In this article, I want to bring you another “battle of the brands.” This time, it is Denon vs. Onkyo. I will compare the most interesting receivers of these two brands. As usual, I have chosen models from different price segments in order to cover the possible range. This comparison aims to find out which model is better in its category and to make it easier for you to choose between Denon and Onkyo.
Denon company history and overview
In 1910, Frederick Whitney Horn, a native of the United States, founded the Nipon Chikuonki Shokai Company. It specialized in the production of phonographs and records of classical music. In 1927, part of its shares was acquired by Columbia Graphophone Company, and in January 1928, the Nippon Columbia Phonograph Company Ltd was formed.
The modern brand name (Denon) appeared only in 1939, when the name of one of the subsidiaries, Japan Denki Onkyo, was combined into one word. So it is essentially an acronym.
Gradually, Nippon Columbia expanded its areas of activity, increasing the range of products. Since 1971, the company has been producing and selling Hi-Fi components: amplifiers, tuners, and vinyl record players. Then, in 1981, the company released the world’s first CD player – DN-3000FE, and a year later, DCD-2000 came, designed for home CD playback.
In 2001, the company was reorganized into a corporation with 98% ownership by Ripplewood Holdings and 2% by Hitachi Corporation. In 2002, Denon merged with the Japanese company Marantz.
Today Denon is one of the market leaders in various audio equipment: receivers, speakers, vinyl players, headphones, etc. As history has shown, Denon’s mission has always been to create products that combine the highest standards of sound quality and reliability. The company aimed to convey the passion and energy depicted in music and movies, as well as the emotions and vision of musicians and filmmakers. Denon engineers constantly innovate to change the present and believe that new technologies and breakthroughs lie ahead.
Onkyo company history and overview
To correctly compare Onkyo receivers with competitors from the Denon camp, you need to know the history of this brand. The Japanese company Onkyo was founded in 1946 and was initially called Osaka Denki Onkyo K.K. After almost 100 years, it is a reputable manufacturer of audio and video systems for home consumption.
The first Onkyo receivers hit the market in the 1970s and were immediately recognized and loved by consumers. In 2000, the company created the first multi-channel receiver, and in 2001, the receiver was first connected to a home theater system by the company’s technicians. In 2002, Onkyo already added an Ethernet interface to its receivers, allowing you to connect them to computers.
Today, Onkyo receivers are targeted at the general consumer and compete with other market leaders. Through continuous development and experimentation with sound, the company has achieved quite a high level and recognition among many users worldwide.
How I tested receivers by Denon and Onkyo
I performed Denon vs. Onkyo sound quality testing in two aspects: music performance and movie sound. I chose Blade Runner 2049 (one of my favorite movies) and used the following songs to test the musical capabilities:
- Max Roach – Lonesome Lover – SoundCloud
- Anne Sofie von Otter – Baby Plays Around – Deezer
- The Chemical Brothers – Das Spiegel – Spotify
- The Weeknd – The Hills (CD player)
- Led Zeppelin – Ramble On (CD player)
- George Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue (CD player)
- Thundercat – Uh Uh (CD player)
- Daft Punk – Get Lucky (CD player)
In addition to the receivers, the following equipment was used:
- CD player SACD 30n
- Blu-ray player Sony UBP-X700
- Speaker wire – AudioQuest Type-9
- Speakers for movie – Klipsch RP-8060FA
- Stereo speakers:
- Klipsch RP-8060FA
- KEF Q350
- DALI OBERON 5
Mid-price Denon and Onkyo Receivers Comparison
Denon AVR-X3700H vs Onkyo TX-RZ50
I will start with the most popular segment of receivers – Mid-price. I’ve chosen 2 models, with a good set of features and I’m sure you’ll be interested to know which is better, Denon or Onkyo?
The Denon AVC-X3700H is the 2020 model with a winning combination of features, performance, and price. It has many advantages inherent in even higher-end receivers, so the Onkyo TX-RZ50 has a worthy contender.
