Denon vs Yamaha
Which of these top A/V receiver brands is best for you?
In this article: Everything you need to know about Denon and Yamaha home theater receivers, including…
- Denon History and A/V receiver technology
- Yamaha History and A/V receiver technology
- Important A/V receiver features and specs
- Denon home theater receiver lines
- Yamaha home theater receiver lines
…And we’ll share some receiver shopping tips, along with a few other great offerings from Denon and Yamaha.
Denon and Yamaha, two of Japan’s most popular and successful audio companies, craft some of the finest A/V components one can purchase. Each brand’s home theater receivers get rave reviews from Crutchfield employees and customers alike. But how do they compare?
Before we get to that comparison, let’s explore each brand’s history to give you an understanding of where they came from and where they are now. Then we’ll look at what makes each brand unique and the proprietary technologies that set them apart.
Denon had a different name when it started. In 1910, an American entrepreneur called Frederick Whitney Horn and some Japanese partners founded Nippon Denki Onkyo Kabushikigaisha (literally "Japanese Electric Sound Company"). It was first a part of the Nippon Chikuonki Shokai (Japanese Recorders Corporation) and produced a single-disc record and a gramophone in its first year of operation — two firsts for Japan.
Frederick Whitney Horn, one of the founders of Denon.
Almost thirty years later, the company produced the DR-148, its first professional disc recording machine. They delivered the DR-148 to the Nippon Hoso Kyokai ("Japan Broadcasting Corporation" in English) in 1939 for the 1940 Tokyo Olympic Games. Those Games never happened due to the outbreak of World War II.
The company became Denon in 1944, the name stemming from a shortening of “Nippon DENki ONkyo” The company made history when their DP-17K professional disc recorder recorded Emperor Hirohito’s surrender broadcast on August 15th, 1945, a few weeks before WWII’s official end.
In 1945, the groundbreaking DP-17K allowed the Japanese people to hear the voice of their emperor for the first time.
After the war, Denon thundered forward, focusing on crafting excellent disc recorders until the early 1960s. The company changed over to making phono cartridges and had tons of success. Their first headphone model, the SH-31, was released in 1966. They made the famed DN-302F, a direct-drive turntable for professional broadcast studios, in 1970. That helped set the company on course to creating their now-legendary DP-3000 and DP-7000 direct-drive turntables.
Denon dipped their toes into the world of integrated amps in 1972 with the release of their PMA-500. They also went on to develop the world’s first professional CD player in 1981, a year before the first commercial CD hit the market. Denon also developed their first receiver, the AVC-500, in the ‘80s, and that gave them a proper head start on developing the receivers we know and love today.
The massive AVC-A1SE started Denon's "modern" line of home theater receivers.
Speaking of which, the first “modern” Denon A/V receiver dropped in 2000. The AVC-A1SE featured six discreet channels of amplification and surround sound processing. In 2008, the company released the high-end AVP-A1HD, which boasted some serious power and ten channels of amplification. Since then — over 110 years after the company’s creation — Denon has continued to craft exceptional home theater receivers for all enthusiasts.
Denon A/V Receiver Technology
It’s safe to say that Denon has mastered the art of making quality, great-sounding equipment. Here are a few core technologies that set them apart from the rest of the pack.
Audyssey — Audyssey is Denon’s proven room correction software. It uses advanced DSP algorithms to “tune” your speakers to get the best sound in your specific listening environment. It corrects everything from timing errors, volume discrepancies, and frequency peaks and dips caused by your room’s acoustics. Audyssey comes in different flavors, with higher-end receivers featuring Denon's advanced MultiEQ® XT32 DSP algorithm.
Audyssey room calibration microphone.
HEOS — Denon wanted to make it easy to get great sound even in rooms where running wires isn’t possible. Thus, they created the HEOS wireless music ecosystem. This feature is on a lot of their home theater receivers, plus some sound bars, a CD player/stereo receiver combo, and other components. There are even dedicated speakers with HEOS built in. The best part? The whole system is app controllable.
