At a glance
l Release date: October 15, 2005
Editors' rating: 8.7 Excellent
The good: 2.1-channel HTIB; elegant design; controls iPod functions and displays navigation menus on your TV; USB
input provides connection with non-iPod music players; HDMI digital-video output scales DVD output to high-def
resolutions; easy setup; excellent two-sided remote; contextual help menus.
The bad: Expensive; no HDMI inputs; no upconversion of analog video on HDMI output.
l The bottom line: With its abundant feature set, great sound quality, eye-catching design, and superlative ease of use,
iPod-friendly Denon S-301 2.1 home-theater system is the best we've reviewed so far.
CNET editor's review
Reviewed by ; Steve Guttenberg
Edited by ; John P. Falcone
Reviewed November 8, 2005
Let's face it: you wouldn't wear an Armani suit with a Casio watch on your wrist, and most all-in-one home-theater-in -a-box (HTIB)
systems look out of place next to upscale flat-screen TVs. And HTIB sound, while impressive for the investment, usually doesn't
compare with the picture quality of today's TVs. But there are exceptions. Denon's spiffy S-301 two-channel HTIB sounds equally
superb with DVDs and CDs, but the company didn't stop there. In addition to its drop-dead good looks, the system packs in pretty
much every home-theater bell and whistle you could possibly want. The deal clinchers are its HDMI digital-video output (which
scales DVD video to HDTV-friendly 720p and 1080i resolutions) and its ability to play songs from virtually any connected iPod or
MP3 player and choose songs via an onscreen menu system. The $1,599 suggested retail price of the Denon S-301 may be a bit
steep, but you're paying a premium for the best combination of style, sound, and features that we've seen from any HTIB to date.
Editors' note: Denon Electronics will not honor the warranty on Denon components purchased from unauthorized dealers or if the
original factory serial number has been removed, defaced, or replaced. If in doubt about a particular online or brick-and-mortar
retailer, call Denon at 973/396-0810.
The Denon S-301 includes a pair of 3-inch-deep satellite speakers designed to look smart when wall-mounted next to a flat-panel
TV. Don't want to drill holes in your walls and fish wires through them? Go ahead and use the satellites with the included all-metal
table stands. The matching full
-size subwoofer measures 9.25 inches wide, 14.5 inches high, and 18 inches deep; its 34-pound
weight hints at its serious intentions. We think the sats and the sub look pretty snazzy, but they're hardly exceptional by HTIB
standards. The round-form receiver/DVD player is another matter: it's the most elegant component we've seen in a packaged
system. Most of the front panel's controls light up and slowly dim when you touch them-- a design cue inspired by Apple, perhaps?--
and the disc tray opens and closes with unusual grace. At 15 inches wide, 3.75 inches high, and 9.75 inches deep, the
receiver/DVD player has ultracompact dimensions that make it easy to place just about anywhere.
The unit's two-sided remote control is equally impressive. One side features 25 large, well-laid-out, easy-to-
the most common features. A hinged cover on the back of the remote hides 38 additional keys that control a slew of more
advanced and obscure functions. You can also program the remote to control additional TVs and cable or satellite boxes in your
Using the Denon S-301 requires no pesky menu setup or other complicated arrangements. Within minutes of unboxing it, we were
up and running. The satellites had the rich tonal balance we associate with larger speakers, and the subwoofer's supple bass
seamlessly merged with sound from the sats. All video outputs, including the S-301's HDMI connection, have onscreen setup
menus. The S-301 is pretty easy to use, but if you get confused, press the remote's help button; the onscreen display will help you
find out what you want to know. It's the sort of common sense ease-of-use feature we've seen-- and praised -- on TiVo DVRs and
Logitech Harmony universal remotes.