An audio/video (A/V) receiver is the quarterback of your home theater. It’s not just because it tells everything where to go, routing signals to different speakers and screens. It’s because a good quarterback makes the team better – and a good receiver will bring the best out of your home theater speakers. The market is a crowded one, so we’ve picked out some of the best A/V receivers for this year for you to choose from – whatever your budget, or room size. We will be comparing Denon X4400H vs X3400H vs X3300W.
No manufacturer in the home theater space has impressed us more than Denon. Not just because they consistently deliver groundbreaking high-end receivers, but because they’ve also done what feels like the impossible. They’ve created a relatively-affordable 9.2 channel receiver, which can not only scale to 11.2, but which delivers a staggering amount of technology for the price. It easily beats comparable models from Onkyo, Yamaha and NAD, in both sound quality and feature set.
The audio quality has serious weight and presence, with fantastic timing. It’s also surprisingly musical – while we’d recommend a good stereo amp as the first port of call for any hi-fi system, this will happily pull double duty. And with a full complement of features, you’ve got absolutely everything you need to build the home theater room of your dreams.
The Denon AVR-X4400H is another stonking amp that combines fine sound with a solid feature set.
- Great power and punch
- Good balance, with rich midrange and plenty of bass
- Fast and dynamic
- Fine for stereo listening
- Nothing at this price
Features and build
Ignoring its performance for a moment, the initial reason you might opt for this over the more affordable X3400H is its extra speaker terminals.
While the 3400 caters for a 7.2 configuration, with either surround back or two height channels depending on your preference, the X4400H is the cheapest in the range to offer 11.2 capability – alongside all that makes its smaller sibling so exceptional.
It is again equipped with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X for those without height channels but anxious for a similar, though simulated, experience.
There are again eight HDMI inputs with HDCP 2.2 compatibility – seven on the back and one at the front – able to deal with 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range and 3D programming.
Wireless connections include wi-fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, and HEOSmulti-room compatibility, while high-resolution audio files saved as ALAC, FLAC or WAV can be output at up to 24bit/192kHz alongside 2.8/5.6MHz DSD files.
Set-up is run by the built-in and almost foolproof Audyssey programming – all you need do is attach the included microphone to its input beneath the flap on the X4400H’s facia and follow the on-screen instructions.
We spin a 4K Blu-ray of Baby Driver and are treated to a performance that seems tailored to the disc. From the initial jabs of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s Bellbottoms that soundtracks the opening heist, that familiar combination of muscle and musicality is patently clear.
Car boots slam and shots fire on the beat, with a sense of timing critical to Edgar Wright’s concept for the film. Our speakers rumble as motors rev up, and there is haymaker punch to the entire presentation.
The X4400H is comfortable with the surround mix as well: the combination of the soundtrack playing while engine sounds are wrapped around us gives the sensation of almost being in the car with Baby and his cohorts.
But to focus upon the X4400H’s heft would be unfair, as this amp is equally capable of exploring the subtleties of the sound.
Cheesy as they may be, the intimate moments between our titular character and love interest Debora are delivered with a light touch – dynamically, at least – while making most of the Denon’s grip on low frequencies to anchor voices.
Of course, the sound from an AVR can never quite compare to a similarly priced stereo amplifier but, and given its hi-res audio features, the Denon needs to be adept at both. While Baby Driver is indeed a film dictated by its soundtrack, the Denon’s musical performance is even better showcased in stereo.
It is much as you’d expect: a weighty, full-bodied sound with good timing and a better than decent handle on dynamic range.
If it looks like a Denon and sounds like a Denon, then it can only be a Denon. Another winner from its current range of AV amps.
- Great power, big punch
- Great balance despite rich midrange and plenty of bass
- Fast and dynamic
- Tough competition
After the staples of centre-channel, front- and surround pairs, it means the final two channels are assignable either as surround-rear speakers or to use as a pair of height channels.
Denon has stripped back the features to offer a more affordable amp, but has also doubled down on versatility to ensure those features are customizable options, rather than lost.
