You may be more familiar with Yamaha as a motorcycle company or for their live music gear but they are also an accomplished home HiFi brand. Yamaha is a jack of all trades but you can expect the same attention to detail and reliability across all of their products. On the other hand, Denon deals explicitly with HiFi gear.
Does this make their HiFi products better than Yamaha? We have made some comparisons between some of their best gear to find out.
Yamaha vs Denon – Integrated Amplifiers
Yamaha A-S501SL VS Denon PMA-800NE
Our comparisons will begin with two of the cheaper integrated amp options from both manufacturers in the form of the Yamaha A-S501SL and the Denon PMA-800NE. Both offerings are real value for money and will suit the HiFi setup of most budget-conscious audio enthusiasts.
Some shared positive traits between these two integrated amps in terms of design and build quality on the face of the units are built-in tone and balance controls, knob controlled input selection, and access to direct source input. Neither of these devices has a screen but the simple controls make it easy to navigate without one.
The Yamaha is a much taller unit and looks a lot more traditional with a flat faceplate. The Denon looks a little more modern with a slope at the top and a shorter profile.
These integrated amps also share a lot of great features but differ on some others. One of the great inclusions on both amplifiers is a built-in DAC for digital audio. The Yamaha only has one each of coaxial and optical digital inputs while Denon has an extra two optical inputs so it may be a better choice if you have several digital devices.
They both have A/B speaker switching and pure direct modes to bypass the DAC which gives you a range of listening choices depending on which input source you have selected. The Denon amp has HiRes playback through PCM format but the Yamaha does not have compatibility with any HiRes formats
The Yamaha is a much more powerful amplifier as it is rated at 85w per channel @8ohms compared to 50w from the Denon amplifier and also has 3 more analog inputs and an extra record through.
The Yamaha amplifier has a tonally balanced yet beefy sound. This is accompanied by a clear and detailed soundscape that is wide and deep. The dynamics in particularly jumpy pieces of music is where you may notice a slight drop in the overall impressive composure of this amplifier.
The Denon amplifier has a fantastic bass response of 20hz and is more than capable of driving the basslines to your favorite tracks. The dynamics sound a little more responsive and self-assured than the Yamaha amplifier.
Yamaha A-S801BL VS Denon DCD-1600NE
If you are willing to spend a bit more on an integrated amplifier you can get some great features and more power. These amplifiers look similar to their cheaper equivalents from their parent company but pack some improved internals to improve your listening.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is an expression that comes to mind when looking at these integrated amplifiers. They are very similar to their cheaper little brothers. The Yamaha unit, in particular, has the exact same front of house features while the Denon amplifier has added a screen. The screen may be a selling point for you although it is small and only shows which input source you have selected.
These amplifiers both feature upgraded DACs that have compatibility with PCM and DSD HiRes playback and streaming. These DACs also have a USB input. Another feature that both amplifiers share is a phono input for turntables. Meaning these amplifiers cover a diverse range of inputs to cater to many different needs.
The Yamaha amplifier has a preamp out for connecting a subwoofer which is not present on the offering from Denon. However, Denon still has more digital inputs on their amp with an extra two optical inputs. Neither amp has Bluetooth built-in but the Yamaha can have a dongle purchased separately.
Once again, Yamaha has the most powerful of the two integrated amps with a rating of 100w per channel at 8ohms when compared to the Denons 70w.
Of the two, the Denon still has a more dynamically stable sound. However, the Yamaha is extremely clear and neutral for unbiased listening.
Denon vs Yamaha – AV Receivers
Yamaha RX-V485 vs Denon AVR-S650H (5.1 Channel)
Moving one step up from integrated amps into all-in-one options are these 5.1 channel AV receivers from Yamaha and Denon, the RX-V485, and AVR-S650H respectively. These receivers include many more features than the integrated amplifiers as well as more speaker connections for home theatre use.
Both of these units have massive screens on them that will tell you a plethora of information about the playback. The Yamaha has the classy feature of having the glass from the screen cover one half of the face of the receiver. Both amps also have plenty of controls on the front as well as a USB input. They both look great and have a solid build.
