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Onkyo HT-S3400 vs Denon DHT-391XP


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#1 of 11 OFFLINE   TerminatioN

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Posted June 28 2011 - 09:56 AM

I'm looking to buy a Home Theater in a box (HTiB) setup with a maximum budget of $350 or so (maybe slightly more for something substantially better... but less expensive is always nice :D) and these are the two I've narrowed it down to so far: Onkyo HT-S3400 - http://www.amazon.co.../dp/B004O0TRDI/ @ $280 Denon DHT-391XP - http://www.amazon.co.../dp/B003QP3M92/ @ $329 My main desire is good sound quality. I've always had good experiences with Onkyo and read great things as well, but I know this is their very entry level stuff. While I'm sure it's still pretty good I'm just wondering if the Denon stuff is better. The Denon speakers appear to be better made and the subwooder is independently powered, but the Denon has had issues with the reciever freezing and malfunctioning and supposedly the support is horrible... also the Onkyo setup has better reviews overall and is ~$50 cheaper. I'm not too concerned with features really.... but if I can get substantially better sound/build quality for not much more then I'd prefer that. Truthfully in reality I probably won't be dissatisfied with either. Just wondering if you guys thought the Denon was better and worth the extra $50 or not? If you have a suggestion of something better within the price range that'd be great too. Let me know what you think. All opinions/information is appreciated. Thanks.

#2 of 11 OFFLINE   TerminatioN

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Posted June 28 2011 - 03:47 PM

I forgot to mention, all my home theater components use HDMI (NOT component) so the receivers not upconverting component to HDMI is really not an issue. Also, just in case you're wondering or it will affect your opinion/advice, the setup will mainly be used for watching movies (BluRay, DVD and 720p rips), TV, and gaming. Probably no music at all... so I'm guessing that would mean mids and lows are more important than highs. Also, just FYI my TV is a KDS-60A3000 (just got it btw, and love it).

The fact that the Onkyo has a passive sub would make me lean to the Denon

Yeah, that's the main thing drawing me towards the Denon. Lows/bass are probably towards the top of the list of important things too... My main concern with the Denon though is the freezing issue and the horrible service I've read about. I really don't want to have to deal with all of that. While part of me thinks they'd have the issue resolved by now and all the current models going out updated to fix the problem, I'm still not sure if I want to take the chance.

#3 of 11 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted June 29 2011 - 12:48 AM

I agree that the passive vs. active subwoofer is reason enough to opt for the Denon over the Onkyo. Keep in mind, that with all HTiB systems, the speakers are the weakest link. They will undoubtedly produce better sound than TV speakers, but over time, you will probably want to consider upgrading the speakers. Also, on the freezing problem/bad service, I wouldn't worry about that. Amazon is an authorized dealer and the full factory warranty will be honored. No matter which manufacturer you choose, if you search you will find horror stories. Folks who have problems, no matter the product, are very vocal about their problems, while the vast majority of people who are happy and satisfied are too busy enjoying their systems to bother writing "good" reviews. Denon makes a quality product. If you have problems, as inconvenient as they may be, you will be able to get the situation resolved. Good luck and enjoy the setup!

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#4 of 11 OFFLINE   TerminatioN

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Posted June 29 2011 - 03:25 AM

Thanks Jason. Looks like I'll be going with the Denon unless someone else speaks up and has good reasoning as to why I shouldn't. Hopefully I'll be able to get Amazon to price match to a lower price. J&R has it for $299.99 plus free shipping and I believe some others have it for that too plus shipping. I'd obviously prefer Amazon though. I guess we'll see. If it comes down to it, I'll probably end up putting up the extra $30 to buy it from Amazon if they won't price match. Edit: The only question now is... is there anything under $400 (absolute top of my budget) that is better than the two I listed? What about a "Used - Like New" Onkyo HT-S5300 from Amazon Warehouse for only $397.99? Seems like ~$100 (or ~$70 if they don't price match) for a pretty substantial upgrade... Is it worth it? Thoughts?

#5 of 11 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted June 30 2011 - 01:19 AM

The 5300 for under $400 is a pretty screaming good deal, though it looks like a warranty is an additional cost. Warranties are those little buggers where if you get it, nothing happens, but when you take the risk and skip it, things always seem to jump up and get you. Benefits of the 5300 system include:
  • Inclusion of Audyssey setup/calibration utility. Audyssey is among the industry's best in this department. Many Denon receivers also use Audyssey, but the receiver included in the 391 system does not. Since you list movies as a primary source, this is probably the most significant upgrade of the 5300 over the 391.
  • 290W 10" subwoofer in the 5300 compared to 100W 8" (I think - specs list it as 20 cm, which I'm pretty sure is less than 10") in the 391. Subwoofers are the only place where wattage actually matters. This is also a pretty significant upgrade and one that might be worthwhile.
  • All binding posts for speaker connections - a minor consideration, but if you're going to use 14 gauge or thicker speaker wire, the spring clips on the Denon may have a tough time with them. We don't usually recommend going any thinner than 16 gauge. You definitely don't want to use the thin stuff that comes with the receiver.
  • Lots of additional input options (including 4 digital audio inputs compared to the 391s 2) - but as you mentioned, this is less of a factor for you since all you really need are HDMI.
Many of these additional features (including a powered zone 2) are typical additions that you see as you move up the ladder from entry-level to mid- and upper-mid level. Whether or not you need the features depends on your situation. I've mentioned in other threads that I don't believe in "overbuying" on the receiver end. Most of your budget should go to speakers - good speakers will ALWAYS outlast a receiver. Chances are you will upgrade at some point down the line. In this case though, it's a tough call. I think Audyssey and a better subwoofer are compelling arguments for spending the extra now for the 5300. Also, if you think it will be a while before you're in a position to upgrade components (like the subwoofer), you'll get better "mileage" with the Onkyo. Maybe others will offer additional opinions, but I'm kinda leaning towards the 5300.

