Denon AVR-X4800H AV receiver review

Denon's new AV amp will help it consolidate its position in the mid-range market, says Steve Withers

Denon has successfully carved a niche for itself when it comes to AV amplifiers and receivers, from the entry-level AVR-X2800H to the all-singing, all-dancing AVC-A1H flagship. But it's the middle segment of this market where the brand has perhaps proved strongest and the AVC-X4800H auditioned here is the perfect example, being an AV amplifier that combines features, performance and affordability.

To demonstrate the value for money I'm talking about, let's quickly compare it to models above and below. Like the lower-tier AVC-X3800H (£899), the X4800H includes support for 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz passthrough, although the latter has seven HDMI 2.1 inputs, while the X3800H has six. Both also sport a long overdue upgrade to the user interface, a new DSP chipset, pre-amp modes that can be specified by channel, and greater configuration flexibility.

Both amplifiers can handle up to four independent subwoofers, and not only decode Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro-3D and IMAX Enhanced, but also add 360 Reality Audio and MPEG-H. They each have nine channels built-in, with improved components, and the ability to decode all these audio formats to 11.4-channel. Finally there's Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction, while for an additional fee there's the option to upgrade to the superior Dirac Live with Bass Control.

Big in Japan
Where the X4800H begins to deviate is in terms of a third zone, extra triggers, and composite and component video inputs. More importantly, its amplification employs a monolithic layout with a rated increase in power of 20W per channel. Denon's monolithic design uses an independent amp board for each channel to reduce crosstalk, and the X4800H is made at the brand's Shirakawa Works factory in Japan, just like the more expensive AVC-A1H (£5,999).

That model is Denon's flagship, and as a range-topper it sports the kind of weapons-grade build quality you'd expect, with a triple-layered chassis and symmetrical amplifier layout. The A1H also adds superior speaker terminals, five-channel bi-amping, and balanced XLR sub outputs along with an XLR two-channel input. Funnily enough, it drops the composite and component video ins – but let's be honest, that's no great loss these days.


The AVC-X4800H is a nine-channel amp but has 11 sets of speaker terminals – the surround back and height pairs are assignable

And, yes, the A1H has 15 built-in channels of amplification, with a claimed output of 150W apiece, and can decode up to 15.4 channels (meaning it's au fait with the expanded DTS:X Pro layout). But given that few people can accommodate a 9.4.6-channel system, the AVC-X4800H, with its 7.4.4 layout and £1,449 price tag, offers stonking value by comparison.

Nice to meet you
This amp also looks the part, with a thick aluminium front plate, brushed metal finish and a choice of black or silver colourways. The front fascia layout is fairly standard with volume and input dials either side of a large and informative display. Beneath this is a drop-down flap where you'll find basic controls, a 6.35mm headphone jack, a USB port and a 3.5mm connector for the setup microphone – but surprisingly no AV inputs.

Around the back are aerials for the amp's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, along with seven HDMI 2.1 inputs and three HDMI outputs. Two of the outputs cater to 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz, while one also supports eARC. The third output is for a second zone and is limited to HDMI 2.0. The X4800H supports every version of HDR, along with a plethora of other acronyms that includes VRR, ALLM and QFT. This all makes the amp a great choice for gamers as well as film fans.

Anyone who's peered down the back of an amplifier or receiver trying to connect sources and speakers will appreciate Denon's ergonomic design, with colour coding, sensibly laid out inputs, and a single line of speaker terminals. This practical approach to installation also applies to Denon's setup assistant, which remains intuitive but is now prettier thanks to a Full HD makeover. It's still basically the same interface, but the graphics and animations are a lot smoother.

The provided remote remains well designed, although it still lacks a backlight. There's no shortage of other controls, including those on the front panel, and a degree of voice interaction thanks to Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri via Apple's AirPlay 2. The smartphone/tablet remote app is excellent, and now adds easy access to a web interface for full control of all the menu settings.

Somewhat confusingly there's a second app for the HEOS multiroom platform, which is highly effective and provides a cohesive ecosystem for all supporting Denon and Marantz devices. The amp's music capabilities are also solid thanks to 32-bit DACs, new Griffin Lite XP 32-bit DSP chipset, and support for hi-res audio up to 192kHz/24-bit. The X4800H is also Roon tested, but not Roon Ready, which will mean something to those with a Roon subscription, but not others.

As you might have surmised, this amp's specification is impressive. Really, the only things missing that you might expect at the price are front AV inputs and an AM/FM or DAB tuner – which is why Denon markets the AVC-X4800H as an AV amplifier, not a receiver.

One sub? How about four...
The unit's setup process is slick, but also improved over previous Denon models in terms of installation flexibility. There are more speaker layouts on offer, plus the ability to assign preamps per channel and set crossovers for each speaker individually. The addition of four subwoofers is welcome, as are bass management features that include directional settings and custom curves for each sub. While four might sound like overkill, if you have the necessary space and funds it pays dividends in terms of the smoothness and impact on the bass response.

