Denon's AVR-X2500H receiver is a 7.2 channel receiver that is on the entry-level side of Denon's X-series. Priced at $799 (but selling for as low as $549 in recent months), this is an everyman's AV receiver that comes packed with many of the features that you get on the bigger receivers, with a few key exceptions. If you are going to do object-based surround like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, you are limited to a 5.1.2 system (5.1 + two height channels), but depending on the depth of your room, that may be exactly the right number of speakers.
The receiver comes with a whopping eight HDMI inputs (and two outputs, all with HDCP 2.2 compliance), meaning you'd have to work pretty hard to tap out its digital AV connectivity. Perhaps buy every streamer (AppleTV, Roku, Amazon Fire) on the market, a UHD Blu-ray player, a PlayStation, an Xbox, a satellite receiver, and maybe a cable box too so you can watch USC and Dodgers games if you live near me. It takes some effort to get to eight HDMI sources, but this Denon is up to the challenge.
Streaming music into your Denon AVR-X2500H is a simple process, even though, as a creature of habit, I often use Roku for my streaming needs. The X2500H is more than capable of picking up that task, though, with support for popular apps like Tidal, Spotify, and my own personal favorite, Pandora, which--despite its lower resolution--features excellent AI for playlist building. The AVR-X2500H also features HEOS connectivity, so you can use it as part of a wireless multiroom distributed audio system that also includes some nice standalone speakers, as well as other Denon and Marantz AVRs. No punching holes in walls. No sanding. No painting. No calls to the custom installer.
While I am not personally a fan of voice-controlled AV components, they are all the rage in the marketplace today, and the AVR-X2500H is so-equipped. You can yammer commands at your receiver and it will listen via Alexa or Google Voice Assistant, as well as Siri via the receiver's AirPlay 2 connectivity.
HomeTheaterReview.com Senior Editor, Dennis Burger, is normally our go-to reviewer for top performing AV receivers, and he just completed his evaluation of the Denon AVR-X4500H, which is the sweet spot for what most AV enthusiasts want and need from a receiver. He's also got Marantz's SR8012 reference receiver in for a test drive, with a review pending in the coming weeks.
Both of the aforementioned AV receivers are much bigger and more feature-laden products, with prices starting at triple that of the X2500H, but what struck me personally in my working with the more approachable X2500H was how cool the setup process was.
Granted, my setup in this case was pretty simple: one HDMI out went to a 55-inch Sony 4K set for video. HDMI inputs connected a cable box and an Oppo Digital UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player. I configured a 2.1 speaker setup with "large" front Polk floorstanding speakers and a Polk subwoofer, which I bumped up +1dB for a little extra bottom end in the room. Even if my setup hand been more complicated, though, I feel pretty confident in saying that anyone could have handled the configuration, thanks to the on-screen setup wizard that Denon has developed in recent years. It's downright simple to use.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
One of the places the Denon AVR-X2500H really excels is with video processing. I can't say enough about how well today's big but non-reference level UHD TVs perform today with a pristine 4K source. But one place that the 75-inch Costco special set for $1,500 doesn't deliver like reference-level sets is in video processing. 720p video can be all but unwatchable on most affordable 4K displays.
Thankfully, that isn't a problem with the X2500H in place, as Denon's video upscaling pretty much kicks ass. Even for the uninitiated, the improvement in using the receivers video upscaling going into a two-year-old Sony 4K 55-inch UHD set was notable on so many different sources. The AVR-X2500H can handle signals such as Dolby Vision and HDR10, but for this installation the 4K upscaling was of most value, as the TV in use isn't HDR capable, but the main source going into the system on a day-to-day basis is a cable box. (The Oppo UDP-203 was just connected for the purposes of testing, and went home with me when I was done. It's bound for eBay soon, anyway, as I'm pretty much done with silver discs.)
As for audio, one thing that is important to understand in the world of lower-cost receivers is that you don't get as much power per channel and the power supplies aren't as beefy. Depending on the size of your room, this may come into play if you max out the receiver's speaker connections, as each additional speaker you connect effectively reduces the amount of clean power going to each of your speakers.
In this case, though, I had a pretty small room to work with and only two speakers in need of power. This meant the rated 95 WPC of the X2500H was able to provide some pretty dynamic sound to the $499 per pair Polk S50 floorstanding speakers, which are pretty easy to drive.
I started my listening with "Changes" from Yes' 90215 CD. This new-school progressive rock composition has a lot of dynamics, as well as big swings in the dynamic window, meaning it goes from loud, all-out jamming to a delicate whisper in short order which can be a good test of system.
At pretty loud volumes, Jon Anderson's iconic voice was presented well centered and with no harshness. While a very processed and produced record, especially when comparing 90215 to the previous album, Drama, the result is tonally unique, and the X2500H captures it all very well.
