Denon AVR-X6300H Review
By Mark Vignola on
At RHT we hold Denon receivers in high regards. Across the line, we find Denon units to be consistent performers who effectively embrace leading edge features. Coupled with best-in-class setup assistant software, Denon units are easy to recommend. The AVR-X6300H is Denon’s newest high-end receiver offering. At $2200, it sits just below the flagship AVR-X7200W and as expected brings a wealth of features to the table, which this year includes direct integration of HEOS – Denon’s music streaming platform – and 11 amplified channels. The X6300H sounds terrific and if you are in need of 11 amplified channels or added power over the X4300H, it is easy to recommend. We like the direct integration of HEOS into the X6300H, which makes adding the music streaming platform easier than previous iterations. The HEOS system overall continues to show promise – though it is still a step or two behind competitors like Sonos with regards to ease of use and stability.
HEOS Integration & HEOS Update
A key addition to Denon’s receivers this year is direct integration of HEOS, Denon’s music streaming platform. I’ve been using HEOS as a whole home audio solution for the past year and integration of HEOS directly into a receiver means easier integration with my main system.
In my current set-up I make use of a two HEOS Links’ to get HEOS into my living room and bedroom systems. The HEOS Link works similarly to the Sonos Connect and allows you to stream music to a stand-alone system and has the ability to directly control any Denon or Marantz receiver or pre-amp. This lets the HEOS Link turn on my Marantz AV-8801 or Denon X2200W, automatically switch to the correct input, and directly control volume within the HEOS app.
In practice, the HEOS Link works about 75% of the time. The other 25% of the time either the unit doesn’t turn on, the correct input isn’t selected or we simply get no sound. Sometimes a reboot of the Denon Link fixes this – other times it doesn’t. When HEOS was having difficulty, Spotify Connect always worked well on both units. This lost some of the functionality from HEOS (mostly being able to group rooms) – but it was a reliable fallback when HEOS was being temperamental.
Integration of HEOS into X6300H simplifies getting HEOS into a system as an external component is no longer necessary. What’s more, powering up of the X6300 from the HEOS app is more reliable than with the HEOS Link. I am pleased to see some added functionality in the HEOS app for controlling the X6300H. Directly from the app I can control not just the main zone but also select zones 2 or 3 to also stream music to – though you can’t stream different music to each source.
Integration of HEOS into the X6300H is a nice step forward in making HEOS easier to implement into more complex systems. My experiences thus far with HEOS in the X6300H are good. Control of the receiver through the app is more reliable than through the Heos link. My biggest complaints are with Spotify – app switching is still required to queue up music and the overall platform can be finicky from time to time.
For streaming music at home we use Spotify. Spotify streams to HEOS via Spotify Connect. As with the HEOS Link, when selecting Spotify in the HEOS app I’m directed to navigate back to Spotify and select my source from the “Devices Available” list. This is an unavoidable nuisance given an long standing agreement between Spotify & Sonos. This approach works, but is annoying. Other music service can be navigated to varying degrees of success within the Heos app. I had to be careful to uniquely name the X6300H – calling it “Living Room” – the same as my parents Denon X6200 caused issues, as Spotify has difficulty “forgetting” different Spotify Connect devices. This caused a series of very frustrating problems that were resolved once I gave the X6300H a unique name.
In use Spotify is reasonably stable. I still run into issues from time to time where HEOS is totally unresponsive – but this happens less than with our HEOS link. Overall I’d say our % of success has gone from 75% to 90% – which is good, but still not as stable as other systems like Sonos.
The good news here is that Denon appears to be all in with HEOS and the company seems committed to developing the platform. As improvements inevitably come, we expect HEOS to be a good competitor in the whole home audio space, and the X6300H will be a unit that will allow you to take advantage of that in the future.
Other Observations on the X6300H
Outside of HEOS integration, the X6300H is essentially unchanged from last years units from a feature standpoint.
The set-up wizard is still here, and is still excellent. We’ve yet to see another manufacturer nail this as well as Denon has. Simply power up the X6300H and it’ll fully walk you through everything required to get you up and running – from speaker placement and setting up inputs, to running Audyssey.
Speaking of Audyssey, the X6300H comes with Audyssey MultiEQ XT32 & SubEQ HT- the most advanced room calibration system the company offers. While we still like XT32 – which in this case it works well with my dual JL Audio F113 subs – it is getting a tad stale as next generation room EQ platforms like Dirac and ARC are becoming more readily available at more aggressive price points. We know that Audyssey has plans for an external app to add functionality, but as of this review, that app isn’t yet out.
From an input perspective, all options are covered on the X6300H: there are a full complement of HDMI 2.0a inputs and dual HDMI outputs to let me run my projector and plasma without any additional equipment. My system is pretty streamlined these days, with only an Oppo 103D, Time Warner Cable box and Roku Ultra – all of which worked flawlessly with the X6300H.
Denon has rolled out a new control app for 2016 – it’s called “Denon AVR 2016” and is available for free from both the Google and Apple app store. This is a good thing, because the original app is totally unusable with the X6300H.
Are there any positives to the new app? Not really. Firstly it doesn’t work on my iPad – I can turn on and off the X6300H, but all other features aren’t functional at all – not even a little. The app works reliably enough on my iPhone, but Denon has not taken this opportunity to make the app any more intuitive than the last iteration – it’s still confusing. What’s more, the app now frustratingly controls the X6300H and my X2200W differently. The Denon app was never great, but I found it could be reliably used for dialing up internet radio. On the new app, when controlling the X6300H, you are dumped into the HEOS app to control streaming music. When controlling the X2200W, which doesn’t have integrated HEOS, I see the original online music navigation. Clearly HEOS integration is where Denon wants to go – but if you have two units from different vintages in your system, the app struggles as to how it wants to show you options.
