The AVR-X2600H is the annual update for the most popular Denon AV receiver. A familiar and user-friendly recipe, supplemented with a DAB radio tuner (optional), voice control and a number of light tweaks. According to Denon also in the field of sound quality.
Introduction Denon AVR-X2600H
The AVR-X2600H that costs 699 euros is one of the few new AV receivers that Denon will release this year. Indeed, a trend in 2019 is that manufacturers will launch little or no new models. There are several reasons for this: a few important innovations are still waiting (such as a new HDMI standard), some products were introduced late last year (so that presenting a new model would be too fast) and the trade is having more and more problems to follow that annual renewal wave. Yet a few new AV receivers are coming out this year, including this AVR-X2600H. Perhaps Denon eventually found it difficult not to have a new product for a price point that could count on a lot of interest. The AVR-X2600H is after all the successor to the AVR-X2500H (and before that the X2400H and X2300H, devices that we have all tested), a 7.2 receiver that gives you all the functions of the 'serious' AV receivers at Denon. It is a device with many bells and whistles, including support for one pair of height channels. Do we also have to tell you that the Denon AVR-X2600H is really packed with streaming options? Thanks to the HEOS platform, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 you can stream music without any problems. In some countries, such as Belgium (but possibly not the Netherlands), Denon releases an extra variant of the AVR-X2600H. At the back there is the suffix “DAB” to indicate that the device contains a DAB / DAB + tuner. Radio may be a little less popular as a medium when it comes to home cinemas, but digital radio may change that again.
A well-known appearance
Just because we are the three previous generations of this model (and many other Denon receivers), the AVR-X2600 immediately looks very familiar. Both the appearance and the TV interface that the Denon receiver performs strongly resemble the foregoing. We are not sorry, because both things are fine. That is certainly the case when it comes to the menus that show on the TV and the handy setup assistant that makes setting up the receiver very easy. Despite frantic attempts by other manufacturers, Denon remains the undisputed champion in this area. With no other brand you are taken so well by the hand and you get all aspects of the installation as clearly explained as with them. Do you already know how to connect speakers or how to connect a receiver to the network? Then you skip those steps. You can of course also choose to completely ignore the setup assistant and set everything manually. Also not unimportant: the menus of the Denon can be set in Dutch, and that is not the case with all rivals either.
The front panel of the AVR-X2600H is decorated in Denon classical style, with two large knobs (volume and source selection) that flank a central display with many push buttons. Unlike higher Denon models, the front is made of plastic, not metal, and there is no flap under the screen behind which advanced controls and additional connections are hidden. As a result, a number of things remain permanently visible with the X2600H (such as an HDMI, microphone and USB input) and it is less obvious to fully set up the receiver from the front panel. But who actually does that, given that you can work much more smoothly via the TV interface and the associated Denon app?
In any case, the AVR-X2600H looks a lot busier than the tighter AVR-X6300H that we as fixed- use test receiver. Tip: start by removing the many stickers when you take it out of the box and it becomes a bit quieter. Is that busy layout really bad, by the way? No. The AVR-X2600H is in any case rather intended for the price-conscious shopper who wants to get the most out of the 700 euro in terms of features.
The target group that likes a lot of possibilities and connections is immediately rewarded when they look at the back of the AVR-X2600H. Denon provides this receiver with ample, with seven HDMI inputs at the back and two HDMI outputs (one of which is eARC compatible). All HDMI ports are fully 4K compatible, support HDR (HLG, Dolby Vision and HDR10), and are even ready for HDCP 2.3 sources – although we currently have no view of consoles or players that require this newer security method. But anyway: that is supposed to be future-proof. Speaking of gaming … the AVR-X2600H will support Auto Low Latency Mode or ALLM in the future, a mode that allows a console to signal to a receiver and television that switching to a low-lag image mode is required. If you just want to play a fast shooter, you don't have to dive into the image settings of your television to choose a suitable game mode with little image processing. At least, that's how the theory goes. It is currently not possible for us to test ALLM because only certain 2019 TVs already support it. More information can be found in the extensive article by image expert Eric Beeckmans about what is new in HDMI 2.1 . But note: the HDMI ports on the X2600H are HDMI 2.0, not HDMI 2.1. A lot of people and even professional media are confused about this, because features such as ALLM and DHCP 2.3 were announced as part of HDMI 2.1. But the features can also be implemented separately with an HDMI 2.0 connection. Fortunately, at least one thing is clear: there is little to the HDMI 2.1 story that is really clear.
