What is the Denon AVR-X3600?
The new AVR-X3600H is a mid-range AV Receiver offering nine channels of built-in amplification and 11.2-channels of processing and speaker binding posts along with 11.2 pre-outs. There’s also support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as well as Audyssey MultEQ XT32 Auto EQ support. Other features include eARC, AirPlay2, IMAX Enhanced, and Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant voice control, along with Denon’s HEOS multiroom system. There is also a new Dolby Atmos height virtualizer which adds in virtual speakers in the height channels. There are also more advanced multi-zone features available for those who want to distribute amplified sources.
There is also a considerable step up from the outgoing AVR-X3500 with a new extruded aluminium heatsink and power transformer similar to the AVR-X4500, it also jumps from seven channels of amplification on the X3500 to nine channels on this new X3600H model. With the same construction, power supply, heatsink and two extra channels of amplification as the X4500, Denon also boasts that these changes will significantly improve the audio performance.
You get all this and more for an SRP of just £999 at the time of this review in November 2019, so what’s the catch? Let’s see if there is one.
Design, Connections and Control
The Denon X3600 is a very traditional looking AV Receiver with a design that hasn’t changed very much in the last few decades. We have the front plate which has a faint brushed metal effect and large display in the centre and positioned in the top half, with a smooth slightly recessed metal plate area that mirrors the display below. On higher-end models, there is a flap which covers over more controls and inputs, but there is no flap on the X3600H.
The display is large and easy to read with plenty of information on show and you can also dim the brightness or switch it off entirely. Directly under the display are buttons for controlling the tuner, zones and quick source selection. We also get headphone and set up jacks on the bottom left of this plate with an HDMI and USB input on the right side.
There is an input dial and power button on the left side of the receiver and a large volume knob to the right and the X3600 sits on large isolation feet. It’s a classic design that still looks sleek, but perhaps also a little dated.
Around the back, we have the inputs, connections and speaker binding posts. Like all Denon AVRs, these are laid out in logical blocks of related connections with colour coded speakers binding posts and a set of stickers to attach to your speaker cables. This then makes connecting the cables easy to follow. All seven HDMI ports are positioned to the top of the backplate (the eighth is on the front panel), with three HDMI outputs supporting eARC/ARC via the central output slot. All the HDMI ports support HDCP 2.3 copy protection and are HDMI 2.0b full bandwidth 4K 4:4:4 60p with support for HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Dolby Vision HDR systems. We also have three composite and two component inputs rounding off the top video section.
We also have two optical and two coaxial digital audio inputs, five analogue RCA audio and one Phono stage inputs. There are also 12v trigger, RS232C and IR in and out control ports and AM/FM antenna and Ethernet connections.
Perhaps the most important outputs on the rear are the 11.2 pre-outs allowing you to either add an extra 2 channel amplifier for a full 7.2.4 set up or to actually add separate amplification to all channels and in both cases take advantage of the 11.2 processing onboard.
Finally, on the rear, we have the speaker binding posts which are laid out along the bottom of the backplate and colour coded. These take spade, bare wire and banana plug connections.
It’s a classic design that still looks sleek, but perhaps also a little dated
The remote control supplied with the Denon AVR-X3600H is a long plastic affair with logically laid out buttons. Our only complaint is that this isn’t backlit in any way, which seems strange for a device designed to be used in a home cinema, but it also fits neatly in the hand and is easy to use.
The Denon AVR-X3600H is a featured-packed AV Receiver with nine channels of amplification (135W per Channel 6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7%, 2 ch or 105W per Channel 8 ohms, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 ch). It has full 11.2 processing onboard and pre-outs for 11.2 channels allowing the use of external amplification to achieve a 7.2.4 Atmos set up.
In terms of audio formats supported, it includes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive formats but doesn’t include Auro-3D found on the X4500 and higher models. Also included is DTS: VirtualX and a new Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology which adds in virtual speakers for the height channels for those who are unable to use ceiling-mounted speakers in their home. This is available on all surround formats from 2.1 up to 7.1 systems and introduces surround and height effects to suit your chosen set up. Added to all this is IMAX Enhanced certification and sound mode when playing suitable content through the X3600. This unlocks an additional layer of DTS:X decoding to add more bass and height channel effects.
MORE: What Are Immersive Audio Formats?
For audio quality, the X3600H includes AKM 32-bit D/A converters and features high-resolution audio decoding with multiple lossless file types. These include ALAC, FLAC and WAV at up to 24-bit/192-kHz. It’s also compatible with 2.8/5.6-MHz DSD files via USB or network.
In terms of Auto EQ, Audyssey MultEQ XT32 is included with the X3600 and this includes Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ, LFC and Sub EQ HT and if you want to take things even further, you can manually optimise the Audyssey system using the optional (£19.99) MultEQ Editor which is available on iOS and Android.
In terms of video connections and support, all the HDMI slots are HDCP 2.3 and HDMI 2.0b compatible with support for Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10 content at 4K 60p 4:4:4 but there is no current pass-thru for HDR10+ signals. Utilising eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), the Denon AVR-X3600H also supports the transmission of uncompressed immersive audio from TV apps to the AVR. The Denon also supports ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), which ensures a more responsive and immersive gaming experience when connected to TVs that also support ALLM. We also get full ISFccc support on the AVR with day and night options available.
As you would expect, the X3600 is ready to work with most voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri. These commands vary from switching sources and inputs to controlling the volume and skipping tracks. The built-in HEOS system also assists with streaming audio including Spotify Free and Premium, Deezer, Amazon Music, TuneIn, SoundCloud and Tidal. HEOS also allows you to add further wireless speakers in other rooms around the home and stream. Using the Multiroom and zone systems, you have a number of ways of watching or listening to different content in different rooms around the home and full details can be found on the product page as to just how flexible the system can be in this respect. If voice control is not your thing, the AVR-X3600 also supports custom control via third-party IP systems and devices like Control 4.
