Friday, January 31, 2020

Denon AVR-S950H 7.2 Channel Home Theater Receiver Review

If you’re in the market for a surround sound receiver, you are in luck. They continue to improve with more features, and every year the features work their way down the model lines. Up for review today is the Denon AVR-S950H. It’s a 7.2 Dolby ATMOS and DTS X receiver designed around Hi-Res Audio, 4K video and wi-fi. It’s designed to work with Google Assistant, Alexa, Air Play 2, HEOS and others.


Features and specs:


Number Of Channels :  7

Stereo RMS Power (watts) :  90

THD in Stereo :  0.08 %

Frequency Bandwidth (stereo):  20-20k Hz

Minimum Impedance L/R :  4 ohms

Minimum Impedance Center :  4 ohms

Minimum Impedance Surround :  4 ohms

General Features

Internet-ready :  Yes

Bluetooth :  Built-in

Apple AirPlay:  AirPlay 2

Alexa-compatible :  Yes

Google Assistant-compatible :  Yes

Chromecast built-in :  No

DTS Play-Fi :  No

App Remote Control :  Yes

USB port for iPod/iPhone :  No

FM Sensitivity :  12.8 dBf

HD Radio Tuner :  No

On-Screen Display :  Thru HDMI

Auto Speaker Calibration :  Audyssey MultEQ

Plays Copy-protected 4K :  Yes

HDR-compatible :  HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG

HDMI Standby Pass-through :  Yes

4K Video Upscaling :  Yes

HDMI to HDMI Upconversion :  Yes

DLNA Certified

MHL-compatible :  No

Multibrand Remote Control :  No

Learning Remote :  No

LCD Remote

Width (inches) :  17-3/16

Height (inches) :  6-9/16

Depth (inches) :  13-11/16

Weight (pounds) :  21

Parts Warranty :  2 Years

Labor Warranty :  2 Years

Multi-room Audio/Video

Powered Multi-room Audio Output :  Yes

Preamp Multi-room Audio Output :  No

Multi-room HDMI Output :  No

Playback from Digital Audio Inputs : No

Playback from Streaming Sources :  Yes

Surround Processing

Dolby Digital

DD, TrueHD, DD+ Dolby Atmos :  Yes


DTS, HD, HDMA, ES, 96/24 , DTS:X :  Yes

Inputs & Outputs

Phono Input :  1

Audio-Video Inputs:  6

Audio-only Inputs :  2

Component Video Inputs :  2

Component Video Monitor Outputs :  1

Optical Digital Inputs :  2

Coaxial Digital Inputs :  1

Optical Digital Outputs :  None

Coaxial Digital Outputs :  None

HDMI Inputs :  8

HDMI Monitor Outputs :  2

Subwoofer Outputs :  2

Discrete Subwoofer Outputs :  No

Multi-Channel Analog Input :  No

Multi-channel Preamp Output :  No

Main Speaker Output Pairs :  1

Main Speaker Terminals :  Posts

Ethernet Port :  1

USB Connections :  1 Front

Removable Power Cord :  No

The Denon AVR-S950H came shipped in a standard brown box with color photos and features of the receiver on the box. Opening the box revealed a well protected receiver held in place by custom molded Styrofoam. Taking out the receiver, I see a very well made product. Materials used in the construction is mostly metal with some plastic. Quality of materials used, as well as the fit and finish was excellent. Also include was the calibration mic, portable mic stand, and quick start guide. The owner’s manual is found online.


I really liked the design of the Denon AVR-S950H. It’s part of Denon’s S series, which is Denon’s value series. But just because it is part of what is considered Denon’s value series, does not mean that it is a cheap receiver. The S series is a mainstream line, and gives a big bang for the buck.  The AVR-S950H is Denon’s top of the line for the S series.  And it includes the networking features to work with your home network through Google Assistant and Alexa.


Setting up the Denon AVR-S950H was pretty simple. The Quick Start Guide was well written, and easy to follow. And the on screen assistant walks you through the rest of the set-up. Download the apps and through the HEOS App is where you are able to listen to your online music apps through the receiver.


There are also a ton of options for fine tuning your sound through the Denon AVR-S950H. You have all of the standard surround sound formats to choose from. And there are also several different DSP sound modes to choose from as well. There are actual sound modes of Movie, Music, Game and Pure. And there’s different sound options in the modes, such as Music Mode has Rock Arena and Jazz Club.


In finalizing the setup through the setup assistance, the last step is the sound calibration. Included was the setup mic, and card board stand. You put together the cardboard stand, which holds the mic, and putting together the stand gets the mic to ear height. The setup assistant takes you through setting the mic at different listening positions, and then does a sound test at all the different positions. Once done, setup is complete.


Now the receiver is ready to use. The front of the receiver is very well laid out and easy to use. There are two large rotary knobs. The one on the right is for volume. The one on the left is for source select. With the source select knob, you can toggle between the different sources. On the front panel there are also quick select buttons. So rather than using the same select knob to select a source, you can just use the source select buttons. On the front panel are also found buttons for the various sound modes. Additionally, the front panel also houses the auxiliary HDMI input, USB input, and headphone jack.


The last part of the setup was the additional features of the HEOS app and Google Assistant. To listen to your online music sources, such as Spotify, you do this through the HEOS app. Setting up these features was a little harder, but not too difficult. And if you end up needing help, there is always the customer support number. For HEOS, you download the app onto your phone, and you link it to the receiver using your wi-fi. To be able to use Google assistant you need to go into your Google Home setting, search for the receiver, and add it to your network.


Now that the receiver, as well as the apps are set up, let’s see how it performs. I started off with the HEOS app. Setting the source to HEOS on the receiver, I was able to listen to my Spotify account through the receiver. And controlling the receiver through Google Assistant was cool. Functionality was limited, but using Google to turn the receiver on or off, and control the volume was cool.


I was very impressed with the sound of the Denon AVR-S950H. For a receiver at this price point, I wasn’t expecting an amplifier to be this transparent. In listening to my go to tracks, I was not disappointed. I listen for depth and width of soundstage, spot on imaging, and resolution to bring out all of the nuances of the instruments in a track. And of course, also resolution, texture, and harmonics of vocals. While speakers do most of the heavy lifting in this regard, the receiver was not a weak link.


I was equally impressed when it came to movies. I’m a huge movie buff, especially for action films with all of the surround sound effects. The Denon AVR-S950H performed in spades here as well. There seemed to be plenty of power on tap for my Klipsch reference system with tower front speakers. Even at volume levels that had my teenagers telling me to turn the volume down, the sound was clean, unstrained, with no noticeable distortion. In fact, I had a hard time with the listening, because I kept getting sucked into the movie. Fight scenes, explosions, they sounded natural and life-like. I kept getting drawn into the movie. And I guess that’s one of the greatest complements that can be given.


The Denon AVR-S950H proved to be a very capable receiver. and with all of the current features like Dolby Atmos, DTS X, Bluetooth, wi-fi, and even Google Assistant, it has you covered for all of your source needs. It’s not perfect. But with an MSRP of only $599, it performs much better than it should for its price! Based on its design, features, quality and performance the Denon AVR-S950H has earned our Highly Recommended Award for more info and complete specs, check out their website at