Denon sent me its latest flagship AV receiver, the AVR-X7200WA ($2,999), for review shortly after the company began including the Dolby Atmos surround decoder in new units. Denon calls its new flagship an integrated network AV receiver, and I think that moniker is appropriate. Just a quick scan through the 371-page owner's manual lets you know this receiver has extensive connection options and a rich feature set.
Up front, the faceplate of the AVR-X7200WA has the same clean, minimalist look as the last few generations of upper-end Denon receivers. You'll find just a power/standby button and a source selector knob on the left, the display and a drop-down door to hide additional controls in the middle, and the master volume knob on the right. The 9.2-channel receiver measures 17.1 inches wide by 16.9 inches deep by 7.7 inches high rand weighs 37.7 pounds, and it has a power rating of 150 watts (eight ohms, 20 Hz to 20 kHz, 0.05 percent THD, two channels driven). If you have difficult-to-drive, low-impedance speakers rated at four ohms, it shouldn't be a problem for the Denon flagship.
As far as audio goes, the Denon sports reference-class AK4490 32-bit DACs for every channel, including the subwoofer outputs. These are the exact same DACs found in the highly regarded Marantz AV8802 preamp/processor and are capable of decoding up to 768-kHz PCM and 11.2-MHz DSD files. The Denon also comes loaded with four 32-bit DSP processors to simultaneously handle surround sound decoding (including Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, and Auro 3D) and the full Audyssey Platinum Suite of DSP algorithms, including MultEQ XT32 room correction, Dynamic Volume, Dynamic EQ, Low Frequency Containment, Sub EQ HT, and Dynamic Surround Expansion (DSX). So, Denon's got you covered well into the future as far as hi-res audio file formats go.
Regarding video capabilities, the Denon's video processor can upscale standard-definition and high-definition video sources to 4K Ultra HD. It's also fully compatible with the latest 4:4:4 Pure Color 4K Ultra HD spec and 60-Hz frame rate. In addition, this AVR features full HDCP 2.2 compatibility necessary to playback 4K Ultra HD copy-protected content, and the Denon fully supports both High Dynamic Range and the BT.2020 extended color space standard. So, Denon's got you covered as far as hi-res video goes, too.
Network connection options include wired Ethernet and built-in Wi-Fi, and the receiver has Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, and DLNA capabilities. In addition to the included remote control, you can also control the receiver from a PC or Apple computer on the same network. Denon also offers separate smartphone and tablet app options for both Windows and iOS devices to control the AVR-Z7200WA.
Overall, this new Denon receiver with nine channels of Class AB amplification can serve as the central hub for quite an extensive AV entertainment network while having the ability to control three different zones simultaneously.
I decided to hook up the 9.2-channel receiver in my family room system, replacing my older model Denon AVR-4308Ci 7.1-channel receiver. That receiver has been bulletproof, getting used practically every day with absolutely no issues since it was purchased in late 2007. I connected the new Denon to a Pioneer Elite Kuro display, a DirecTV Genie HD DVR, an Apple TV streaming media player, an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player, and the new Monitor Audio Gold Series 5.1 speaker system that I recently reviewed. This Denon model has upgraded, color-coded four-way speaker terminals for the eleven channels, laid out horizontally across the bottom of the back panel. It also has pre outs for up to 13.2 channels, and you can connect an external amplifier to power the four additional channels. Denon also includes corresponding colored labels for your speaker cables to avoid crossing the connections, which helps when you take things apart for cleaning. I also connected two front height channels using RBH Sound's MC-6 in-walls. These channels would be needed later to evaluate the Auro 3D sound format.
In addition to the Monitor Audio Gold Series and RBH Sound speakers, KEF was kind enough to send me a pair of its R50 Dolby Atmos-enabled speaker modules so that I could test the Dolby Atmos sound format on board the receiver in a 5.1.2 configuration. The KEF R50 is an up-firing speaker meant to be placed on top of or near the front main speakers, reflecting sound off the ceiling toward the listener for overhead sound effects. A second pair can be added on top of the rear speakers or on the rear wall to further enhance the height effects. For this review, I was interested in testing what improvement (if any) Dolby Atmos makes versus standard Dolby TrueHD with the minimum required setup. After all, not everyone is able to add multiple sets of additional speakers to their current system for a variety of reasons. Aesthetically, the KEF R50 speakers made for a perfect complement to the Monitor Audio Gold 300 speakers, looking as though they were made for each other. (Look for my review of the KEF R50 speakers later this week.)
I connected each digital source to the Denon via one of the eight available HDMI inputs. The receiver also has three HDMI outputs, two of which are for the main room (for dual monitors) and the third is for another room. For legacy sources without HDMI connections, there are coaxial, optical, and analog connection options. There is also a USB connection for connecting a USB storage device, as well as connections for a turntable with a moving magnet (MM) phono cartridge, trigger outs, remote control outs, and an RS-232C serial port to connect a home automation controller. Suffice it to say, the new Denon flagship has almost any connection option or feature you'd want. For a complete list of connection options and features, please refer to the operator manual here.
Rather than pulling up the extensive online owner's manual, I decided to use the included setup assistant in the onscreen GUI (Graphical User Interface) to finish setup. So I grabbed the remote control and got started. Let me mention that the remote is so much better than the clunky touchscreen remote included with my older Denon AVR-4308Ci receiver. The new remote lights up as soon as you touch it, and it feels quite comfortable in the hand. Although the remote has a lot of small buttons, they are laid out in logical fashion and are easy to read.
In addition to the included remote, Denon also offers free remote apps for your smartphone or tablet if you prefer. Like with my older Denon receiver, I chose to make bi-amp connections for the main speakers. However, when I walked through the steps of the setup assistant, the assistant didn't ask me to assign amp channels if bi-amping before running through the Audyssey speaker calibration. This resulted in the calibration test tones being played through either the tweeter or bass driver of the main speakers but not both. I cancelled the calibration and went back into the GUI menu to manually assign the amplifier channels I used for bi-amping. Then I re-ran the Audyssey calibration, and everything worked as expected.
By the way, in addition to including the calibration microphone with the receiver, Denon also thoughtfully includes a cardboard microphone mount that can be used if you don't have a tripod available. The latest Denon GUI is cleaner and more intuitive than that of my older Denon receiver. My only suggestion would be to add a step in the setup process to make sure amplifier channels are assigned for bi-amping (if desired) prior to performing the Audyssey calibration.
During the setup process, I connected the AVR-X7200WA to my home network using the receiver's built-in Wi-Fi capability. I also paired my iPhone via the receiver's Bluetooth connectivity. It took a couple of attempts before the receiver and iPhone paired successfully, but after the initial pairing was made, the receiver connected automatically to the iPhone whenever I hit the Bluetooth button on the receiver's remote, which also powered up the receiver if it was in standby mode.
Finally, I connected via Wi-Fi to the Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) device that I use to store and stream most of my music collection. All of these connections were quick and easy to do, so I was up and running less than an hour.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...