'Manual Setup' for speaker options. It's not clear, at first, if the Audyssey versus Manual setting is an either-or or both situation. It turns out that the Manual settings are complementary to the Audyssey settings. There is a manual equalizer, which overrides Audyssey, but it's not accessible if Audyssey is enabled.
* My centre channel came out slightly too loud. And my subwoofer needed a bit more gain. I suspect that the centre is too loud because it's directly aimed at the ideal listening position and the fronts are out much wider and not toed in. In addition, the sound from the centre is heavier in weight than that from the Totem's. The subwoofer issue is simply one of taste.
I don't consider any of that an issue, but in trying to adjust levels after the fact, I ran into a couple of gotcha's.
1. The +/- db 'Level Adjust' on centre and sub can be set individually, but are also available again in an overall speaker settings chart; they set the same internal variables but at first you wonder how the settings might interact. It's the same setting in two places. In addition, while sub and centre levels are at the top of the Audio menu, the L/R channel settings are not. So if the L/R setting is -2.0 db as mine were, then setting the centre channel to -3 db does little. It would need to be -5.0 db to achieve a 3 db drop relative to the L/R.
2. In terms of the frequency adjustment curve, do speaker distance settings come into play in addition to the +/- db or are they used only in the determination of the +/- db. I think the latter, but how do I know for sure. If that is the case, is there any point in changing the distance settings?
Also,
* The remote has quick select buttons 1,2,3,4. But there are only 2 prestores for Audyssey settings. So, are the 'quick select' buttons for something else? Can I tie the 2 prestores to the 'quick select' settings? I've left this as a future problem to sort out, if ever.
* I have not been able to get the 'Channel Level Adjust' function to do anything.
* I paid a lot of attention to the 'Input Select' table and it solved a number of problems for me. Here was one. You may have noticed that there is one DVD button on your remote, for example. but that both analog and HDMI inputs are provided for DVD. The receiver will automatically select the correct input, if you use only the one set. But in the case of my OPPO receiver, I wish to use the analog inputs when playing audio SACDs and HDMI when playing Bluray or DVD video discs. The 'Input Select' table gives you highly granular control over your various inputs, so that two different buttons could be utilized for multiple outputs from one input source. I was also able to set up 'cool' options such as my TV being used as a computer monitor whenever I select the audio CD player. In the end, I completely over-rode any 'automatic' selections made by the receiver, specifying exactly how I wanted to control the beast.

Actual Bugs

* I had HDMI cable issues. As I mentioned, my first goal was to use my Apple TV box on the new system. It worked beautifully for all of 5 minutes and suddenly the picture went pink and purple. "The TV isn't broken, the TV isn't broken ..." I'm not going to share all the blind alleys I went down whenever I had a serious problem like this. Bottom line - the HDMI cable, which I had always used on this box, no longer worked. I swapped in the one known 18gb HDMI cable I had and voila, it worked fine. (This all happened when I had worked up my grandkids, age 6 and 8, to watch the final episode of Battlebots in glorious 5.1 sound. They are tough customers, and I was under extreme pressure to solve this problem quickly.)
* The next day, I replaced every single HDMI cable with newer 18GB HDMI cables, problem or not, in spec or not.
* One more serious problem. You won't likely have this highly particular issue, but keep in mind, that if you previously plugged multiple input sources into your television, you're replacing that with one input cable. Television settings that vary by port, can no longer vary by port. You must pick one option for all ports, and hopefully that works out okay.
* It did not work out okay for me. My OPPO blu-ray player came up with an 'invalid format' error. Can't be the cable as I replaced them all. A Google search led me to the requirement that the TV's 'Deep Colour' setting must be off for my OPPO to work with the TV. But the Apple TV needs to have that setting on for Dolby Vision to work. Different ideas were tried, but what worked perfectly was to run the OPPO player HDMI output directly to the television and then use the eARC HDMI port to route the OPPO player sound back from the TV to the receiver. (This requires changing the Input source on the television, and selecting 'TV Sound' on the AVR remote when using the player. A universal remote greatly eases macro level switching of this kind.)
* In general, I would recommend use of the eARC port (and set that feature on in the AVR) on your television and on the AVR. It may come in handy.
* In general, when you have mismatches of one kind or another, be warned that the equipment does not fail gracefully. These days, Google really is a friend when things get ugly.