In my initial evaluation of the X6300H, I ran the unit with a pair of B&W 805 D2 bookshelf speakers & HTM4 D2 center channel. Surround duties were handled by a pair of Paradigm Studio 10 v 5’s. I have no complaints with the X6300H’s ability to drive this set-up. Coupled with a pair of JL Audio 113’s, the X6300H performed admirably. Movies, like last summer’s Star Trek Beyond sounded terrific and dynamic – no real surprise from a unit like this one. I had some concerns that the Denon wouldn’t be able to adequately power the B&W’s, but these were unwarranted and 805 D2’s and HTM4 sounded wonderful with the X6300H.
Like my other RHT colleagues, I’ve been won over by KEF speakers. After reviewing the KEF Reference 1’s and 2C, I decided after 5 years with the B&W’s I was ready for a change. Last week I installed a brand new set of gloss black Reference 1 bookshelves and 2C center channel. I paired these with KEF R100 bookshelves for surrounds and, for the first time in my set-up, Dolby Atmos KEF R50’s. In this configuration I use X6300H as a hybrid pre-amp/receiver – connected to my Parasound Halo A51 amplifier as a pre-amp, and to the R50 Atmos speakers as a receiver.
Compared to running a pre-amp, like my Marantz AV8801 – here I can preserve the use of a high quality amplifier like my A51 – and gain additional amplified channels without the addition of more equipment. Yes, I lose the ability to use balanced outputs – but given the length of runs I am using in my system, this impact of this is negligible.
I am really happy with this configuration. The X6300 runs flawlessly as a hybrid receiver/pre-amp in this configuration. I’m in the minority when it comes to last years Mad Max Fury Road – I wasn’t won over by surreal re-boot from George Miller – but as demo material, the Atmos encoded Blu-Ray is spectacular. I’ll dive more into the R50 & Atmos in my room in a future review – but I am really happy with the presentation I’m able to get with this set-up on Atmos titles like Mad Max Fury Road. Sound from the X6300H in this 5.2.2 set-up is fantastic and entirely enveloping.
Is Anything Missing From the X6300H?
The X6300H is incredibly fully featured and is about as future proof as you can get in late 2016. Is anything missing?
We were primarily disappointed to see that the phasing out of Audyssey Professional appears to be underway: the X6300H drops the Audyssey Pro support that was present in last years X6200W. At RHT we liked Audyssey Professional, which kicked up XT32 a notch with the use of an external PC & calibrated mic. We thought the results and added flexibility were nice additions and maintained some of the competitiveness of Audyssey XT32 with other room calibration systems. Unfortunately Audyssey is retiring Audyssey Professional in support of an app based approach to add features and flexibility. While we assume that the X6300H will support whatever Audyssey eventually releases, this next gen platform is still not yet out yet and timing is uncertain.
Until then you are limited to stock XT32 – which as we mentioned above, is getting a bit “long in the tooth”. We look forward to playing the Audyssey app when available and will update you when the time comes.
Who is X6300H for?
While we like the X6300H, it is $700 (~47%!) more than the X4300H – the next unit in the Denon line. This is a pretty big step up, so it is worth asking: who will most benefit from owning the X6300H?
In the end the two units are identical from an electronics perspective and will be equally future proof. So the key differences are on the amplifier side.
Firstly, the 6300 is a bit beefier with an additional 20 WPC when compared to the X4300H. We’d classify the extra WPC as “nice to have” – but likely negligible unless you are running power hungry speakers. And if you are running difficult driving speakers, you’d probably get more legs out of an external amplifier than what’s offered here (the Emotiva XPA-3, for example, is $764 as of this writing – just a tad more than the delta between the X6300H & X4300H). Should space be at a premium, the extra WPC may be worth it for you – but otherwise, for hard to drive speakers, we’d suspect an external amplifier would probably yield better results.
That leaves the additional channels that the X6300H offers over the 9-channel X4300H. These channels mean the X6300H is capable of running a full Dolby Atmos 7.2.4 set-up with two pairs of Atmos height speakers – which is the optimal configuration to take advantage of all that Atmos can offer. Being able to run a set-up like this in an “all-in-one” package is definitely advantageous – so if that’s you or might be you in the future, the X6300H is a good choice. However, that flexibility comes at a hefty premium, so if you don’t need all 11 channels, the X4300H may be a better option.
As expected, the new X6300H is a worthy new high-end entry from Denon – it sounds great, has a ton of terrific, future ready features, and is flexible enough to power a multitude of surround sound configurations given 11 amplified channels. If your system can make use of this type of set-up, the X6300H is a terrific all-in-one option.
Direct integration of HEOS into the X6300H makes getting the platform into your main system easier than in the past – though in our hands the HEOS still needs a bit of work when compared to more mature options like Sonos. Still, Denon seems committed to the platform, and we expect HEOS, and the integration in its receivers, to only get better.
Overall we continue to find units like the X6300H easy to recommend to folks looking to play on the bleeding edge of what AV receivers can do.
Future ready array of features, easy set-up, 11-channels support multiple surround configurations, excellent audio performance.
HEOS integration is sometimes buggy; XT32 feels a step behind competition, made worse by dropping of “Pro” option; expensive upgrade over the X4300H.
As a high-end & fully featured AV receiver, the Denon AVR-X6300W is great option; best in class set-up coupled with a flexible 11 amplified channels and great sound means that the X6300W is ready for even the most demanding speaker configurations. HEOS integration is a nice addition, though still lags behind more mature platforms.