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Denon DHT-S514 Soundbar Review

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A well thought out and impressively performing package.

by Mark Hodgkinson Apr 4, 2014

  • Home AV review

    6
    26,335

    Recommended
    Denon DHT-S514 Soundbar Review
    SRP: £399.00

    What is the Denon DHT-S514?

    This is our first taste of a Denon Soundbar package.

    We have just reviewed their DHT-T100 Speaker Base which proved a very tidy solution and their new entry level X2000 AV Receiver is quite simply astonishing value.
    So Denon is on something of a Spring Roll and we have high hopes for the DHT-S514, which can be yours for a whisker under £400. Let's see if it can produce the hat-trick?

    Denon DHT-S514 Design & Connections

    The speaker bar of the S514 is unremarkably black and almost rectangular, save for the extreme edges which taper in from front to back. A fine, and very hard, black plastic mesh grille conceals the drivers and a chamfered edge, top-centre, is home to a selection of buttons, that also double up as indicator lights.

    The subwoofer is a perfect match, design-wise, with its grille hiding dual 5 1/4 inch bass drivers and it's a reassuringly weighty unit. The sub is ported at the rear and the underneath the vent is an independent volume dial. The sub communicates to the main bar wirelessly with tri-band frequency hopping to ensure disconnection is very unlikely.
    Denon DHT-S514 Denon DHT-S514 Design & Connections
    Denon DHT-S514 Denon DHT-S514 Design & Connections


    At the rear of the main speaker bar are two recesses for the various connection options. These include a singular HDMI input and there's one out too, which you'll ideally want to couple with an ARC (Audio Return Channel) compliant input on your display. There are also two digital audio inputs ( 1 coax/1 S/PDIF) and jack-of-all-trades 3.5mm analogue jack. There's also the option of Bluetooth for you streaming types.

    IR Blaster is a masterstroke and should be standard in this product sector.

    Denon DHT-S514 SetUp & Control

    We wish more soundbar manufacturers would include an IR blaster with their products, it really does make things easier. Despite the fact that the DHT-S514 is less than 8cm in height, it will obscure the infra-red sensor on many TVs, which can be plain annoying. The IR blaster also hooks up to the rear and is secured to the speaker by a sticky pad, which is extremely adhesive, so make sure you stick it exactly where you should, first time around.

    Should you actually need/want a little more height for the speaker bar, Denon includes two pairs of feet in an accessories box, giving an extra 19 mm or 31 mm clearance from your unit, respectively. There's also the option of wall-mounting the bar using the integrated keyhole mounts and there's a useful printed template in the box as well to help you line it all up. The accessories box also includes a number of cables, including HDMI, Digital Optical, a 3.5 mm Stereo plus a RCA to 3.5 mm Adaptor (for devices without L/R outputs), so you’re good to go straight from the off, unless you have to run coax.
    Denon DHT-S514 Denon DHT-S514 SetUp & Control
    Denon DHT-S514 Denon DHT-S514 SetUp & Control

    Denon has also imbued the S514 with the ability to learn up to 8 infra-red commands from your display’s remote, which correspond with the buttons on the front panel, so you could teach it the standby, volume and mute controls, for instance, and cut down on the ‘everyday’ number of remotes you have lying about, should you so choose.

    The supplied remote is identical to that which came with speakerbase so it has a lovely soft rubber feel. The one downside of the textured surface is that it does tend to cling on to dust and finger marks so it will need a clean from time to time. A baby wipe works well. There are 8 buttons covering input selection, volume, Bluetooth and listening modes and it runs from a watch style Lithium Ion battery which can be replaced.

    Denon DHT-S514 Features

    Like the DHT-T100, the DHTS514 supports AptX for best possible audio streaming quality and we had no issues, whatsoever, in pairing it with a number of Bluetooth capable devices we have laying around the place.

    This package supports both Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, too, so it should handle movie soundtracks with aplomb and also has a number of listening modes with varying characteristics. Strangely, whilst the T100 had 5 available DSP modes, the S514 only has 3 plus a night time (quieter) mode attached to each. That’s a bit of a shame, on the face of it, as the T100’s Movie Wide DSP was actually rather good. We’ll find out if it’s really missed below but the upside of this is that it makes working out which mode you’re listening to easier.