The X3400H is equipped with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and (for those without dedicated height or surround speakers) DTS Virtual:X technology (to suggest a similarly immersive cinematic experience).
In terms of your viewing experience, each of the X3400H’s eight HDMI outputs feature HDCP 2.2 compatibility, meaning that they are able to support 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range and even 3D content (if you’re one of the latter’s remaining supporters).
For a modern AV amp hoping to be taken seriously, connectivity ought no longer exclusively mean cabling – even so, at this price Denon’s inclusion of wi-fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Spotify Connect and HEOS (for potential multi-room action) on its list of wireless features is to be expected rather than applauded.
Those anxious to use the X3400H as a dual-purpose amp for home cinema and traditional two-channel duties will be pleased to find it’s able to decode high-resolution audio files including ALAC, FLAC and WAV at up to 24bit/192kHz, along with compatibility for 2.8/5.6MHz DSD files.
We lift the X3400H from its box, but stop somewhat short of staring in slack-jawed astonishment. Much like other peoples’ babies, AV amps do tend to look much the same: at least Denon is one of the finer-looking families.
Denon’s genes are sturdy and broad-shouldered, with a face blessed by symmetry of its bold features.
The X3400H doesn’t require a flip-down lid to conceal its minimal front-facing controls: a few slim buttons underline a familiar display, and separate the headphone, HDMI, USB and set-up mic inputs below its midriff. It is the kind of aesthetic and build quality that, in this realm, is near-flawless.
The automated set-up is straightforward, in the same pleasingly intuitive vein as other Audyssey routines we have encountered with Denon.
Extra tip: Ensure you have your speakers correctly assigned with the X3400H, as it’s a faff to go through it again if you later realize you’ve set your height channels to act as surround back or the other way around – and it’s a far simpler mistake to make than merely plugging
Ready to go, we select a Blu-Ray – of the Coen Brothers’ unparalleled Fargo – and once the film’s iconic titles play out, the Denon’s combination of power and expression helps envelop us in the prelude music’s portent of the bleak narrative to follow.
It’s a tremendous soundstage, almost on the scale of the snowdrift all-but whitewashing our projector screen.
There are gunshots, moments of sonic excess where the X3400H is let off the chain and proudly presents its muscle, punch and whiplash timing – but what is truly impressive about this amp, which so evidently prides itself on those abundant talents, is its remarkable ability to deliver the story and not just the sound effects.
While much of it is wonky slapstick, the true beauty in Fargo’s black comedy is found in those offbeat speech patterns, the flapping panic implied rather than hammered home by the cast.
Without a delicate understanding of dynamics that expression is lost, and it’s the kind of thing we are used to experiencing with heavy-hitting AV receivers such as this.
Not in the X3400H’s case, though. Each quavering lilt is delivered wryly, and with a gloss coating, thanks to a wonderfully rich midrange and dose of bass weight giving voices their natural tone.
The brilliant Denon AVR-X3300W will take any mid-range home cinema system to the next level…One of the most expressive and entertaining surround amps we’ve heard in a while.
- Powerful, punchy sound
- Loads of detail
- An entertaining all-rounder
- Impressive dynamics
- Easy to use
- Nothing at the money
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much separating them, so we’re interested to see whether the AVR-X3300W can justify the £300 price premium – or if you’d be batty to pay it.
You could play the world’s shortest game of spot the difference placing the Denon AVR-X3300W and its sibling against each other, but we’ll save you the effort. The chassis looks almost identical, save for an extra five centimeters of depth on the AVR-X3300W.
An inspection of the front panels shows they’re the same, with dials, buttons and connections (which include a HDMI input and headphone socket) all matching up. The only difference is the model number, bolded up in the bottom right hand corner.
Round the back, the AVR-X3300W features the simple, fuss-free layout that has been a central theme of Denon’s recent AV amps.
