We had to wait a long time this year for the new Denon AV receivers but now they are finally there. We kick off with the near-top model, the AVC-X6700H. The big innovation in 2020: support for 8K and 4K / 120 Hz, and DTS: X Pro. Especially those HDMI 2.1 functions are a first compared to the competition.
It will not surprise anyone: due to the corona situation, the AVC-X6700H 11.2 AV receiver reaches consumers later than planned. It is not the new top model at Denon, because that role is still reserved for the 4,000 euro costing AVC-X8500H . But the new functionality that the AVC-X6700H offers in the HDMI area means that the 13.2-channel flagship lags behind this newcomer in certain areas. If you build a home cinema and swear by Denon, you will be faced with a torn choice: will you go for the high-end model with an impressive amplifier hatch or for a newer model that offers HDMI 2.1 and other novelties? On paper, the AVC-X6700H may be very similar to last year's AVR-X6500H. Nothing has changed in terms of power and number of amplified channels, and the number of HDMI ports and streaming options are also largely identical. However, interesting features have been added in terms of functions. Also remarkable: the official suggested retail price of 2,499 euros is two hundred euros lower than its predecessor. Cheaper and better equipped, that is not the usual practice. In the trade, that price difference may not really exist, we suspect.
Trusted plus points
Whatever the technology is added in this new receiver, in terms of design the Denon AVC-X6700H keeps it very familiar. For this test we parked the new receiver on the AVR-X6300H from a few years ago, and except that one was black and the other silver, there was hardly any difference. The most striking thing is that the front panel that you can open to reach most controls is now slightly larger, an improvement that was already introduced with the X6500H. The hidden control panel is also slightly more spacious and nicer finished compared to the 6300. Of course, you should always be the first to remove a series of large stickers at Denon, because apparently someone in the marketing department still thinks that you should plaster the devices with features and specs.
However, the above is not a fundamental criticism. Nothing is wrong with the Denon design and the AVC-X6700H is perfectly finished. Small details make all the difference, such as the shiny beveled edges on the volume and input selector knobs. The large display on the front is easy to read, even if you are three to four meters from the device. This is useful, although receivers of this class often end up somewhere in a closed rack or cabinet. After all, you don't want to look at a distracting screen in your darkened home cinema.
The supplied remote is also classic Denon: large and with many buttons. It gives you a lot of control – which is handy – but for the regular movie nights, it's overkill. When we recently tested the NAD T 778 we found in the box a second mini-remote that only offered the basic controls. We think that's an excellent idea, also to make a complex device such as an AV receiver understandable for everyone in the family. Simply volume, inputs, sound modes and possibly the handy Quick Selects on a small remote control, that would be a nice addition.
The big revolution with the AVC-X6700H is at the back. As before, this almost top model has more than enough connections, including a phono input. With eight HDMI inputs and (still) plenty of legacy video inputs, you probably have more than enough to connect everything, even if you're an avid console collector. The magic is in the last HDMI input, just next to the first of three HDMI outputs. This is the only one that is completely ready for an 8K source – if it eventually shows up. Although 8K is the marketing message par excellence with this receiver, it is really only about that one input. Why only one? For starters, there are currently zero 8K resources, and perhaps two by the end of this year. We are talking about the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, which according to all data will send an 8K signal. The extent to which games will really be available in 8K remains to be seen. We bet that at best it will render internally at a lower resolution and that the console will then upscale to 8K. See you in the fall if we know for sure. It is also good to know that this receiver is also ready for 4K at 120 Hz. Again something for gamers, but perhaps just a bit more feasible than 8K with a sufficiently high frame rate.
That 8K is not a small step from 4K is also evident from the fact that there is only one 8K input. The HDMI portion of an AV receiver always comes from a third party, and they allegedly fail to create enough bandwidth for multiple long-distance 8K streams on a print. The 8K input is right next to the 8K compatible output for a reason.
More importantly, all HDMI ports on this receiver are HDMI 2.1 compatible, and support 4: 4: 4 Pure Color subsampling. Again, the question is whether this is really so important in this regard. Gamers take advantage of it, because HDMI 2.1 brings some interesting features to them ( ALLM for example). At the same time, that HDMI 2.1 makes the AVC-X6700H more future-proof. In that sense, we also find it positive that the new receiver also processes HDR10 + in addition to Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10. As far as we know, this is the first AV receiver compatible with this newer HDR standard with dynamic metadata that Samsung is so fond of. But also here: for the time being there is hardly any content with HDR10 +.
