Superior all-in-one audio: Denon DHT-S216 Soundbar review

Can this 2.1, digital virtual surround sound soundbar from Denon deliver the sound you deserve? Read now for our hands on review of the DHT-S216 soundbar.

from Denon
RRP  £198.99
Denon DHT-S216 soundbar set up in front of TV

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

From the makers of some of the best speaker tech, the Denon DHT-S216 soundbar is affordable and light in weight. These two things are usually warning signs in speaker land – heft adds body to audio, and with expense comes finely crafted speaker components.

However, Denon has undermined this assumption – the DHT-S216 delivers a lovely sound for daily watching, can carry music well, and provide the most precious of things – a surround sound experience, minus the high price tag and satellite speakers.

Read on to find out more of our discoveries and thoughts following our hands-on test of the Denon DHT-S216.

Pros

  • Versatile sound
  • DTS Virtual:X
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Lags near start-up
  • Not all modes are useful
Speakers:2.1, six drivers
Surround sound:DTS Virtual:X
Connections:HDMI ARC, HDMI, Optical, 3.5mm Aux-in, Bluetooth
Size:890 x 60 x 120 mm
Weight:3.4kg
Other:Subwoofer compatible

Looks and set-up

While soundbars are legitimately excellent for most home entertainment setups, there’s no point in pretending they look interesting. The best they can do is not distract or get in the way.

The Denon DHT-S216 does this just fine, thanks to its well-navigated aesthetics. The material that wraps around the curved front and top of the soundbar helps to soften its shape, while the matte finish keeps the Denon looking subdued. On the ends of the DHT-S216, the bass reflex ports are nicely finished to intriguingly suggest its audio heft.

The top panel is home to the onboard controls, allowing you to power on and change the input and control volume. The buttons are soft-touch but have pleasant resistance to them, which provides some good feedback that you are controlling something and not just pressing randomly to no avail.

Five LEDs sit underneath, illuminating in varying combinations to tell you what functions you are performing, which input the soundbar is listening to and similar details.

Though no stranger to such code-based feedback, I did find them a little cryptic during installation. Being faced with a line of orange flashing lights and no audio felt more like a taunt than any help, but this soon passed after a quick system restart and a cup of coffee.

Within the hour, I became fluent in the little lights. The initial connection via HDMI wasn’t anything wholly unexpected – a few settings needed to be changed on the TV. Likewise Bluetooth connections to laptops and smartphones for music playback.

Worried about adding another controller to your living room? Your TV remote will control the volume via the HDMI connection, so you’ll only be reaching for the Denon remote when you want to tweak the audio settings.

All-in-one speaker control on your television feels refreshingly streamlined, especially if you are using other HDMI-controlled devices. I could, for example, use my Roku 4K Express Stick remote to control the stick, TV and soundbar volume - giving the entire experience wonderfully modern and absurdly simple to use.

Audio: Modes, 2.1 speakers and DTX Virtual

The Denon DHT-S216 audio performance is rather good. It has a rich sound that, while not reaching true audiophile peaks, is a delight for the price.

There are several modes to choose from on the remote, each affecting the EQ: Pure, Music, Night and Movie. In my testing, I found the best balance was achieved by keeping the soundbar on Pure mode, which is very neutral, and turning the bass to a relatively low setting via the remote control.

This made the bass nice and tight, preventing it from ever feeling rumbly or overtly boomy, both of which can be distracting and reduce the clarity of the sound - for music, however, I almost definitely have to crank it up for some impressive, huge sound.

The other modes are fine enough, but I found little value in switching between them regularly. Movie mode is the most dramatic, albeit over the top for my tastes, as is the Music setting, which, to quote Denon, lets you “enjoy the natural and realistic surround sound of a concert hall.” Night levels out the dynamic range to make the audio more level at lower volumes – handy if you like a late-night binge while your housemates are sleeping.

The dialogue-enhancing options present on the remote-control dial into the speaker’s mid-tones – where the human voice tends to sit – and gives them a boost. I found that the Pure setting as mentioned above was enough to ensure clear voices, but for those with difficulty hearing or with a different setup - it's certainly a welcome addition.

