Denon and Sony win What Hi-Fi? 2017 Awards for two superb home cinema amps

That’s right, there are only two winners in the home cinema amplifiers category at this year’s What Hi-Fi? Awards - but, nevertheless, we’ve found the competition to be fiercer than ever.

AV receivers these days are packed with more features than a cutting-edge smart TV. From the latest 4K and HDR video support to hi-res music and multi-room streaming, they’re multi-tasking multimedia machines no matter the price. Which is why it’s all the more crucial that they outperform their competitors when it comes to outright surround-sound quality.

Let’s start with the comeback kid: Sony. After a year out of the game, Sony came back with the STR-DN1080 (above), displaying the full arsenal of tricks and a captivating audio performance.

It features Dolby Atmos - finally - but it's the amp’s wonderfully revealing and insightful delivery that simply wowed us. The DN1080 reaches deep into its reserves to deliver a sound packed with punch, dynamism and authority in a way we haven’t heard at this sweet-spot price before. It’s the kind of performance that amps twice the price - some we heard during Awards testing - couldn’t best. We can't help but grin with delight every time we play our favourite test scenes through this Sony - it's simply spellbinding to listen to.

If you’re looking to build your dream home cinema, we can't think of a better place to start than with this excellent Sony receiver.

Testament to just how accomplished and entertaining we find this Sony is we didn’t find a genuine, worthwhile step-up in performance until we went beyond the £2000 mark. The Denon AVR-X6400H (above) is one of the company’s top-ranking AV receivers this year, and it’s our top pick if you’re willing to spend some serious dosh on your system.

The 6400H shares the five-star £500 AVR-X2400H’s refinement and poise, but has a huge surge in confidence, scale and control. The way this bigger and bolder Denon handles complex soundtracks and whizzing surround effects is thrilling, but we particularly love how it delivers voices and quieter moments with nuance and clarity. It’s surprisingly musical, too, which makes it all the more compelling to listen to.

And thanks to the Denon’s 11 discrete channels of amplification, you can set up a full 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos speaker system without needing extra amplifiers. With the right partnering kit, this Denon amp will help deliver one of the most complete AV experiences money can buy.

MORE: Awards 2017: home cinema amplifiers

MORE: All the winners from the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2017

Simon Lucas is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? – since then, he's written for titles such as GQ, Metro, The Guardian and Stuff, among many others.