This accomplished sonic performer delivers a wide front soundstage and deep bass. It’s well made, supports HEOS multi-room, and boasts a host of smart features. There’s no remote, and the lack of immersive audio disappoints at this price – but, otherwise, this is a solid soundbar system
- Expansive and detailed sound
- Easy to set up
- HEOS multi-room
- Good smart features
- No remote control
- Limited to lossy home cinema soundtracks
- Review Price: £589
- 2.1-channel audio
- Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus & DTS decoding
- HEOS multiroom
- Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant & Siri
- Dimensions: 101.8cm x 7.3cm x 10.4cm
- Weight: 3.1kg
- Built-in Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; AirPlay 2
- 2 x HDMI; 1 x optical; 1 x coaxial; 1 x USB; 1 x 3.5mm; 1 x Ethernet
The Denon DHT-S516H represents the sweet spot in the company’s expanded range of soundbars. Like the larger DHT-S716H, it works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, plus there’s HEOS multi-room functionality builtin.
The S516H only has two channels, compared to the three found on the more expensive model. However, unlike the S716H, it comes with a wireless subwoofer for deeper bass.
Denon’s approach to its soundbar range is similar to Bowers & Wilkins, with an emphasis on sound quality. However, while the S516H doesn’t include a remote, like the Formation Bar, it does support features expected in a 2020 soundbar.
Not just multi-room and integration with smart assistants, but also HDMI support and AirPlay 2. The only obvious feature missing is decoding for immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos.
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Denon DHT-S516H design – Elegant simplicity
The Denon DHT-S516H boasts the kind of elegant design and sleek styling you’d expect from the manufacturer. The main soundbar is finished in black, has an angled fabric grille at the front, and is solidly constructed. There are dark metal end plates, with some basic controls for volume up/down and mute on the right-hand side, while at the rear there are bass ports.
The soundbar is a good match for today’s larger screen sizes, but it’s also only 7cm high and shouldn’t block the screen if placed in front of a TV. There are optional raiser feet if necessary, and the S516H can be wall-mounted using slots at the rear, bumper pads and an included template.
On the inside are left and right speakers, composed of bi-amplified mid-woofers and tweeters. The soundbar uses digital amplification and DSP processing, but Denon is fairly tight-lipped on the exact numbers. The same goes for the included wireless subwoofer, which delivers the low-end frequencies and is styled to match the soundbar. The rear-ported sub fires downwards and comes with optional non-skid pads. It measures 17.2 x 31.1 x 17.2cm (WHD) and weighs 6.6kg.
The S516H doesn’t come with a remote control, nor does it have a proper display, other than a light at the bottom centre of the soundbar. As a result, you really need to use the HEOS app as a controller because it provides all the necessary info. Although, if you’ve connected the soundbar to your TV via HDMI-ARC, you can also use the TV remote for basic control such as changing the volume.
Setup is a piece of cake, with the main decisions related to whether or not to wall-mount the soundbar, and where to position the subwoofer. In the box Denon includes an IR blaster, which might be useful, along with an HDMI cable, an optical digital cable, a 3.5mm analogue cable and an Ethernet cable.
The connections are located in two recesses at the rear, with the first containing an HDMI input and output with ARC, allowing you to send audio from the TV back to the soundbar. These HDMI ports can handle 4K, HDR (including Dolby Vision) and HDCP 2.2, but if you need more than a single input then you should consider the S716H, which has four.
The second recess has an optical digital input, a 3.5mm jack, a USB port and an Ethernet connector – although there’s also Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and AirPlay 2.
Denon DHT-S516H features – A full house of smart assistants
The Denon DHT-S516H is a 2.1-channel system, and it decodes lossy Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS. If you want lossless decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, you’ll need to choose the S716H instead. Neither soundbar supports immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, but there are pre-set EQ modes for movie, music and night-time listening.
The S516H supports Denon’s HEOS multi-room system, which means you can stream music wirelessly to all compatible devices. The system is controlled using the HEOS app (iOS and Android), and allows you to play the same song everywhere, or select different songs on each connected device. If you have two HEOS speakers, you can even use the technology to add them to the soundbar as wireless surround channels.
The HEOS platform provides access to Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn Internet Radio, SoundCloud, Amazon Music, Napster, Deezer or any locally stored music file libraries. There’s also high-resolution playback, whether over your network or via USB, with support for DSD (2.8, 5.6 MHz), FLAC, WAV, ALAC (192/24), MP3, WMA and AAC files.
When it comes to smart assistants the S516H is agnostic, and can work with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can go hands-free, and control the soundbar using your voice to adjust the volume, play, pause or skip to the next track. The inclusion of AirPlay 2 not only allows you to stream music from other AirPlay compatible devices, but also provides access to Siri.
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Denon DHT-S516H performance – A powerful sound, but no surround presence
The Denon DHT-S516H delivers a big front soundstage that clearly benefits from the high-quality speakers built into the soundbar. There’s excellent stereo imaging, with plenty of width and some impressive localisation of instruments and effects. Despite the lack of a centre speaker, dialogue remains focused and clear, while the subwoofer provides a solid foundation of bass.
Since the S516H supports the HEOS multi-room system, it has clearly been designed with music in mind, and it doesn’t disappoint in this area. Listening to the La La Land soundtrack reveals a detailed sound, with a clean mid-range and a treble that’s free of any congestion. The vocals retain a pleasing warmth, while the jazz-influenced drums benefit from tight and well-timed bass.
Not surprisingly, the Music preset works well with music, but it also proves effective when it comes to watching TV. The mode ensures a well-defined and clear delivery, and for most shows the Denon can handle the audio with great skill. Watching Masterchef, the soundbar delivers the voice-over, music and effects with accuracy and precision.
The S516H is less impressive with more complex soundtracks, where the lack of rear speakers results in a soundstage that’s focused at the front of the room. Watching a film like Le Mans ’66, the racing scenes lose much of their impact, although the sub does a great job of giving the engines a throaty roar. The Movie mode tends to boost the bass, but I found the Music mode more balanced and thus better suited to the soundbar’s strengths.
Should you buy the Denon DHT-S516H?
The obvious alternative is the Vizio SB36512-F6, which costs the same but offers a complete Dolby Atmos surround system in one accessible package. There’s a wireless sub, wired rear speakers, and upward-firing drivers for overhead effects. The only disappointment is the lack of DTS:X; but, otherwise, the SB36512 is hard to fault and offers impressive bang for your buck.
If you want both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, take a look at the LG SL8YG. This particular soundbar supports both immersive audio formats, and has enjoyed a price cut in recent months. If you purchase it in tandem with LG’s own SPK8-S rear speaker package then you’ll have a superior system for around the same price.