    Denon DHT-S514


    The S514 illuminates combinations of the lights below the front buttons to indicate which is being used so it’s the two centre lights for ‘Dialog’, the two lights either side of the centre (on each side) for ‘Music’ and six lights for ‘Movie’ in an alternating pattern of two on/one off from left to right and vice versa.

    Control buttons double up as indicator lights

    Denon DHT-S514 Video Review


    Denon DHT-S514 Listening

    Denon has a reputation for producing audio products with a bright audio signature and nothing has really changed here with the DHT-S514. It’s a touch more mellifluous in the Music preset but it still veers toward crisp and clear, rather than warm and soothing so, depending on what you enjoy listening to, it may or may not fit the bill. For tunes with a heavy electronic influence, it’s a lively performer but if you are more of an acoustic type, it can seem a little shrill and fatiguing.

    The Dialog mode certainly succeeds in its mission of making the spoken word more stand-out from the rest of the audio but we never actually found it to be really necessary. In fact, we were happy to go with Denon’s Movie mode for pretty much all our TV and film watching during its stay with us here. The Movie mode definitely presents the widest soundstage and works extremely well with multi-channel soundtracks.

    Denon DHT-S514

    We got to sit down with the Denon during a viewing of the Gravity Blu-ray and it handled the complex location effects superbly. The opening scenes with the radio comms moving across and around the screen were a particularly good example of that. Whilst there was little to no sense of audio coming at you from behind (to be expected, really) it was giving the impression of travelling from much wider than the width of the speaker bar in a very creditable surround effect.

    Quite probably the best subwoofer we've heard in a sub £400 soundbar package.

    The sub is probably the highlight of the package, however, and it packs a lot more wallop than some we’ve tested in or around this price bracket. It also gives little away when it comes to placing it in the room, something that’s highly desirable for those low frequency effects. Denon has also made a very good job of tuning the crossovers to ensure smooth transitions across the varying frequencies and the package all sits together with some degree of comfort and assuredness.

    The DHT-S514 also sounds good at low listening levels. It’s a frustrating fact of family life that you can’t always listen at the volumes you would like and the assorted ‘Night’ modes we hear the majority of the time are usually heavily neutered, almost sterile experiences. That’s not the case with the Denon and it can still deliver a genuinely enveloping experience whilst the rest of the house is at slumber. We can’t guarantee you won’t wake them up, however, but at least you were trying!

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Crisp and Clear mid and high notes
    • Satisfying low end
    • Performs well at low volume levels
    • Remote Learning
    • IR Repeater is a plus

    Cons

    • Maybe a tad bright for some
    • Speaker bar gets quite hot
    You own this Total 4
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Denon DHT-S514 Soundbar Review

    You can have the Denon DHT-S514 soundbar package in any colour you like, provided it’s black. We’ve no problem with that - it’s never going to clash or look outdated and nor will its simple and subtly rounded-off design. Most importantly it feels and looks well-engineered and robust, particularly in the case of the matching subwoofer which packs in a couple of 5 ¼ drivers for maximum impact.

    Connectivity options are plentiful, including an HDMI input as well as one outgoing for the ARC compatible port(s) on your display. There are also a couple of digital audio inputs (1 Coax, 1 SPDIF) and an aux 3.5mm jack at the rear of the speaker bar. Naturally, in this day and age, we also get aptX capable Bluetooth streaming too.

    The whole package is controlled via a very touchy feely remote and Denon also includes an IR blaster to affix to the back of the speaker bar in case it obstructs line of sight for your TVs iR sensor. We wish they all did that and you can even get the S514 to learn commands from your display’s remote. The buttons of the remote are almost totally replicated by some on the front panel of the main speaker, which also act as indicators for volume, input and listening mode selections.

    The Denon DHT-S514 is a thoroughly capable soundbar package with the power of the subwoofer really bolstering the overall experience. Denon has really tuned the component pieces extremely well, allowing deep, resonant bass to be accompanied by very clear mids and highs. It may lean toward being a little bit too bright and crisp for some, particularly with certain music, but the Movie mode provides a genuinely surround-like experience with multi-channel movie audio tracks.

    There’s really very little to fault in this package from Denon. It’s coherent, well designed and gives every soundbar around this price-point more than a run for its money. Recommended.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    8

    Connectivity

    8

    Ease of Use

    9

    Sound Quality

    8

    Features

    7

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    8

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