Denon AVR-X5200W Atmos-Enabled AV Receiver

Audio Performance
Video Performance
PRICE $1,999

Dolby Atmos surround
4K-ready/upscaling with HDMI 2.0
Nine channels of flexible power
Top-tier Audyssey room/speaker correction
No HDCP 2.2 for future UHD content
Fairly basic supplied remote
Some mode-selection options a bit cumbersome

Outstanding audio capabilities and thoughtful ergonomics underpin our first Dolby Atmos-capable AV receiver.

It’s been several years since I’ve had the opportunity to “do” a big Denon AV receiver. So when a sample arrived of the company’s behemoth AVR-X5200W, one of the very first receivers ready to decode and distribute Dolby Atmos in a home theater setting, I was ready to begin. Atmos is the San Franciscans’ latest, “object-based,” scalable-multichannel surround format.

But that aside, the AVR-X5200W is still an impressive receiver, boasting nine channels said to produce 140 watts each (full-bandwidth-rated, two channels driven), along with extensive wireless abilities (including AirPlay, Bluetooth, and app-streamed Spotify), the latest-gen Audyssey auto-setup software (including dual-subwoofer EQ/coordination potential), an HD Radio tuner, and the list goes on (and on). You’ll have to consult Denon’s Website for the full monty. HDMI v2.0 4K-ready connections and upscaling facilities are also on board, though, like many other 2014 receivers, the AVR-X5200W lacks the HDCP 2.2 digital rights management (DRM) decoding that will be required to pass through some future 4K sources and content going forward; a consideration if you plan on upgrading to a UHD display during the life of the receiver and expect to use this as your video switcher.

Aesthetically, the AVR-X5200W looks a lot like nearly every other AV receiver of the last 10 years: black, two big knobs, blue fluorescent display, flip-down door concealing switches and jacks. Its metalwork is carefully fashioned and finished, and the controls all feel first-rate. The design may look familiar, but this new Denon feels like quality.

Unboxing and connecting the receiver went perfectly smoothly. With nine channels of amplification, there are a lot of connections, including no fewer than 11 pair of heavy, multi-way speaker-out jacks along the bottom edge—where I firmly believe they belong, keeping bulky speaker wires out of the way of every other connector and its label. (Thank you, Denon.) HDMI jacks are just as numerous, also numbering 11: eight inputs (one on the front panel) and three outputs, one dedicated to a remote Zone 2. Legacy video connections are confined to a pair of assignable component-video inputs and one output.

I connected my usual suite of compact three-way monitors, center channel, and dipole surrounds, initially setting everything to Large in order to maximally stress the Denon’s many amplifiers. My speakers are all considered difficult loads, because they have moderately low sensitivity and are somewhat reactive, so this is a pretty fair test.

1114denonrec.thingy.jpgI also connected a quartet of Dolby Atmos-supporting “elevation” speakers; the new A60 Elevation Module from Definitive Technology. These single-driver, breadloaf- sized, up-firing cabinets are sold individually but are really designed to mate with Def Tech’s BP-8060 towers, to which they attach in place of the towers’ detachable top panels. Since I was interested in exercising the AVR-X5200W’s Atmos abilities with my familiar reference speakers, I used temporary rubber feet to keep the A60s positioned atop my stand-mounted fronts and alongside my shelf-mounted surrounds.

The heart of the AVR-X5200W’s setup process is its self-guiding Setup Assistant, which walks you through all of the pertinent variables of speaker, network, and input parameters and assignments. The onscreen color graphics are quite extensive; it’s all pretty slick.

At the core of this process is Audyssey Platinum speaker/room correction, which collects speaker/room acoustical data for its top-tier MultEQ XT32 algorithm from as many as eight different mic positions—all of which I dutifully sat through, a chore of about 20 minutes’ duration. The onscreen instructions were clear and direct, and the simple but informa- tive graphics really helped keep track of the routine. Since any room-correction technology is by nature entirely room/speaker-dependent, I did the greater part of my auditioning with Audyssey’s equalization (and Dynamic Volume and Dynamic EQ) disabled. That said, the comparisons I did make revealed the familiar-in-my-room MultEQ virtues of slightly more transparent or “focused” midrange and tighter, better pitch-defined upper bass.

