Say Hello to Denon’s Powerhouse AV receiver, the AVR-X6500H
A state-of-the-art AV receiver allows you to enjoy TV, games, movies and music, completely immersing you in the experience. The Denon AVR-X6500H has everything it takes to put you right in the action of your favorite movies, seat you inside a concert hall, or surround you with sound effects as you play your favorite game—all while handling various audio and video switching duties, room correction, and streaming. That’s a tall order for a single box that supposed to be consumer friendly, especially when it’s stuffed with 11 powerful amplifiers. Yet that’s what it takes to give the Denon AVR-X6500H the capability to “max out” an IMAX Enhanced system, which calls for a 7.2.4 speaker system as an optimal configuration. This AVR takes you there.
Support for DTS:X, Dolby Atmos and Auro-3 makes the AVR-X6500H a top choice to power a home theater. It’s ready to tackle the toughest AV challenges; with it, you can do justice to Dolby Vision & Atmos content as well as IMAX Enhanced movies that are mixed with dynamic, full-range sound. Gamers experience incredible levels of immersion, especially when it comes to 3D immersive sound. Meanwhile, audiophiles will relish the pristine fidelity it delivers thanks to powerful onboard amplification that’s capable of delivering 150 watts into an 8-ohm load (with 2 channels driven).
Thanks to premium features like Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction, as well as high-quality DACs on all channels, the AVR-X6500H delivers clean, transparent sound that’s adapted to your listening environment. And as you’d expect in 2019, there’s “smart” capability built-in, with support for Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri.
Setup and Use
The top floor of my Philly rowhouse is dedicated to projection-based home theater while the basement has a surround system based around a TV. I opted to use the AVR-X6500H in the home theater since I already have a 7.2.4 speaker system (from KLH) and a Sony VPL-VW295ES projector. This configuration “maxes out” the AVR-X6500H and allows it to take full advantage of IMAX Enhanced sound and do justice to 3D immersive sound formats like DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. The screen is Seymour-Screen Excellence 110” Ambient-Visionaire Black, a 0.9 gain 16:9 screen with wide viewing angles and ambient light-rejecting properties.
The KLH speakers in the system include the company’s Kendall towers, Story center channel, Beacon surrounds, Broadway elevation speakers handle height and bass comes from a collection of six subs that enable this rig to cover 20 Hz to 20 kHz with ease. Getting great sound is as simple as following Denon’s handy on-screen setup guide, and then dialing in an optimal response curve using the Audyssey MultEQ Editor app. I’ve grown to appreciate the ease and effectiveness of this approach to room correction.
Sources for this theater include a Sony UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and Apple TV 4K, a Chromecast Ultra, a Zotac ZBOX Magnus EC52070D 4K home entertainment PC, an Xbox One X, and a NAD turntable. It’s just about everything needed to enjoy a wide variety of content and entertainment experiences. Notably, even with all these components connected, the AVR-X6500H still has plenty of additional inputs. Moreover, I had no issues with 4K and HDR and HDMI pass-through. That includes connecting the PC directly to the AVR.
This high-performance AVR comes equipped with three HDMI outputs: Monitor 1, Monitor 2 and Zone 2. This permits the use of two displays in one room (for example, a TV plus a projector) while still being able to use a third display in another space, tapping into a different source.
With the primary HDMI out connection supporting eARC, you will enjoy high-quality 3D immersive sound when streaming from the apps built into a TV. The AVR-X6500H also accepts old-school composite and component video connections—with multiple inputs—and even converts analog video to HDMI—perfect if you have a Laserdisc or VHS collection containing movies that have not been released in other formats. You can connect just about anything to the AVR-X6500H, from legacy gear to the latest digital sources, and it’ll translate it into a thrilling entertainment experience
Denon makes setup super easy with its on-screen guide. If you follow the prompts, connecting components is a breeze and the AVR will alert you if you made any mistakes. The on-screen guide is a lot friendlier than any printed manual. Moreover, even for a complex system, the entire set up process takes an hour or less—it all depends on the number of speakers in the system.
If you have a power-hungry speaker system, this Denon AVR-X6500H sports preamp outputs for all 11 channels (single-ended RCA connections). While the internal amplification should be sufficient for most applications, it’s nice to have the option to add external amps when circumstances dictate. In my home, the AVR-X6500H provides all the power I need and there is clearly plenty of headroom on top of that.
