The Denon AVR line-up was created to have something suitable for any consumer. The AVC-X8500H, at £3,000, is the most expensive model in the range, and it’s a pioneering 13-channel unit designed for large systems in dedicated cinema rooms. When you move down the lineup from the 11-channel, 9-channel, and 7-channel selections, you’ll get to the AVR-X1600H. Since its price drop on Black Friday, it is now retailing for less than a tenth of the price of its more expensive sister, while having similar features.
HEOS multiroom technology is prominently displayed. Denon’s original 2014 debut of this platform was limited to wireless standalone speakers; however, it has since been expanded to include soundbars, AVRs, and hi-fi separates from Denon and stablemate brand Marantz. You don’t need to be a multiroom guru to use it; the HEOS app provides control over the receiver’s Bluetooth, USB, and networked audio playback as well as access to subscription music services (Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon Music), as well as internet radio.
To sum up, Apple fans now have a second multiroom/streaming connection option thanks to AirPlay 2, while those who prefer HEOS gain access to an entirely new layer of capability.
Detailing the construction and capabilities of the Denon AVR-X1600H
The additional features of the AVR-X1600H are impressive as well, especially for the cost. There are a total of six HDMI inputs (one of which is front-facing), as well as support for composite video and digital optical audio. The lack of a component video connector (included on Denon’s more expensive X2600H) is not a deal breaker, nor is the fact that there is just one HDMI output. The receiver’s MM phono turntable input and dual subwoofer outputs are more practical (as least as potential upgrade avenues).
The Denon AVR-X1600H follows the standard Denon design language, looking very similar to the AVC-X8500H while being significantly smaller in size and lacking a drawbridge to conceal the setup mic and full-size headphone output, front-facing HDMI and USB ports, and control buttons. Although this may make it a bit disorganised, the huge LCD screen is a nice touch, and the brushed metal exterior adds a dash of class.
The receiver has an internal seven-channel discrete amplifier stage that can provide 80W per channel into 8 ohms (measured at 20Hz to 40kHz with 0.8% total harmonic distortion with two channels powered). A reduction of about 15W per channel compared to the AVR-X2600H.
Of course, when thinking about cheap receivers that will be paired with cheap speakers in a small to medium-sized setup, the power promises are probably not worth getting hung up on. The power needs of the intended audience can be met by this Denon.
The AVR-X1600H is best viewed as either a state-of-the-art upgrade from a soundbar or TV audio system or as a replacement for a more affordable AVR. Regarding the former, if such features are desired, it is simple to recommend due to its support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X playback, 4K HDR passthrough over HDMI (including Dolby Vision), and HEOS capabilities. When it comes to the latter, those who have made the transition from a stereo soundbar to true multichannel audio will be blown away.
With Audyssey MultEQ XT for room EQ and Denon’s setup aid for a streamlined installation process, the seven-channel architecture supports 5.1, 7.1, and 5.1.2 Atmos configurations. The latter is helpful because it is well-organized and allows you to skip ahead if necessary (and you can return to it later on if you wish). The presentation relies heavily on low-resolution text and is therefore not particularly impressive; the user interface (UI) of a device like the Marantz NR1710 is more polished.
With Denon’s generously sized binding posts, you may easily connect bare wires without much hassle.
Even while Audyssey MultEQ XT won’t win over purist calibrators, it’s still a good idea to use it wherever possible, and especially if your speaker placement deviates from ITU standards (which will be the case in many living room environments). Following the Audyssey calibration, my 5.1.2 sub/sat array produced a more focused and coherent soundstage. The volume of the centre speaker and the subwoofer can be changed independently of one another and the volume of the dialogue can be raised by increasing the volume of the centre speaker.
Performance of the Denon AVR-X1600H
The AVR-X1600H has a methodical strategy for sound delivery alongside the amp power it provides. This characteristic first becomes noticeable when listening to music in stereo. Slash’s rapid guitar riffs roll out and interconnect in the L/R channels, and Denon’s love of the low end makes the funk basslines of Always on the Run (Tidal, 16-bit/44kHz) sound deep and rich. It may be argued that the primary vocal seems less direct in the context of the warm, rich tones; J.J. Cale’s country meander Crazy Mama provides an opportunity for the receiver to demonstrate greater delicacy. The tightly crafted and dynamically pounding bass and snare drums on Metallica’s Low Man’s Lyric provide for a relentless stomping rhythm.
Sound mixing in movies can benefit from this aggressive strategy. The thwack and swell of the audio is followed by the squelch of tearing flesh as villain Gary Oldman stabs someone in the hand with a pen (ouch) in The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Blu-ray). This inexpensive AVR accomplishes its intended unsettling and dramatic effects.
The AVR-capability X1600H’s to engulf listeners with surround/Atmos content is not in question, either. When using Audyssey calibration, the receiver can realistically guide and apply special effects. Though it only supports up to 5.1.2 channels in Atmos, the experience may still be incredibly immersive. Those two additional overhead channels (in my case, Dolby Atmos upfirers – Denon’s amp assign tool allows you to pick front/back Atmos and overhead/up fire) add scale and depth to demo-grade passages like the Zero attack in Unbroken (Ultra HD Blu-ray).
The X1600H, like other 2019 Denon and Marantz products, incorporates Dolby Height Virtualization processing, allowing for an Atmos-like experience to be created with only a pair of speakers. Furthermore, as I discovered with the Marantz NR1710, this is a concept that is more appealing on paper than in actuality. If you turn on the processing, the sound will change significantly, but it will also lose some of its clarity and be less distinct.
Bluetooth transmission is a more intriguing 2019 addition that was only recently made available through a software update. This enables you to listen to your media using Bluetooth headphones, which is convenient for late-night viewing, family gatherings, and other situations where noise is a problem.
Using the John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum and a cheap pair of Bluetooth headphones, this capability becomes very enticing. Despite being delivered as a stereo downmix, the film’s multichannel mix nonetheless features plenty of effects localization and immersion thanks to the close listening environment provided by headphones. When Wick secretly fought off attackers while moving throughout the Continental, the carnage hit close to home.
As there is no dedicated handset button for Bluetooth transmission, this feature must be enabled in the phone’s General Settings menu, which may seem counter-intuitive at first. When watching a film in its original language, you can choose to have the audio played through both your speakers and headphones (with volume control handled by the headphones). Denon claims that no other products on the market provide this degree of customization.
Overall evaluation of the Denon AVR-X1600H
The X1600H clearly has certain flaws when compared to more expensive and potent AVRs. Its presentation becomes more lively as the volume is increased, although I occasionally asked too much of my Focal Sib Evo Atmos package, and the result was a harsh and strident sound. In addition, the multi-channel delivery falls short of the total unity and expansiveness of premium models.
Yet, you should weigh the cost and features of this amp against that. The X1600H may need some work on its user interface in terms of quality, and it doesn’t have Chromecast audio built in, but it makes up for those flaws with its HEOS integration and Bluetooth transmission features. The X2600H’s (now £450) other capabilities, including its ISF certification, 4K upscaling, and additional analogue AV inputs, are also likely to go unused. The cost-benefit ratio here is really high.