Although the X3700H has nine built-in channels, you can set it up however you want, from a standard 5.1-channel configuration to an immersive 7.2.4-channel speaker configuration with two independent subwoofers (but it will require additional amplification). You can also run a two-channel mode for music. The TX-RZ50 is an incredibly powerful 9.2-channel receiver (250 watts/channel (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 10% THD, 1 channel) and 120 watts/channel (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 channels, FTC) that is sure to add drive to your leisure time.
The X3700H has seven HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs, each capable of handling 4K/60Hz, HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. One of the inputs and one of the outputs also support the latest HDMI 2.1 specifications, such as 8K/60Hz, 4K / 120Hz, VRR, ALLM, and eARC. Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, and the HEOS multi-room system are also present. It adds a wireless rear speaker and subwoofer capability and makes the Denon AVR-X3700H work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri. As for Onkyo, it has pretty much the same connectivity and connectivity options, except for a few important points. This model has Bluetooth bi-directional technology, which not only allows you to stream music from your gadget but also allows you to transmit audio played via AVR to compatible wireless headphones. Unlike the Denon HEOS, it has full Zone 2 support. In addition, the TX-RZ50 can work with three Sonos ports – one for each of the three independent zones – each playing a completely different streaming service from Sonos Radio. Thus, despite almost equal capabilities, a slight advantage regarding connection methods still remains with Onkyo.
The Denon AVC-X3700H can decode major object-oriented audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, and IMAX Enhanced. Having tested the audio, I will note that I liked its quality. It had great cinematic delivery and accurate audio placement across the room. Regardless of what’s happening on the screen, the dialogue always remains clear and focused on the action. Thanks to Audyssey room correction, the subwoofers integrate perfectly with the other speakers in the system, blending seamlessly and producing deep yet controlled bass. In addition, Denon’s two-channel playback ability amazed me with the clean reproduction and even distribution of the music across the front soundstage.
The Onkyo TX-RZ50, like its competitor, supports modern surround sound formats. Still, it is also certified to offer four different THX listening modes: movies, games, music, and surround sound EX. Incidentally, in 1993, Onkyo became the first home theater electronics brand to achieve THX certification. As far as sound was concerned, it was terrific. But comparing these 2 models in terms of sound, I could not single out a clear leader.
And a couple of other interesting points. The TX-RZ50 features Klipsch Optimize Mode, which allows you to integrate the Klipsch Reference and Reference Premiere speakers with your receiver. You can now select which speaker models you will use for each individual channel, and optimized crossover settings will automatically be applied. I think Denon’s Audyssey is inferior to the more modern Dirac Live Room Correction technology found in the TX-RZ50.
These are two bright representatives of the middle price segment, equipped with many useful features, but, most importantly, really guarantee excellent sound quality. Therefore, it’s hard for me to single out a clear favorite among them, but my personal preference lies on the side of the Onkyo TX-RZ50. Still, it is slightly superior to its competitor, but the final decision is up to you, and whatever choice you make will definitely satisfy you!
|Key specs||Denon AVR-X3700H||Onkyo TX-RZ50|
|Power output||105 W/8 Ohm, 135 W/6 Ohm||120 W/8 Ohm, 250 W/6 Ohm|
|HDMI inputs/outputs||7/3 (8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz pass-through)||7/2 (8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz pass-through)|
|Video functions||HDMI to HDMI scaling (up to 8K 60/50)||HDMI to HDMI scaling (up to 8K 60/50)|
|Supports||HDMI ARC, HDMI eARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.3, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision||HDMI ARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.3, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision|
|Streaming services||AirPlay2, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal||AirPlay2, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal|
|Surround sound||DTS:X, Dolby Atmos||DTS:X, Dolby Atmos, IMAX Enhanced|
Denon AVR-X3700H pros and cons
- Deep and powerful sound.
- Heos app to control the various connected devices.