Other general things I learned.

* I can't believe the improvement the 3.1 system provides over the stereo system when it comes to the 5.1 soundtrack on streaming or Disc sources. In watching the 'Formula 1' program on Netflix, the new system gracefully fades background sounds and music to a driver interview coming through the centre channel and then fades out again to ear-splitting, if you want it, race track noise. This kind of initial experience confirmed that the upgrade was the right decision. Early testing of my Planet Earth discs also indicate a new level of awesomeness for animal and nature sounds, and I can hear David Attenborough's voice, clear as a pin drop.
* The initial Audyssey set my sub crossover at a ridiculously low 40 Hz. The Arro's need a much higher cut off point; I use 100 Hz. In the previous stereo system there was some doubling below 80 Hz without a proper crossover, and man, did Billie Eilish's thumpy music ever thump. With the new crossovers and levelling the bass frequencies, bass intensive music, is clear, full and not overly intrusive.
* I won't use the center channel when listening to CDs or SACD discs, or streaming music. It reduces imaging, and while the ELAC speaker is very capable, it's no match for the Totems, so it's the Totems I want to hear.
* In order to switch off the center channel there are four confusing coloured 'mode' buttons on the bottom of my remote, labelled Music, Movie, Game and Pure. The only use I have found for these buttons is to switch the center channel off, by switching to 'Stereo'. Turn it back on by switching to 'Multi-channel stereo'. That's it.
* The INFO button is invaluable. Shows exactly what channnels are present in the source, and which outputs are being utilized.
* The INFO button made clear to me why some streamers worked great on the Apple TV, and some did not. Youtube Music, the BPO and many other sources present only stereo sound, and sounded great on my analog stereo system. Sources like Netflix and Disney that presented 5.1 sound relied on the Apple TV box's stereo mixdown, and the quality of the results varied greatly. At worst, voices disappeared entirely in the mix.
* No printed manual in the box? Come on. For the kind of money I spent, Denon should be able to chop down a tree or two. A tablet based download had to suffice. At some point during the process I read the entire manual cover to cover, all 330+ pages skipping sections deemed irrelevant. It does not take all that long, if only the relevant sections are read.

Logitech Universal Remote.

How I set up the remote for the Denon X3700H might be of interest, otherwise skip this section. I have succeeded in putting the new Denon remote on standby.
I have programmed 5 activities which I can switch using the Universal Remote.
1. Watch TV - provides access to the Apple Streaming box.
2. Watch DVD or Bluray disc on the OPPO player. (This switches the TV to a separate HDMI input for the Oppo and switches the AVR to TV input sound utilizing eARC. It works like a dream, providing multi-channel 3.1 sound from most of my Bluray and other disks.)
3. Listen to CD on the CD player while optionally using the computer.
4. Listen to an SACD on the Oppo while optionally using computer.
5. Use the computer.
I programmed the 4 colour buttons to provide switching between:
stereo, multi channel stereo, pure direct, and one other sound mode.

Conclusion.

I had been very happy with my analogue system for 15 years, with upgrades along the way to convert from various digital streaming devices, et cetera. I really was looking for simplification in handling the various digital sources, and an improvement in sound from digital multi-channel sources, while maintaining the quality of my stereo sources. The investment wasn't huge, but all along I wasn't sure if the sound I ultimately obtained would justify replacing equipment that still functioned well for the most part. The investment proved worthwhile when I made the final analysis last night.
Quick summary of benefits: 1) smoothed frequency response through the bass and midrange frequencies, improving the definition and timbre of instruments on channels like the Berlin Philharmonic. 2) improved cross over from bass to midrange and added clarity and diminished thumping from bass-intensive soundtracks. 3) greatly improved voice clarity on multi-channel sources, both streaming and disc. 4) added significant shlock and awe to movie and TV show soundtracks.
 