Denon's HEOS system comes in all shapes and sizes, from sound bars to receivers to self-powered speakers.
Compressed Audio Restorer — This neat feature aims to give more life to compressed formats, like MP3. It uses a unique algorithm that analyzes the incoming compressed audio signal and adds back frequencies that the signal is missing. It also corrects bass and irregular changes in volume to give you consistent, rich sound from otherwise lossy files.
Dolby Atmos Height Virtualization — Don't have a place for dedicated height speakers? Denon receivers with Atmos Height Virtualization can reproduce overhead effects accurately without in-ceiling or upward-firing speakers. It works by applying "overhead cue" filters to your content before it gets mixed and passes through your speakers.
A quick note about Marantz
You may be scrolling through Marantz products on our website and notice that some of them have Denon-specific features. Saul Marantz’s legendary company merged with Denon in 2002, and since then, the two companies have shared a lot of cool technologies across their product offerings.
You’ll find Denon’s HEOS wireless ecosystem on a lot of Marantz’s CD players, network music players, stereo receivers, and home theater receivers. That means you can own Denon and Marantz components and they’ll work together in a multi-room system. You’ll also find Audyssey room correction software on pretty much every Marantz home theater receiver we offer.
Yamaha is much older than you might think. “Nippon Gakki Co. Ltd” (the company’s original name, simplified in English to “Japan Musical Instruments”), started in 1887. That’s 19 years after the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji Restoration.
That’s important to note, because after the “fall of the samurai”, Japan experienced unprecedented technological growth and development. Technology from Western countries arrived in vast quantities to Japan since the shogunate was no longer there to regulate and restrict Western trade and influence. As a result, Japanese society started to change. If that hadn’t happened, a spry Torakusu Yamaha might never have invented the audio company we know today.
Torakusu Yamaha, the founder of Yamaha.
Torakusu Yamaha had an interesting pedigree. His father was the astronomer (and samurai!) for the Kishu clan, who ruled the Kishu Domain (a sizeable chunk of land south of Osaka) during Japan’s Edo period. As a boy, Torakusu would read his father’s astronomy books and they sparked his fascination with machines and technology.
As a young man, he became captivated by the new watches in Osaka that were being imported from the West. After studying the trade in Nagasaki for a couple years, he became an expert watchmaker and wanted to broaden his horizons some more. He went to Osaka and learned how to repair medical equipment.
In 1886, he travelled to Hamamatsu to repair medical equipment as a career. During his time there, a local elementary school had a broken reed organ that needed fixing. Torakusu agreed to help them out. He found the problem and repaired the organ, but also saw that reed organs had great business potential.
This is the first reed organ Torakusu Yamaha ever worked on.
He and a colleague crafted the first Japanese-made reed organ two months later. He wanted to present his creation to the Music Institute (today’s Tokyo University of Arts). The only problem was that it was over 160 miles away. Being ever the trooper, he and another person carried it on a pole across the mountains of Hakone to the university. Much to Torakusu’s dismay, the university professors weren’t fans because of its poor tuning.
He spent the next month at the university learning music theory, tuning, and a whole host of other things. He went back to Hamamatsu and built a second reed organ in two months. The new organ garnered favorable praise and, soon after, he received an order for seven organs. More sales followed.
After those humble beginnings, Nippon Gakki incorporated on October 12th, 1887. Torakusu Yamaha passed away in 1916, but the company thundered onward. By 1922 Nippon Gakki had made its first hand-wound gramophone. In 1954, the company produced its first hi-fi player. 1973 saw the awesome CA-1000 amplifier hit the market.
Yamaha's first hand-wound gramophone, circa 1922.
By 1987, the company was making everything from hi-fi amplifiers to mixers to computers and sequencers. Also in 1987, Nippon Gakki changed its name Yamaha Corporation to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary.
Fast-forwarding a bit, the RX series of home theater receivers took off in the early-to-mid 1990s. The RX-V992, released in 1997, was the first Yamaha receiver to have native Dolby Digital decoding. 2003 and 2004 saw the release of the company’s famed RX-Z9 amplifier and Digital Sound Projector. The higher-end Aventage line of home theater receivers hit the market in the 2010s. In 2015, they released their proprietary wireless music system MusicCast.