While Audyssey remains a simple-to-use and effective room correction system, it's beginning to feel a bit long in the tooth, and to get the most out of all these extra channels and subs you owe it to yourself to spring for the Dirac Live upgrade – although I'd like to see it included as standard.

Direct and powerful
I tested the AVC-X4800H in a number of configurations, including 5.4, 7.4.2, and even 7.4.4 with two extra channels. Regardless of speaker layout the amplifier didn't disappoint, with a delivery that's direct and powerful. Denon's claim of a 125W-per-channel output is based on two channels driven into 8ohms, but even with that caveat the X4800H sounds purposeful driving all nine.


Denon's nine 'monolithic' amp modules are mounted to an internal heatsink

The brand's amps are often described as 'muscular' when compared to the more 'musical' sound of stablemate Marantz, and while it's a bit of a cliché there's some truth behind this statement. The X4800H certainly feels spacious, creating a room-filling presence that involves the listener, but it also sounds great with music thanks to a lively, detailed and crisp presentation.

This is ably demonstrated by the new Dolby Atmos mix of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (Blu-ray), where the X4800H seamlessly orchestrates the immersive soundstage and brings the album so vividly to life it's like hearing it for the first time. The tightness of Nick Mason's drums and Roger Waters' bass, Richard Wright's melodious keyboards, and David Gilmour's cut-glass guitars are melded into a cohesive whole, while footsteps and clocks swirl around your head.

The balance offered by the AVC-X4800H is immediately evident, regardless of the multichannel format involved, but the visceral 5.1 of Dunkirk (4K disc) also reveals its ability to deliver exceptional LFE that's complex and often overwhelming. The scene where the transport ship is torpedoed and sinks involves aggressive sound design that creates scale by energising all five channels with the groaning hull, while the lower frequencies give the flooding water added weight.

The ability to bring out details across the frequency range is equally impressive, such as when the Stukas dive-bomb the beach. The shrieking sound of the planes is so sharp you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck rising, while the explosions hit with a perfectly timed percussive thump. It's an unnerving experience that's liable to give you PTSD.

When in Rome
Moving on to object-based audio and the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (4K BD) offers plenty of opportunities for the X4800H to display its mastery of immersive sonics. The car chase through the streets of Rome is a particularly good example, putting you inside the tiny Fiat 500 as it spins and careens across cobbled streets. The decoding places the spatial details of traffic and crunching metal precisely, and steers the effects seamlessly from speaker to speaker.

Driving all nine channels simultaneously can occasionally rob the X4800H of a smidge of headroom, although only when pushed hard, and it never loses composure. For a sensibly-sized room, the amplification is sufficient to give soundtracks size and scale.

The film's Venice party sequence sees the Denon amp layer in music and crowds while creating a sense of three-dimensional space that feels cavernous – yet within this cacophony the dialogue remains focused. In fact, no matter what's happening in the movie the X4800H takes it in its stride, whether its a sand storm in the desert, Tom Cruise riding a bike off a cliff, or a steam train crashing off a bridge. The presentation is detail-rich, enjoys exceptional soundstaging, and is complemented by bass that's controlled and powerful.

Overall, it's remarkable what this amplifier is capable of right out of the box, and there's room for expansion if you catch the immersive audio bug, and potential for a more detailed calibration via Dirac. The AVC-X4800H delivers a top-drawer performance for a mid-range model, and is sure to please the most demanding home cinema fan.

HCC Verdict: 5/5

Denon AVR-X4800H
Price: £1,449

We say: An AV amplifier that offers exceptional value for money, thanks to a comprehensive specification and excellent performance. What are you waiting for?


DOLBY ATMOS: Yes DTS:X: Yes IMAX ENHANCED: Yes MULTICHANNEL INPUT: No. MULTICHANNEL PRE-OUT: 11.4 MULTICHANNEL OUTPUT (CLAIMED): 9 x 125W (8ohm, 20Hz-20kHz, two-channel) MULTIROOM: Yes. Three zones, plus HEOS HDMI: Yes. Yes. 7 x inputs; 3 x outputs AV INPUTS: 4 x digital audio (2 x optical and 2 x coaxial); 5 x analogue stereo DIMENSIONS: 434(w) x 379(d) x 167(h)mm WEIGHT: 13.4kg

FEATURES: Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room EQ; Dirac Live upgrade option; Auro-3D; 8K video passthrough/upscaling; HDR10+ and Dolby Vision passthrough; 4K/120Hz, VRR, QFT and ALLM; Remote App; HEOS and AirPlay 2 streaming; 360 Reality Audio and MPEG-H immersive audio; 32-bit DACs; 32-bit DSP; up to four independent subwoofers; phono MM input; works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant; Roon tested; hi-res audio to 192kHz/24-bit; control system integration

Denon UK