There’s no shortage of connections, with eight HDMI inputs for all your hi-def and Ultra HD sources. They’re all capable of 4K 60Hz pass-through and are HDCP 2.2 certified.
The Denon can even upscale content to 4K resolution if desired, but we would suggest allowing your 4K TV or projector to carry out these duties.
Elsewhere there’s a decent smattering of digital connections and some legacy analogue video options for hooking up older kit.
On the face of it, at least, it’s hard to see where any of that extra £300 has gone – even the remote control has been copied and pasted from the budget model.
A few more differences begin to appear when you start ticking off the features.
The AVR-X3300W gets Audyssey’s advanced MultEQ XT32 speaker calibration software – it offers a thorough set-up process which takes around 10-15 minutes to complete.
Once all the speaker levels and distances have been taken (and checked manually), we’d recommend experimenting with the Audyssey processing modes turned on and off.
Unless you’re listening in the wee small hours and your walls are wafer thin, we would turn Dynamic Volume off – even its lightest setting tends to mute the Denon’s far-reaching dynamics.
Our concerns over the lack of coaxial digital inputs on the AVR-X2300W have been addressed and you’ll find a couple of inputs fitted to big brother.
There’s also more of a custom install slant to the AVR-X3300W with an RS232 port, 12v trigger out, Crestron Connect support and Zone 2 audio and video all present.
The Denon’s ability to decode all mainstream home cinema sound formats, including Dolby Atmos, is par for the course for home cinema amps at this money.
Users looking for simple music streaming have a number of options at their disposal, including Spotify Connect, AirPlay and Bluetooth. Internet radio and streaming from a NAS device on your home network are also supported.
Wireless connectivity is aided by the amp’s ability to work on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz wavebands, although a wired ethernet connection would always be our first choice where available.
But streaming isn’t limited to lo-res files beamed from a smartphone or tablet. The Denon AVR-X3300W can handle all manner of file formats across a network including 24-bit/192kHz PCM and DSD in both single and double-speed form.
Sure, it’s able to blow your socks off with the help of a punishing, bruising soundtrack, but really this is the very least we’d expect when moving up from a budget to mid-range AV receiver.
Some amps have no trouble sounding ballsy and gung-ho, but it’s often done at the expense of subtlety. The AVR-X3300W has loads of power at its disposal but still manages to sound sophisticated with it.
Avengers: Age of Ultron isn’t just a superhero showcase, it’s a fine test disc. We play it through Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 4K Blu-ray player, and the Denon laps up the action during the opening battle.
As Thor dispatches a squad of bad guys and Hulk smashes his way through an enemy bunker, low frequencies are delivered with force and solidity.
As Hulk and Iron Man’s Hulk buster battle it out later in the film, their bout of fisticuffs results in the levelling of an entire construction sight. And the depths to which the Denon’s bass delivery manages to plummet are mightily impressive.
As the building collapses in on itself, the power and scale of the destruction are quite overwhelming.
Listen to the same combination of scenes on its more affordable sibling, and you can immediately hear the difference.
Final Word on 4400H vs 3400H vs 3300W
Much like a Seth Rogen film, once you’ve seen one of our reviews from this Denon AVR line up you’ve pretty much seen the lot. It’s only really the specs that change.
Not the finest act of self-promotion, perhaps, but it does highlight just how fine this group of products is Denon AVR-X3400H.
But the point isn’t that one of them is better than the other, rather that here are two truly exceptional amps in the roughly same price bracket – yet they have immediately recognizable differences in character.
So that’s now three of Denon’s AVR-X amps we’ve seen and, given the results so far, we’re sure we’d only delight in hearing the others.
When we started this review, we already knew Denon had a great £500 receiver on its hands. We weren’t quite sure if the AVR-X3300W would be able to justify its position and price premium over the AVR-X2300W.
But we were wrong to be concerned.
The way it manages to mold all its various strengths together but also maintain such expert balance and finesse should be applauded.
If you want to take your budget home cinema set-up to the next level, then be in no doubt that Denon AVR-X3300W will do just that.