The RX-Z9, shown here, was awesome for its time. It paved the way for Yamaha's current receiver lineup.
In 2018, the company built the Innovation Center, a place where all the greatest engineering minds at Yamaha collaborate and design new products. The Innovation Center houses one of the largest anechoic chambers in Japan and has a whole host of rooms dedicated to acoustics research.
Yamaha A/V Receiver Technology
Yamaha continues to refine their A/V gear and evolve their sound. They make receivers, components, and speakers for everyone, from the average listener to the serious audiophile. In their hundred-plus-years of being around, they’ve learned a thing or two. Some of the technologies that set them apart are:
YPAO — Yamaha Parametric room Acoustic Optimizer (or YPAO for short) is Yamaha’s room correction software for home theater receivers. It uses a sensitive microphone to detect test tones played through your speakers. It then gauges the distance between the microphone and your speakers and optimizes each speaker’s settings for the best sound in your room
R.S.C — Reflected Sound Control (or R.S.C) is a more advanced feature of YPAO that’s featured on Yamaha’s higher end receivers. YPAO with R.S.C creates individual filters for each speaker aimed at overcoming room reflections as well as dips and peaks in each speaker’s frequency response.
Cinema DSP 3D — Yamaha’s proprietary DSP program. Cinema DSP 3D lets you choose from several different sound modes that recreate the acoustics of music halls, movie theaters, and more. It adds an extra layer of immersion and depth to your music and films.
Yamaha's MusicCast ecosystem has a diverse component portfolio and includes sound bars, turntables, powered speakers, and more.
MusicCast — MusicCast is Yamaha’s proprietary multi-room audio system. Receivers with MusicCast built in can have a variety of sources streamed to them over Wi-Fi. But the fun doesn’t stop at receivers; Yamaha also has turntables, speakers, and sound bars with MusicCast built in. You can group up to 20 different devices together for a wireless multi-room audio system.
What to look for in a new receiver
There are so many home theater receiver options to choose from and the sheer volume of units might seem overwhelming. My best advice would be to consider the future and choose a receiver that will serve you both now and later.
Here are a few concepts you'll need to be familiar with during your search for a receiver:
Number of channels — Every home theater receiver has "5.1", "7.1", or higher, listed somewhere in its specs. The first number relates to the number of speakers the receiver supports. The second number is how many subwoofer outputs are present. For example, a receiver with 5.1 channels can support five main speakers and a single subwoofer.
Watts per channel — The RMS wattage per channel tells you how much power the receiver will continuously output to your speakers. Speakers starved for power sound hollow and muddy, while overpowered speakers are prone to damage and distortion. For the best sound, you'll need to match the wattage output of the receiver as close as possible to the wattage rating of your speakers.
Wireless streaming — Most receivers can have audio wirelessly streamed to them via either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Dolby Atmos — Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are three-dimensional surround sound formats that use in-ceiling or upward-firing speakers for overhead sounds like thunder and other "height" effects. For more information on the two formats, check out our article.
Dolby Atmos systems are made up of regular "ground" speakers and in-ceiling or "height" speakers. Atmos content provides a true three-dimensional soundscape to your favorite films.
eARC — Short for enhanced Audio Return Channel, this feature lets you send audio between your receiver and TV, and vice versa, through a single HDMI cable. eARC supports uncompressed audio formats like Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, & DTS HD Master Audio.
HDR — High Dynamic Range enhances picture quality of HDR-encoded sources increasing the dynamic range of brightness levels, creating greater contrast in the overall scene and giving darker pictures more definition. The most common HDR formats are HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision.
Video upscaling — A lot of Denon and Yamaha receivers are able to improve picture quality by upscaling 1080p content to 4K. Some models even support analog-to-HDMI upconversion, meaning the receiver can take a 480i component video signal and upscale it to 4K.