Music and Movies
My first order of business, as always, was to evaluate the big Denon’s abilities as a plain ol’ two-channel amplifier, driving my front pair in stereo, Direct mode—that is, full-range, no subwoofer. No problems there: The AVR-X5200W sounded warm yet defined on superbly recorded two-channel material like “Cry Me a River” from the inimitable Bonnie Bramlett (an 88.2-kilohertz HDtracks download). At convincing concert levels (loud!), everything coexisted in unfettered musicality: the rich tonality of acoustic piano, the very strong bass guitar, the full detail of brushed-cymbal nuance, and the ultra-defined, hollow, shell-y thwack of the brush-hit snare, not to mention Bramlett’s amazingly rich, world-weary contralto, miked and recorded to perfection.

While I’m thinking about it, let me make a short detour here to say that the Denon’s handling of DLNA-networked music, via my Mac’s Twonky Media–driven server, was exemplary. Its navigation of the server menu structure and its cueing, play/pausing, and skipping of tracks were reliable and notably quicker than that of most other receiver-based DLNA clients I’ve used. (And as more and more of our listening comes from streamed files, high-res or otherwise, these ergonomics become increasingly significant.)


Atmos, Here: Sound & Vision's First Foray Into Object-Based Sound

Interview: Greg P. Russell, sound rerecording mixer of Transformers: Age of Extinction

(201) 762-6665

Rob Sabin's picture
Dan frequently mentions his reference speakers in other reviews,and he may have discussed them in the "Atmos Here" article that accompanies this review. These are a no longer available set of Energy Veritas stand monitors that offer an exceptionally even tonal balance with (I seem to recall) just a tiny bit of high end sparkle that helps bring out ambient detail. Coincidenally, (or not so coincidentally) Tom Norton's reference speakers are Energy Veritas towers of the same generation.
dlaloum's picture

My major question is whether this AVR (like most) downsamples audio to 48kHz when applying room EQ?
I keep hoping that manufacturers will put the necessary horsepower in these to allow Room EQ with Hires Audio formats (without downsampling!)

ptcolombo's picture

I have the little brother to this, the AVR-X2100W. One of the specific reasons I got it was it was one of the few AV's out there that handles Sirius/XM. To my disappointment, it doesn't seem to be able to play Sirius for more than about 30-60 minutes without freezing up (got it to go 2 hrs once). Did you find this in your testing, Dan? Denon has been useless in addressing this and I check for firmware weekly. I don't seem to be alone in this problem looking at some of the forums. Perhaps you can affect some change using your journalistic platform if you saw the same.

jdesan's picture

Well it appears " Atmos" is the next Format to be shoved down our throats. I love great sound and have a Moderate HT setup. But my hearing has suffered and it's all I can do to get a pleasing sound with a 7.1 setup. I have hearing aids ( read expensive ) and they are absolutely horrible for Music. ( read no fidelity ) I have no interest in Atmos. Just another gimmick to keep the Dollars rolling in. As far as the Review, I think way too much is written about how each Album or song sounds. Nobody is going to have that same setup. Stick with the Specs.

twiseman2's picture

I'm seriously looking at upgrading my current AVR-4306 series Receiver with this model. One of the primary drivers is that my receiver will not pass through my Media Server HDMI and Blue-Ray 3D signals, making switching inputs a real nuisance, as my projector only has an input selector that cannot be hard coded (just changes from 1, to 2 to 3 and back to 1). Has anyone tested this receiver with a PC Media Server and Blue-Ray 3D player? My guess is that it will work with the latter, but not sure about the former. I would think my 4306 would have worked with a PC, too! Appreciate any information on this.