Denon AVR-X8500H AV Receiver Review Page 2

Calling this a receiver would imply that a radio tuner is part of the package, and the AVR-X8500H does indeed include an AM/FM tuner. But with no HD Radio onboard, radio reception is one feature that’s been downgraded from prior models. (Denon’s last flagship receiver, the AVR-X7200W, included HD Radio.) It can be argued that the increasing popularity of internet radio streaming has made over-the-air terrestrial radio less important than ever. Still, I suppose we’re lucky because the otherwise-identical AVC-X8500H that Denon sells outside North America provides no tuner at all.

818denonrec.rem.jpgDenon’s remote control is similar to those supplied with other high-end receivers from the company over the last few years, with backlit buttons that illuminate as soon as you pick the remote up. The clean layout places most-used buttons where your thumb can reach them easily. A small display at the top shows the current control mode, while a set of transport controls can be used when playing files on a USB stick or network-streamed via DLNA. I especially appreciated the four buttons that let you cycle through the various stereo and surround modes, separated here into Movie, Music, Game, and Pure (surround bypass).

Since 13 channels is beyond the already extensive capabilities of my resident PSB Synchrony One speaker system, I sent out an SOS to the good folks at PSB and they were kind enough to ship me a speaker rescue package. Along with their Imagine XA Atmos Enabled speakers, PSB included a bunch of Imagine Minis to cover the bases while matching up sonically with the Synchrony speakers. I experimented with several combinations, but for most of my listening used my normal Synchrony 7.1-channel layout, plus four Imagine XAs in the surround and rear surround height positions and one pair of Imagine Minis near the ceiling as front height speakers. For Auro-3D I used three Imagine Minis as height speakers and two Imagine XAs, but fearing for the integrity of my ceiling, didn’t go so far as to install what Auro calls the “Voice of God” speaker directly over my head. With all of the additional wiring running across the floor, my room was starting to look like an explosion at a speaker cable factory, but in the end it was worth it.

Configuring this many speakers and subwoofers, (up to two are supported, but I stuck with my single trusty M&K MX-350THX), could be a tedious chore, but the Denon’s Audyssey MultEQ XT32 speaker calibration program and its supplied calibration microphone makes things pretty simple. The calibration mike is moved to eight different spots near the listening area, and it sweeps each speaker in turn at every spot. Do the math and that means over 100 sweeps! Normally, I like to run the program, then go into manual mode and hand-tweak the settings as needed. And because part of my goal is to get a handle on the receiver’s sonic performance, I will also switch off the Audyssey EQ and dynamic range controls as part of my critical listening.


Sources included my Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player for all discs and streamed music from Tidal via the HEOS app. Netflix and video-on-demand services were streamed from a Roku Ultra. I also connected my Technics SL-1200 Mk2 turntable to test out the Denon’s phono input.

Starting my listening as usual with two-channel music, I played a Tidal stream of “The Race” by the Swiss group Yello. It immediately became clear that the AVR-X8500H is no lightweight in the amplifier department. This song features lots of heavy bass and car door-slamming sounds, and the Denon’s startling dynamic grip on the speakers really made things come to life. Imaging performance was no less impressive, with the band spread behind and around the speakers and sound effects circling the room. Imaging with the Denon was so impressive, in fact, that I had to get up and assure myself that the receiver hadn’t somehow switched from stereo to multichannel mode.


The success or failure of a surround music mix mostly depends on who was behind the boards, and Jerry Harrison’s 5.1 mixes of the Talking Heads catalog on DVD-Audio DualDisc are some of the best. Listening to “Moon Rocks” from Speaking In Tongues, Tina Weymouth’s bass bounced along tunefully, while the percussion parts and David Byrne’s guitar swirled around my head. It made me want to get up and dance.

Naturally, the main course with any new high-end A/V receiver will be movies with object-based surround soundtracks. It’s pretty ironic that a movie set in the atmosphere-free expanse of space makes for a great Atmos demo, but Gravity takes full advantage of the height channels to put you in another world. What you hear is just what astronauts in space would hear: the intimate sounds of their voices and those of their fellow astronauts over the radio. These float around you in a remarkable dome of sound that’s interrupted by loud impacts as objects crash into each other. The effect is enough to make you want to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. The sharp contrast between Gravity’s soundtrack elements was handled beautifully by the AVR-X8500H, with the soothing silence of space punctuated by dynamics that could rattle your fillings.


For a complete change of pace, I next watched xXx: Return of Xander Cage, specifically the scene where Xiang drops in through the glass ceiling at CIA headquarters and shoots things up so he can grab the Pandora’s Box satellite controller. Bullets flew overhead, and the pumping techno soundtrack gave my main speakers and sub a real workout. Even with all 13 speakers cutting loose at lease-breaking volume, the AVR-X8500H delivered outstanding clarity and dynamics and didn’t display any sign of distress.

The technology featured in a state-of-the-art receiver is a fast-moving target, so much so that with some gear you might want to consider putting tech support on speed-dial. Not so with Denon’s AVR-X8500H, which performed superbly out of the box with no serious glitches. The price here is pretty steep, but if you want bang-up-to-date technology that works brilliantly, it’s hard to go wrong with this receiver. Just make sure you don’t take delivery of it on Friday the 13th, especially if you happen to live on the 13th floor.

(201) 762-6665

drny's picture

Denon promises, cross their heart ad hope to die, an HDMI 2.1 future update at an undetermined price.
For four large, I would expect an in home service upgrade at no additional cost.
Maybe, just maybe, potential buyers may want to wait another six months.
Oh yeah! It's a nice receiver.

brenro's picture

I have a AVR-X4300H but I'm only using it as a pre/pro. The amp sections of these receivers fail to impress. Give me power ratings with all channels driven from 20-20 khz. Also why won't Denon release a desktop version of the HEOS app? I found a third party app but it's kind of clunky.

Jon_J_Thompson's picture

I have this receiver running 7.2.4; I am debating if I should go with 7.2.6 or 9.2.4 with wides. After running all the sound tests, did you come away with a preference?

Jonasandezekiel's picture

Come on bench testing?? At least this receiver broke fifty pounds, which is rare these days. I would have like to see it put through its paces though.

TL's picture

Can you guys do a review of the AVR-X6500H? I recently purchsed this receiver and it's a beast, I'd like a more professional review of it as well since there really isn't any online at the moment outside of WhatHiFi: