Denon AVR-S920W Review
THE VERDICT:
The Denon AVR-S920W is a solid mid-range AV receiver. As far as sound quality, it’s on par with the competition with great musical chops and excellent surround performance. Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and 4K support also mean it’s pretty future proof. Its lack of built-in support for Denon’s HEOS multi-room audio system is its only real drawback.

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Design9
Features7.5
Value8.5
Sound Quality8.5
The Good
  • The Denon AVR-S920W fully supports 4K video. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X means that the 920 is well equipped to tackle the latest and greatest in home theater audio.
The Bad
  • The user interface can use an update. Using Denon's HEOS multi-room audio system requires the purchase of the expensive HEOS Link.
8.4Overall Score

AV makers are reliably predictable. From year to year AV receivers don’t change much aesthetically. The new Denon AVR-S920W is a perfect example. It looks basically identical to last year’s 910. It’s big, black and boxy. The large easy to read display is sandwiched between the source select and volume knobs. Below the screen sets a row of input select and sound mode buttons.

Denon AVR-S920 Preview

The remote of the 920W utilizes a simplified design that thankfully, is becoming more common among AV makers. The remote features large easy to reach buttons that are a far cry from the button stuffed remotes that used to come anchored with AV equipment. The on screen menus of the Denon AVR-S920w are simple and easy to navigate. It ranks high on usability, but lags behind the competition in visual flare. Sony, Pioneer and Onkyo have all upped their game in this department. The 920’s interface looks a bit dated when compared to theirs, but it gets the job done.

 


RELATED: Denon AVR-S720W Review


 

If you want something with a little more eye candy, then you may want to check out Denon’s control app for the 920. It’s far more slick looking than the on screen GUI, plus it lets you control most of the amps features. The updated app for 2016 can be a little buggy at times. It froze on a couple occasions, but once I got inside the app it was relatively intuitive.

 

Denon AVR-S920W Connectivity

The Denon AVR-S920W gives you a pretty good list of connectivity options including component, analog audio and digital inputs. The 920 is well stocked with HDMIs with a total of 8 (including one on the front). Better yet, if you’re planning on getting a 4K TV any time soon, the Denon 920 supports 4K video pass through and upscaling. The laundry list of 4K tech features such as Pure Color 4:4:4 sub-sampling, HDR, HDCP 2.2 and BT.2020 are supported by the 920.

Denon AVR-S920W Connections

There was a time when WiFi and Bluetooth were features only found on top-of-the-line models. Today is different. Nearly every mid-range receiver has these features. Airplay, vTuner Internet Radio, Pandora, SiriusXM, and Spotify Connect are all viable streaming options on the Denon 920. Two things which are notably missing are Google Cast and Denon’s own HEOS multi-room audio system. Unless you’re planning on snatching up Google’s voice controlled Home device, Google Cast probably won’t be missed much. HEOS, on the other hand, is a little more surprising.

 

Yamaha’s multi-room audio system, MusicCast, is incorporated on many of their  mid-range amps. Onkyo and Pioneer are both using FireConnect. And Sony’s amps incorporate their Song Pal multi-room system. Unfortunately, the Denon AVR-S920W doesn’t support Denon’s HEOS ecosystem right out of the box which is a bit of a missed opportunity for Denon. If you’re willing to spend a few hundred bucks you can pick up the HEOS Link which will allow you to use the 920 with HEOS.

 

Atmos & DTS:X

Denon generously rates the 920 at about 185 watts per channel. Its real world power output will most likely be substantially less than this, but after spending some quality time with the Denon AVR-S920W it can easily power speakers in a medium to moderately large room. I pushed the amp pretty hard and it managed to maintain its cohesion.

 

The 920 supports a standard 7.2 channel setup, however if you want to up the ante a bit you can also run a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X arrangement. It’s possible to setup a 5.2.2 speaker configuration for Atmos and DTS:X. If you want to add more speakers be prepared to pony up a few more dollars for a 9 channel or 11 channel receiver.

 

Setup

AV makers have gone the extra mile the past few years to make setting up their amps easier. As soon as you boot-up the 920, the AV setup assistant will walk you thru everything from connecting your speakers and components to calibration. It’s especially handy if this is your first time setting up an amp.

 

The Denon 920 uses Audyssey’s Bronze package to dial-in your speakers. Like Marantz, Denon includes a cardboard stand to hold the included calibration microphone. The amp then blasts out a series of test tones and automatically sets the appropriate crossover frequencies, speaker distances and speaker levels. In about 15 minutes the receiver is ready to go. Once calibration was complete I went in to the settings to check out what Audyssey doled out. Overall, the 920 did a good job. I felt it set the crossover frequencies of my fronts and surrounds a little too low at 40 Hz, so I bumped them up to 80 Hz, but other than that I was pleased with the results.

 

Getting the 920 on your WiFi network is about as easy as it comes. You could do it manually, but it you have an  iOS device, the Denon AVR S920 allows you to just copy the network settings from your gadget. Using this option, it only takes a few seconds to get the Denon 920 on your network. Bluetooth is also just as easy to setup and implement. During testing I didn’t note any problems with either WiFi or Bluetooth connections. Audio via Bluetooth suffered from a noticeable lack of richness and fullness. However, this has more to do with the shortcomings of Bluetooth and not the capabilities of this receiver. Even $3000 receivers can’t correct the shortcomings of Bluetooth.

 

When I received the review unit, there was a firmware update available that unlocked DTS:X on the Denon AVR-S920W. The update process went smoothly. Updating took about 40-45 minutes which was enough time to go grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat while the amp did its thing.

 

Sound Quality

I listened to a variety of things on the Denon AVR-S920W with a heavy focus on movies. The 2016 Ghostbusters movie was one of the more recent flicks that I tested on the 920. The action/comedy/sci-fi movie has an active sound track with a bountiful amount of special effects. The moans and groans of various apparitions eerily danced around the room thanks to the Denon 920’s multi-channel performance. Dialogue was crisp and clear. The final climactic battle is a venerable cornucopia of sound with ghostly voices popping in and out.

 

I’ve been a champion of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for some time now. Both formats when used properly, have the ability to create an extremely wide and encompassing sound field. Jupiter Ascending and Transformers: Age of Extinction are my two go to Atmos movies. Both movies have action packed sound tracks that really show what these two object based formats are capable of. Transformers uses Atmos to create very convincing overhead sound effects which the Denon AVR-S920W had no problem delivering. Every click, clank and whir of the mechanical behemoths was impressively detailed. The 920 hit hard in the bass department. While it didn’t hit as hard as the Onkyo TX-NR656 or the Sony STR-DN1070 it was still satisfyingly impactful.

 

Denon’s amps usually perform well with music and the Denon 920 doesn’t disappoint. Adele’s vocals sounded rich and powerful coming from the 920. Although I did notice a touch of softness with the amp’s reproduction, it wasn’t enough to hamper its overall performance.

 

The Verdict

The Denon AVR-S920W is another solid addition to Denon’s AV receiver ranks. It’s a solid movie and music performer with a good amount of features. 4K, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support make it a solid mid-range receiver option. Multi-room audio support is the only major area where it lags behind the competition.


Where to Buy:

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