MORE: What is IMAX Enhanced?
While things like the design and materials may not change much over the years, there is no getting away from the fact that components, electronics, processors, power supplies and audio tuning have moved on leaps and bounds over the years, which makes the performance of this £999 AVR a real bargain.
Starting with two-channel music playback and I was suitably impressed with the performance from the X3600H. My set up is certainly more home theatre in nature and our reference MK MP300 LCR speakers, T300 surrounds and MK X12 subwoofers are not usually associated with high-quality stereo playback, but they are actually incredible neutral and musical. The Denon X3600H also didn’t do too badly driving these 4 Ohm loads at various volume levels.
Peter Gabriel’s New Blood album from 2011 has been on high rotation recently and the Denon managed to get across the weight and scale of the orchestrated tracks with ease. Red Rain is a favourite track with Gabriel's gravelly vocal locked firmly in the centre of the soundstage and the orchestra filling out the rest of the room. Bass is tight and the strings have a nice attack, without feeling harsh or sibilant. I did have to check that I was indeed in stereo and not a surround mode as the X3600 was able to create a massive spread of sound around the listening position. Moving to some funky beats and the track Tribute To J.B. Family by The Last Minister is fast and forward with the grooves of James Brown mixed and sampled to great effect and the Denon was once again able to produce a wide and weighty soundstage where you can’t help but move your feet. Everything we played on the Denon X3600 was brought to life and sounded as we expected it to. It has enough power to drive to pretty loud volumes that are just on the comfortable side, without running out of steam and remaining musical. Stereo imaging is really superb and vocals remain natural while covering all the scales and frequencies without ever sounding nasal or sibilant.
What really impresses is the ability of the processing with effects placement and steering. It is lightning fast and precise with excellent clarity in the surrounds
Moving to multi-channel sources and, first of all, we finally started on Season Three of Stranger Things via an Apple TV. The 5.1 soundtrack was reproduced with excellent dynamics and it never sounded like it was compressed in any way, even though it is a DD+ track. Dialogue is strong and intelligible and the sound stage is expansive and wide with excellent steering of effects. Moving to Netflix and the Atmos from Lost in Space and, again, the performance from the Denon X3600H is excellent with that added height making the experience even more immersive. Again, we just couldn’t fault the performance and even when pushed quite loud (but not reference) we had no issues with the Denon driving our MK system.
Moving to 4K Blu-ray and Dolby Atmos and at sensible volume levels, the X3600 continued to impress. The musical numbers of Rocketman had real heft and authority with stunning effects placement around the sound stage, be that voices shouting, or audiences clapping, to piano stabs in Bennie and the Jets, it is capable of building expansive and immersive sound fields with superb dynamics. Only when you really start to push things does it start to struggle with headroom and the lack of amplification starts to become an issue. But we really are talking about reference volume levels that no normal enthusiast is going to sit through comfortably. As it reaches those volumes, you can hear compression of the amplifiers and a brittleness creep in but, for the vast majority of users, this is just not going to be an issue at all. Plus, the great advantage here with the X3600 is the ability to add more amplification and extend the performance parameters of that 11.2 processing.
What really impresses is the ability of the processing with effects placement and steering. It is lightning fast and precise with excellent clarity in the surrounds. The reproduction of vocals either in dialogue-heavy scenes or singing is superb along with the effortless speed of transients changes in notes or from quiet to loud scenes. The Denon really impresses with its ability to create the scene you are watching and making it totally believable.
I use a Denon X8500 as my reference AVR in this system normally, and even though the X3600 is half the size, half the power and weight, as well as just £999, it doesn’t fail to impress at all. Yes, it could be more powerful for reference level headroom, but that is the only negative I can genuinely point to in terms of performance where the X8500 is easily better, and you’re paying for it. With effects placement and audio processing, along with the tuning of the sound, the X3600 certainly punches above its weight.
I am stunned at the quality on offer from the Denon AVR-X3600H at the asking price
- Excellent sound quality
- DTS:X and Dolby Atmos performance
- Excellent musicality
- 11.2 processing and pre-outs
- Very good build quality
- Ease of use
- Superb value for money
- Could use a little more power when all channels driven
- Remote has no backlight
Denon AVR-X3600H 9.2 Channel AV Receiver Review
The Denon AVR-X3600 boasts that it is more than a simple replacement for the outgoing X3500 and as such it really does have new components and power to add to the mix. It now pushes the higher X4500 model on those terms with a performance that is really quite special at the price point.
It is well built and has a whole host of useful features for today’s Home Cinema enthusiast including full 4K 60p 4:4:4 video support with Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10 pass-thru along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio support. It drops Auro-3D support but we don’t think the vast majority of potential owners will have an issue with that.
The X3600H also adds to further channels of amplification going from the X3500’s seven channels to nine channels, plus there is 11.2 decoding and processing with 11.2 pre-outs meaning you can add a separate two-channel amplifier and get 7.2.4 Atmos. There is also the new virtual height channels which really does work well in creating a believable height to sound when there are no actual speakers on the ceiling.
What really impresses is the sound quality and performance on offer at such a reasonable price point. There is enough power on tap to create large and expansive sound stages with superb dynamics and transients, as long as you are sensible with the volume. Once you really start to push towards true reference levels, the headroom isn’t there but we don’t know many enthusiasts who would be pushing it that hard all the time. And of course, you have 11.2 pre-outs to add more amplification if required. The 11.2 processing is incredibly good with excellent effects placement and steering. It really is an astonishingly good performer for the price tag and as such, we feel it deserves a Best Buy badge.
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