Wait, a $900 soundbar without a subwoofer, surround speakers, or object-based 3D audio support? That’s indeed the case with the Denon DHT-S716H, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. While this pricey, HEOS-enabled soundbar lacks (out of the box, at least) surround and low-frequency channels, not to mention Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, it has an ace up its sleeve: warm, detailed, and surprisingly deep sound, which you can always augment later by adding a wireless subwoofer or surround speakers.
Clearly designed with discriminating listeners in mind, the DHT-S716H also comes with four HDMI inputs (far better than the usual one or two) and support for Denon’s HEOS high-resolution multi-room audio platform.
The Denon DHT-S716H is a 3.0-channel soundbar, which uses a total of nine built-in drivers (including three tweeters and six mid-range cones) to deliver the left, center, and right audio channels. The soundbar doesn’t come with any up-firing drivers, so there’s no object-based audio support for such 3D sound formats as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
While the DHT-S716H lacks 3D audio support, it does comes with a different killer feature: HEOS, Denon’s high-resolution multi-room audio platform. Thanks to its HEOS support, the DHT-S716H lets you play tunes or TV audio on other Denon HEOS-enabled speakers in your home.
You can also easily upgrade the DHT-S716H’s audio to 3.1- or 5.1-channel sound by pairing it with other HEOS speakers, such as the DSW-1H subwoofer and/or (for example) a pair of HEOS 3 wireless bookshelf speakers. While the DHT-S716H’s HEOS support affords plenty of flexibility, the HEOS speakers themselves don’t come cheap. The DSW-1H subwoofer, for example, costs a cool $600, while the HEOS 3 speakers go for $300 each. Denon didn’t supply the DSW-1H or any other wireless surround speakers for this review.
Measuring 43.38 x 5.88 x 2.88 inches and weighing in at about 10.6 pounds, the DHT-S716H is relatively easy to handle. Placing it in front of my 55-inch LG C9 OLED TV, the curved top of the soundbar blocked a sliver of the LG’s screen, but I didn’t find it terribly bothersome given its non-reflective fabric covering. That said, you could always opt to hang the soundbar on a wall using the rear mounting holes (no mounting supplies are included, although there is a mounting template).
Inputs and outputs
The DHT-S716H boasts one of the most generous arrays of inputs and outputs I’ve seen in a soundbar, starting with the four—count ‘em, four—HDMI inputs. Most of the soundbars I review only offer a single HDMI input, while high-end soundbars will occasionally give you two.
Besides the HDMI inputs, there’s also an ARC-enabled HDMI output, optical (Toslink) and RCA-style digital audio inputs, a wired ethernet network port, a USB port that supports music files (including MP3, AAC, and FLAC), a 3.5mm audio input, and a jack for an IR receiver (not included). All of the ports are included in a central rear cavity, rather than being shunted off to the left or the right.
One of the beauties of a 3.0-channel soundbar system is that it’s easy to install, especially if you’re not interested in wall mounting; just plunk it down in front of your TV, plug the detachable power cord into an AC outlet (thankfully, the plug doesn’t come with a power brick or wall wart), and connect it to your TV with the included HDMI or optical cable.
As far as HDMI connections go, you have two options: either plug your video sources into the soundbar and connect the soundbar’s HDMI output to the TV, or connect your video sources to your TV and send audio back to the soundbar via the HDMI-ARC (Audio Return Channel) port.
Given that the DHT-S716H is one of the rare soundbars to come with four HDMI inputs, connecting your video sources directly to the soundbar is the most appealing option, particularly since the DHT-S716H supports both 4K and HDR passthrough (including Dolby Vision). If you choose the ARC option with your video sources connected to the TV, you’ll miss out on lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats, which the standard ARC format doesn’t support. The newer, higher-bandwidth eARC (“e” for “enhanced”) standard can handle lossless audio, but the DHT-S716H doesn’t support it (and few soundbars do at this point, although we may see more of them starting in 2020).
Getting the DHT-S716H connected to my Wi-Fi network wasn’t much trouble, although it may take you a few extra steps if you’re not already invested in the HEOS ecosystem. First, you’ll need to install the HEOS app, then create a HEOS account if you don’t already have one. Once that’s done, a setup wizard steps you through the process of connecting the soundbar to your local Wi-Fi network. In my case, the setup process was eased because I already own a Denon HEOS A/V receiver that’s connected to my Wi-Fi, which allowed the app to connect the soundbar to my wireless networks without having to enter my network password. If you’re not already a HEOS user, the app will let you pick out your Wi-Fi network and enter your credentials.
Controls, remote, indicators, and Bluetooth
The DHT-S716H takes a Spartan approach when it comes to integrated controls, with only volume and mute buttons on the left side of the cabinet and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connect buttons in back. Otherwise, the fabric-covered cabinet appears featureless from the front, save for an LED indicator that sits on the bottom edge of the front panel, near the middle.
Speaking of the LED indicator, it’s probably my least favorite feature on the DHT-S716H. For one thing, the indicator is distractingly bright, even when you set it to the lowest brightness level using Denon’s HEOS app (more about the app in a moment). For another thing, the indicator isn’t terribly useful beyond setup and troubleshooting, telling you (for example) whether the soundbar is connected to Wi-Fi, installing a firmware update, rebooting, pairing with a Bluetooth device, or encountering a hardware or network error. While it blinks when receiving commands from the remote or the app, it can’t show you the volume level or input status. The good news is that you can turn the LED indicator off completely, but it’s too bad that the indicator isn’t more functional or unobtrusive.
