Home theater upgrades are often an adult "Christmas", usually ending up in a lot of time peering over manuals, tweaking settings, and ignoring "eye-rolls" from your spouse wondering what the big...
Good features for the money, decent setup, network audio can be played with other video
Power is only adequate for a mid-grade system, no de-interlacing for older 1080i sets
Home theater upgrades are often an adult "Christmas", usually ending up in a lot of time peering over manuals, tweaking settings, and ignoring "eye-rolls" from your spouse wondering what the big deal is. Few upgrades mean as much to videophiles quite like a receiver upgrade since they affect so much of the total system's performance. But like many of us, receiver upgrades are rare due to cost. Recently I sold an entry level Denon receiver from a few years back to a friend, which allowed me an excuse to replace it. But the receiver in my main home theater was the one that really needed an upgrade. That Denon 3805 was an awesome sounding product in its day...the year 2002. Now over a decade old, it had no HDMI, no Blu-Ray audio codecs, and its room audio correction was first generation ancient. The 3805 would make a decent replacement for the receiver I sold, but what about a new receiver for the main theater? An X-4000 seemed like a good pick but it was out of my budget. Could a mid-priced X-2000 fit the bill?
Mitsubishi Diamond 65813 RPTV (1080i, w/DVI&HDCP)
Onix Rocket 750 speakers (4) with the RS200 center channel (6 ohms), 15" sealed subwoofer
Tivo Series 3 PVR
Sony BDP-S550 Blu-Ray player
Apple TV (2nd gen)
The X-2000 comes with a features list attractive to the upgrader looking for a more than just a typical replacement product: 7 HDMI ports (including a front mounted one), networked audio (but not video), Audyssey MultiEQ XT (now known as "Audyssey Silver"), 4K upscaling (for the 4K TV we all own, right?) and a streamlined UI that operated across all video modes. You also still get coax and optical digital inputs (one each). But at this price point, you don't get a phono stage or pre-outs (other than LFE and two-channel Zone 2). I still get 7 channel surround sound with better discreet management than the older 3805, but at only 95 wpc @ 8ohms, its significantly less power than my older unit (120 wpc @ 8 ohms).
Cabling setup was reasonably simple (after ripping out the old component cables and other analog stuff from the previous era). HDMI inputs were well spaced and marked. Speaker terminals were accessible with a single row across the bottom versus the more difficult stacked row of the 3805. Four analog audio inputs and two composite video inputs remain for legacy gear including a single set of component video inputs, which have all but disappeared from lower priced receivers. Powering it on, the user interface is familiar to anyone who has seen a recent Denon receiver. The unit recognized my network (no wireless Ethernet but I have wired Ethernet in my rack) and quickly picked up that it needed a firmware upgrade. After about 20 minutes, the new software was ready to go, and I downloaded the Denon app to my iPhone for good measure.
After naming my inputs and telling the system what speakers I had, I decided to let Audyssey do the rest. The older room management system in my 3805 was never good enough to figure out the nuances of my oddly shaped room, or the fact that my main speakers are all (mostly) full range towers. So I ended up having to get out the old Radio Shack meter and hand tweaking the results a lot. Audyssey Silver isn't their top product, but it's light years away from what I had to deal with a decade ago. After doing a series of sound checks in several spots in the room including biasing for the "sweet spot" position, Audyssey came back with parameters that easily mirrored my setup. But how did it sound?
Well there's good news and bad news on this front. Audyssey Silver indeed does a much better job in figuring out how my room should sound given the reflections it's going to see in a room like mine. Dialogue driven films were clear and understandable. Surround performance was much better than I have experienced in the past, giving my towers some new raison d'être, But clearly the loss of power could not be ignored. I'm sure that in this class of receiver, this kind of 95 wpc sound is pretty good. But it's hard to compete with an outgoing product that has a beefier amp with a 40% higher price point. Good speakers live on great power, and when they aren't given it, they tend to close up.
But it's not that I'm disappointed; I knew this was going to be the compromise at this price. Everything else about this product is meeting or exceeding my expectations. Managing digital video to my ancient Mitsubishu television (one of the first with DVI & HDCP copy protection) works very well with only occasional mis-syncing between sources (not a problem on modern sets). And a decade ago if you wanted good scaling, you had to invest heavily in an expensive add-on product. Now everyone and their sister makes good scalers that have made their way down to the cheapest of products. Still, you recognize a good scaler in a product like this from what it can do and what it is future-proofed to do (like 4K). The only thing I miss is the ability to de-interlace 1080p video into 1080i for my TV. This is only really a problem for media streamers like the Apple TV, which are 1080p only. My Apple TV is the older 2nd generation model that only does 720p anyway, which the Denon X-2000 can scale and de-interlace to 1080i. That solves an old problem for me since this TV cannot accept 720p signals meaning the Apple TV had to fall back to 480p (yuck!).
One more feature I've been using more and more is networked audio. Although it would be really nice if this receiver could play video from a DLNA networked server, the ability to do audio from either DLNA or Airplay is a welcome addition. Even better, I can use the receiver to pass a video source of my choosing to the TV while listening to a network broadcast. Why is this important? For sports fans, sometimes you want to watch the video from the network television broadcast (for example, my Tivo) but still listen to your local radio broadcast of the same game (streamed from the Internet). This works well, except that it's not the easiest to setup or turn off when you are done (this confused my wife to no end). The Denon iOS app is a nice addition and works well if you cannot find your remote, but is not a solution for a full-featured universal remote.
Overall the Denon X-2000 is a solid choice in a mid-range than crowded with capable entries from Sony, Yamaha, Onkyo and Harman-Kardon. If you can live with 5 speakers and a shorter warranty, the X-1000 makes more sense for even the more budget conscious. But if you want more power and Zone flexibility, you may want to save a little more coin for the X-3000 or X-4000.