A while ago we published a review on Denon's DHT-T110 Speaker Base and we have noticed that these type of products are becoming increasingly popular. I´m speaking of soundbars, of course, and almost every major manufacturer has at least one or more in their product catalog. This time we take a look at the latest soundbar from Denon, the DHT-S514.
It should be clear by now exactly what a soundbar is, but just to refresh our memories; it is an elongated (wide and narrow) speaker that you put in front of or hang below your TV. This speaker usually has several drivers that can play both stereo and virtual surround sound, thanks to various sound modes (DSP). A soundbar includes most of the features of a 5.1-channel (or larger) home cinema system, but with obvious limitations (more on that later). A lot of soundbars come with a subwoofer (sometimes wireless) that provides the bass, as the soundbar itself has a limited frequency range. The slim speaker is, in other words, too small and compact to play bass convincingly.
Features & Specifications
The DHT-S514 is not one of the cheapest models that you can find, and it is obvious that Denon has paid a lot of attention to optimum audio quality using high quality components. Denon is well known for their good Hi-Fi systems and AV Receivers, and this is of course evident in their soundbars as well.
In terms of connectivity, the Denon has everything the average consumer may expect in an audio system for the TV. The soundbar features one HDMI input for connecting a digital source device (Blu-ray player, gaming console), one HDMI output with ARC support for interfacing with a TV, optical and coaxial audio inputs for other digital audio sources, an analog audio input, and decoders for Dolby Digital and DTS, It also covers Bluetooth with aptX for wireless streaming from Bluetooth devices, and it includes a remote control and an IR repeater.
The more advanced home theater enthusiast will notice that only one HDMI input is available, a drawback if you want to connect multiple devices in your home theater system for digital audio and video in the highest possible quality. Moreover, there is no support for HD audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. This is somewhat understandable since the surround experience does not do these hi-res formats justice anyway, but more on this later.
The DHT-S514 is a hi-fi sound system with a 2-way dual-channel soundbar and wireless subwoofer. Denon’s Virtual Surround processing is according to the company of the highest possible quality. There are various listening modes, including Movie Surround Sound, Dialog Enhancer, Music and Night Mode. A handy feature is that you can program the remote control with commands for your TV with the learning function to control the DHT-S514 and the TV using the Denon remote.
Installation & Setup
One big advantage of a soundbar system is that the installation is not very time consuming. Unless you mount the soundbar on the wall, of course, but that's a personal choice. The soundbar is light and relatively compact and will normally only require one person to install it. I choose to place the soundbar on the bench in front of the TV, and thanks to the included feet (2 pair with different heights) the IR receiver on the TV didn´t get blocked, and it was no problem placing the speaker right in the middle of the TV. If the soundbar happens to block the infrared sensor, Denon also include an IR repeater. Problem solved.
When it’s time to connect the various cables I run into a problem I often face when it comes to soundbars and similar sound systems; limited connectivity options. The DHT-S514 fortunately have one HDMI input and one HDMI output with ARC support – but more inputs would be nice. It´s enough to connect your TV to the output and, for example, a Blu-ray player or TV decoder to the input. Cables with big connectors may cause some difficulties as there´s limited space. I use high quality HDMI cables with wide connectors and only with some effort could they be connected – there was no wiggle room. There is however sufficient room for the digital coaxial and optical inputs, and here you can connect a game console or a media player, for example.
The wireless subwoofer is pretty much just plug and play. It only needs to be plugged in and automatically connects to the soundbar as soon as it is turned on. No hassle with difficult settings, as is also evident in the very simple instruction manual. If you want to know more of the capabilities and settings options, you´ll find a complete manual on the included CD.
Denon DHT-S514 In Use
Not only is the installation a piece of cake, it´s also very simple and quick to use. The only thing you have to keep an eye on is when you pair it to a Bluetooth device, such as a smartphone. The soundbar is equipped with Bluetooth allowing you to stream music from your smartphone, tablet or laptop to play on the soundbar. Once you have paired a Bluetooth device – it´s done. Just turn on Bluetooth on your smartphone, select the DHT-S514 (it will appear automatically) and connect the two devices. Then you´re able to choose the soundbar when you play media from your Bluetooth device.
The only thing I really miss is an on-screen display, but that is probably because I am used to having one on all the other devices in my home theater system. Nonetheless, it would be a lot easier to see what is going on when trying to control the soundbar if you at least had some sort of indication. The DHT-S514 is a system without a lot of bells and whistles, with a focus on quality, and this ensures that even a novice user will encounter few problems using it. In terms of connectivity, however, I would still like to see some additional HDMI ports, since this is still the standard today, but this seems to be an issue with most soundbars.
The most important part of this review is of course the sound quality, I mean, that´s what the DHT-S514 is all about. At least that is the desire of most hi-fi and home theater enthusiasts and the reason you spend a lot of money for such a system. With soundbars, however, it´s important that you know what you're buying. A soundbar is not a 5.1 channel home theater system with speakers all over the room - something that many people often realize too late. This is not just the fault of the consumer because too many manufacturers use marketing terms like 'surround sound', while a soundbar will never deliver true surround sound. A soundbar uses the acoustics of the room and the positioning (and direction) of the speakers to provide a virtual surround sound that gives you a feeling of a wide sound field with depth.