Like the soundbar itself, the DHT-S716H’s non-backlit remote is also quite spare, although at least the soundbar comes with one; previous Denon soundbars haven’t included a physical remote control at all. The remote itself features only a handful of buttons, including power, mute, volume, play/pause, fast-forward and reverse, as well as six programmable “quick select” buttons that let you jump to pre-selected video inputs using a specified sound mode and volume level. While the quick select buttons make it easy to quickly select an input with your favorite sound and volume settings, the buttons themselves are only labeled “1” through “6,” so you’ll need to remember which quick select buttons do what.
For full control of the DHT-S716H, including access to its settings, you’ll need the HEOS app, which can be a bit confusing to use. The app consists of three tabs: a “Rooms” tab that lets you group the HEOS speakers in your home, a “Music” tab that lets you stream tunes from a variety of music service (such as Amazon Music HD, Pandora, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, and iHeartRadio) as well as switch between the soundbar’s various video and audio inputs, as well as a “Now Playing” tab for changing sounds modes, toggling the dialog enhancer and night modes settings, as well as change HDMI inputs.
What’s confusing about the app is that you must navigate to different tabs for different settings; for example, the sound settings are all found on the “Now Playing” tab, but if you want to adjust the brightness for the LED indicator or re-run the setup assistant, you’ll need to head for the Music tab and tap the Settings button in the top-left corner of the screen. I eventually got the hang of it, but navigating the HEOS app is a confusing experience the first few times you try it.
Once you do find your footing with the HEOS app, streaming music to the DHT-S716HS is a breeze: Simply sign in to a music service to start streaming (track navigation is handled within the HEOS app). You can also stream music via Bluetooth (I had no trouble streaming songs from my iPhone XS) or use the soundbar as a Spotify Connect device. Sadly, the soundbar supports neither Chromecast nor AirPlay 2.
While it’s tempting to dismiss any new higher-end soundbar that lacks object-based Dolby Atmos and/or DTS:X 3D audio support (after all, even budget soundbars support the formats these days), the DHT-S716H proves that top-notch sound doesn’t necessarily require height channels. Indeed, while the DHT-S716H doesn’t have up-firing drivers, I was routinely blown away by the soundbar’s rich, detailed, and velvety sound, even without the benefits of a subwoofer or surround speakers. Mind you, the DHT-S716H’s main soundbar unit can’t reproduce the bone-rattling booms that a subwoofer delivers, but its bass response is still surprisingly impressive, and I can only imagine how good it might sound once paired with a wireless sub.
Besides the missing Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio support, the DHT-S716H also lacks the myriad sound modes that you’ll see on competing soundbars. Instead, you’ll find only two: Movie and Music, and that’s actually just fine, given that both modes sounded great to my ears. You also get a couple of audio features that too many soundbars don’t have: a night mode and a dialog enhancer.
First, I tried the DHT-S716H with the opening titles of 1979’s Superman, which has been remastered in 4K and Dolby Atmos. Obviously, the Atmos-less DHT-S716H doesn’t deliver the benefits of height channels or object-based audio, but I was still impressed by the soundbar’s surprisingly wide soundstage as the credits whooshed across the screen, and there was a solid, respectable thump as Richard Donner’s “directed by” credit hit the screen. I also liked the sound of the Phantom Zone as it twirled into the frame and captured General Zod and his lieutenants, complete with audio that slid across the sides of the room in a surround-like effect (this despite the fact that the DHT-S716H lacks any virtual surround modes).
Next, I spun up the UHD Blu-ray of Apollo 13, which features a lossless DTS:X soundtrack, and queued up the pulse-pounding launch sequence. Again, the DHT-S716H lacks DTS:X support, but I still got a kick as the Saturn V rockets roared to life and the spacecraft gently rose off the launch pad. Nope, you won’t hear the same deep rumbles that you would with a subwoofer, but I still experienced plenty of “I can’t believe there’s no subwoofer” moments, particularly as the the ship began jettisoning the massive stages of the rocket.
I also played the scene in the standard Blu-ray of Blade Runner: 2049 when K investigates a biofarm with help from a drone, and the DHT-S716H did a nice job during this quiet sequence of reproducing the crunch of K’s boots in the gravel and the atmospheric whirring of the drone’s motors. Once again, I was impressed by the soundbar’s rich yet subtle audio, along with its attention to high-end detail.
Moving on to music, I teed up the title track of Bruce Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad, and I was immediately struck by the detail in The Boss’s reedy harmonica performance and the pluck of the acoustic guitar strings, along with the rising warmth of the synthesizers and percussion. Switching over to Vlado Perlemuter’s performance of Maurice Ravel’s solo piano works for Nimbus Records, the DWT-716H managed the tricky task of teasing detail out of Perlemuter’s keystrokes while evoking the atmospherics of the concert hall. Last but not least, Ciara’s “Level Up” sounded pleasing punchy on the soundbar even without the benefit of a subwoofer, with a nice pulsing baseline and crisp vocals.
The DHT-S716H’s lack of Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or even DTS:VirtualX support does give us pause given the rapid rise of object-based 3D audio for both movies and music. That said, I’m blown away that a 3.0-channel soundbar without a subwoofer could sound this good, and indeed, I’ve heard subwoofer- and Atmos-packing soundbars that have sounded much worse. Given that you can always add a subwoofer and surround speakers later, the DHT-S716H is a compelling choice for discriminating listeners looking for the easiest way to upgrade their TV’s sound.