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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.