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Denon AVR-X2300W review

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We don’t envy Denon. Designing a replacement for the excellent AVR-X2200W can’t have been an easy task. This Award-winner marked a return to form for a brand that has struggled by its own high standards in recent times. The X2200W rolled back the years with a combination of excellent sound and a feature list no rival could better. So how do you replace an Award-winner? Judging by this new amplifier Denon’s answer seems to be, ‘very carefully’.



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Build

At first glance, a comparison between the old and new models suggests little has changed. They look all-but identical, sharing a well thought out control layout and clear display.

Round the back, the 2300 features slightly reorganised connections, but the company’s determined drive to make its AV amps more approachable keeps things as simple as they can be without compromising usability.

Denon hasn’t skimped on the connections. This amp has eight HDMI inputs, all capable of 4K 60Hz pass-through and HDCP 2.2 certified.

Others include a sensible spread of optical digital and analogue stereo inputs plus legacy analogue video options such as composite and component. While not a major omission, it’s interesting to note that there isn’t a digital coax available.

MORE: 4K Ultra HD TV: everything you need to know

At first glance, a comparison between the old and new models suggests little has changed.

Features

Elsewhere this amplifier is about as loaded as these things get. It will decode all current home cinema sound formats from Dolby and DTS, including Dolby Atmos in 5.1.2 form. The ability to handle DTS:X is a software upgrade away, expected later this year.

Spotify Connect, Airplay, Bluetooth are all supported, as is Internet radio and streaming from a NAS device on your home network. Denon has tried hard to make this amplifier stable when using wi-fi, even in electrically noisy environments, and it works well in our test rooms.

Helping matters is a new-found ability to work in the 5GHz waveband along with the 2.4GHz of its predecessor. Even so, given a choice we would still stick to using an Ethernet cable for the extra stability it provides.

The 2300 will stream just about every format across a network including 24-bit/192kHz PCM and DSD in both single and double speed form. The latter, along with the ability to stream AIFF files, is new for this model.

The X2300W’s power output is unchanged from the last version and rated at 7 x 150W per channel. Impressive, but it should be noted that – just like every other major AV amp manufacturer – Denon is quoting figures measured under very generous conditions (six ohm load, 1kHz, 1% THD and only one channel driven).

That output drops to a claimed 95W per channel into an eight ohm load, measured across 20Hz-20kHz with distortion held at 0.08% and two channels driven. The latter is closer to the way measurements are taken with traditional two-channel kit.

MORE: Dolby Atmos: What is it? How can you get it?

The 2300 will stream just about every audio format including 24-bit/192kHz PCM and DSD.

While the headline features have hardly changed between this and the last model, it is clear that Denon has put in a lot of work at circuit level. Component quality has gone up and great effort has been made to reduce noise levels, both electrical and mechanical.

Signal paths have been shortened where possible, and components redesigned to optimise performance. The company has worked hard on the digital section.

The DAC chip itself remains unchanged – it’s a Burr Brown PCM1690 – however redesigning the surrounding parts has improved its performance, as has the retuned power supply.

A new power supply for the on-board MW/FM radio tuner is designed to reduce any interference from the radio circuit, which also helps to raise the overall sound quality.

MORE: Best DACs 2016

Signal paths have been shortened where possible, and components redesigned to optimise performance.

Set-up is as easy as it gets. Denon has gone to a lot of trouble over recent years trying to simplify its AV amps without compromising features, and we think it has done a fine job here. There are a few tweaks over its predecessor, but on the whole the experience is pretty much the same.

That is to say, really good indeed. The menus are simple and easy to follow, while the built-in Audyssey auto set-up system is accurate and fuss free.

The company not only supplies a dedicated microphone for auto-set-up purposes – par for the course – but also a folded, adjustable cardboard mic stand. Assembled from three pieces, it holds the microphone at an appropriate height.

It’s worth going to the trouble of doing this, as it will give you more accurate results. Go through the whole Audyssey process and you’ll have to take multiple measurements. It’s a bit tedious, but you only have to do it once.

Once all the readings are taken it’s a good idea to check them for accuracy. In this case no correction was needed. For critical listening we recommend keeping the various Audyssey processing modes off and sticking to the plain vanilla set-up. It works best in our experience.

The remote looks unchanged from last year and is none the worse for that. It’s a neat unit with clearly labelled buttons and an intuitive layout. We like it.

We’re far less taken with Denon’s 2016 control app. We tried both iOS and Android versions and neither proved particularly stable, crashing on a regular basis.

 

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