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Beershaun

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Thank you for this detailed write up. This will definitely help people who go through the Denon setup journey in the future. These things are complex, not well documented, and adherence to specs vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. So it's no small task and rightly turns a lot of people off. Thanks for the work!
 
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Artsfols

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Thank you for this detailed write up. This will definitely help people who go through the Denon setup journey in the future. These things are complex, not well documented, and adherence to specs vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. So it's no small task and rightly turns a lot of people off. Thanks for the work!

Thanks! I appreciate the response. Given the hours I spent on reading posts, discussion, purchase and subsequent installation (and enjoyed almost every minute of it), I thought, why not spend an hour or two documenting the journey. I may go back and add a TL;DR section for those with a more casual interest.
 

jefny

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Reading the above makes me hesitant in upgrading my receiver which I use as a pre amp to a Denon 3700h which I am planning. I have a 7.2 setup (no atmos) with an overhead projector and plasma TV.

John
 
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Artsfols

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Reading the above makes me hesitant in upgrading my receiver which I use as a pre amp to a Denon 3700h which I am planning. I have a 7.2 setup (no atmos) with an overhead projector and plasma TV.

John

There really isn't much of a problem with the functionality of the receiver. Most issues are one of interface design, cables (always a gotcha in the digital age) and sheer complexity in the number of features available.
I'm not sure about your specific application, but I have tremendous confidence in the product and it has been rock solid since I acquired it and went through the set up.
 

Soundmixer

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I too find audyssey sets center too loud and subs too low.

That is because Audyssey is set up to work as an ecosystem. When you engage all of the other Audyssey processes, it "should" come out balanced.
 

eriksson

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* In order to switch off the center channel there are four confusing coloured 'mode' buttons on the bottom of my remote, labelled Music, Movie, Game and Pure. The only use I have found for these buttons is to switch the center channel off, by switching to 'Stereo'. Turn it back on by switching to 'Multi-channel stereo'. That's it.
While this post is about AVR3700 I assume it's similar as the predecessor AVR3600 I have. These buttons are not so confusing if you have for example 5.1 setup or more speakers. For your setup they have limited use I guess.

For my 5.1 setup:
I use these to switch from stereo listening (fronts + sub) to "multichannel" for music or "Dolby surround" for movies and music... Few impressive surround features in there. Each button remembers the last setting and can be used for whatever menu option.

Perhaps it's blasphemy to admit I sometimes upmix 2 ch stereo via these surround features to listen to music. But then - my fronts and surround are 3 way towers (Focal Aria 926 front and Dali Zensor 7 back) and my center speaker is the decent as well: https://www.focal.com/en/home-audio/high-fidelity-speakers/aria-900/center-speakers/aria-cc-900.

For example, while posting this I am listening to wonderful album: Nils Lofgren; Acoustic Live in "Dolby surround" upmixed from 2ch Spotify stream and I am somehow surrounded by the music, and yet it's not muddy and his voice is always in the same place, slightly left of center in front of me, his guitar is all around me. Difficult to describe but at low volume late in the evening it's great in my living room. By quick count there are 20 drivers working in harmony to create this sound image. I have to admit I am quite impressed with the timing, levels etc Audyssey can do. I don't have the app for more control, not available in my country, and I haven't bothered to search for workaround.

Just my $02
 

Urgo

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One of the differences between the Denon 3600 and 3700, and their 2020 Marantz counterparts, is the presence of the two configuration memories or "presets."
With them you can save, and switch on the fly, between two different calibrated speaker setups, for example a 2.0 for pure direct and a 5.1.
For this, the Audyssey app is useful, where you can save all the calibrations and changes in the curve that you want to make, and then transfer them to the AVR.

