Performance - Movies

Dolby Atmos 9.2.4 – 13 discrete speakers, 2 subwoofers, and a pair of Buttkickers. Now we’re talking!

DTS:X vs Dolby Atmos

Generally speaking, I find the DTS:X tracks to have more excitement and energy while the Dolby Atmos tracks are more buttery smooth and layers out the sound objects more precisely and cohesively. Dolby Atmos also seems to do a much better job in outlining height information.

I enjoy each for different reasons and luckily I didn’t have to change my layout for DTS:X to work.

As mentioned in the “vs. X7200WA” section, the gap fill from front top to the listening position brought completeness to all films. The more transparent and dynamic nature also brought new experiences from the “usual suspects” – e.g., Mad Max, Jumanji, Battleship, etc.


For example, in Gravity (Diamond Luxe Edition), the lower noise floor gives the viewer an immediately deeper sense of infinite space. As the debris hits the Explorer, you’re taken for one heck of a ride. Dialogue remains clear while the chaotic whirlwind of events encompasses the room with relentless authority.

Being quite familiar with the film, I was able to hear details and nuances in the ensuing effects I haven’t heard before. As small as they were, it just makes this scene all the more convincing – and engaging.


The bombing run scene is the only one you have to watch to enjoy what the AVR-X8500H has to offer. It was the first time I actually felt like I was in the plane. From the grinding of gears on the turrets to the propellers in close proximity, there’s just a level of eerie precision and articulation I wasn’t accustomed to.

You’re able to localize the steering of aircraft, the velocity of bullets as it barely whizzes past your ears, and even the weight and shape of the bomb displacement to the left below you. I realized my eyes were widened and my heart rate was much higher than usual – and this was another familiar scene in this home theater. A plesant surprise.

The Haunting of Hill House – Two Storms (Episode 6)

This Netflix show has, by far, one of the most well-engineered (and frightening) Dolby Atmos tracks in existence. From the close-up coughing to the aptly harsh hail from the heights, you’re glued to your seat. As the parents run around, and the kids scream from the first floor – it really sounds like they’re just down the staircase to the left. I haven’t had goosebumps like that in a quite awhile.

The episode continues with an onslaught of glass breaking and dark voices. The house just feels dynamically alive and holographic. All very startling and in many ways, tactile. I’m sure the sound designers had a ball with this one. They did an amazing job for setting up this eerie atmosphere.

With the AVR-X7200WA, the lower-level nuances weren’t as apparent and the improved resolution of the AVR-X8500H made some of the sudden effects much more realistic.

Blade Runner 2049

One of the unconventional scenes I use for testing is during the first appearance of Joi. As Frank Sinatra is being played from the heights, I noticed more coverage and continuity with the extra height speakers.

With the X7200WA, the room felt realistically wide, but Sinatra’s voice was too localized to one of the height speakers. On the X8500H, the room sounds more complete and coherent. The music is played in a more enveloping fashion while dialogue and small effects float beautifully around the sound field. 

As opposed to a more piecewise and contrived sound, I actually felt like I was in the room with them.

A Quiet Place

If you want a movie to test heights, this is probably it. I’ll let you know one thing – it ain’t that quiet. I’ve never heard so much slam coming from the top. Crazy stuff.

Since there’s so little dialogue in this movie, that actually makes the nuances more apparent. In turn, I think it makes it more difficult for the sound designers.

With the AVR-X8500H, you’ll hear exactly how much attention to detail the sound engineers had to go through. In the past, some of these scenes sounded a tiny bit too heavy or broad. The monsters were skinnier and the atmosphere wasn’t dead quiet. Denon’s flagship changes that. 

There’s just overall more precision, sweeping gradations, and acoustic presence that gives replay value to movies like these. The boost in resolution makes everything more lifelike and palpable. The dynamic power hits your chest with speed and ferocity. 

Needless to say, this movie pretty much requires at least 4 height speakers.