- No Auro 3D support.
Onkyo TX-RZ840 pros and cons
- Incredibly powerful model.
- THX certification.
- Dirac Live Room Correction.
- Works with Sonos.
- No Auro 3D support.
Denon AVR-X2700H vs Onkyo TX-NR797
Next, I offer you a comparison of two radically different models. I start with one clear difference between Onkyo versus Denon. The Denon AVR-X2700H is a 7.2 channel receiver, while the Onkyo TX-NR797 can handle 9.2 channels. In addition, there are differences in power per channel: the AVR-X2700H delivers 95 W / 8 Ohm, 125 W / 6 Ohm, compared to 100 W/8 Ohm for the TX-NR797. However, regarding the supported audio features, there are no differences. It has a standard set of technologies from Dolby and DTS and the lack of Auro 3D.
When we talk about video processing, I can’t say there are many similarities. The AVR-X2700H is the 8K-ready receiver. It has HDCP 2.3 and 8K signal pass-through. Moreover, only in Denon, I found the video up-scaling feature up to 8K/60 Hz. On the other hand, the TX-NR797 supports only 4K/60 Hz processing without an up-scaling feature. However, I should note that there are 4K pass-through and Analog to HDMI video conversion.
The listening test I began from the movie. As I expected, the Denon produced a deep and dynamic sound with strong bass. The sound was powerful, but sometimes I lacked the details. In turn, the Onkyo receiver floods the room with soft and detailed sound. All the effects are in their places, but the former dynamics are lacking.
In music testing, I preferred the TX-NR797 sound. The sound is smooth and soft, where all registers are clearly defined. I heard the details of vocals and instruments perfectly. However, the AVR-X2700H`s sound is entirely different. The receiver performs in the same manner, as in the test with the movie – powerfully and dynamically, but details are partially lost.
Having listened to both receivers, I can confidently claim that the Onkyo TX-NR797 is a better choice for listening to music because of its not very dynamic sound and the great sound performance. Alternatively, the Denon AVR-X2700H will be good for a home cinema setup. It has enough dynamics, but not enough detail for working with music.
|Key specs||Denon AVR-X3700H||Onkyo TX-RZ840|
|Power output||95 W/8 Ohm, 125 W/6 Ohm||100 W/8 Ohm|
|HDMI inputs/outputs||6/2 (8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz pass-through)||7/2 (4K/60Hz pass-through)|
|Video functions||HDMI to HDMI scaling (up to 8K 60/50)||video conversion analog to HDMI|
|Supports||HDMI ARC, HDMI eARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.3, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision||HDMI ARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.3, HDR10, Dolby Vision|
|Streaming services||AirPlay2, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal||AirPlay2, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal|
|Surround sound||DTS:X, Dolby Atmos||DTS:X, Dolby Atmos|
Onkyo TX-NR797 pros and cons
- Soft and detailed sound.
- There is an Analog to HDMI video conversion function.
- The lack of Auro 3D.
Denon AVR-X2700H pros and cons
- Excellent producing of surround sound effects.
- Powerful amplifier unit.
- Sound details are lost in a powerful bass.
Premium Denon and Onkyo Receivers Comparison
Onkyo TX-RZ3100 vs Denon AVR-X6700H
It’s time for premium AV receiver comparisons. Both the Onkyo TX-RZ3100 and Denon AVR-X6700H operate with 11.2 channels. There is, of course, a difference in power output. The AVR-X6700H has 140 W/8 Ohm or 175 W/6 Ohm, while its competitor has impressive performance – 140 W/8 Ohm or 200 W/6 Ohm. And since these are premium models, here I saw a complete set of all current sound decoders: Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, Auro 3D, and all their derivatives.
Also, I want to point out that some Denon`s AVR-X6700H features will be available with software updates in the future (DTS: X Pro, for example).