Deno will also continue to equip its receivers with legacy video connections in 2019, both in component and from one composite. You can connect quite a few audio sources via the four analogue cinch inputs and the two optical digital inputs. If you have a turntable, you can connect it to the separate phono connection. You can use a few loudspeaker connections for a second zone or control a separate amplifier via a zone 2 output. In short, for most scenarios you are in the right place with this AV receiver in terms of connections. And what about streaming? Denon also leaves few stitches there.
Since a few years there has been an “H” behind the model names of the Denon receivers. It is a reference to HEOS, the streaming and multi-room platform that parent company Sound United builds into Denon and Marantz products. And of course there are also the company's own HEOS speakers, which compete directly with Sonos products. You can combine them all in a domestic music system where you can play music from various sources from the HEOS app. The weakest point of HEOS is the number of supported streaming services: in addition to TuneIn internet radio, you can only play music in the HEOS app from Tidal and Deezer. Amazon Music, if it becomes available with us, is another option. Fortunately, Spotify is also present via Spotify Connect, which can be operated directly from the Spotify app.
HEOS is strong when it comes to playing your own music files, which can be done from media servers on the network, the storage of your mobile device and connected USB storage. It offers good support for music formats, including hi-res PCM and DSD files. It scores very well in our format test. A handy feature is that on another HEOS device you can quickly play the files from a USB stick that is plugged in with the Denon AVR-X2600H.
You can control all this via the HEOS app (iOS, Android). It is a simple but effective app that works with three main screens that you select at the bottom of the screen: Rooms, Music and Current song. In Rooms you see all HEOS devices appear. You will notice that the X2600H has two zones in the list. That is the main zone and possibly the second zone with wired speakers. However, you can only enable and disable the two zones; it is not possible to make something different through HEOS in every zone. This is possible with Yamaha’s MusicCast.
You can access all music sources via the Music screen, such as streaming as devices connected to the receiver (behind the “Inputs” option). In theory, these screens can get crowded, but you can leave unused sources and inputs invisible. Nice options here are Favorites and History. With the latter you get a nice overview of what music you already played. Also practical is that you can change the sound modes from the Current Number screen without having to go to the remote or Denon app.
AirPlay 2 is second option
Because the AVR-X2600H is also AirPlay 2 -Compatible, you can make the Denon receiver part of a music system that consists of products from other brands that also work with Apple's protocol. So you can, for example, send music from your iPad to the X2600H and at the same time to a wireless speaker from Bang & Olufsen. AirPlay 2 has advantages and disadvantages: you can stream all possible music and audio (including YouTube or Qobuz, for example), but only from an Apple device. The HEOS platform makes it possible to stream the (stereo) sound from a connected physical source (such as a CD player or the TV sound) to another room. AirPlay 2 cannot.
Bluetooth is another option for playing music via the AVR-X2600H. This works smoothly, but just like the other receiver manufacturers, Denon does not support high-quality Bluetooth codecs such as aptX HD or LDAC. Bluetooth does not work in the opposite direction at Denon; so you cannot connect wireless headphones to the receiver. That is something that, for example, allows NAD or Yamaha.
Denon was a pioneer in integrating speech control, by being the first to bring Alexa support to an AV receiver (although Yamaha was not far behind). But Alexa only understands English, so we are much happier with the new support for Google Assistant – although the options are much more limited. With the Alexa skill you can, for example, change physical inputs, Google Assistant is only limited to what you can do via the HEOS app. For example, when watching a movie through a Blu-ray player, you can misuse this to control the sound volume by voice command. But not, for example, to pause the player. In summary: voice control is something very cool, but is still in its infancy when it comes to home cinema. You cannot do many things. Hopefully future updates bring more options. For Alexa or Google Assistant you still have to provide an additional device with a microphone, such as a Google Home mini.
Easy to set up
The AVR-X2600H comes with the usual remote control from Denon, an immense thing with many buttons with which you can quickly do everything you want. Personally we prefer to use the app, which still bears the name Denon AVR 2016 – despite the fact that you can use it for receivers from a later date. It is again a sober-looking app, but it works well. Via the main screen you can see everything you need for daily use – no redundancies. If you still want to dive into the settings, you can. You can adjust a lot of things via the Denon app (such as adjusting the speaker levels, renaming inputs or changing sound options), and that is more convenient than working via the TV interface because you can make adjustments while content is playing.
We were already talking about the setup assistant who makes setting up the AVR-X2600H very easy. It is an optional feature, but really useful for beginners.
The Denon AVR-X2600H is equipped with the Audyssey MultEQ XT room calibration function, taking up to eight measurements around your listening position to optimize the sound for your room acoustics and room acoustics. placement of your speakers. You take these measurements with the included microphone. It is best to place the microphone at ear height, which is easy with a tripod. It is great that Denon supplies a cardboard do-it-yourself tripod in the box.
