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Denon AVR-S740H review: Best-in-class sound and features in a sub-$500 package

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A longtime favorite here at CNET, the Sony STR-DN1080 is a top-notch receiver with excellent sound and a (still) cutting-edge feature set. The receiver has been top of the AV heap for 18 months, and yet it's time for it to stand aside and let some new blood take control. Denon has built itself a reputation for high-quality audio at affordable prices, and that legacy grows with the giant-killing AVR-740H receiver. 

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8.5

Denon AVR-S740H

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The Denon AVR-S740H offers excellent sound quality, especially for music listeners. The receiver includes Dolby Atmos/DTS:X plus plenty of HDMI ports with 4K HDR compatibility. Multiroom music is provided via both HEOS and Apple AirPlay 2.

The Bad

The lack of Chromecast built-in capability may put off Google users. The system may need a bit of tweaking to get right -- for instance loudness and dynamic compression controls were set on by default.

The Bottom Line

The Denon AVR-S740H receiver offers excellent sound, a generous feature set and a great price, making it one of our favorite affordable models.

This is a Dolby Atmos receiver with amazing sound quality and a healthy dose of features: multiroom music streaming, 4K HDR compatible video switching. With better sonics than the Sony STR-DN1080 and a slightly better price, the Denon AVR-740H is now one of the best deals in midpriced receivers.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The AVR-740H is a distillation of many years of technologies including 4K, wireless multiroom (Apple's AirPlay 2 and HEOS) and Dolby Atmos. It offers:

  • Six 4K/HDR-compatible HDMI inputs, one output
  • Bluetooth
  • Ethernet/Wi-Fi
  • USB (charging/mobile playback)
  • Three digital inputs -- two optical, one coaxial
  • Audyssey Room Correction
  • 24-bit/192kHz playback plus DSD
  • Denon 2016 AVR Remote app compatibility (iOS, Android and Kindle)
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    Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're an audiophile, it can also stream over the network using the proprietary HEOS app or via USB. HEOS is one of several competing multiroom systems, and it is currently used by Denon and stablemate Marantz. The best thing about HEOS? The hardware. For example, the HEOS 1 speaker is one of our favorite multiroom/portable speakers. While there is Amazon Alexa control, there's no Google Assistant or Chromecast audio support.

The receiver offers some neat usability touches including dedicated shortcut buttons on the front of the unit as well as a colorful clicker reminiscent of Marantz's models.

Listening

I paired the Denon with an Oppo BDP-205, the Q Acoustics 3050i floorstanders, 3090Ci center and 3020i rears plus the SVS SB-4000 subwoofer

The Denon and 3050i speakers made a great combo with the late-night ambiance of Feist's Let It Die record. At low volumes I wanted more from the music and kept turning the volume up, particularly on songs like the disco-sprinkled Inside and Out, which demanded more room to stretch out. The Denon's sound was warmer and richer than the Sony STR-DN1080 which sacrificed intimacy and bass punch for a greater sense of space.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I moved to the math-letic workout of Battles' Atlas, and the Denon was more enjoyable with this track too. It was as if the Sony DN1080 couldn't hold all of the bass notes together once the crazed vocals came in, but the Denon kept a tight grasp of them. In addition there was more "air" in the drums with the Denon. 

The S740H sounded sweet with music but also handled movies well. With Ready Player One in the player I very quickly found the SVS sub was too loud -- Denon's Loudness management and Dynamic Compression settings were on by default. With that changed I found the sound was better integrated than the Yamaha RX-V485, especially on the explosions. The fact that the Denon can also make use of Atmos' effects, which the Yamaha lacks, also helped the Denon's better sense of immersion.

Should you buy it?

I still really like the Sony STR-DN1080, but I think that the Denon's fuller sound will appeal to more people, and music lovers in particular. If you're an Apple user, then the Denon's AirPlay 2 support may be all you need for multiroom music, though Android fans may prefer the competing Sony for its Chromecast support, or Onkyo, which works with both DTS Play-Fi and Chromecast. With a cheaper retail price than the Sony and better sound than any other competing receiver, the Denon is the best receiver we've heard this year under $500.    

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8.5

Denon AVR-S740H

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Sound 9Value 8