Next-gen gaming features — These gaming-focused features come in quite a few flavors. The ones you'll most often see are:
- ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) — Bypasses the receiver's latency settings to best match that of your display and gaming console.
- VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) — Lets your TV adapt to the frame rate of your game console.
- QMS (Quick Media Switching) — Allows HDMI sources to instantly change the resolution or frame rate to prevent screen blackouts.
- QFT (Quick Frame Transport) — Quickly transmits each frame to reduce display latency.
DAC — Digital-to-analog converters are small chips that convert the digital 1s and 0s of your sources into an analog signal. Higher-end receivers usually have better DAC chips than entry-level models. Check out the first two sections of our DAC Buying Guide for more in-depth info on DAC chips.
Multi-zone audio outputs — Some receivers have amplified Zone 2 and Zone 3 outputs. These are independent outputs that let you feed audio to other other rooms and areas that have speakers. You can use separate sources in each zone or the same source across all zones.
Preamp outputs — These outputs are used to send a signal to a separate amplifier. They're particularly useful if you'd like to use a separate amplifier to power your power-hungry front-channel speakers or speakers in another zone.
Our tips on choosing the right receiver
While it can be hard to predict future audio additions, getting an AVR that allows for expansion later down the line is a wise decision. Always make sure the receiver has enough speaker channels for your main speakers, plus an extra set or two of channels to accommodate future expansions.
You can use extra channels on your receiver to upgrade your setup from a 5.1 system to a 7.1 or a 5.2.1 Dolby Atmos system. Extra channels also let you add a second wired zone for stereo music or bi-amp compatible front speakers for better sound.
Connections are a big consideration. Take an inventory of what you’d like to connect (like a Blu-ray player, CD player, turntable, etc.) and make sure the receiver you choose has the right connections. If you want to add some more components later, I’d recommend grabbing a receiver with a few more HDMI inputs and RCA inputs than you need right now to be safe.
The rear panel of Denon's AVR-X3800 is chock-full of ways to connect your sources.
If you’re a movie buff with a collection of Blu-ray discs, getting a receiver with advanced video processing will aid with picture quality. There are also receivers that have 8K support if you’d like to future-proof your system and get ahead of the wave of 8K content that we expect to be released.
Consider how you’d like to control your receiver. Are you a remote control fan, or would you want the added convenience of a smartphone app? Do you want your receiver to turn on other components in your system through 12-volt triggers? Do you own any home automation products (like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) that you’d like to use alongside your receiver to make operating it more seamless?
If you need further guidance on features and other considerations, check out our Beginner's guide to home theater receivers.
With those things laid out, it’s time to dive headfirst into Denon and Yamaha’s home theater receiver offerings.
Denon Home Theater Receiver Lines
Denon’s A/V receivers are versatile performers at all price points. The receivers start with the AVR-S line. The higher-priced AVR-X receivers offer better performance, more connections, and often, more power. Denon receivers, regardless of the line, tend to have a warmer sound signature. They’re great for speakers with a strong emphasis on high frequencies (also called "bright" speakers).
The affordable AVR-S line brings a lot of value to the table. They’re well-built, reliable, and offer some useful premium features that are seldom found on similarly priced units from other brands. All AVR-S receivers have two RCA preamp outputs for connecting up to two powered subwoofers.
The AVR-S570BT, pictured here, is Denon's entry-level home theater receiver model.
The entry-level AVR-S570BT is a great option if you're new to home theater or if you have a smaller system. Going up to the next model, the AVR-S670H, gets you a bit more power, Wi-Fi connectivity, access to Denon's HEOS multi-room ecosystem, a couple more HDMI inputs, and gaming-optimized features like ALLM, VRR, and QFT.
Stepping up from the 670H to the AVR-S970H nets you more power, more speaker channels, dual zone capabilities, an extra HDMI output, two more stereo RCA inputs, and three additional 8K compatible HDMI inputs.
Denon’s AVR-X receivers are a testament to company’s hundred-plus years of experience. Receivers in this line boast better audio and video processing, higher-quality digital-to-analog converters, and cleaner amplification.