Upon completion of the initial speaker setup, I ran Audyssey calibration and used the MultEQ Editor app to make some tweaks to taste (for example, I typically turn off midrange compensation). The speaker/room measurements agreed with the specifications of the speakers and subs with the rig achieving the 20 Hz to 20 kHz specification recommended for IMAX Enhanced.
Like other Denon AVRs I’ve used, you can run setup and leave it alone and it’ll perform spectacularly. And if you want to take things further, you can fire up Denon’s dedicated app to control it and dig into a very deep networked feature set. Alternatively, if you prefer to use a remote control, the comprehensive backlit unit Denon provides gets the job done. It offers one-push access to the inputs, playback controls, menu navigation and a number pad. Plus, if you lost your phone and remote, if you flip down the front panel of the AVR itself, you’ll find controls for adjusting the menus there.
The takeaway is this Denon is adaptable; it provides a plethora of setup options, video inputs and outputs, and advanced sound processing capabilities.
The upstairs home theater where I tested this rig is my preferred space for immersive home entertainment. While sometimes I’ll use the space to listen to upmixed music, most of the action involves either home theater gaming, sports on the big screen, or checking out the latest Hollywood release in HD or UHD. Every now and then I also stream a TV show in 4K. With its 7.2.4 channels, audio from the AVR-X6500H plays a huge role in bringing home that sense you are in the movie/game/show, regardless of what you are watching or listening to.
I love big, loud movies, which provide some of the best material for testing the Denon AVR-X6500H. These included recent releases like Aquaman, Bumblebee, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spider-Man into the Spider Verse, and Bohemian Rhapsody. The AVR-X6500H extracted excellent sound from these titles. The soundfield enveloped seamlessly, providing the level of immersion needed to trigger suspension of disbelief. I just got sucked into the joys of watching movies on a top-of-the-line, fully calibrated home theater system—it only takes seconds to “fall into” a movie when you only intended to check out a single scene!
Even older films with more basic 5.1 mixes can benefit from a good upmixer. I tried out both DTS Neural:X and Dolby Surround with Buckaroo Banzai and it revealed an expanded soundfield that took advantage of the height and rear-surrounds in the system. Neural:X provided the best upmix effect. The sense of immersion a lot more pronounced than simply using 5.1 playback.
Similarly, my all-time favorite sci-fi action film, Aliens, benefitted a great deal from upmixing to 7.2.4. Neural:X made it sound like Aliens was mixed in 3D immersive sound; I bought my first surround system (about 25 years ago) in order to experience the surround mix of Aliens and found Neural:X upmixing provided an impressive improvement by accurately rendering the ambience of the different interior spaces and exterior scenes in the film. Other impressive results with 5.1 upmixing included Apocalypse Now, Die Hard and The Thing.
When auditioning intense action scenes, this AVR drove the KLH speakers to very high output levels, not once showing any sign of distortion or clipping. While I am not equipped to bench-test AVRs, anecdotally I think as long as you use bass management you will not run out of power. And as noted, if an application demands it, adding amps is always an option.
The AVR-X6500H serves up a buffet of complete, utterly satisfying AV entertainment experiences. The 7.2.4 capability enveloped me completely. With Audyssey, it easily tamed the room gain and provided a smooth bass response for the subs. There’s no issue getting to “reference level” in a room the size of my theater (11.5’ W x 18’ D x 9’ H = 1863 cubic feet). Of course, speaker sensitivity plays a role in how loud you can get. Point is, the 11 individual amps within the AVR-X6500H are very capable on their own.
Denon’s AVR-X6500H is one of the first AV receivers to support IMAX Enhanced. It is also notable because it hits the sweet spot between the AVR-X4500H, which is more affordable but limits you to 5.2.4, and the AVR-X8500H—reviewed here—that boasts 13 channels. The thing is, you only need 11 channels to get the full effect of IMAX Enhanced (7.2.4), making this AVR cost-effective choice for achieving that level of performance.
Currently there are two releases in the format, both IMAX documentaries: A Beautiful Planet and Journey to the South Pacific. Hollywood titles are on the way, which is what I’m excited to see and especially to hear, but for now I can report that A Beautiful Planet gave me goosebumps when I experienced it in my home theater. Having said that, I absolutely can’t wait to start watching Hollywood titles in this format, both for the visual payoff but also for the IMAX Enhanced sound. Also, buyers of select Sony IMAX Enhanced TVs get a free IMAX Enhanced title with their purchase.
