Denon AVR-X1200W A/V Receiver Review

PRICE $599

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X on board
HDMI 2.0a with HDR video
Audyssey MultEQ XT room correction
Like other seven-channel AVRs, just two Atmos height channels
Remote volume keys undernourished

Triple wireless connectivity and excellent room correction may lure more listeners to this top-performing budget receiver than its limited 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos and DTS:X capabilities will.

The Denon AVR-X1200W is among a growing trickle of receivers that name-check DTS:X surround sound. By the time you read this, it might even be operational.

For every one of Dolby’s home surround standards, there has been a DTS equivalent. The competition began in the mid 1990s, when Dolby Digital and DTS first went head to head on laserdisc, with DVD following soon after. Dolby then added back-surround channels for Dolby Digital EX; DTS responded with DTS-ES. Dolby upgraded to lossless encoding with Dolby TrueHD; DTS shot back with DTS-HD Master Audio. Object-oriented surround—which uses metadata to map objects in a dome-shaped soundfield—is no different. In response to Dolby Atmos, which has just begun infiltrating surround receivers, DTS offers DTS:X. This is a transitional time, and you’ll find some models supporting Atmos without supporting DTS’s answer. Others are “DTS:X ready,” but not yet functional as they await the release of new firmware.

The Denon AVR-X1200W falls into the latter category, with the software update enabling DTS:X due in late 2015. Neither the update nor the requisite compatible content was available when this review was being written. But the tiny color “DTS:X” sticker on both sides of the carton hinted at pleasures to come.

Atmos and X in 5.1.2
The AVR-X1200W ($599) is one of several new Denon receivers for 2015. The immediate step-up model is the AVR-X2200W ($799). It has a little more power, of course, along with two more HDMI inputs, one more output, and ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) certification, which allows advanced video calibration by a certified technician. Both receivers have seven amp channels and therefore support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X in its most limited 5.1.2 configuration, with two height speakers. For 5.1.4—with four height speakers—you’d need at least a nine-channel receiver.

The front panel of the AVR-X1200W offers the usual control layout, with one twist. In lieu of buttons that directly select listening modes or menus, Denon provides four Quick Select buttons that associate inputs with specific listening modes and volume settings. If you want to change listening modes within a certain input or do something else requiring menu navigation—well, don’t lose that remote. The remote is conventional; my thumb wouldn’t have minded if its skinny master volume buttons gained a little weight. The receiver’s graphic user interface is spartan, though it does add a neat color speaker diagram for Audyssey auto setup. A control app is available.

The back panel has five HDMI inputs and one output. (There’s also an HDMI input on the front.) This receiver is among the first to support HDMI 2.0a with all the trimmings, which include HDR (high dynamic range) video, HDCP 2.2 digital rights management for Ultra HD content, the full UHD frame rate of 60 hertz, 4:4:4 color, and 21:9 widescreen video passthrough. Conspicuously absent are UHD upsampling (available on the step-up model) and the MHL variant of HDMI for connecting a smartphone (available on neither model).

If you haven’t looked at the back panel of a $600 receiver lately, you might be surprised to note the sunset of the analog component video interface; Hollywood lobbied to have it killed because it supports high-definition video but doesn’t support anti-copy schemes. Let owners of early-generation HDTVs beware. Composite video has slimmed down to two ins and one out. While Denon does throw in an extra subwoofer output jack, there’s no multichannel input to connect a multichannel-analog-out signal source (such as a high-end Blu-ray player with premium DACs) and no analog multichannel output to feed an external multichannel amp. You pay more for those things now.

In the recent past, Denon would have been hailed as a conquering hero for fully integrating Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth wireless features. Now those things are taken for granted—and woe be to the manufacturer who demands a hundred bucks extra for an awkward adapter. Wi-Fi enables you to use AirPlay and DLNA devices without having to run Ethernet to the receiver. Denon adds its own HEOS Link IP control, which, in conjunction with a HEOS Link preamp module ($349), turns the receiver into a HEOS zone player while allowing the HEOS wireless multiroom app to boot up and control it. Streaming options include Pandora, SiriusXM Internet Radio, Spotify (which runs with the Spotify mobile app), and vTuner for Internet radio.

While most receiver manufacturers are now using home-baked (and sometimes half-baked) auto setup and room correction schemes, Denon takes the high road, ponying up licensing money for Audyssey room correction. The AVR-X1200W features the Audyssey Silver package, a notch higher than the Audyssey Bronze offered in last year’s similarly priced AVR-S900W. The difference includes a step up from MultEQ (with six measurement positions) to MultEQ XT (with eight measurement positions and greater filter resolution). So strong is Denon’s belief in proper room correction that they even provide a cardboard microphone stand, allowing you to get the mic at the right level without using a camera tripod or jury-rigging a pillow heap. Audyssey Silver also includes the excellent Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume modes to improve low-level listening and smooth out volume differences among sources.

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hifijohn's picture

If Mark had really, really done his homework he would know that the Denon 910 blows the 1200 away and costs less. The Denon 2200 did cost $200 more than the 910 with a few better features. Wake up Mark, Denon saw their screw up. 1200 now priced below 910 & 2200 now just $20 above 910. Get serious, do your job!!!

maclgallant's picture

i just picked up the newer 1400H,

quick question, IF i BI-AMP the front L/R channels

in 5.1 action sequences would my L/R be receiving 94.8w?

also how much power would the receiver be pushing when listening to music in Stereo?

thank you