If you took a straw poll of five people and asked them to name an
manufacturer, it’s likely you’d hear the word “Denon.” The company has been at the receiver game for a long time, and this year’s AVR-S730H hits the current sweet spot between features and price.
At $479, it’s one of the best values among feature-packed receivers we’ve seen yet. (UK and Australian pricing and availability have yet to be announced, but expect a similar figure in pounds and double it in dollarydoos.) The recipe? Take two spoonfuls of atmospheric audio — both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X flavors — add a good splash of 4K compatibility and glaze with lashings of multiroom audio.
While sound quality doesn’t quite top our current favorite, the $600 Sony STR-DN1080, and the Sony has more versatile Google Cast streaming, it also costs more than the Denon. That’s not to say the S730H doesn’t sound good — if you’re looking to enter the world of Dolby Atmos and 4K movies without breaking the bank, it’s a great place to start.
Take a look at a
from the ’70s, or even the first
from the ’80s and what do you see? Knobs, dials and more knobs. Compare that to today’s models — especially the new Denon HEOS AVR — and you’ll find that a lot of that functionality has been lost: relegated to remotes or even worse, phone apps.
Not so the Denon AVR-S730H. It’s a big black box brimming with both buttons and dials, yet still has a modicum of style. Denon and Onkyo are two of the only receiver manufacturers that include separate input buttons on the front panel. If you find yourself constantly losing the remote these buttons can be a godsend. Otherwise the design looks pretty much like every other Denon in recent memory with a large volume button on the right and an LED display in the center.
Here in 2017 we hoped blocky white menus on black screens had gone the way of the Bush administration, but nope, they’re still here. While the Denon’s menu works just as well as any other, that pixelated lettering will look pretty terrible on your new 4K screen.
A couple of years ago, Denon switched its remote design to the style favored by its sister brand Marantz — a good thing, too. The remote that comes with the AVR-S730H is a friendly little bar with a sensible number of buttons and conveniently placed volume controls.
For less than $500, the Denon pulls out all of the stops when it comes to features. First off, this the most affordable receiver with Dolby Atmos/DTS:X yet. It comes with seven amplified channels (rated at 75W each) of which two can be pushed into duty as overheads. Or alternatively used as a second set of rears in 7.1 or even a Zone 2.
Secondly, the AVR-S730H is the cheapest receiver to come with Denon’s proprietary HEOS music system. With HEOS comes the ability to stream to multiple speakers around the room from multiple services, including (in the US) Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn Internet radio, Amazon Prime Music, iHeart Radio, Sirius XM, Sound Cloud, Tidal, Rhapsody and Deezer.
Connectivity is generous for the cash, with six 4K/HDR-compatible HDMI inputs and one out, plus Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (with AirPlay), USB and three digital inputs.
Other features include Audyssey Room Correction and compatibility with the Denon 2016 AVR Remote app (iOS, Android and Kindle Fire) which offers control of the receiver as well as network/streaming playback. If you’re an audiophile it can also do hi-res music with support for 24-bit/192kHz as well as DSD over the network or via USB.
Starting the AVR-S730H’s Audyssey MultEQ auto speaker setup program, onscreen prompts advised us to turn the subwoofer’s volume control halfway up, and input the number of speakers we had hooked up to the receiver. Next, we plugged in the included calibration microphone, and continued to follow the prompts and moved the mic to six different locations in the CNET listening room for an extended series of automated test tones that sequenced one by one through the speakers and subwoofer. The whole operation took around 12 minutes to complete.
For this review we used a pair of
ELAC Debut B6
bookshelf speakers in the front left and right positions, an ELAC Debut C5 center channel speaker, ELAC Debut B5s as surrounds, a pair of Klipsch RP-140SA height speakers up near the ceiling in the front of the room, and a Klipsch R-110SW subwoofer.
We were satisfied with the AVR-S730H’s calibration results, and we were especially happy to note the subwoofer volume wasn’t set too high, which is usually the case with auto setup systems.
We put the Denon AVR-S730H through its paces with the “Jupiter Ascending” Blu-ray. It may be a campy action movie, but it sounded awfully good, from its jet-propelled boots to exploding skyscrapers and the gruesome creatures’ voices. The AVR-S730H delivered the goods. We played the movie nice and loud and never felt the receiver was running out of juice.
Seeking something less bombastic we turned to “La La Land,” the award-winning musical. The scene where Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone sing together in his apartment had terrific intimacy and naturalness. Later the lush production in the Justin Hurwitz score demonstrated the AVR-S730H’s considerable music chops. At this point we replaced the AVR-S730H with a Sony STR DN1080 receiver and the sound grew clearer and more dynamic, and the front and surround speakers produced a more cohesive, room-filling soundstage. With the “Jupiter” Blu-ray, the action sequences packed a bigger wallop with the Sony.
With music from violinist Joshua Bell and bassist Edgar Meyer’s “Short Trip Home” all-acoustic classical-cum-bluegrass album, the two receivers were equally accomplished performers. The music’s flow, pace and uncompressed dynamics sounded great with both receivers.
We also watched some concert music Blu-rays, including Diana Krall’s “Live in Rio” set and the White Stripes’ “Under Blackpool Lights” with the AVR-S730H. The ELAC bookshelf speakers may be downright affordable, but they shined with Krall’s big-band jazz, and the ELACs sounded like bigger speakers with the White Stripes’ blistering rock, especially when Meg White’s hard-hitting drums were given their full due.
Lastly we tested the receiver’s multiroom capabilities with HEOS, and it works as well as previously. The app is a little hard to use compared to Yamaha’s MusicCast or Sonos, as it doesn’t always work how you expect it to. For instance, we had to consult the manual on how to group rooms (hold and drag) and we had to drill down into each device and set them to “High” quality to get hi-res music to play. After all this tweaking, though, we had the
and the AVR-S730H playing music in perfect sync.
The Denon AVR-S730H is the least expensive receiver we’ve tested with Dolby Atmos/DTS:X surround processing. For that price, its all-round performance makes it a real contender, worthy of consideration by discriminating home theater buyers. The multiroom music and 4K switching are icing on the cake. We still like the Sony better overall, but if you can’t swing the price difference, the Denon is an excellent alternative.