Denon AVR-X4100W AV receiver review

Inside CI 5 Rating

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posted on Friday, 6th March 2015 by Steve May

Dolby Atmos  AWE Europe  home cinema 

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Few doubt that the new Dolby Atmos home format will help revitalise the home cinema market. More immersive and refined than conventional multichannel sound, it’s an irresistible upgrade for AV enthusiasts, and with its requirement for a plethora of speakers, it's also a natural fit for the home theatre installer.

Denon’s AVR-X4100W AV receiver is an early entrant into this exciting new 3D audio market. A seven channel design able to deliver a 5.1.2 Atmos configuration, it's also unique, along with select other Denon and Marantz AVRs, in offering a firmware update for Auro-3D, a wannabe second format in the next generation sound race. The model sits above the brand’s AVR-X3100W, which at £799 retail is a seven channel design with no Dolby Atmos processing, but below the £1699 AVR-X5200W, a nine channel Dolby Atmos offering.

Denon AVR-X4100W: Specification
The AVR-X4100W may be a seven channel receiver, but there’s the option of nine channel processing via additional stereo amplification if you need it. Consequently, you have the choice of opting for either a Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 speaker configuration, or traditional 7.1 surround. Denon rates power output at 7 x 125w into 8 Ohms.

System connectivity is good. Rear-facing, there are seven HDMI inputs, plus three outputs for screen, projector and second zone. All input sources can be scaled to 4K resolution. HDMI 2.0 compatibility means 4K UHD up to 60HZ can pass through. There’s no HDCP 2.2 support, although the AVR-X4100W allows 4:4:4 chroma subsampling (commercial content seems likely to be contained at 4:2:0 though). There’s also a phono input for vinyl die-hards.

Control options include RS232, IR and dual 12v triggers. Auto calibration is via Audyssey XT32. There’s also Audyssey LFC (Low Frequency Containment) available, which strips out low bass and attempts to compensate with psychoacoustic wizardry, for those living in apartments.

Rear Panel (2)

Atmos Heights

Denon AVR-X4100W Design and features
Cosmetically, this receiver is slick but conventional, with knobs standing guard over a trapdoor that hides a variety of on-body controls, plus front facing HDMI , USB and phono AV inputs. The Denon livery is reassuringly familiar.

The feature specification is tantalisingly fresh though.The AVR-X4100W offers Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 out of the box, which naturally makes it fully compliant with Dolby TrueHD and all its related subsets. DTS HD Master Audio is present, along with DTS Neo X and Audyssey DSX height and width processing. For clients that express an interest, the receiver can be firmware upgraded to support Auro-3D for a premium. However for the purposes of this audition, Auro-3D was not available.

Overall usability is good. Denon has done a great job of overhauling its user interface, ironing out a lot of the obfuscation which has plagued setup up and input source configuration. AV receivers will probably never win any awards from the Plain English Campaign, but this model is relatively comprehensible. A graphical Setup Assistant simplifies installation, including speaker position and configuration (pictured below), while an info screen lets you quickly determine the source material and how the AVR is processing it, when you’re up and running.

The feature spread is healthy. The box is Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth enabled, with onboard Wi-Fi (although only on the 2.4 GHz bandwidth) if you can’t hardwire a network connection. Two antennas sit on the rear. Streaming hipsters will appreciate that the AVR automatically turns on and selects the appropriate input when a compatible device connects. Bluetooth streaming to a second zone is also supported. The receiver itself has an eight device memory. 

Network services are limited to Internet radio and Flickr, but media playback compatibility is good. During our audition we have no problem streaming a wide variety of audio codecs from a QNap server, including DSD 2.8Mhz, AIFF, WAV, MP3, WMA and FLAC up to 192kHz.

Speaker Menu (1)

HDMI Outs

Denon AVR-X4100W: Performance
You don’t have to work too hard to get this receiver sounding lush. Indeed, the onboard Audyssey auto calibration system is a big timesaver. In its XT32 configuration, multiple listening points can be measured with the supplied microphone. We found only minor additional level adjustment was needed to get a uniform SPL of 74dB.

Some caution is advisable during the set up though. The receiver requires you pre-select Dolby Atmos or seven channel layout configuration in the amp assign menu. However during our audition, the dedicated Atmos setting did not support Dolby Enabled Atmos speakers, offering only in-ceiling options. However Dolby Enabled speakers are supported within the seven channel layout option. This quirk will hopefully be resolved in a firmware update.

For our listening tests, we used the receiver with Definitive Technology’s floorstanding BP8060 loudspeakers (£1699 a pair) with matched A60 Dolby Enabled reflecting speakers (or Elevation module), priced at £399 a pair.

The AVR-X4100W is certainly powerful enough for a large room/small theatre space. It’s fast, dynamic and in Atmos guise completely at home with the kind of sonic demolition you’ll find on Transformers Age of Extinction. Played at reference level, the experience will leave you exhausted. Yet for all its muscle, there’s a definite musical side to the beast. High resolution audio can sound sublime. The really wonderful thing about Dolby Atmos is the more intimate sense of imaging you can achieve. Our test disc of Dolby Atmos trailers became genuinely immersive.

Incidentally, setting up a two height channel Atmos system appears to be a little trickier than installing a four channel one, as the overhanging sweet spot is more defined. Some experimentation with reflective speaker positioning is advisable if you’re opting for Dolby Enabled height speakers rather than in-ceilings.

There remains, of course, something of a drought when it comes to Dolby Atmos enabled Blu-ray discs – aside from Transformers AoE, there’s only Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 and Expendables 3 of note. However you can upmix any multichannel source, which is useful for discs and 5.1 TV alike. In conventional 7.1 mode, the receiver is a comparable treat, offering effortless surround steerage and buttery smooth delivery.

One of the more curious aspects of the AVR-X4100W is an eco system mode. When engaged this drops the power consumption of the AVR by as much as 50 per cent, without seemingly affecting the performance. To be honest I couldn’t readily tell when it was on or off, but suspicious of the cut of its jib I left it off during our evaluation.

Denon AVR-X4100W: Verdict
Those looking for a forward-facing Dolby Atmos enabled receiver will find much to like in the AVR-X4100W. Now matter how you want to play, stream and distribute sound and vision, this mid-ranger seems able to cope. It’s pacy, dynamic and warm of tone, a Denon trait. Sure, it may not offer the scale of an AudioControl AVR-8 or Arcam AVR750, but it’s a fraction of the price - and with Auro-3D an option, this Denon is clearly keen to keep an ear tuned to the future. We rate the AVR-X4100W an easy recommendation for mid-range home cinemas.

The Denon AVR-X4100W is available now.
Retail price: £1,300
The Denon AVR-X4100W is distributed by AWE. For more on AWE Europe’s product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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