Denon S-101 review

Can a sub/sat trio provide home cinema-quality sound?

TechRadar Verdict

There's a lot to like and very little to dislike about this Denon

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

This particular system doesn't come with a 5.1 speaker package, but a sub/sat trio. It's a pseudo surround system that Denon says will persuade you those centre and rear speakers just aren't needed to enjoy a home movie experience. So does it convince?

The system consists of a main unit with a sleek silver design, featuring a bright orange display and backlit touchresponsive controls. The unit is sturdily constructed with a 4mm alloy front panel and steel chassis. It has an AM/FM radio tuner with RDS, and a decent selection of connections including RGB Scart, composite, S-video and progressive scan component video inputs, and optical and coaxial digital audio in and out.

The disc-spinner is compatible with DVD /-R/RW, CD-R/RW, S/VCD, JPEG/ Kodak Picture CD, Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Headphone and DTS Virtual, as well as MP3 and WMA music files. Great play is made of the system's iPod connectivity - you can recharge your iPod by plugging it into the Denon's front-panel digital input, and there's also a frontpanel analogue input for other audio devices.

The main unit is connected by a special system cable to the subwoofer (longer 6m or 10m cables are available as options). The subwoofer has a claimed 100W output, the satellites 50W each. The satellites are connected to the subwoofer, again by proprietary connector cables, and can be shelf-mounted or wall-mounted. Special speaker stands are also available although they're rather expensive at £200.

The remote control is a smart and comfortable unit with all the basic controls readily to thumb, and less used ones under a covering flap on the underside.

Let's get the obvious question out of the way first. No, Dolby Virtual Speaker and DTS Virtual pseudo-surround are not a substitute for a true 5.1 speaker system. What they do effectively is to fill space, so you do get the impression that you are watching a movie rather than just listening to two-channel sound. But without a dedicated centre speaker and left/right rears, I never got a real sense of movement or direction during my movie-watching trials. For quiet dialoguebased movies you might be very happy, but action fans will almost certainly think they are making a compromise.

The actual quality of the Denon's soundfield is undeniably entertaining. It's equally well-voiced for movies and music, the amp and speakers have plenty of power, a wide dynamic range and clarity, and there's a choice of three basic EQ settings to optimise performance relative to speaker placement. It also includes clever circuitry for enhancing music from your iPod, which is surprisingly effective - it makes data-reduced audio sound fullbodied and punchy.

I have no complaints about picture performance either. As you would expect, this is a strong and confident DVD performer with a progressive scan component video output which provides a vibrant, colourful and detailed image.

There's a lot to like and very little to dislike about this Denon. If you are determined not to have rear and centre speakers (or are looking for a high-quality second system), it offers an entertaining listening experience for music and movies. But be warned, only a full 5.1 speaker system will satisfy the real movie lover. was the former name of Its staff were at the forefront of the digital publishing revolution, and spearheaded the move to bring consumer technology journalism to its natural home – online. Many of the current TechRadar staff started life a staff writer, covering everything from the emerging smartphone market to the evolving market of personal computers. Think of it as the building blocks of the TechRadar you love today.