All AVR-X receivers support both 4K and 8K resolutions, along with all of the most popular HDR formats (HDR, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision). They have eARC HDMI connections, and next-gen gaming features (ALLM, QFT, and VRR). They also have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for music streaming, reference-quality 32-bit DACs across all channels, and support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Denon's more high-end AVR-X lineup of receivers starts with the AVR-X1800H. It's an impressive machine for the money (and looks pretty sweet, too.)
The line starts with the formidable AVR-X1800H, a 7.2-channel receiver with lots of HDMI inputs, a second zone, and plenty of power. Next up are the AVR-X2700H, which has more power, and the 'X2800H, which has two extra 8K compatible HDMI inputs.
The beefy 'X3800H is next in the line. This receiver gives you two extra speaker channels (9 total) and 105 watts of power per channel. The 'X3800H also has two additional subwoofer outputs (for a total of 4) and 8K support across all HDMI inputs.
The AVR-X4800H 9-channel receiver delivers 125 watts per channel to your speakers and upconverts video signals to 8K. The 'X4800H also supports 8K across all HDMI inputs, whereas the 'X4700H only features one 8K-compatible HDMI input.
Denon's AVR-X6800H (coming soon) is an eleven-channel beast that dishes out 140 watts per channel. It can power up to three independent zones, and has a plethora of inputs to work with, plus 13.2 channel RCA outputs for feeding signal into separate amplifiers.
The AVR-X8500HA is one of Denon's crowning achievements, boasting an incredible 13 channels of output. It delivers 150 watts per channel to your speakers and uses a monolithic amplifier to keep the power clean. It has just about any input you can imagine, plus analog RCA outputs for up to 15.2 channels.
Denon's 'X8500HA is a beastly monument to the company's engineering prowess.
Rounding out Denon's list is their new titan, the AVR-A1H. This first-of-its-kind receiver has 15 channels of robust amplification. It dishes out 150 watts per channel and can power just about anything. There are 17 analog pre-outs, along with four subwoofer outputs. That means the 'A1H can hypothetically tackle a massive 17.4 speaker system head-on with the help of an additional outboard amplifier.
Other offerings from Denon
Denon isn’t a stranger to home electronics outside of A/V receivers. They have you covered if you’re looking for a sound bar to improve your TV’s sound. They also still produce high-quality turntables and CD players if you’ve got some records or CDs you want to spin.
If you’re a two-channel purist, the company has a great selection of integrated amplifiers and stereo receivers to power your speakers. And if you're looking for an easy, entry-level two-channel music system, Denon also makes a micro desktop system that comes with an amplifier and speakers and can even play CDs.
Yamaha Home Theater Receiver Lines
Yamaha makes products for audio enthusiasts at a variety of price points. Their home theater receiver lineup consists of two series: the RX-V and the more expensive Aventage (or RX-A). Both series offer excellent performance for the money, but the Aventage line takes the cake in terms of sound quality and accuracy.
The RX-V line has a solid balance of affordability and sound quality. In fact, my first home theater receiver was an RX-V, and it surprised me with its great sound. Receivers in this line max out at seven channels and have ample power for most speakers. Our current RX-V receivers all support Bluetooth for music streaming. All models with built-in Wi-Fi support MusicCast.
They also have a plethora of digital and analog inputs for connecting sources. All RX-V receivers use 32-bit/384kHz Burr-Brown digital-to-analog converters to clean up your digital audio sources. Each receiver also features an HDMI ARC connection for hooking your TV up and basic YPAO room correction software.
The humble RX-V385 is the opening act of Yamaha's entry-level RX-V series.
The starter RX-V385 has modest specs and an affordable price. It's a great jumping off point if you're getting into home theater. It doesn't have Wi-Fi, but it does support 4K and most of the HDR formats available. Plus it deals out 70 watts per channel to your speakers.
