As we all know, the world’s not short of affordable TVs with great picture quality and abysmal sound quality. But do you have one of these ‘good to watch and chronic to listen to’ televisions? Irritating, isn’t it? You'll be wanting one of the best small soundbars at a sensible price to make a positive difference then, right?
Enter the Denon DHT-S316 which delivers a stereo soundbar plus separate subwoofer bundled into the box too. That'll cater for your bass, your mids and highs all in one swoop. Job's a good'un. Or is it? Read our in-depth Denon S316 review to get a fuller understanding...
Denon DHT-S316: Price & Availability
The Denon DHT-S316 is on sale now, and in the United Kingdom you shouldn’t expect to pay more than £279. This equates to $299 or thereabouts in the United States, while in Australia it sells for AU$499, tops. Often it's a little less, as you can see from the shopping widget embedded below.
It’s not quite Denon’s entry-level soundbar, but it’s not far off - but that doesn’t mean it’s short of competition. Plenty of big names, from Sonos to Yamaha (to name just a couple, more info on those at the bottom of this review), are ready to sell you something similar for the same sort of money - so the DHT-S316 needs to do a bit more than just rock up looking neat and tidy if it’s going to make your shortlist.
Denon DHT-S316 review: Features & What's New?
The DHT-S316 is a 2.1-channel system, designed first and foremost to outperform the bog-standard audio system fitted to your television. None of your fancy-pants spatial audio effects here - that sort of thing costs a fair bit more. This is strictly stereo business, but that's just fine.
The Denon combo does its thing by using a 140mm bass driver, bolstered by a bass reflex port, in the subwoofer. In the soundbar, meanwhile, there's a pair of 25mm tweeters in conjunction with two 32 x 112mm ‘racetrack’ midrange drivers.
Denon is coy about the amount of power it’s equipped the DHT-S316 with, but - as we shall see in the ‘performance’ section, it can be reasonably described as ‘adequate’.
The system can deal with PCM, DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio files, though obviously it downscales multi-channel stuff such as this to fit its configuration.
Getting the content on board in the first place can be done using the HDMI ARC socket on the rear panel, or the digital optical socket that’s crammed in next to it.
There’s also a 3.5mm analogue input, and a USB-A slot that’s strictly for servicing. Wireless connectivity is restricted to Bluetooth 4.2, with SBC codec compatibility.
Denon DHT-S316 review: Performance
As far as the fundamentals go, there’s no two ways about it: the Denon DHT-S316 offers a fuller, more expansive and better-balanced sound than any number of affordable TVs can manage by themselves.
The soundstage it can generate is certainly bigger - wider, and deeper - than, say, a 48-inch television. It offers a decent sense of separation, reasonable space for the elements of a soundtrack to operate, and even a little sensation of movement on the ‘left/right’ axis when on-screen motion is especially pronounced. It is able to maintain this attitude even when playing at very modest volumes, and it doesn’t get flustered by being asked to play at neighbour-baiting levels either.
Or, at least, the soundbar doesn’t. The subwoofer, which despite a lack of crossover adjustment, integrates smoothly with the soundbar, is pretty well-behaved in most circumstances. The bass it produces is reasonably well controlled, acceptably straight-edged, and with convincing attack and decay of individual hits, notes or explosions.
The woofer offers a degree of detail to go along with the sheer presence, and is actually quite informative and expressive. But should you decide to press on, volume-wise, a little of its composure goes astray. It becomes a bit bolshy and over-confident, drawing attention to itself in a less-than-positive way.
The soundbar’s performance is less volume-dependent, and consequently a little more enjoyable in more circumstances. It does good work with the midrange, projecting dialogue well and revealing a fair amount of detail at the same time. Treble sounds aren’t the brightest or crispest around, but the slight rolling-off of the top end makes more sense than letting treble information get hard or edgy. It may give away some of the sonic brilliance of, say, shattering glass - but then again, it’s unlikely to set your teeth on edge.
The Denon system does reasonably well where music is concerned, too. It’s more convincing when handling the music in a movie soundtrack than it is when dealing with an SBC Bluetooth wireless stream, but in either case it remains pretty deft and detailed.
However, the subwoofer is further out of its comfort zone with music, and it’s not always at its happiest when asked to deal with rhythms and tempos - it can sound a little lumpy. But everything’s relative, of course, and given that the DHT-S316 is designed to be an occasional source of music at best, it’s far from an offensive listen.
Denon DHT-S316 review: Design & Usability
It should come as no surprise that a soundbar as affordable as this one isn’t the most luxurious product around - but it’s equally unsurprising that Denon builds and finishes the DHT-S316 to a very acceptable standard.
‘Design’ hasn’t really happened - but at 55 x 900 x 82mm (HxWxD) the soundbar is usefully compact, and will look right at home beneath TVs as tidy as 43-inches or so.
Want to wall-mount it instead? Denon has integrated a couple of keyhole fixings on the rear of the chassis, and at a mere 1.8kg it’s not going to be any kind of burden.
The combination of acoustic cloth across the front and decently robust plastic for the rest of the chassis means the DHT-S316 looks the part in any event.
The subwoofer is equally prosaic, and none the worse for it. Yes, the majority of the 342 x 170 x 318mm (WxHxD) cabinet is chipboard - but you’re not going to spend all your time looking at the back of it, are you? From the front, it looks fine - mostly acoustic cloth to match the soundbar, with a reflex port surrounded by glossy plastic towards the bottom. And besides, thanks to its wireless configuration, it can be positioned anywhere you like (as long as it’s reasonably near a mains socket, of course).
The subwoofer and soundbar automatically pair wirelessly - and if by some chance they don’t, the sub has a ‘pairing’ button that takes care of things. After that, control is available from the buttons on top of the soundbar or the lightweight little remote control.
The ‘bar offers ‘volume up/down’, ‘Bluetooth pairing’, ‘input selection’ and ‘power on/off’, and the remote adds a dedicated bass level control, a mute button and a selection of EQ presets. There’s also a ‘dialogue enhancer’, a three-stage adjuster that pushes the midrange further and further towards the front of the soundstage.
At the front of the soundbar there’s a little row of LEDs that indicate volume level, input selection and type of audio file that’s on board.
Some people, of course, might hanker after an app or voice control. But then some people haven’t checked the asking price, have they?
Denon DHT-S316 review: Verdict
If you simply substitute your bog-standard TV’s integrated audio system for the Denon DHT-S316, we don’t doubt you’ll be pleased with the results.
But the subwoofer’s aversion to big volumes, the slightly truncated treble response and the numerousness of the price-comparable competition means it’s not exactly a no-brainer given the plentiful competition.
That said, it's a sensible option for a sensible sum, so if you're looking to boost your smaller TV audio with a straightforward two-piece soundbar-and-sub package then the Denon S316 acquits itself well enough.
Our favourite small and affordable soundbar is Yamaha’s great little SR-C20A - and given that it’s due to be replaced, you may be able to hunt down an even better deal than usual.
And you shouldn’t ignore the Sonos Ray, either - it sounds confident and convincing, and if you’re already a Sonos believer it makes even more sense. Its lack of HDMI socket counts against it, though.