At the feature level we note that the AVC-X6700H, just like the previous generation, will have a Bluetooth streaming option for wireless headphones (useful late at night). Now a surround mode on that output, and we're happy. Later this receiver also gets an upgrade for DTS: X Pro although that is only relevant if you really build an extensive surround setup. It is a feature that is more likely to be useful for professional installers, we suspect. They also find extensive calibration options for those who cannot do this directly on their TV screen.
Some things surprise us when we get started with the Denon AVC-X6700H. Like no competitor can explain the setup of the receiver in the same clear way, just like Denon does via the optional Setup Assistant. However, this assistant has been present on the Denon machines (and sister brand Marantz) for years, so we don't know why the others didn't take them over. So it remains a huge asset of Denon machines. If you don't know much about setting up an AV receiver, you will be guided step by step through configuring the AVC-X6700H.
We find it a little disappointing that the Denon interface is still in a low resolution. In these times of 4K TVs and projectors with large screens, it doesn't really look good. And yes, the sign of this receiver is that 8K compatibility. We do not have an 8K machine, only a 4K 65-inch OLED, but it sometimes looks a bit old-fashioned. Okay, it's not a problem, but it just makes the operation less slick.
The menus of the AVC-X6700H remain well organized and clear. We particularly like the menus to configure speakers and your setup. You clearly see what you do and what you select. There are also plenty of options, for example in terms of speaker types at height channels. With its 11 channels, many configurations are also possible, including a 5.1 setup that is fully bi-amped. Who's going to do it? No idea, but nice that it is possible. More realistic but still niche is a surround setup with double front speakers or, for example, extra front wide speakers. A zone 2 or 3 is always possible. Either amplified (if your surround setup remains modest) or otherwise via pre-outs (then you have to provide extra amplifiers for the additional zones). As a higher model in the Denon line, the AVC-X6700H also has full pre-outs. So you can use this device purely as a processor.
Those who like to use their receiver for music will also find the option to set the speakers separately for 2-channel playback. For example, you may not want to control the sub in LFE mode. When it comes to inputs, everything is fully configurable, including custom names for each input. In short, Denon remains the most helpful in the market and there are many options available.
Everything via apps
It is equally nice that the focus on providing explanations is also present in the Denon AVR app. With most functions you will still receive a dash, so that you discover what functions such as Dynamic EQ or Dynamic Volume do correctly. You can fully control the AVC-X6700H via the app (Android, iOS). Sometimes you have to tap a few more things to get where you need to be, but in the end the app offers everything. A downside is that for deeper settings you sometimes have to use a virtual remote via the app to adjust the actual settings on the TV. It would be even more practical if you could really do everything in that app.
The AVR app is the only Denon app you need to install on your tablet. In the AVR app you can easily switch between physical sources, but as soon as you want to stream, you will be sent to the HEOS app. Well, it doesn't always have to be. If you choose the HEOS / Network input, you can also choose your own music files on a NAS or USB stick via the TV interface. The Spotify app is also capable of streaming music directly to the AVC-X6700H. Any options? Bluetooth (unfortunately only SBC) and AirPlay 2 is also present. You can find these streaming options on all Denon receivers from the past years. Voice control is also possible – to a certain extent – via Google Assistant, Alexa (not in Dutch) or Siri. With the Apple assistant you are limited to commands that have to do with streaming, via Google Assistant is also relatively modest what you can do. Alexa is actually interesting, because you can also ask to switch to (for example) the Blu-ray.
The HEOS app becomes interesting if you use certain streaming services (Deezer, Amazon Music, Tidal , or Internet radio) and want to combine the AVC-X6700H with HEOS speakers in other rooms. Other Denon and Marantz devices are also HEOS compatible, so you can equip your entire home in Sonos style with music devices that you can combine or operate separately to your heart's content. The HEOS app itself tends to be sober, especially if you compare it to that of Sonos. Some more streaming services would be welcome and the music search experience could be a bit more sexy. But it actually does its job well. It is also useful that you can also control the physical inputs from the HEOS app. Sharing audio that comes in via a physical input (such as from a CD player or record player) to another HEOS speaker also goes very smoothly. It must be PCM audio, you cannot stream the surround soundtrack of a Blu-ray. Inserting a USB stick with music files on the Denon receiver and playing it on a speaker elsewhere in the house is also possible. All seems obvious, but they are options that are not always present with multi-room systems. That of that USB stick, for example, is already very difficult with Sonos.
