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Questions Answered: Denon AVR-X2000
on June 2, 2013
What is this?
The Denon AVR-X2000 is a home theater receiver designed for home theaters with a strong digital makeup.
Why do I need this?
Do you have a Blu-ray player? Then you need a home theater receiver. Home theaters have been an essential part of homes for the last 10 years. From 5.1 to 9.3 channels, a home theater can offer everything from a movie theater, to an audio sanctuary, to an arcade, to even an internet connected office with video conferencing capabilities. However, before any of that is to occur, you need the brains of a system, and the receiver is the mind of a home theater.
What do I have connected to this receiver?
Here's what is connected to my receiver.
Front Left: Aperion Audio 533-PT
Center: Aperion Audio 533-VAC
Front Right: Aperion Audio 533-PT
Surround Left: Aperion Audio 533-PT
Surround Right: Aperion Audio 533-PT
CBL/SAT: Comcast Xfinity HD DVR
Blu-Ray: Sony VAIO VGX-TP20E Home Theater PC
Game: Xbox 360 (Second Generation)
Media Player: Playstation 3 (Second Generation)
Front HDMI: (Empty)
USB: External Hard Drives/iPhone 4S/iPad Minis
How did the setup go?
The setup is broken down into two stages, external and internal. The external stage simply is connecting your input devices to the receiver with your speakers. Fairly simple given we had banana plugs for our speakers and everything else was HDMI. I do have to mention, if you don't have your cables pre-labeled, no worries, Denon thought well of you and decided to add some cable labels in the box for you. How nice of them
Now, for the internal setup, which is rudimentary at best. It involves a 20-minute process of testing all of your connections and calibrating your speakers. The speaker calibration process, or as it's now known in my house, cats on acid, involves setting up your microphone in 8 different listening locations, while the receiver plays a continuous chirping sound from each speaker. Thus gauging the distance and output signals required for optimal sound. My advice is this...skip this step and prepare to spend some time calibrating your speakers. Seriously, the hour or two you spend doing this should provide an added benefit, plus, if you screw up beyond all belief, you can always plug in the mic and calibrate it that way.
How does it sound?
I have problems reviewing sound quality of receivers, mostly because the sound quality of the receiver depends wholly on the makeup of the components. This is why I have listed the components of my home theater above to give you some form of reference.
As for my home theater, once I completed the calibration phase and got the speakers to the preferred levels, I ran the standard fare of sound testing. First up was The Dark Knight on Blu-ray being played through the PS3. I set the receiver to the most suitable sound mode, DolbyHD. The test scene was Chapter 19, or you might remember it as the scene where Harvey Dent is being transported and the Joker is chasing him with the semi-truck. I always use this scene because it has the best mixture of music, dialogue, and explosion action. The sound processing was pretty impressive. I will note, that during the process of reviewing this receiver, I went through this scene about 15 times because I had to modify the levels of the surround channels. However, once properly set, the channel differentiation was impressive and deep. The Tumbler crash scene is where you want to focus on as you can notice chunks of debris landing all around you. That let's me know that for movies, this receiver is set.
Now, for music, I set it to my HTPC, cranked on Spotify...."WAIT, doesn't this receiver have Spotify loaded on it, why are you using your computer then?" Um, I ask the questions, I will get to the Spotify feature next, thanks. Anyway, Spotify on the home theater PC was up and going. This is where I began running the gamut of sound modes trying to find the most filling from my system. Again, this is where trying to review sound is kind of silly. I prefer my music to be played out of all five channels with a preference to have the speech portion coming from all five channels. Some people prefer the speech to come from the center channel while the music comes out the two front speakers in a true purist Stereo form. For me, I set the receiver to Matrix, and was satisfied.
How well does the Pandora & Spotify streaming feature work?
The idea of streaming your music purely from your receiver seems easy and noble enough. However, it's the execution of this feature that makes you stick to traditional means. Here is the issue I've been having since the first day of operation. I would go to either the Media Server or Internet Radio modes, and instantly the word wonky comes to my vocabulary. I either have problems with serious lagging or connection failures. So is this an issue with the internet connection or with the firmware. I have this receiver connected to an AC bridge with Gigabit ports. I have this bridge connected to a home theater PC that performs exceptionally well with this bridge. So I can't say it's an issue with not enough bandwidth going to the receiver. I'm hoping this is a firmware issue that can be addressed in an update release. Until then, I'm reserved to using my HTPC for my streaming purposes.