That said, I can immediately let you know that the DHT-S514 is no surround sound speaker, at least not in the traditional sense. Not only because the acoustics of my room (too far to the back wall) does not cooperate, but also because there are no actual speakers behind you. When you enable the virtual surround sound, you are served a wider sound field with a little more depth and dynamism, but I want to emphasize again that sounds behind your head, like a plane flying over you, is absolutely out of the question. It is difficult to explain without hearing it yourself, but you could say that effects just never extends beyond the listening position.
A soundbar is a compact speaker unit that is above all wide. However, a soundbar is, unfortunately, in most cases, not wide enough to create a proper stereo effect. The speaker drivers are placed too close together for this. The Denon DHT-S514 is compact but still sounds relatively convincing, especially when you turn on the dedicated Music mode where more space is created between the left and right channel. It is not as convincing as two big speakers placed at a proper distance to the left and right of your TV, but compared to a lot of other soundbars Denon provide a reasonably good stereo effect. If you want to broaden the sound image further you can switch to the virtual surround mode, something I did many times because it just fills the space in width but without any surround effect. I must mention that it is not made for music listening and can be a hit or miss depending on the music.
If we look at the sheer quality of the sound then there is very little to complain about with this system. Quite the opposite, I´m pleasantly surprised. The DHT-S514 provides a dynamic sound with a compelling sound character that is natural and fresh. The bass from the subwoofer can quickly be drowned out by the soundbar, but luckily there’s a button on the back that allows you to quickly and easily adjust the volume. However, the bass is very tight and quick and stays on the right side of being overpowering. For stereo music in the Music mode, the DHT-S514 is an excellent system that provides a wide soundstage with a warm and detailed sound. There are no signs of distortion, not even at loud volume, and the reproduction of subtle details is maintained at all times. Even if you stream music via Bluetooth, the quality of the source material is largely preserved and the DHT-S514 will do an excellent job for both laid-back background listening and parties. Just make sure you´re not further away than 25 feet, or you may experience drop-outs on the Bluetooth connection.
Movie may stress the subwoofer a little harder, but it still manages to play a subtle and agile, but not overpowering, deep bass. Dialogues are crisp and clear, and the DHT-S514 also has a special mode for this. However, the virtual surround is the letdown in this test because more than half of a real home theater setup is missing, and it doesn´t come close enough to a having physical surround speakers in the room. The soundstage is wide and dynamic - but I wouldn´t call it surround. Watching movies with this system may be a downer for a true home theater enthusiast, but on the other hand, I consider it unlikely that such enthusiast is looking for a soundbar in the first place. Apart from that the sound effects are quite impressive and have sufficient energy and precision. The movies I've watched using this system were certainly enjoyable, despite the surround disadvantage.
All in all, it must be said that the Denon DHT-S514 is an impressively good system, especially considering the limits of the compact and slim design. The system is easy to install and use, two of the main reasons for choosing a soundbar. If I must mention any minuses, it has to be the inadequate space for bigger HDMI connectors and the limited number of HDMI ports. For those who wish to find a simple and compact system and find the audio quality more important that the surround sound effects in a movie, this soundbar is an absolute must. Those who want real and proper surround effects are still dependent on a physical surround speaker setup.
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• 2-way Soundbar to fit 42” TV screens and up
• Powerful wireless Subwoofer
• HDMI connectivity (1x in / 1x out) with ARC (Audio Return Channel)
• Bluetooth wireless streaming with aptX
• Optical and coax digital inputs as well as an analogue input
• Dolby Digital and DTS decoder decoder built in
• 3 listening modes
• Night Mode
• 2-way speaker system with 2x 1/2” tweeters and 2x oval 2” x 5” mid chassis
• Wireless subwoofer with strong 2x 5 1/4” chassis for deep bass attacks
• Dolby Digital and DTS decoding with Denon Virtual Surround
• Dynamic Bass Technology for powerful and precise bass reproduction
• Bluetooth with aptX streaming for CD like sound quality
• Learns your remote control commands
• Simple remote included
• HDMI in- and output • Connects directly to your TV with one cable
• Auto input switching
• Bluetooth connectivity for wireless music streaming
• IR-Repeater to pass through TV remote control commands
• Two pair of feet to adjust height when place in front of a TV
• Built-in keyholes for direct wall mounting
• Quick Setup Guide for an easy start
- HDMI: ARC / CEC (1 x in / 1 x out)
- Digital input: Optical / Coaxial
- Analogue input (3.5mm mini jack)
- Simple one wire setup
- Bluetooh: A2DP / aptX
- Dolby Digital / DTS decording
- Listening mode: Dialog / Music / Movie
- Night mode
- Total system power: 175W (peak)
- Rated power (4 ohm): 10W + 10W (sound bar), 49W (subwoofer)
- Keyhole style wall mount
- Tabletop placement
- Adjustable foot height (2x)
- Control buttons
- Remote Control
- TV remote learning function
- IR Repeater
- Auto standby
- Soundbar Dimensions (H x W x D): 79.8 x 1004 x 78.3 mm
- Height with foot 1 / foot 2: 98.8 mm / 110.8 mm
- Soundbar Weight: 2.3kg
- Subwoofer Dimensions (H x W x D): 313 x 171.5 x 346 mm
- Subwoofer Weight: 5.9 kg