Denon S-5DB: When a home-theater-in-a-box isn't good enough

People buy home theater in a box systems for lots of reasons, but sound quality isn't one of them. Denon has a solution at hand: the S-5DB.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
2 min read

People buy home theater-in-a-box systems for a lot of reasons, but sound quality isn't one of them.

The problem with HTIBs, even the very best ones, is they don't come with great speakers or subwoofers. Denon has a solution at hand: the S-5DB. Think of it as a HTIB that doesn't come with speakers or a subwoofer. No HTIB ever made has speakers as good as the better ones I've reviewed from Aperion Audio, Atlantic Technology, Definitive Technology, Energy Speakers, Klipsch, Mirage, or Polk. You want great sound? You gotta have great speakers.

A receiver that plays Blu-rays! Denon

The S-5BD combo receiver-Blu-ray player ain't cheap; it goes for $1,799. Before we go any further, it doesn't take a genius to see you could buy a separate receiver and Blu-ray player for a lot less, so the appeal here is simplicity of setup and space savings/life style advantages. I think it's ideal for buyers who would otherwise consider a HTIB but want better sound than any HTIB can offer. The S-5BD also looks great.

The S-5DB's rear panel Denon

It sports the latest high definition surround sound decoders, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Setup, with whatever speakers you choose, is handled by Audyssey MultEQ room acoustic measurement and correction system. Audyssey Dynamic EQ produces a natural tonal balance at all volume levels, and Audyssey Dynamic Volume smooths jarring volume peaks, such as TV commercial interruptions.

The majority of the S-5DB's connections reside on the rear panel, but the front panel features dual side-wing doors that open to reveal one HDMI input, an SD memory card slot, and a USB port for direct iPod connection. The Blu-ray player features Profile 2.0 BD-Live support via the Ethernet port, and the S-5BD supports Denon's versatile iPod docks, including the ASD-51N and ASD-51W.

The S-5BD offers three HDMI 1.4 inputs, including the previously mentioned front input, one S-Video input, two L/R analog-audio inputs, two optical digital-audio inputs, and one coaxial digital-audio input.

The S-5DB is a five-channel receiver; each channel delivers 75 watts into 4-ohm speakers. That's not very powerful, but should be adequate for efficient speakers in small to moderately large rooms. Need 7.1 surround? No problem, the S-5DB has preamp outputs that can be configured for rear surround or Dolby Pro-Logic IIz height channels.

The S-5DB isn't for everyone, but it's ideal for home theater buyers looking for an elegant, easy-to-use solution. Add great speakers and you'll have an exceptionally good-sounding home theater.