Feeling a little full of myself and in an environment where I have no right whatsoever to push the limits sonically, I did just that by cueing up "More Human Than Human" from White Zombie's Astro-Creep: 2000. Yet another highly produced but more modern recording, "More Human Than Human" has some serious bass, unique vocals, and really cool sounding slide guitar work that melds heavy metal with 1990s electronica in a way that still holds up. I cranked up the volume to the point where I am pretty sure I cracked a piece of the "popcorn" off the ceiling. I did get a knock on the door from a concerned neighbor, but I didn't get any listening fatigue or find the limits of the amps. That makes me happy.
In this system, the main source is Spectrum cable TV, and while I am no fan of cable as compared to DirecTV or Dish Network, having the Denon AVR-X2500H in the loop seemed to smooth out the video enough to make it watchable. While watching 24-hour coverage of a U.S. Presidential race that won't go to election for another 18 months, the talking heads on CNN looked a little smoother and more natural with the Denon's video processing engaged. The audio was notably better, as you might expect when upgrading from a mid-level Sony soundbar to a pair of Polk floorstanding speakers, a 10-inch powered sub, and a nice little Denon receiver. Unfair comparison? Probably. But it was a pretty significant upgrade in performance for not a lot of upgrade in cost. I checked in with some pre-March madness basketball on ESPN and even a stop by The Food Network, and things seemed better with the Denon in the loop on our key source, even if it was a massive pain to switch back and forth between the old rig and the new.
Moving to UHD Blu-ray for more tests, it was a bummer to not be able to play The Lego Movie in HDR, but holy cow was the sound and picture taken to a new level. The movie is pretty trippy in terms of its direction, and very much suitable for adults to watch, with lots of inside jokes that kids likely won't understand. In the opening sequence, where they sing the unbelievably catchy "Everything Is Awesome" theme, specifically when Emmet is constructing with his co-workers on the construction site, there are lots of sonic textures that jump out when listening on the Denon/Polk rig that I just couldn't hear before. Video-wise, the vast celebratory explosions at the end of his work day were bright and dynamic looking, even in a dark scene, and despite not having HDR working in this system.
Another good test of this Denon receiver was the UHD Blu-ray release of The Martian. The opening storm scene has pretty exciting dialogue and plenty of whiz-bang special effects. Stuff is flying around all over the place, and even in 2.1, not the max of 5.1.2 Atmos, the compelling, heart-thumping mayhem of the raging Martian storm was engaging and enveloping.
For larger rooms and when driving all channels, the Denon AVR-X2500H might not have the power reserves to light up harder-to-drive speakers or fill cavernous rooms, which is specifically why Denon makes other receivers in the X-series that have more power (and more features).
The Audyssey MultEQ XT room correction on the Denon AVR-X2500H is perfectly suitable for this simplistic configuration, but the bigger models in the lineup have more advanced versions of Audyssey, with higher resolution filters and the ability to configure two subwoofers fully independently.
The remote included with Denon AVR-X2500H is fine, but there are other options, like the Harmony line of products, which play well with the Denon and offer IP control of your system for as little as $105, which is downright cool. You could argue whether or not this is a downside, since the remote does its job just fine, but it's pretty basic and pretty plain looking, and I'm eager to replace it with a Harmony sooner rather than later.
Comparison and Competition
If you're looking for a similar, albeit stripped-down experience, Denon's S-series products offer a lower cost option in the Denon AVR-S740H at $379, with many of the X-2500H's features, including 7.2-channel output, HEOS streaming, Alexa voice control, and more. Its HDMI connectivity is limited to six inputs and one out, though; it doesn't feature any video scaling; and its room correction is the even-more-basic Audyssey MultEQ. Still, not bad for the price.
Denon's sister company, Marantz, has a slim line of AV receivers that are a favorite of mine for the amount of performance that they pack into a small chassis. The Marantz NR1609 is a $749 7.2 receiver with many of the features of the X2500H, like AirPlay 2 and voice control. Its amps aren't nearly as powerful, but that sexy form factor may be worth more to you than some extra current.
I think it was Virginia Slims cigarettes that had the slogan of "You've Come a Long Way, Baby" and while I don't encourage you to smoke anything other than your speakers or the tires on your car, the Denon AVR-X2500H proves just how far we've come in the receiver market in just the past few years. It is hard to imagine one needing more HDMI inputs (or outputs), and with 7.2 channels of amplification, voice control, streaming, great video upscaling, and more, this is the start to any excellent home theater. Are there those of us who will want more channels of surround sound, more power, and possibly more features? Sure, there are, and there are plenty of offerings out there to fill those needs.
Dollar for dollar, though, it is hard to beat the value that you get with the Denon AVR-X2500H AV receiver. I can't think of a better place to start building a home theater system for a small room or the beginner home theater enthusiast.
• Visit the Denon website for additional specs and information.
• Visit our AV Receivers category page to read reviews of similar products.
•Denon AVR-X4500H AV Receiver Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.