Measuring is a job that we handle in fifteen minutes thanks to previous experiences with Audyssey. So it's not a big job and the result is much better. You perform it by following the instructions on the TV screen. Optionally you can buy the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app for 20 euros to coordinate the measurements via your iPad or smartphone. The advantage of MultEQ is that after the measurements you can make adjustments several times and upload them to the AV receiver, without having to take measurements again and again. You also get a little more insight into the room properties, as the app is not as clear in this area as it should be.
Audyssey MultEQ XT delivers in our test room and with our fixed speaker setup (Dali Rubicon LCRs plus Vokal, Dali Alteco for the height channels and a Monitor Audio Silver W12 subwoofer) always good results, comparable to YPAO from Yamaha, but less strong than Dirac (found at Arcam and NAD) and ARC (from Anthem), with especially in the racing scene from 'Ready Player One'. We are not going to bring an in-depth comparison of room calibration systems here – that is food for a future article – but we make it strong that with Audyssey you can solve most room problems. We prefer to disable DynEQ and DynVol and opt for the Reference filter.
The Denon TV interface gives you access to many possibilities. Sometimes there is a lack of clarity because options are not available due to certain choices that you made elsewhere, but those minor drawbacks are more than offset by the clear way in which other options are presented. Denon makes it very easy for you to adjust your speaker setup. The AVR-X2600H is a 7.2 receiver with support for one pair of height channels to play Dolby Atmos and DTS: X soundtracks. You can choose from many types of height speakers: front wall, front or center ceiling, reflective Dolby speakers at the front or rear. Or do you prefer 5.1? Then you can choose unusual configurations, such as front speakers with bi-amping or a setup with four front speakers. The latter is interesting, for example, if you want to work with separate front speakers for stereo music and surround sound.
A 5.1.2 setup does not do justice to the great Atmos soundtrack of 'Mission Impossible: Fallout' (Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos), but the Denon AVR-X2600H succeeds in beautifully displaying the nuanced, detailed soundscapes. The scene with the helicopter pursuit in Kashmir is excellent as an Atmos test; you hear the engine and the rotors of the helicopters coming from the height channels, giving you the real impression that you are sitting in the cabin, and the bullets fly from the front of the room to the rear channels. At Fallout the characteristic bombastic MI-tune is regularly used to make exciting moments extra dramatic. That places somewhat higher demands on your receiver because then suddenly strong sound peaks are produced. The AVR-X2600H succeeds quite well. Denon of course claims that this is a receiver of 150 watts per channel, but that is undoubtedly measured with one channel out of the seven loaded – and perhaps with a test tone on one frequency. Almost all manufacturers do this. The actual real-life capacity is somewhat lower, but you still notice that the AVR-X2600H is a “better” AV receiver. Our setup is relatively sensitive (89-89.5 dB) and is controlled without problems.
A signboard of this Denon are virtual sound modes that supposedly offer a surrounder experience with fewer speakers. Dolby Height Virtualization is the most important of these, but we couldn't test that yet because this option will be added via a future firmware update. We did, however, review the helicopter scenes in Fallout in Virtual motion mode, which brings surround via two single front speakers. There is really no question of a 3D experience then, but we thought you could speak of a virtual center. This made the sound stage at the front a bit wider and wider than just in stereo mode. Perhaps at a later date we should devote an article to virtual sound modes and really test them.
Like all Game of Thrones fans around the world, we couldn't wait to watch the final episode of this epic. With a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of course, so that we are really immersed in the (albeit very grim) world of Westeros. While Tyrion walks through the burnt-down Knights Landing, the Denon receiver realizes the atmosphere of destruction. The front canals are full of crackling fires, wind and many fine details that make Tyrion's search for his brother and sister credible. Just that we can hear and place those finer details well, is an indication that Audyssey has done its job well. By the way, with a surround setup like this you really learn to appreciate the sophisticated soundtrack by composer Ramin Djawadi. Everything that happens in this series is always supported by an appropriate music theme, a detail that you do not always notice when you watch with sound from TV speakers or even a soundbar.
The AVR-X2600H also shows itself a decent music player. As we already mentioned, you have a lot of ways to play music, so it's good that the sound quality is right. Denon himself says that there are some improvements in tuning – but without an A / B comparison with an AVR-X2500H that is difficult to determine.
It is not that the Denon AVR-X2600H is a radically different device than its predecessor. It does come with a number of new (small) features that are interesting in certain situations, such as the Dolby Height Virtualization mode. We have to write 'will be', because a number of novelties still have to be added via a firmware upgrade. The many streaming options, the user-friendly interface, the good price / quality ratio and the many connection options make the Denon AVR-X2600H another reference to this price point. If you get the model with DAB tuner, it is even quite right.