When you think about AV receivers, Denon is likely the first brand that springs to mind, and for good reason. The company has been producing top-notch products with the superb sound quality for years. Sony hasn’t released a new receiver model since 2017, and Onkyo won’t produce a follow-up to its 2019 goods until mid-2021, but Denon isn’t slowing down its receiver release timetables like its rivals are. The AVR-S960H is a newer model that maintains the performance Denon is known for while adding updated features like HDMI 2.1 connectivity with eARC and 8K video capability. The Denon AVR-S960H has a similar appearance to other receivers: a black color scheme, an LED display, volume and selection knobs, and a few shortcut buttons for the most often-used inputs. It’s fine, but the Yamaha RX-sleek V6A’s futurism is far superior.
The HDMI 2.1 protocol, which is 8K-ready, is Denon’s biggest improvement over competing Dolby Atmos receivers. The receiver also adds a tonne of features that are genuinely useful right now, which is helpful given that popular 8K TVs are still a few years away. The first is eARC, which enables your TV to send receiver-to-TV high-definition audio broadcasts (especially Atmos streams). The gaming-related Variable Refresh Rate (to prevent frame tearing) and Auto Low Latency Mode are also noteworthy HDMI 2.1 features that are helpful for players who want to get the most out of their PS5 and Xbox Series X games.
The receiver has two outputs and six HDMI inputs, one of which supports 8K. (one with eARC). Along with upscaling technologies like Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization Technology and DTS Virtual:X, the Denon can decode Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. Additionally supported on the video side are the HDR Plus and Dolby Vision codecs.
There are seven channels of amplification available. The Yamaha RX-V6A is somewhat more powerful (100 watts per channel), according to its official rating, which is 90 watts per channel (stereo, 20Hz–20KHz), but in practice the two are identical. Only a 3db increase in volume can be obtained by doubling the power, which is hardly audible. The receiver comes with a 32-bit AKM DAC and the company’s own HEOS multiroom system (but no built-in Chromecast). Additionally, the receiver supports AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth streaming, and voice control via Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Josh.ai, and Amazon Alexa.
The remote is essentially the same as the one that Denon and Marantz have been using for years. The cute little clicker has large, easy-to-read buttons and convenient top shortcuts for all of your inputs.
When it comes to receivers, Denon and its stablemate Marantz have a “house sound” that is typically more laid-back than the Yamahas and Pioneers of the world. Although this typically indicates that they work better with music, I discovered that the Yamaha RX-V6A was better able to raise the heart rate without being harsh. The Denon, in contrast, had a workmanlike attitude to whatever I was listening to; it didn’t downplay certain nuances or exaggerate others. It just provided me with my music or movie, which would be perfect for loudspeakers with more light.
He Lays In the Reins by Calexico and Iron and Wine, which is comparatively mellow, was my first choice. The Denon provided a well-balanced sound, but I was able to hear more subtle aspects of the music with the Yamaha, like the percussive, clicking tongue noises during the bridge. The Yamaha again sounded fuller than the Denon during the harder, tambourine-focused You Got Yr Cherry Bomb, but the Denon organized the elements in a more logical order, taming the tambourine’s trashiness and lowering the bass to get my toes tapping.
Denon’s ability to build a scene truly stood out when it came to movies. When you see Avatar, you get a good sense of how expansive the forests of Pandora are and how alive every bug and breeze is to the dense environment. Instead of being audible, the monster fauna’s footfalls were felt, and Jake’s gun’s bark echoed throughout the listening area. The Yamaha was less attentive to the subtleties and favored a mix that was heavier on the bass, but it was still just as (pardon the pun) devastating. These two models are more difficult to distinguish based just on the movies they appeared in.
Denon was left as the dependable alternative when Yamaha decided to try something new. In comparison to prior years, not much has changed, but as the adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t repair it.” The Denon provides powerful home theatre audio, subtle musicality, and powerful, large receiver energy.
But in the end, that’s insufficient. The Yamaha is not only more affordable than the Denon, but it also has better specifications, including more power and HDMI inputs, and it sounds better overall. The Yamaha is a better option for a contemporary 8K receiver if you don’t have HEOS multiroom or have another reason to choose Denon.