12 Denon AVC8500 aHow many channels can be squeezed into just one amplifier? With Dolby Atmos now the home theatre system de jour it’s the more the merrier. Atmos adds overhead speakers as well as surround, centre and subs, and they all need their own channel.

The best Atmos system I’ve heard was a Steinway Lyngdorf in Singapore, with a centre speaker, six surround speakers, two subwoofers and two ceiling speakers or, in Atmos lingo, a 7.2.2. The hardware cost was $135,000 including four separate power amplifiers and single pre-amp driving the nine channels and two subs.

Marantz is about to unveil an 11.2 power amplifier that could drive this whole system by itself, but Denon has snuck in first with a world first 13.2-channel integrated amplifier. The AVC-X8500H was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January and is now on the market.

12 Denon AVC8500 d“We’ve just connected our first one, air-freighted in for an internal sales meeting, in 7.2.6 configuration with Klipsch THX speakers. It sounds great,” local importer Paul Astbury said.

To answer your next question; $5999, so it ain’t cheap. But you can tell people it has been hand assembled in small batch numbers in Japan.

If you’re wondering about that 7.2.6, the seven means a centre channel ahead of you, speakers at front left and right, another pair at centre left and right and a third pair at left and right rear. The two refers to two subwoofers both with their own amplification, and the final six covers two rows of three speakers (front, centre and rear) in the ceiling. Or you can have nine speakers at ear level, along with two subs and four speakers in the ceiling, for a 9.2.4. Or the 13 outputs can be split into three zones around the house, although the 8500H is compatible with Denon’s multi-room Heos system.

Lifting the lid reveals seven separate channel power boards on the left, six on the right, all with custom-made high-current transistors. Generous heatsinks separate them from the massive power supply at centre.

Looking in there is daunting enough but for a truly scary experience consider the back panel of this 23-kilogram monster. There are 15 right and left speaker connections, 10 HDMI plugs, a couple of dozen RCA connectors, a couple of opticals, a USB and an RS-232C serial port among others. There’s an additional HDMI and USB on the front panel as well as a headphone plug and an input for the Audyssey microphone that tailors the system to the shape and acoustics of the room. Connection may thus be a job you’d prefer to leave to your installer although Astbury says it’s ‘incredibly easy’.

12 Denon AVC8500 bDenon claims power of 150 watts per channel with two channels driven at eight ohms, 20 to 20,000 Hertz with total harmonic distortion at 0.05 per cent. What that equates to when all channels are being used, well goodness knows, but it will certainly be enough to annoy the neighbours.

It handles 4K resolution and has video upscaling to 4K. 8K pass-through capability will be added when the software becomes available late this year or early next. It will be a charged upgrade and pricing is not available yet, but think around $400.
The 8500H is compatible with Amazon Alexa (you’ll need to buy an Alexa unit) and Apple’s AirPlay. It’s can also be integrated with wifi and there’s Bluetooth. It can handle high resolution audio files in DSD 2.8 and 5.6 MHz, FLAC, ALAC and WAV files and there’s a pure direct mode for music. There’s even a phono input.

Published March 2018


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