Connectivity is extremely important when considering an all-inclusive option such as an AV receiver. Both of these amplifiers have wireless connectivity through WiFi, Bluetooth, and Airplay. They both also use their respective brands’ app functionality. The Denon has HEOS and the Yamaha uses MusicCast so if you have any other gear that uses these apps that may be something to consider for compatibility.
The Yamaha has a few small bonus features that are missing from Denon such as video signal scaling to 4k, DSD playback through HDMI, and bi-amp compatibility. The Denon has a phono input which the Yamaha does not as well as an extra HDMI input bringing the total to 5.
Both receivers boost their surround sound capabilities through the use of Dolby ProLogic2 although they are missing the software found in more expensive models such as Dolby Atmos. However, you will find these amps are both capable of providing an immersive listening experience for home theatre.
When driving these receivers hard the Yamaha amp loses a bit more detail and can sound a little more metallic in the mids but also offers dialogue adjustment making it arguably a little better for home theatre use.
Yamaha RX-V685 vs Denon AVR-S940H (7.2 channel)
If you’re willing to spend a little extra and have the space for some more speakers then perhaps a 7.2 channel AV receiver could be a suitable choice for you. Not only do you get upgraded power output you will also get to experience a few more included features from both manufacturers.
These will look similar to you if you have checked out the 5.1 channel offerings. The Yamaha maintains the stylish glass panel from side to side and both amplifiers still have plenty of control options and USB inputs.
Both of the Receivers have great connectivity through their respective apps (HEOS for Denon and MusicCast for Denon). The Yamaha also has a phono input on this model which eliminates a difference that the 5.1 channel receivers had. These amps have upgraded surround sound compatibility with Dolby Atmos support and a wider range of DTS uses. The Denon receiver has 3 more HDMI inputs which are significant considering the Yamaha only offers 5.
Given the upgrades to the surround sound both these amps offer a more immersive home theatre experience than their cheaper counterparts. The Yamaha has DTS Neo6 which is unavailable in the Denon unit but both units have newer tech than that so it is difficult to pick a clear winner while actually listening to films.
When listening to music the Denon can sound a little superficial in the lower frequencies when compared to the Yamaha but has arguably better zoning than the RX-V685.
Yamaha RXA2080 AVENTAGE VS Denon AVR-X4500H (9.2 channel)
These receivers are still an upgrade to their 7.2 counterparts but with less added features than the jump from 5.1 to 7.2. These receivers are appropriate for those consumers that are looking for that complete cinema-like surround sound in their own homes.
These are the biggest and most sleek-looking offerings from both manufacturers this is due to panels hiding most of the control functions at the front of the unit as well as the front-facing inputs. Both receivers have two knobs visible for volume control and input selection aside from the hidden controls. Although they do look different they still maintain a very Yamaha and Denon appearance and one look at the styling of either receiver would tell you who built it.
Although both of these amplifiers are marketed as 9.2 channel receivers the Denon actually has channel processing for up to 11.2 so this is an advantage for people that may have extra standalone tweeter speakers or something similar that they would like connected to their own channel.
The Denon receiver also has a few other bonus features that are not present on the Yamaha such as IMAX enhancement, DTS Virtual:X, and Auro 3D. These features make for an even more immersive home theatre experience than its 7.2 system. The Denon also has an A/B speaker switching to control your listening even further.
The Yamaha has some of its own flair to bring to this battle in the form of dialogue lift with no extra speakers, higher resolution USB playback (384kHz compared to 192kHz), and more inputs than its competitor.
It is hard to fault the sound of either of these receivers. They both have incredibly immersive home theatre experiences with their Dolby compatibility and Denon has, even more, surround sound capabilities as mentioned in the features section.
The Denon has punchy dynamics that will keep you feeling engaged with smooth, clear, and natural tonality that lends itself to a variety of applications but lacks a little individuality.
The Yamaha has a sound that doesn’t hold anything back and can sometimes feel a little like a wall of sound without careful speaker placement and the Atmos activated. However, with these things in mind is an impeccable home theatre and music listening experience when used correctly.