The cool thing about IMAX Enhanced is that the sound mix aims to bring home the IMAX theatrical experience. Once you press play, the AVR automatically applies optimized settings for the format. A specialized variant of the DTS:X codec is used to deliver full range sound with uncompressed dynamics; exciting news indeed for home theater buffs who are frustrated with the trend toward nearfield mixes and high-pass filtered bass found on many releases, even blockbuster action movie titles.
With this system used in this review, you can experience the full impact of the sound mix; I can’t wait to compare the standard UHD release of Venom (which I have already) to the IMAX Enhanced version (that’s coming soon).
As you are likely aware, gaming is huge. Tentpole releases earn megabucks, allowing for high production values. Some games (mostly on the Xbox One platform but also PC) offer 3D immersive sound in Dolby Atmos an most recently, DTS:X. Even without the 3D immersive mix, top titles have multichannel surround sound with sophisticated effects. A great system will offer precise location cues and a sense of ambient space (big rooms sound big, small rooms sound small, etc.). This aural mélange is often accompanied by engaging soundtrack music.
I concede, is not typical for gamers to invest in 11-channel AVRs, but the Denon AVR-X6500H is capable of elevating the entire experience to a whole new level. The cool thing about game audio is it’s relative to your viewpoint so it rotates along with your character’s point of view. This effect is highly desirable to add believability to a gaming scenario and requires a system that is well calibrated to pull off. You want all the speakers to be matched in terms of timbre and levels, allowing for smooth transitions from speaker to speaker. Done right, it creates the illusion of putting you right in the middle of the action, with holographic sound.
When it comes to Atmos games, I have three titles to choose from: Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Super Lucky’s Tale and Gears of War 4. I don’t play these games regularly, but upon sampling them with my Xbox One X, I found they had that enveloping effect going on, providing a sense of being “there” in the game. The Denon AVR-X6500H effortlessly puts you in the game through sound.
With modern AVRs, you can upmix music and extract ambience; played through height channels plus surrounds, it can sound like you are in the audience.
For music upmixing, this AVR offers Dolby Surround and Auro-Matic, which are not “Concert Hall Effect” gimmicks. They provide the ambience extraction that emulates the spatial characteristics typically found in recordings. If you’re listening to a jazz record through a good upmixer, the band will sound like it’s on the stage, but you’ll sense room reverb as an ambient effect, plus sounds from the audience will come from the sides or behind you. Each upmixer offers adjustable parameters; which one you use is a matter of personal taste. But as a rule, and especially with ambient and electronic music, I found them to be a rewarding alternative to stereo.
Of course, you don’t have to upmix music to enjoy it on the Denon AVR-X6500H. It’s able to serve double-duty as a powerhouse stereo receiver. If you dedicate the power supply to driving a pair of good speakers to high output levels all on its own, it’ll shock you with its precision but also its eloquence.
The best part of using an advanced AVR instead of “audiophile” gear is you get proper bass management and the ability to tailor the room correction to taste included in the package. Running the AVR-X6500H in 2.0 or 2.1 mode demonstrate it to be as capable a music-making device as I’ve heard at high-end shows. The KLH Kendall towers offer exceptional bass extension (output is essentially flat down to 25 Hz in my living room, post-EQ, like the specs say). This AVR can push the towers to their physical limits running as a 2.0 system, with subwoofer-like bass. You can even use the MultEQ Editor app to limit the frequency range of the room correction to only the range where room effect dominates.
Denon AVRs are a top choice to run many of the home theaters here in the AVS Forum. There’s good reason for it; they are powerful yet intuitive, with an easy setup that offers many configuration options. They deliver state-of-the-art features that deliver great bang-for-the-buck, even in the premium models.
The feature set of the AVR-X6500H is incredibly deep, indeed it’s likely beyond the absolute needs of most home theater enthusiasts. Even if you are a home theater fiend, the AVR-X6500H is likely to be all the AVR you need—it delivers 7.2.4 3D immersive sound with a 140-watt power spec. With this much power and capability on tap, the AVR-X6500H is a Top Choice among AVRs for 2019.
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