The AVC-X6700H is equipped with the Audyssey MultEQ32 room calibration to display to optimize for the chamber properties and the placement of the speakers. First you have to measure what you do with the supplied microphone and – again handy – a microphone stand that you make from cardboard. It may sound amateurish, but it does the job just fine. Of course you can also use a photo tripod or microphone stand, if you have that. It is important that you measure correctly and in sufficient places. This version of Audyssey requires eight measurements, a job that usually takes us about 20 minutes. The step-by-step plan that you must follow simply appears on your screen, unless you opt for the MultEQ app. Although it costs 20 euros (and should actually be free on a device of this price), it does give you some more options. Two big advantages of the app: you can save a measurement and later adjust and upload it again, without having to pull out that microphone again.
An addition this year that we do find very important are the two preset slots for an Audyssey correction. This gives a bit of extra flexibility compared to the previous generation of Denon machines, when you could only hear a single filter. The second preset is especially useful if you work with the (paying) MultiEQ app because you can easily make an adjustment without measuring everything again. Thanks to those two slots, you can then, for example, compare the proposed Audessey filter with one that you have adjusted yourself. Or you can create a preset that is really optimized for music and one for action movies. It is even possible to create a preset for a set of better hi-fi speakers, while switching to built-in speakers for surround.
Multiple presets or slots for a room correction filter have become standard with a number of brands, such as with the Dirac receivers from Arcam and NAD, and we know from experience that it can be useful. Especially if you start experimenting yourself. You can now compare the impact of a tweak in the MultiEQ app much faster than what you just did. The only downside is that switching between presets which is hidden in the AVR app and a lot of seconds pass before the sound returns. Ideally, you can always quickly switch between preset 1 and 2. Denon himself says that switching is “as quick as lightning”, but that is a bit of an overstatement.
A bit of a shock
AV receivers with separate speakers are nowadays much less popular than sound bars. It is well known why that is so. But you will notice that a discrete surround set with a powerful receiver will make you experience a movie differently, if you really feel it. Now take the scene in “Godzilla: King of Monsters” (Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos) as the giant reptile approaches Monarch's underground base and then apparently retreats. When Godzilla swims by out of nowhere, we almost jump out of our skin. The visual and audio go together perfectly here to touch you emotionally. This kaiju movie is one of the better ones in 2019 in terms of sound effects, though it has been a bit of a flop all in all. As you would expect from a story in which immense beasts fight each other out of rubber, the soundtrack is full of violent sounds of buildings that are collapsing and industrial installations that are being destroyed. We note that the AVC-X6700H has fine-tuned the Arendal 1961 subwoofer. The many impacts pop at high volume through our test room, but it remains very tight and controlled. We also notice that the Arendal 1961 setup that we use for this test is not so obvious to drive. Most speakers from these Norwegian manufacturers have a sensitivity of 87 dB, which means that we have to turn up the volume level of the Denon quite high. They are tough speakers, but even when it becomes dynamically challenging, the AVC-X6700H maintains sufficient control.
Musically we think the Denon receiver also scores well. It is not everyone's thing, but on this device there are the Auro codecs that you can use to bring stereo music to multichannel. It depends a bit on the genre, but we thought it sounded good with the jazz of Budos Band or the original rock of Greta van Vleet without being overly artificial. We think Auro-Matic sounds much better than the alternatives that are also present, such as Neural X, with a slight preference for Auro-2D Surround. You can also just listen in stereo, of course.
For Denon, the 8K compatibility with the new receivers such as the AVC-X6700H is very important. Given that no 8K sources are popping up on the horizon yet, with the possible exception of the next-gen consoles, we find it less crucial ourselves. At the same time, you buy a receiver not only for today, but also for tomorrow and the day after. So the presence of HDMI 2.1 ports is a real plus. It seems to us that currently demanding gamers will get the most out of this device.
For the rest, the recipe of this receiver is not so drastically different than with the X6500H, which means that this AVC-X6700H is just as competent as its predecessor. In addition, there are a number of small ingredients that are worthwhile, such as the double Audyssey slots, DTS: X Pro (if you are planning a large home theater) and Dolby Virtual Height (if you are just installing a more compact surround setup). In short, it is not as revolutionary as it seems, but that does not detract from the many qualities of this receiver.