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Denon Revamps Entry-Level S-Series Receivers For 2019

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Denon S-Series 950-H

Denon S-Series 950-H

Summary

  • Product Name: AVR-S650H 5.2-channel AV Receiver, AVR-S750H and AVR-S950H 7.2-channel AV Receiver
  • Manufacturer: Denon
  • Review Date: May 12, 2019 22:00
  • MSRP: $399 - AVR-S650H, $499 - AVR-S750H, $599 - AVR-S950H
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now

AVR-S650H 5.2-channel AV Receiver

  • Power: 75W per channel (8Ω, 20Hz-20kHz, THD 0.08%, 2 ch driven) 
           150W per channel (6Ω, 1 kHz, THD 10%, 1 ch driven) 
  • Speaker Impedance: 4 - 16Ω
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 17.1” x 13.3” x 6”
  • Weight: 17.2 lbs

AVR-S750H 7.2-channel AV Receiver

  • Power: 75W per channel (8Ω, 20Hz-20kHz, THD 0.08%, 2 ch driven)
          165W per channel (6Ω, 1 kHz, THD 10%, 1 ch driven) 
  • Speaker Impedance: 4 - 16Ω
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 17.1” x 13.3” x 6”
  • Weight: 19 lbs 

AVR-S950H 7.2-channel AV Receiver

  • Power: 90W per channel (8Ω, 20Hz-20kHz, THD 0.08%, 2 ch driven)
          185W per channel (6Ω, 1 kHz, THD 10%, 1 ch driven) 
  • Speaker Impedance: 4 - 16Ω
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 17.1” x 13.4” x 6”
  • Weight: 20.7 lbs

Executive Overview

Denon has an impressive track record of building large and powerful high-end AV receivers, from the absolutely massive AVR-5308CI, which I longed to own a decade ago, to the brand new 13.2-channel AVR-X8500H, which recently received a stellar review here at Audioholics. An equally impressive achievement by Denon is the company’s consistent ability to roll out entry-level receivers that also earn high praise and perform reliably year after year, despite the fact that they cost just hundreds, rather than thousands. Since Denon debuted the S-Series in 2014, these affordable receivers have been an easy recommendation for anyone just getting started in home theater. (Check out our coverage of the AVR-S930H and the AVR-S730H from 2017.) Recently Denon announced three new S-Series receivers for 2019, all available now: the AVR-S950H ($599), the AVR-S750H ($499), and the AVR-S650H ($399). Denon says that the lineup is “designed for anyone who wants an affordable way to dramatically improve their entertainment center.”

Denon S-Series 950H rear

The AVR-S650H is a simple 5.2-channel receiver with standard channel-based surround decoding on board, while the AVR-S750H and AVR-S950H are 7.2-channel receivers with more inputs, more power, and the ability to decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. All three of the new S-Series offerings work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple's Siri voice assistant for hands-free operation. (Of the three, Alexa is the most capable here, giving users the ability to switch inputs and adjust various settings; Google Assistant and Siri are currently limited to adjusting volume and skipping tracks.) All three S-Series receivers also support several new HDMI features from the latest HDMI 2.1 specification, including Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) for gaming, and enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) functionality, which enables the transmission of uncompressed and immersive audio soundtracks directly from the TV to the receiver via the connected HDMI cable. The AVR-S750H and AVR-S950H will also have a new feature called Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization (coming via a future firmware update), which creates virtual height effects for Dolby soundtracks without the use of additional height speakers. DTS soundtracks are given similar treatment by a technology called DTS Virtual:X. Both of these applications are designed to enable a traditional 5.1- or 7.1-channel speaker arrangement to mimic the immersive sound typically provided by more complex setups with in-ceiling speakers. The new S-Series models all support Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio lossless surround sound protocols, and they use premium 32-bit AKM digital converters with the ability to decode up to 24-bit/192-kHz FLAC, WAV, and ALAC lossless files, plus DSD up to 5.6MHz. On the video side of things, the S-Series receivers support the latest copy-protection standard, HDCP 2.3, and most of the major HDR formats, including HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), and Dolby Vision. All three receivers in the S-Series can pass full 4K Ultra HD/60 Hz video signals, and the range-topping AVR-S950H can perform 4K video upscaling for all incoming signals.

Denon was one of the first manufacturers to embrace multi-room audio with its HEOS streaming platform, so it’s no surprise that the S-Series receivers have HEOS built in. HEOS supports a number of free and premium music streaming services, including Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, TuneIn, iHeart Radio, Sound Cloud, SiriusXM, and Tidal. A new HEOS feature found on the S-Series is Party Mode, which allows you to play the audio from your TV (or any other audio source, digital or analog) to all audio zones throughout the house. The S-Series receivers can connect to a mobile device via bluetooth, and then stream audio from that device to all HEOS-enabled speakers on the home network. But what if you use another brand of gear for wireless distributed audio, such as Sonos or Bluesound? No problem. The S-Series receivers all support Apple’s AirPlay 2 protocol, allowing you to stream Apple Music or any other audio from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, as part of a flexible whole-home audio system.

User-friendly setup and a simple user interface are both of great importance to the success of any entry-level AV product meant for “regular people” rather than for hard-core enthusiasts. To that end, the S-Series receivers all feature Audyssey’s suite of EQ calibration technology for simple, accurate set-up. Those users who do want to do a deep dive into audio settings can use the Audyssey MultiEQ editor app (purchased separately) to customize their room EQ curves. Each receiver’s front panel features four Quick Select buttons — mirrored on the supplied remote control — which store the user’s preferred audio settings for each source. The receivers can also be operated using free remote apps for iOS and Android mobile devices.

As mentioned above, the AVR-S650H is a 5.2-channel receiver with up to 150 watts of power. The 7.2-channel AVR-S750H delivers up to 165 watts per channel. The AVR-S950H is very similar to the 750H, but offers two extra inputs, more advanced video processing, and up to 185 watts per channel. Of course, as is so often the case, these power ratings need to be taken with a grain of salt. For the AVR-S950H, for example, the quoted rating of 185 watts represents peak power with one channel driven into a 6Ω load, with 10% THD. Luckily Denon does also give more real-world power specs, if you know to look for them. According to Denon, the AVR-S950H delivers 90 watts per channel with two channels driven into an 8Ω load, with THD at 0.08%. That should be adequate for the types of applications where a receiver of this price level is likely to be used. The AVR-S750H and AVR-S650H both deliver 75 real-world watts. Denon’s amplification does offer low-impedance driver capability, claiming to provide stable operation with speakers ranging from 4Ω to 16Ω. Analog purists take note: anyone wanting to spin vinyl should choose the AVR-S950H, which is the only model in the S-Series that includes a built-in moving magnet phono stage and a “Pure Direct” mode, which bypasses all audio processing.

With its new S-Series receivers, Denon looks to continue its tradition of offering maximum home entertainment value for the smallest possible price.

"The new 2019 Denon S-Series AVRs provide music and movie enthusiasts with a simple and inexpensive solution to upgrade from a traditional sound bar. With features like automated room calibration and audio optimization alongside industry-leading sound quality, the S-Series are a great way to advance any home theater. With each update, Denon engineers tune the amplification, DSPs, and component selection to deliver an amazing audio and visual experience."

- Michael Greco, senior director of global brand management at Denon’s parent company, Sound United.

What more could you ask for in an entry-level AV receiver? Stay tuned for more Denon coverage in the coming weeks after we attend the Sound United press event where we will learn more about these models and other new products coming in 2019 and beyond....

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About the author:

Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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