I find Denon’s 2023 line-up a little bit confusing, especially with regards to which features they will support in terms of Dirac Live – more on that in a moment.
However, the most confusion is between the Denon X3800H and the Denon X4800H. This is because – at least on paper – they seem to be feature-matched.
Denon X3800H: $1699 at the time of writing. Check current price Here
Denon X4800H: $2499, at the time of writing. Check current price Here
Features in Common
In terms of features, the two units are near-identical, and this is because the processing chip – the Sharc Griffin Lite XP – is identical. So both support:
- 11.4 channels of output including 4 subwoofer outs – the 4th subwoofer out can be dedicated to bass shakers. I am personally using the BST-1s and the TT25s, which I wrote about previously. (Please note than only 9 channels are powered. You need an external amplifier for the last pair.)
- Advanced pre-amplifier mode where individual channels can be disconnected from the power amps to allow for a cleaner signal when using external amplification for only some of the channels. Of course, you can also disconnect all the channels using a pre-amp mode. If you do this, enable eco mode which will reduce power consumption and heat.
- Auro 3D, MPEG-H and 360 Spatial Audio join DTS:X and Dolby Atmos (DTS:X Pro is only needed for more than 11 channels of processing so it isn’t needed here.)
- IMAX Enhanced certification and sound mode (I am not a big fan – read about my opinion about it here)
- Dirac Live Upgradability
Also, both of these units will receive a March firmware update with some new features, some of which I’ll touch on below.
With the March firmware, Auro 3D can be used with Dolby Atmos speaker configuration options. Previously, this was not possible. Please see the below slide for more.
Dirac Live Upgradability
Dirac Live will be rolled out in stages. First, only room correction and then Dirac Live with Bass Control.
Please note that these units will NOT support Dirac Live Active Room Treatment (Dirac ART), as confirmed by Sound United. Even though they have not committed to a release yet, theoretically the A1H from the current line-up supports it. The X6800H may also support it but we don’t know yet until it is announced.
Update 13 May 2023: there has been a lot of discussion that all the current line-up from the Denon X3800H up to the A1H uses the same 1Ghz DSP chip, which in theory means all these units should support Dirac ART, if it is ported to the DSP. The issue is that Sound United representatives have given some throw-away comments saying that they think only the flagship units might get support for it. This could mean that either…
- There is some technical limitation we don’t know about
- There is a sales strategy they are not yet sharing
- They don’t actually have full information about this and they are simply guessing
After having reviewed this a bit more closely, I am starting to think that it is either option 2 or option 3. The reason option 3 is possible is that there were other things they got wrong with regards to Dirac Live, so it is more than likely, they are not fully informed about what’s coming the line.
It is also entirely possible that things will change in flight, meaning Sound United may still decide to only release Dirac ART for the next line of receivers as a way to encourage new sales. Dirac may also be looking at sale numbers for Dirac Live before they commit to porting Dirac ART to this new DSP. As you can see, a lot of things are still unknown, and all of it speculation even within Sound United / Masimo, until decisions are made one way or another and those decisions are communicated officially. So don’t base your purchasing decision on Dirac ART, as the situation is likely still fluid.
What Are the Differences?
Ok, so what makes the Denon X4800H special?
The big headline is that it is made in Japan and has better quality-control than the X3800H. But there’s both processing and hardware differences.
The X4800H gains 32-bit processing (called AL32 and HD32 by Denon) which is supposed to provide more precision when processing the audio signal. Of course, Audyssey is limited to 24bit processing so while the Denon will be able to provide better input into Audyssey processing, and then provide more precision as it does the rest of the processing, the difference might not be that earth-shattering once you’ve put the signal through Audyssey. If you are not using Audyssey, then it could.
However, where I think there could be audible differences between the X3800H and the X4800H is with the jitter reduction circuitry, which is in the higher-end unit. Unfortunately, digital signals through an HDMI port aren’t immune to jitter and depending on the source device, it could provide a benefit by re-clocking the incoming signal. I do find this makes a difference in my own setup as I have a Lumagen that does this re-clocking and it makes a subtle but appreciable difference in terms of clarity and precision of the sound.
So I think the BIGGEST difference between these two units are the amplifier modules.
Firstly, they provide a bit more power on paper at 125 watts per channel instead of 105 watts for the X3800H.
Secondly, and more importantly, the X4800H inherits the amplifier design from last year’s X6700H! Considering the price of the X6700H, the X4800H looks like much better value now. But also quite a bit of a price hike from last year’s X4700H.
However, the amplifier design is much more solid, as it is a monolithic design, which means each amplifier module is on a separate board and uses more components which are also higher quality. This is in contrast to the X3800H – and the X4700H – both of which use the same PCB for multiple channels.
What the new monolithic amplifier design in the X4800H can result in is better dynamics and better separation (or lack of crosstalk) between the channels. It can ultimately lead to a cleaner sound in favour of the X4800H.
If you are planning to use the AVR’s internal amplifiers, then the X4800H is a better value in my opinion. However, if you are planning to connect external amps and use the AVR as a processor, then the X3800H is arguably the better value. That is unless you are concerned about jitter from your sources and buy into 32-bit expansion of 24bit signals. Ultimately, will you hear the difference between the X4800H and the X3800H as a processor will largely depend on the quality of your source devices and how sensitive you are to jitter in my opinion.
Considering I have a Lumagen to do my “de-jittering”, I could save the money and go for the X3800H. However, if I didn’t have the Lumagen, I might choose the X4800H for my own use – or wait for the X6800H on the off chance that Dirac Live Active Room Treatment will even come to Denon receivers in 2024. By then, there might be another round of receiver updates, though, and we missed a full year. I am not sure if it’s worth the wait, especially if you need a receiver now.
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The slides were taken from Sound United’s training video here
The following articles will help you optimise your Denon or Marantz receiver:
- The Ultimate Denon Receiver Setup Guide
- Achieving Reference Playback with Audyssey
- Configuring Audyssey – The Right Way
- Secrets of Audyssey – Guide
- Why Audyssey Sounds Best with Room Treatment
- Audyssey Midrange Compensation – On or Off? – Denon and Marantz Receivers
- My Audyssey Settings per Input
- Failsafe Audyssey Settings