The video capabilities are again radically different, in favor of the Denon AVR-X6700H. This receiver supports a video stream with a resolution of 8K/60 Hz. Along with this, there is an up-scaling up to 8K and a pass-through video stream. Alternatively, the Onkyo TX-RZ3100 can still run at a 4K resolution maximum. Moreover, I found here the up-scaling, but only up to 4K, and pass-through feature. However, I cannot but mention that Onkyo does not have HDR 10+ and Dynamic HDR support. And also, in a pair of these two receivers, only Denon has built-in eARC.
Testing has shown that receivers of such high quality do an excellent job of creating a cinema ambiance and correctly and accurately reproducing surround sound effects. As a result, the music is lively and energetic, and it bursts into the room with significant force.
In the music test, the differences appeared. Again, this is influenced by brand orientation. The Denon`s receiver still suppresses detail with its unrestrained bass. Onkyo’s receiver, on the other hand, acts more like an amplifier than a receiver.
Summing up the comparison, all I can say is that both of these receivers are better suited to experienced users who already have a home theater setup. However, as the heart of an advanced home theater system, each device will provide excellent sound and picture.
|Key specs||Denon AVR-X6700H||Onkyo TX-RZ3100|
|Power output||140 W/8 Ohm, 175 W/6 Ohm||140 W/8 Ohm, 200 W/6 Ohm|
|HDMI inputs/outputs||8/3 (8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz pass-through)||8/2 (4K/60Hz pass-through)|
|Video functions||video conversion analog to HDMI, HDMI to HDMI scaling (up to 8K 60/50)||video conversion analog to HDMI, HDMI to HDMI scaling (up to 4K/60)|
|Supports||HDMI ARC, HDMI eARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.3, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision||HDMI ARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.2, HDR10, Dolby Vision|
|Streaming services||AirPlay2, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal||AirPlay, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal|
|Surround sound||DTS:X, Dolby Atmos||DTS:X, Dolby Atmos|
Denon AVR-X6700H pros and cons
- Compatible with all surround sound formats.
- Supports front-wide channels.
- Future-oriented with 8K video capabilities.
- No Multi-Channel Input.
Onkyo TX-RZ3100 pros and cons
- Great audio reproduction.
- The newest Bluetooth version.
- No HDR 10+ and Dynamic HDR support.
Budget Denon and Onkyo Receivers Comparison
Onkyo TX-SR393 vs Denon AVR-S540BT
When comparing Onkyo vs Denon, I don’t forget the entry-level models. Both of these devices operate in 5.2 channel mode. And looking at audio processing, it became clear to me the key differences between these models. The first is the power of the amplifier. Onkyo TX-SR393 operates at 80 W/8 Ohm or 155 W/6 Ohm. On the other hand, Denon AVR-S540BT is inferior to the competitor and has 70 W/8 Ohm or 90 W/6 Ohm. However, not only in this, but the Denon`s receiver also loses. While the TX-SR393 supports Dolby Atmos and DTS: X decoders, the Denon AVR-S540BT lacks them.
I cannot call the Onkyo TX-SR393 network devices. It just has a Bluetooth module. However, the AVR-S540BT has no network functions at all, apart from Bluetooth.
Both of these receivers support 4K video streams. However, only the Japanese device is equipped with an upscale function. In addition to this, the Denon AVR-S540BT has several video features: Dolby Vision, HDR, and HLG. And the competing receiver, in addition to these functions, also has HDR10.
The TX-SR393 performed much better than the competitor when watching the movie, thanks to its surround decoders. Sound effects moved around the soundstage and positioned according to what was happening on the screen. I can’t say that the sound dynamics were exciting, but the quality was enough to make the movie enjoyable. The Denon AVR-S540BT did not respond well to the film. The situation was saved by the presence of the DTS HD Master, which allowed me to hear the multi-channel sound, but without sound objects. The musical component of the receivers is slightly better. Each of the models produced a fairly balanced sound with good detail.
