Denon AVR-S750H review: Warm home theater sound pairs well with future-ready features - CNET

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Last year, not one but two receivers unseated CNET's long term favorite, the Sony STR-DN1080 ($448 at Amazon), and one of them was Denon's AVR-S740H ($349 at Walmart). The Denon offered a warmer, punchier sound than the Sony which made it better for music in particular.

Denon has follows up that winner with 2019's AVR-S750H. While it looks virtually identical there are a couple of tweaks here and there -- but the best news is the sound is just as warm and satisfying as before.

The Denon is only the first receiver we've tested so far this year so it's too early to say how it will fare against the 2019 competition, but it sets a high bar. Features such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, six HDMI inputs with eARC and support for Apple AirPlay 2 demonstrate the AVR-S750H is ready for the future of AV entertainment, wherever it may lead.

Creature features

05-denon-avr-s750h Sarah Tew/CNET

Like most AV receivers the Denon is basically a chunky black box, but I did appreciate its large display and handy source shortcut buttons underneath. One small but lovely upgrade is to the feel of the volume and source selector knobs -- the volume has a more decisive click while the selector is now smoother.

Sadly the user interface is just as ugly as ever, and rivals Onkyo and Sony with their full-color displays not only make setting up the receiver easier but more fun as well.

Here's some specs:

  • 75W per channel @ 8 ohm, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 0.08% distortion, 2ch driven
  • Six 4K/HDR-compatible HDMI inputs, one output, HDMI eARC support
  • Bluetooth and Bluetooth headphone support
  • Ethernet/Wi-Fi
  • USB (charging/mobile playback)
  • Three digital inputs -- two optical, one coaxial
  • Audyssey Room Correction
  • 24-bit/192kHz playback plus DSD
  • Denon AVR Remote app compatibility (iOS, Android and Kindle)
  • Phono input
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Denon's ancient-looking interfaceSarah Tew/CNET

Last year Denon's receivers were compatible with voice control from Amazon Alexa speakers, but they missed out on Google Assistant. For 2019 the company has not only bumped up the Alexa integration -- you can ask for songs and change inputs now via voice now -- but it also works with Google Assistant speakers, such as the Google Home. 

Right now Google Assistant support is limited to volume changes and transport controls, so to initiate playback of songs you'll need to use Denon's Heos app. But Denon is expending the Assistant functionality to enable additional features, including asking a Google speaker to play particular music. No date has been set for this yet.

It's important to note that it doesn't have Google Chromecast unlike both Sony or onkyo. For Android users this means you won't be able to cast from your favorite apps straight to the receiver. Spotify Premium user can take advantage of the Denon's support for Spotify Connect, however, and the same goes for Apple Music and AirPlay 2.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

Denon has its own particular sound, and if you're a fan then the AVR-S750H will be right in your wheelhouse. The musical warmth is still there alongside a satisfyingly muscular home theater performance. 

I tested the Denon with a Oppo BDP-205 (plus Roon on a MacBook Air ($1,173 at Walmart)), the Q Acoustics 3050i floorstanders, 3090Ci center and 3020i rears plus the SVS SB-4000 subwoofer. I ran a manual audio calibration but owners may prefer to use the Audyssey Room Correction. Annoyingly some features are auto-enabled and they can affect the performance adversely. For example the Auto Lip Synch was set to a ridiculous 180ms by default making voices hilariously out of whack.

Starting with music I compared the Denon against the Onkyo TX-NR585, CNET Editor's Choice winner last year. The Onkyo was clearer overall while the Denon maintained its characteristic warmth, although it could get a little muddy depending on the song. For example, Bad Religion's charging Chaos From Within sounded more cohesive when played through the Onkyo, while the Denon buried Greg Graffin's wordy lyrics a little. Atmospheric tunes like Karen O and Danger Mouse's Turn the Light sounded big on Denon but huge on the Onkyo, with the guitars swirling around my head.

I also compared the 2019 Denon 750H against last year's model, the 740H. The two were very similar but the 740 was a little more consistent in its bass response. For example, during Nick Cave's Red Right Hand, the last note of the bass riff would disappear on the 750, and the bassist's performance was marginally clearer on the 740.

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Best 4K Blu-rays

In home theater model the 2019 Denon was able to keep up with the Onkyo. Listening to the excellent 4K remaster of Black Hawk Down in Dolby Atmos, there was more of a sense of the rotating blades of the crashing chopper through the Onkyo. However the Denon gave a more visceral and exciting performance than the Onkyo overall.

With straight Dolby Digital material, both amps delivered a commanding performance from the Avatar Blu-ray on the Thanator Chase, but there was a bit more thump from the sub with the Denon.

Should you buy it?

The first receiver of 2019 gives an encouraging performance particularly with home theater. With up-to date features -- dated 90s interface aside -- and respectable music replay the Denon will find favor with users who appreciate its warm sound and are looking for a solid array of future-friendly extras.

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