This selection, "preset 1" or "preset 2", is also saved in the 4 selectable buttons that have been mentioned, so it increases its possibilities, using for example the settings of a source and analog input associated with a 2.0 calibration with a specific curve, and another multichannel also with its determined settings and according to the input source in the rest of the buttons.

It is just an example, because its possibilities of use are multiple.
 
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Artsfols

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While this post is about AVR3700 I assume it's similar as the predecessor AVR3600 I have. These buttons are not so confusing if you have for example 5.1 setup or more speakers. For your setup they have limited use I guess.

For my 5.1 setup:
I use these to switch from stereo listening (fronts + sub) to "multichannel" for music or "Dolby surround" for movies and music... Few impressive surround features in there. Each button remembers the last setting and can be used for whatever menu option.

Perhaps it's blasphemy to admit I sometimes upmix 2 ch stereo via these surround features to listen to music. But then - my fronts and surround are 3 way towers (Focal Aria 926 front and Dali Zensor 7 back) and my center speaker is the decent as well: https://www.focal.com/en/home-audio/high-fidelity-speakers/aria-900/center-speakers/aria-cc-900.

For example, while posting this I am listening to wonderful album: Nils Lofgren; Acoustic Live in "Dolby surround" upmixed from 2ch Spotify stream and I am somehow surrounded by the music, and yet it's not muddy and his voice is always in the same place, slightly left of center in front of me, his guitar is all around me. Difficult to describe but at low volume late in the evening it's great in my living room. By quick count there are 20 drivers working in harmony to create this sound image. I have to admit I am quite impressed with the timing, levels etc Audyssey can do. I don't have the app for more control, not available in my country, and I haven't bothered to search for workaround.

Just my $02

Thanks for your insight, eriksson. Yours sounds like an amazing system, and I too am a Nils fan. Favourite moment, his feature spot on Springsteen's "Youngstown" where he is allowed to pull out all the stops. Without Nils doing all the heavy lifting, Bruce wouldn't be half the live act he is, but I digress.
I hope that my description only sounds like one person's journey, thus the cautionary, "the only use 'I' have found".

I want to add though that the confusing part is the labelling, "Music, Movie, Game and Pure", which with the exception of "Pure" don't seem definitive to me.

Finally, on all 2 ch sources, I keep the center channel OFF as it messes up the imaging. I'm not disputing that your experience is different to mine. All I wanted on my 2 ch music is to maintain the quality of sound that the system already had. The reason for the upgrade was to better handle movies and streaming, specifically those with a 5 channel source, which the upgrade has improved momentously.
But guess what? The 2 ch sound is also much improved, even though it's exactly the same speaker configuration (2.1). This I attribute to a flatter frequency curve due to Audyssey, and the timbre of acoustic music especially is much more defined and life-like.
 
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Artsfols

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One of the differences between the Denon 3600 and 3700, and their 2020 Marantz counterparts, is the presence of the two configuration memories or "presets."
With them you can save, and switch on the fly, between two different calibrated speaker setups, for example a 2.0 for pure direct and a 5.1.
For this, the Audyssey app is useful, where you can save all the calibrations and changes in the curve that you want to make, and then transfer them to the AVR.

This selection, "preset 1" or "preset 2", is also saved in the 4 selectable buttons that have been mentioned, so it increases its possibilities, using for example the settings of a source and analog input associated with a 2.0 calibration with a specific curve, and another multichannel also with its determined settings and according to the input source in the rest of the buttons.

It is just an example, because its possibilities of use are multiple.

Good to know. I should be able to achieve the selection between presets using my Logitech universal as well. Since I wrote the above I have spent more time with Audyssey and also doing some actual monitoring using a UMIK microphone.
 
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