The 2.1 speaker configuration is very suitable for a mid-sized living room. The separation between stereo channels is very organic, and audio across games, TV and movies felt nice and open.

The real magic of the Denon comes when using the DTX Virtual setting. Aping true multi-speaker surround sound setups, this digital trickery throws the sound to give the impression of above and behind the audio. While it’s a bit much when you’re kicking back with some Seinfeld, it adds huge immersion to movies and games.

The classic sci-fi horror, Alien, for example, feels claustrophobic in all the right ways, while the slaughter at Helms Deep in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers was, frankly, thrilling, with arrows swooshing overhead as booms fell below.

Hitting the streets of 1980s’ Kamurochō in Yakuza Zero, I felt the hustle and bustle of the Tokyo crowds, while zipping underneath tree canopies and bridges before bursting out into open pastures was a 360-degree audio sensation, courtesy of Forza Horizon 5.

It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t the same as true surround sound. But it's good enough for me at only £200.

Any downsides?

For the first 30-ish seconds after starting up, I found that the TV volume control lagged, with a volume press taking a moment to register with the TV and soundbar. With fair regularity, this lag also made the soundbar revert to previous volumes. For example, say I turned the volume down from 30 to 15, the screen would indicate this change and the volume lower, but then quickly revert up to 30.

Maybe some impatience on my part is to blame. But, if you’re flicking on the TV late at night and want to drop the volume to not disturb housemates, not having instant control is a bugbear. This is not something I have experienced to the same degree as other soundbars.

Price and competition

The Denon DHT-S216 retails for a fair price – its position as a top-of-bracket budget soundbar is matched by its above-budget performance and overall quality.

For a similar bracket of around £200, the nearest competition to worry Denon is the Bose Solo 5, which is readily available for around £40 to £50 less than the DHT-S216, and any number of soundbar bars from Samsung.

The soundbar brand to beat in terms of quality, according to most consumers, is Sonos. Most of the Sonos range is undeniably excellent but costs a whack above the Denon DHT-S216.

However, the Sonos Ray sits - depending on deals - between £50 and £70 more. While I don’t think there is a tonne of benefit for most users with a tight £200 to burn squeezing themselves to reach the Sonos Ray’s £249-plus price, it should certainly draw the eye of those with a little more to spend.

For my money, I would be more than happy to save some money with the DHT-S216.

Verdict

The Denon DHT-S216 is a very accomplished all-in-one soundbar with a great deal to offer for only £200. The audio quality adds weight, drama and excitement to entertainment in all the right places and can be fine-tuned using the remote control. Its design is far from cheap, with a soft finish that makes it disappear in the living room – well, as much as a big black stick can.

While I had some foibles with lag near start-up, the day-to-day use of the soundbar falls neatly into place. A true jack of all trades, the DHT-S216 will please TV bingers and gamers, movie buffs and party throwers.

Pros

  • Versatile sound
  • DTS Virtual:X
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Lags near start-up
  • Not all modes are useful
Speakers:2.1, six drivers
Surround sound:DTS Virtual:X
Connections:HDMI ARC, HDMI, Optical, 3.5mm Aux-in, Bluetooth
Size:890 x 60 x 120 mm
Weight:3.4kg
Other:Subwoofer compatible

More items to consider:

Sonos Ray Soundbar

Bose Solo 5 Soundbar
Price: $149.95
Alternative retailers
Walmart$179.00View offer

How we tested it

The Denon DHT-S216 was tested for a month. It was set up on the main household TV and was used to watch standard TV and stream blockbusters. It was used several times as a music speaker, as well as for listening to podcasts, and for gaming on Xbox and Switch.

The HDMI connection was used most of the time; however, I did check that the optical and aux-in connections worked fully. The Bluetooth connection was used exclusively for music and podcasts – mostly from my iPhone 12.

William Lobley is the Deputy Tech & Fitness Editor and reviewer for What's The Best, specialising in technology, gaming, and outdoors.

Subscribe to the What’s The Best Newsletter to keep up to date with more of the latest reviews and recommendations from the rest of the What’s The Best team.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us