The RX-V4A is next in the food chain, and it has a lot of modern comforts. The 'V4A outputs 80 watts per channel, supports both 4K and 8K, and has Wi-Fi built-in. It also works with Yamaha's MusicCast system and Amazon Alexa. Yamaha didn't leave out gamers either — the RX-V4A supports next-gen gaming features like ALLM, VRR, QFT, and QMS.
Yamaha's RX-V4A's sleek appearance complements its gorgeous sound.
Finishing out the line is the RX-V6A. It's a 7.2-channel receiver geared towards beefier systems. It has 7 total HDMI inputs for connecting gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and more. It also has more power than the other models, clocking in at 100 watts per channel.
Aventage series receivers provide premium sound, but also come with a premium price tag. After years of faithful service, I traded out my RX-V receiver for an RX-A model, and the difference in sound was fantastic. Aventage receivers showcase what Yamaha can do, and it’s a killer experience. These high-performance receivers feature better amplifiers, superior audio and video processing, and more inputs and outputs.
The high-performance Aventage line starts with the RX-A2A. The receiver delivers 100 watts per channel and isn't afraid to tackle power hungry speakers. It sports better sound and video processing than its RX-V model counterparts, and can even upscale 1080p video content to 8K.
Next up is the formidable RX-A4A. The power difference between it and the A2A is only 10 watts (100 watts per channel versus 110 watts per channel), but the real benefits to moving up to the A4A is the receiver's 7.2 analog RCA output channels, two extra HDMI outputs (for a total of three), and a better digital-to-analog converter chip.
The sleek RX-V4A is a solid entry into Yamaha's premium Aventage line.
By stepping up to the next model in the series, the RX-A6A, you get some great benefits. The A6A is a 9.2 channel receiver with 150 watts per channel, a premium ESS Sabre ES9026PRO DAC chip, a pair of balanced XLR input and output connections, and 11.2 preamp output channels for feeding signal into an external amp.
The RX-A line finishes with the RX-A8A. Yamaha's flagship 11.2 channel heavy hitter has the same power as the previous model, but the amplification is cleaner. It also has two ESS Sabre ES9026PRO digital-to-analog converter chips that do a great job of cleaning up sound from your digital sources.
Other offerings from Yamaha
Yamaha’s home electronics don’t stop at home theater receivers. They produce other audio components, too.
Check out their selection of sound bars if you’re looking for convenient, low-profile TV sound solutions. Their collection of integrated amplifiers and stereo receivers are great for two-channel music systems. If you’re looking for an easy multi-room audio setup, check out their selection of MusicCast wireless audio products.
If you have a collection of albums you’re dying to hear again, Yamaha also produces turntables and CD players. If you’re more of a private listener, check out some of their headphones. The company also makes excellent pro audio gear if for live performers.
Is Denon better than Yamaha?
So now it’s time for the big question: Is one brand better than the other? There’s no “brand A is better than brand B” type of answer. Both Denon and Yamaha are titans in their field with over a hundred years of research and development under their respective belts.
From my experience with both brands, Yamaha receivers have a more neutral sound signature while Denon receivers have a warmer, more relaxed sound. This is due to the digital-to-analog converter chips and amplifier circuits they use. Denon AVRs are worth considering if you have speakers with harsh tweeters that need taming.
From a wireless music system perspective, both brands’ ecosystems are user-friendly and easy to set up. Their app interfaces present all your sources in an easy-to-digest format. Sound-wise, I’ve never experienced audio dropouts, stuttering, or other issues.
In the end, it comes down to what your ears prefer. As a personal anecdote, I use Klipsch Reference Premiere series speakers with my Yamaha Aventage receiver and have no complaints. Prior to buying Klipsch speakers, I had powered a Monitor Audio Bronze series system off my Aventage and was also pleased.
Still having a hard time choosing between Denon and Yamaha? There’s nothing better than some one-on-one personal advice. Our helpful Advisors get to listen to a lot of different receivers and speakers and would be more than happy to help guide you further. Feel free to give them a shout!
You're covered after you buy, too. Every Crutchfield purchase comes with free lifetime technical support.