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

Maria J. Danford

Denon is in all probability the initially name that will come to mind when you assume of AV receivers, and with great cause. The brand has been pumping out superb designs with terrific sound top quality for decades. Its competitors are slowing their receiver launch schedules — Sony has not built a new product given that 2017, and Onkyo will never have a abide by-up to its 2019 items right up until mid-2021 — but not Denon. The AVR-S960H is a latest new that delivers updated options, including HDMI 2.one connectivity with eARC and 8K video compatibility, whilst retaining the performance Denon is recognised for.

Like

  • Balanced sound with tunes and motion pictures
  • Up-to-day attribute set and connections

Never Like

  • Style and design is getting fairly very long in the tooth.
  • Yamaha RX-V6A offers far more for less.
  • No Chromecast

Though Yamaha seemingly went back to the drawing board for its futuristic RX-V6A, the Denon AVR-S960’s updates are far more incremental. Evaluating the two receivers head-to-head, the Denon sounded smoother and yet it also lacked some of the dynamic heft. I identified myself reaching for the Yamaha remote far more usually than the Denon, and it was as significantly for the modern new style as for the sound top quality. General the Yamaha is merely far more exciting, and that, furthermore its reduced value, make it a better choice over-all. 

With their new releases, Denon and Yamaha have demonstrated they are dedicated to the category, and equally of the items I’ve analyzed have been quite powerful. If you really don’t treatment for the Yamaha’s whizz-bangery and forward sound, the Denon AVR-S960H is a strong alternate.

What’s in the major black box?

The Denon AVR-S960H appears to be like fairly significantly the similar as each other receiver: black shade scheme, LED display, variety/quantity knobs and a handful of shortcut buttons for the most-utilised inputs. It is fine, but it pales in comparison to the modern futurism of the Yamaha RX-V6A.

denon-avr-960h-2

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Denon is a Dolby Atmos receiver whose major improve is the 8K-all set, HDMI 2.one specification. Specified that mainstream 8K TVs are however a several decades off, the receiver also adds a bunch of stuff that’s actually practical now. The initially is eARC, which is the potential to transmit high-top quality audio streams (Atmos in certain) from your Tv set to the receiver. The other HDMI 2.one options of note are the gaming-similar Variable Refresh Level (to minimize body tearing) and Automobile Very low Latency Mode, equally practical for players who want to get the most out of the PS5 and Xbox Collection X

The receiver has six HDMI inputs (including just one with 8K ability) and two outputs (just one with eARC). The Denon is capable to decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X in addition to upscaling technologies like Dolby Atmos Top Virtualization Engineering and DTS Digital:X. On the video facet it also supports Dolby Vision and HDR Furthermore video codecs.

denon-avr-960h-5

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

7 channels of amplification are on tap. The formal rating is ninety watts for every channel (stereo, 20Hz-20KHz) which will make it a little less powerful than the Yamaha RX-V6A (a hundred watts for every channel) nevertheless the distinction is indistinguishable in genuine phrases. Doubling the energy will only get you an added 3db of quantity, which is scarcely recognizable. The receiver offers the company’s have HEOS multiroom technique (but no Chromecast designed-in) and a 32-bit AKM DAC. There is certainly also AirPlay 2, Spotify Join and Bluetooth streaming and the receiver can be voice-controlled with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Josh.ai and Apple Siri.

The remote control is far more or less identical to the just one Marantz and Denon have utilised for decades. It is a jolly minor clicker with quick-to-browse buttons and useful shortcuts to all of your inputs at the top.

What does it sound like?

Denon and its stablemate Marantz have a “residence sound” when it will come to receivers, which tends to be far more comfortable than the Yamahas and Pioneers of the world. Though this typically signifies they carry out better with tunes, I identified the Yamaha RX-V6A was far more easily capable to get the pulse racing without tipping into harshness. In comparison the Denon provided a workmanlike tactic to what ever I was listening to — it didn’t gloss about some information or buzz many others. It merely introduced me with my tunes or movie, which would make it a terrific match for brighter speakers. 

I commenced with the reasonably laid-back He Lays In the Reins from Iron and Wine and Calexico. The Denon provided a pleasingly well balanced sound, but with the Yamaha I was capable to decide on up on far more hidden information in the tune these types of as the percussive, clicking tongue noises during the bridge. With the far more demanding, tambourine-concentrated You Got Yr Cherry Bomb, the Yamaha once again sounded fuller than the Denon, but the Denon organized the areas in a far more sensible purchase — reining in the thrashiness of the tambourine and toning down the bass to set my toes tapping.

It was with motion pictures that the Denon’s knack for location a scene actually arrived to the fore. Watching Avatar, It introduced the jungles of Pandora with loads of spaciousness — each bug and breath of wind introduced the dense atmosphere alive. The footfalls of the monstrous fauna were felt fairly than heard, and the bark of Jake’s gun reverberated all-around the listening house. The Yamaha was not as keen with the information, favoring a far more bass-major combine but it was just as (excuse the pun) impactful. It is more challenging to different these two designs on motion pictures alone, as equally did a sterling work. 

Should you invest in it?

Yamaha went for something new, leaving Denon as the reliable alternative. Really minor has adjusted from preceding decades, but as the expressing goes “if it ain’t broke, really don’t resolve it.” The Denon offers gutsy household theater sound, refined musicality and chunky, major receiver strength. 

In the stop, nonetheless, that’s not plenty of. The Yamaha is not only more affordable than the Denon, but it offers better specification — far more energy and far more HDMI inputs — and sounded far more pleasing as a full. If you really don’t have HEOS multiroom or have some other cause to invest in Denon, the Yamaha is a better guess for a modern 8K receiver.

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