Denon has been making home theater systems and receivers for several years now and in the receiver category, their X-series continue to represent as the company’s halo products. All the receivers in the X-series family push for the best audio quality possible while keeping the price competitive too. This makes budget receivers such as the $500 AVR-X1100W quite attractive and you even get a couple of extras like built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. But $500 could be too much to spend on a receiver especially if you won’t make the most out of the 7.2-channel support. This is where the S-series comes as its main goal is to push the prices down a bit more while retaining some key features. Starting from the bottom of the pack, the Denon AVR-S500BT has the looks of a typical X-series receiver but costs half the price of AVR-X1100W. It isn’t alone though so the performance must be satisfactory and features adequate to suit small home theater systems.
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Just about all home theater receivers priced above $500 look sleek and modern with very high build quality. Denon makes good-looking receivers too and it is nice for the AVR-S500BT to maintain that spirit of sleek and simple design. It has both a source select knob and master volume knob complete with a set of 4 “Quick Select” buttons to make it easy to switch to a particular input source while automatically applying whatever audio settings are linked to that button so each source has its own audio profile. Taking the time to configure the audio settings of each button is indeed rewarding. Since this receiver doesn’t have multi-zone support, there are not many other buttons found on the front panel. There is also no HDMI port either on the front but at least the USB port remains present if you wish to use flash drives to play back MP3 or WMA files.
The rear of the Denon AVR-S500BT is understandably minimal with 5 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output. To accommodate newbies and those that simply don’t like the hassle of connecting speakers to the receiver, Denon color-coded the speaker terminals. You also get a couple of composite inputs and optical inputs along with a single coaxial digital input. It is worth noting too that there are two subwoofer outputs available so you can actually improve the bass of your entire home theater system by adding a second subwoofer and placing it in a different part of the room.
Below is the back panel layout. Click on image to enlarge for a clearer view.
Bluetooth streaming support is the main feature of the AVR-S500BT and it is clearly indicated by the “BT” part of the model name. The great thing about this seemingly simple feature is that it essentially adds Bluetooth capabilities to whatever speakers you connect to the receiver so you no longer need to buy those pricey home Bluetooth speakers. Unlike past models, you also don’t have to buy a separate adapter or dongle just to enable Bluetooth. The functionality is built right into the receiver making it easier to pair the receiver with mobile devices. As long as the mobile device has Bluetooth too and the ability to play back music, you should have no trouble beaming music or sounds from your favorite mobile app to your home theater system and you don’t have to install any special app to set things up.
The most surprising new addition of the Denon AVR-S500BT has to be its compliance with the latest HDMI specifications. The AVR-S500BT reaches out to the 4K Ultra HD world by adding HDMI 2.0 support to the HDMI output and the Blu-ray and Game inputs. HDMI 2.0 is a big deal as it enables the coveted 4K resolution at a full 60 Hz and 4:4:4 Pure Color video pass-through. It is also backward compatible with the 3D TVs of yesteryear and all home theater components that have 3D features. 4K TVs are becoming more affordable so it is great to see Denon extending that trend to budget home theater receivers like the Denon AVR-S500BT.
This 5.2-channel receiver has 140 watts per channel so it is a step back compared to Denon’s X-series on paper. But compared to other $249 receivers, the AVR-S500BT performed well above average. If you tried any of the $500 receivers though, the audio performance of the S500 may seem lackluster although at least there is support for DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD decoding. Your best bet is to simply set up your sound system the best way possible and fortunately, the Denon Setup Assistant makes the process very easy. There is an included microphone too which is used for calibrating your sound system making sure your dual subwoofers and 5 speakers are properly tuned. You do need to step up to the higher-end Denon S-series model or any X-series receiver if you want a dose of Audyssey’s calibration technologies.
In the expanding world of mobile devices and audio streaming services, it is hard to recommend a receiver that lacks built-in Wi-Fi. But Denon AVR-S500BT is a rare exception simply because the price is so low and you at least have Bluetooth, which may have limited range compared to Wi-Fi, but you can still wirelessly stream music. Because of the HDMI 2.0 support, the AVR-S500BT is also a fantastic budget choice if you don’t plans to go beyond a 5.2-channel speaker system but still plan on upgrading to a 4K TV. The Denon AVR-S500BT is just a simple reminder that not everyone needs a high-powered receiver and even a simple one done right can make the sound system a whole lot better.