So, you’re looking to buy a receiver, huh? We understand how overwhelming it can be to make a decision sometimes. You have a checklist of features you want and a strong desire not to overspend.
At the competitive under-$600 level there’s a number of models vying for your attention including the Sony STR-DN1070, the Yamaha RX‑V681 and the Onkyo TX-NR656. The Sony has been our favorite all year, but the Denon gives it a serious run. Unlike the Sony it’s compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the latest surround sound formats that incorporate special “height” channels for added immersion. We certainly don’t consider Atmos a must-have at this point, especially since only a handful of titles are available, but some buyers place a high priority on future-readiness.
Both the Sony and Denon offer superb sound for the price, so the choice becomes one of priorities. If you want slightly better wireless streaming options the Sony is the way to go, but if you want Atmos capability now or in the future, the answer is the Denon. For the price it’s one of the best Atmos receivers we’ve tested so far.
Consistent or lackadaisical? Call it what you will, Denon’s receivers have looked the same for at least the past five years, and it’s a look you probably expect: a big black box with a blue readout. What the AVR-S920W lacks in originality it makes up for in usability. While sister brand Marantz favors a rotary knob on the fascia to select sources the Denon also includes handy shortcut buttons for the four most oft-used inputs.
The remote control is streamlined from previous years and now resembles the slim-line Marantz remotes. It has a friendly selection of buttons and is relatively easy to use.
Denon offers a minimalist yet powerful on-screen display, and if you’ve used a receiver setup screen before you’ll find it fairly straightforward. The menus on Sony’s STR-DN1070, however, are much more comprehensive and attractive.
The Denon AVR-S920W sits at the top of the company’s S range with a useful selection of advanced features. The most obvious is the seven-channel amplifier which can be pressed into processing Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks (5.2.2).
Denon doesn’t make choosing a receiver at this price easy though, by offering three models within $100 of each other: the AVR-S720W, AVR-S920W and the AVR-X1300W. While the biggest difference between the S models and the X is a more advanced calibration routine let’s say that instead you’re trying to decide between the $479 AVR-S720W and the $579 AVR-S920W. What’s the difference? That extra $100 gets you an additional two 4K HDMI ports (for a total of eight), an additional output (which is helpful if you run a TV and a projector), an extra 15W per channel of amplification, 4K upscaling (meh), and “upgraded Denon sound engineering design.” Both offer HDCP 2.2 and HDR passthrough, which will facilitate the upgrade to 4K/HDR Blu-ray players, game consoles and set-top boxes like the new Rokus.
If you are streaming music from a phone, the AVR-S920W has what amounts to today’s minimum wireless connectivity: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability onboard. While competitor Yamaha has incorporated its own proprietary MusicCast system into its 2016 receivers, Denon hasn’t followed suit with the S920W. Sadly, you can’t stream using Denon’s HEOS app to the receiver without the use of the separate HEOS Link ($349).