Comparing these two models, I can confidently say that the Onkyo TX-SR393 is clearly the right choice for an entry-level home theater. It is that more reliable audio receiver that can handle both movies and music.
|Key specs||Denon AVR-S540BT||Onkyo TX-SR393|
|Power output||70 W/8 Ohm, 90 W/6 Ohm||80 W/8 Ohm, 155 W/6 Ohm|
|HDMI inputs/outputs||5/1 (4K/60Hz pass-through)||4/1 (4K/60Hz pass-through)|
|Video functions||4K/60Hz pass-through||4K/60Hz pass-through, HDMI to HDMI scaling (up to 4K/60)|
|Supports||HDMI ARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.2, HDR10, Dolby Vision||HDMI ARC, HDMI CEC, HDCP2.2, HDR10, Dolby Vision|
|Surround sound||DTS HD Master, Dolby TrueHD||DTS:X, Dolby Atmos|
Onkyo TX-SR393 pros and cons
- Surround sound decoders support.
- Balanced and warm sound in stereo mode.
- No network functions.
Denon AVR-S540BT pros and cons
- Performs 4K video passthrough.
- Has no upscale features.
- No surround sound decoders.
Stereo Denon and Onkyo Receivers Comparison
Denon DRA-800H vs Onkyo TX-8260
Concluding the series of comparisons, I looked at the Denon DRA-800H vs Onkyo TX-8260. These stereo receivers combine a stereo amplifier unit and a video path for a 4K video playback.
The most exciting part of each receiver is the amplifier. The Denon DRA-800H can operate in two-channel mode with support for two subwoofer outputs but without bi-amplification. In this mode, the receiver can deliver 100 W/8 Ohm or 120 W/6 Ohm. Such power allows the receiver to handle playback of high-quality audio and even vinyl (thanks to Phono in).
The competitor, the Onkyo TX-8260, is built with discrete amplifiers and produces 80 W/8 Ohm or 160 W/6 Ohm per channel. Also, I want to mention that this receiver circuit has Asahi Kasei AK4452VN DAC, which allows the receiver to handle any Hi-Res files. In addition, this audio circuit design allows the receiver to operate two sets of speakers, which cannot be done with the DRA-800H.
Both receivers have advanced network functions. The manufacturers have implemented support for music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, etc. Wi-Fi and Ethernet modules are responsible for connecting to the network. And for communication with other devices, there is Bluetooth and AirPlay2. However, I want to say that TX-8260 still stands out from the competition because of the built-in Chromecast and FireConnect.
Now I want to move on to the testing of devices. I will immediately note that the model DRA-800H was pleasantly surprised and pleased with the purity, transparency, and enviable detail of the sound picture. The device reproduced high-frequency and mid-frequency components of the sound range very accurately and sounded quite dense and confident in the low frequencies.
The Onkyo TX-8260 also managed to please me. The sound stage was with characteristic dynamics, the bass range never seemed strained, always matched the timing, and the other frequency ranges also had a clear and distinct structure. However, compared to the Denon, which is better, this stereo receiver lacked transparency and power in the lower frequency range.
To conclude the comparison, I can say that both receivers will do well in playing back any audio source in a typical high-end manner. However, if you will be using the receiver also for watching movies, the Denon DRA-800H will be better suited for this purpose because of its dynamic sound.
|Key specs||Denon DRA-800H||Onkyo TX-8260|
|Power output||100 W/8 Ohm, 120 W/6 Ohm||80 W/8 Ohm, 160 W/6 Ohm|
|Streaming services||AirPlay2, Spotify, Pandora||AirPlay, Spotify, Pandora|
Denon DRA-800H pros and cons
- The sound quality is robust, detailed, and transparent, with the right amount of base.
- HDMI with ARC and CEC function.
- No Bi-amplification function.
Onkyo TX-8260 pros and cons
- Phono input for connecting a player with an MM cartridge.
- The built-in Chromecast and FireConnect.
- Fixed power cable.