How well does the AirPlay feature work?
Not going to be deterred by the underwhelming performance of the streaming features, let's check out how well AirPlay performs. Let's start off with my iPhone, I use my iPhone for most of my musical delivery. Bringing up Spotify, choosing a song, tap the album cover to bring up the song menu, from there, you should see a rectangle and triangle symbol to the right of the volume bar, good, now activate your AirPlay feature. Hey look at that, it comes up. Playing around with it for a few minutes, it works okay, but it still comes off as in beta mode than ready for wide release. For example, looking at the song time counter, it seems to be reading 20 minutes and 55 seconds into a song, which is bothersome since the song is only 5 minutes and 11 seconds long. Little snags like this can be cleared up with possible firmware releases. So I'm not going to knock it a lot. Just in case you were wondering, for music purposes, you can bring up Pandora and obviously iTunes/Podcasts.
As for movies go, nope. Moving on.
How well does the mobile remote app work?
Here's where the receiver shines, or at least the app does. The receiver might be getting four stars, but the remote app by itself it worth 5 stars itself. Let's cover the basics, yes, you can fully control your receiver using your iPhone, as there isn't a dedicated iPad app, unless you use the iPhone app on the iPad. Like I said, you can control most if not all of the receiver functions, and then some. The first thing you are going to want to do with the app is adjust the shortcuts. Hold down the input area, and a scroll menu comes up for you to choose each of the 8 shortcuts you prefer to have access to. Next up is the audio modes feature, this is the easiest way to access your audio modes as with the stand-alone remote, you can't always access all of the audio modes. The remote app is the quickest hack and get-around to that problem. Now here is where the app proves itself. Do you have a NAS or a media library in your home? Do you have an Xbox or PS3? Go ahead and check the devices tab and you will notice that the Xbox 360 is labeled there. (The PS3 can be added by you have to manually enter the IP address of the PS3.) You can then access your NAS or media library from your phone. Welcome to the 21st. century.
Are there any features missing that should be added?
Yes, would it really kill electronic makers to add Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities to their device? Not every home theater is located where the Internet was installed. For my home, the Internet was installed in what is now my youngest son's room, because it's an old house, that's where it had to go. However, my home theater is in my living room. Having to utilize a bridge is kind of annoying, but I make do. Bluetooth would be nice to utilize for the remote feature, again though, I make do with what I have for.
Are there any comparable models?
Let's just run down the list of other models you could look at...
Pioneer: Elite VSX - 70
Yamaha: RX - A730
Onkyo: TX - NR626
I chose these three receivers based on model level, price point, and feature set. All four receivers, with the AVR - X2000 included have pretty much the similar feature listing. Whether or not how each performs depends on the individual testing. As price goes, they are all within $100 of the list price of the Denon model.
For the money, is it worth it?
Let's face reality here for a second. I know some people dream of having a home theater system where televisions pop out of fish tanks or speakers are mounted in 200 directions. However, about 95 percent of you are like me and live in a residential zone in a city. Meaning, your home theater capabilities are limited to zoning and noise ordinance laws. My last receiver was a Pioneer Elite VSX - 94. It was a $1,750 beast that was masterful in what it was built to do. However, I spent a lot of time watching movies with my remote in my hand, constantly turning it up and down to hear muted dialogue and turn down over rampant explosions. For all that money I spent, it was kind of wasted in the fact that I could never utilize it's full girth of abilities. It's like owning a Lamborghini in a city full of school zones. So if I had to make a suggestion for a home theater receiver, at this time, I would suggest the Denon AVR - X2000. Yes, the lack of streaming capabilities is annoying, but I also view it as harmless since I get the same features via other means, and with better performance. However, the remote app's abilities plus the processing abilities of this receiver make it quite clear that it could perform in most home theater situations.