Denon AVR-S960H AV receiver review: Heavy on features, light on innovation

Denon is possibly the 1st identify that comes to thoughts when you think of AV receivers, and with fantastic purpose. The brand has been pumping out exceptional products with fantastic audio quality for several years. Its rivals are slowing their receiver launch schedules — Sony has not manufactured a new model given that 2017, and Onkyo will not likely have a follow-up to its 2019 products until mid-2021 — but not Denon. The AVR-S960H is a new fresh new that brings updated characteristics, including HDMI two.1 connectivity with eARC and 8K video compatibility, while retaining the effectiveness Denon is regarded for.

Like

  • Well balanced audio with songs and flicks
  • Up-to-date characteristic set and connections

Will not Like

  • Structure is acquiring fairly very long in the tooth.
  • Yamaha RX-V6A features extra for fewer.
  • No Chromecast

Whilst Yamaha seemingly went again to the drawing board for its futuristic RX-V6A, the Denon AVR-S960’s updates are extra incremental. Comparing the two receivers head-to-head, the Denon sounded smoother and nonetheless it also lacked some of the dynamic heft. I discovered myself reaching for the Yamaha distant extra frequently than the Denon, and it was as much for the sleek new style as for the audio quality. In general the Yamaha is merely extra enjoyable, and that, as well as its reduce cost, make it a superior option total. 

With their new releases, Denon and Yamaha have demonstrated they are devoted to the classification, and both of the products I’ve examined have been incredibly solid. If you will not treatment for the Yamaha’s whizz-bangery and forward audio, the Denon AVR-S960H is a sound choice.

What’s in the large black box?

The Denon AVR-S960H seems fairly much the very same as each other receiver: black shade scheme, LED screen, assortment/quantity knobs and a handful of shortcut buttons for the most-utilised inputs. It’s fantastic, but it pales in comparison to the sleek futurism of the Yamaha RX-V6A.

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Denon is a Dolby Atmos receiver whose major enhance is the 8K-all set, HDMI two.1 specification. Provided that mainstream 8K TVs are still a several several years off, the receiver also provides a bunch of stuff that’s in fact practical now. The 1st is eARC, which is the capacity to transmit high-quality audio streams (Atmos in unique) from your Television to the receiver. The other HDMI two.1 characteristics of note are the gaming-similar Variable Refresh Price (to minimize body tearing) and Car Reduced Latency Method, both practical for avid gamers who want to get the most out of the PS5 and Xbox Sequence X

The receiver has 6 HDMI inputs (such as one particular with 8K capacity) and two outputs (one particular with eARC). The Denon is able to decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X in addition to upscaling technologies like Dolby Atmos Peak Virtualization Technology and DTS Virtual:X. On the video clip side it also supports Dolby Eyesight and HDR Moreover video clip codecs.

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

7 channels of amplification are on tap. The formal rating is ninety watts per channel (stereo, 20Hz-20KHz) which helps make it a little fewer impressive than the Yamaha RX-V6A (one hundred watts per channel) nevertheless the change is indistinguishable in authentic phrases. Doubling the electrical power will only get you an added 3db of quantity, which is hardly obvious. The receiver features the company’s very own HEOS multiroom system (but no Chromecast developed-in) and a 32-little bit AKM DAC. You will find also AirPlay two, Spotify Join and Bluetooth streaming and the receiver can be voice-controlled with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Josh.ai and Apple Siri.

The distant handle is extra or fewer similar to the one particular Marantz and Denon have utilised for several years. It’s a jolly little clicker with simple-to-go through buttons and helpful shortcuts to all of your inputs at the top rated.

What does it audio like?

Denon and its stablemate Marantz have a “home audio” when it comes to receivers, which tends to be extra relaxed than the Yamahas and Pioneers of the earth. Whilst this normally usually means they execute superior with songs, I discovered the Yamaha RX-V6A was extra conveniently able to get the pulse racing devoid of tipping into harshness. In comparison the Denon presented a workmanlike tactic to regardless of what I was listening to — it did not gloss about some specifics or buzz some others. It merely offered me with my songs or film, which would make it a fantastic match for brighter speakers. 

I begun with the relatively laid-again He Lays In the Reins from Iron and Wine and Calexico. The Denon presented a pleasingly well balanced audio, but with the Yamaha I was able to choose up on extra hidden specifics in the song these kinds of as the percussive, clicking tongue noises during the bridge. With the extra complicated, tambourine-centered You Got Yr Cherry Bomb, the Yamaha once more sounded fuller than the Denon, but the Denon arranged the components in a extra reasonable get — reining in the thrashiness of the tambourine and toning down the bass to set my toes tapping.

It was with flicks that the Denon’s knack for location a scene seriously came to the fore. Seeing Avatar, It offered the jungles of Pandora with lots of spaciousness — each bug and breath of wind introduced the dense atmosphere alive. The footfalls of the monstrous fauna had been felt alternatively than read, and the bark of Jake’s gun reverberated all around the listening room. The Yamaha wasn’t as keen with the specifics, favoring a extra bass-hefty blend but it was just as (justification the pun) impactful. It’s harder to different these two products on flicks alone, as both did a sterling position. 

Really should you acquire it?

Yamaha went for anything new, leaving Denon as the dependable choice. Pretty little has improved from previous several years, but as the declaring goes “if it ain’t broke, will not resolve it.” The Denon features gutsy house theater audio, refined musicality and chunky, large receiver electrical power. 

In the stop, having said that, that’s not enough. The Yamaha is not only much less expensive than the Denon, but it features superior specification — extra electrical power and extra HDMI inputs — and sounded extra satisfying as a whole. If you will not have HEOS multiroom or have some other purpose to acquire Denon, the Yamaha is a superior bet for a contemporary 8K receiver.