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#6 of 11 OFFLINE   TerminatioN

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Posted June 30 2011 - 02:28 AM

Audyssey is a HUGE selling point for me because I'm certainly not confident I can tune a system properly. The bigger and more powerful subwoofer is also a very desirable thing. As I said, I really enjoy good lows/bass. The warranty sort of has me worried, but only because I know little to nothing about these setups. In the past though, I have never bought a warranty with any of my electronics and have yet to have anything make me wish I did. I'm really leaning towards the 5300 at this point... especially if I can find a slightly cheaper price. We'll see what I can find. In regards to the HT-S5400, everything I read about it said it was a downgrade from the S5300... would you agree with that?

#7 of 11 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted June 30 2011 - 05:46 AM

A close examination of the features/specs comparing the 5300 to the 5400 does show a couple of significant differences. Most interestingly, while the subwoofers are the same size and cabinet, the 5400 drops the sub power to 120W compared to the 290 of the 5300. The 5400 drops the zone 2. In those respects, the 5300 is a better overall system than the 5400. Hmm, one thing I was not aware was that the version of Audyssey that comes with the 5300 does NOT include a microphone for setup/calibration. According to the manual (see page 37), the Audyssey settings available on the 5300 are pretty much an "On/Off" thing, though the Audyssey Dynamic EQ process DOES provide real-time adjustments during playback. I was not aware of this distinction until just now.

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#8 of 11 OFFLINE   TerminatioN

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Posted June 30 2011 - 06:50 AM

A close examination of the features/specs comparing the 5300 to the 5400 does show a couple of significant differences. Most interestingly, while the subwoofers are the same size and cabinet, the 5400 drops the sub power to 120W compared to the 290 of the 5300. The 5400 drops the zone 2. In those respects, the 5300 is a better overall system than the 5400. Hmm, one thing I was not aware was that the version of Audyssey that comes with the 5300 does NOT include a microphone for setup/calibration. According to the manual (see page 37), the Audyssey settings available on the 5300 are pretty much an "On/Off" thing, though the Audyssey Dynamic EQ process DOES provide real-time adjustments during playback. I was not aware of this distinction until just now.

Well damn, the Audyssey thing is kind of a deal breaker on the S5300... I really wanted it to calibrate to my acutal room... not just some preset. Looks like I'm more interested in the 5400 now. After doing some research, it seems like some people on the AV forums think the 5300 numbers were fudged and measured differently and they should be pretty much the same between the 5300 and 5400. Source: http://www.avsforum.....php?p=20489208 Alright... well it's a little over my budget but I think it will be worth it. I really want the Audyssey 2EQ feature so it looks like the HT-S5400 is the front runner right now. Anyone have any other suggestions in the same price range? Or can a better setup be built for around the same?

#9 of 11 OFFLINE   CB750

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Posted June 30 2011 - 10:16 AM

If you have read this forum for any amount of time you will see that Onkyo and Denon tend to be the front runners when it comes to HTib market. During this time the Onkyo 5300 tended to be a unit with a lot of bang for the buck. Naturally as new models come out positions might change. Bare in mind that you pretty much get what you pay for in electronics these days. Because of the relative low price for a pretty much real receiver the compromises of any HTIb will be the speakers that come with it. Do you ears have a preference for the speakers that come with either the Onkyo or Denon, and I think both can be upgraded to better speakers down the road.

#10 of 11 OFFLINE   TerminatioN

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Posted June 30 2011 - 05:41 PM

Well guys, I have good news and bad news... The bad news is that I didn't get the Onkyo HT-S5400 as I had hoped... :( But the good news is that I got something better! :D I was lucky enough to find a deal on a very lightly used Onkyo HT-S7300. This system has the Audyssey 2EQ and powered sub I liked in HT-S5400 package, but it also has Faroudja DCDi CINEMA, which will upconvert all SD video (mostly what little SD stuff I still get through my dish network HD-DVR box) to 1080p! I also really liked that the front two speakers were floor/standing speakers and that it comes with an iPod dock. Overall I think I am going to be very happy with my purchase. It appears I will be getting everything I want/need and more! And believe it or not I managed to stay under my budget... the whole system only set me back about $340 because its lightly used. :eek: I'm so excited! I'll be sure to post again after everything is setup with my thoughts/reactions and any questions. :dance: Thanks so much guys for all the help and advice thus far! P.S. I took your suggestions about the speaker wire. I ordered 100' of 14 gauge wire from Monoprice. That should be plenty ample. :)

#11 of 11 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted July 01 2011 - 12:43 AM

Wow - I'd say you did very well.  Congrats!


Monoprice is a great resource, too.  I got all my HDMI cables from them (including a 25 footer for my projector), too.


Have fun hooking it all up!


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