Wow..So who would have thought I'd end up choosing the receiver that cost me less money?!!
I spent about 2 hours each with both receivers and ran them through the same demo material of (a) Iron Man on BR, (b) various SACDs and DVD-Audios, and (c) Internet Radio. It took a couple of times with a few errors, but the auto-setup with the Pioneer eventually picked up everything (although it was insistent that my subwoofer was turned up enough even at max, and that my front channels were out of phase). Setup on the Pioneer was pretty straight forward, but it had a lot of additional testing parameters than the Audyssey setup on the Denon.
Pioneer took the prize here with more setup features, but the Denon would out with multiple testing locations and a more user-friendly and appealing on screen interface.
BR testing with Iron Man was comparable between the two units, but I felt like the Pioneer provided better video out to my Panasonic projector. I also felt like the sound was more encompassing with the Pioneer. This is also where the Pioneer could really flex it's muscle with the extra wattage per channel. The Denon provided a smooth sound, but I literally had to crank the volume to about 80% to get the true cinema effect. The only way I can think to describe this is if you drive a 4 cylinder car and then follow it up with driving an 8 cylinder sports car. You might not NEED to drive 200mph, but it's obvious with the 8-cyl even at 55 mph that it has plenty of power if you feel the need to pass the car in front of you WHILE going up a steep mountain. This is how the Pioneer felt.
Audio sounded a little better on the Denon, but again, I felt like it was underpowered. The sound was definitely warmer and a little smoother, but the Pioneer seemed to add that extra mid-range sound that was lacking a little on the Denon.
Extra features - Internet radio, Pandora, etc, blah blah blah were the other things both of these receivers touted. The feature-set was pretty much the same on the 2 units, with the exception of the Denon having Spotify and Flickr. I really liked being able to just plug an ethernet cable into the receiver and listen to the radio over the net. The sounds were really good, and 90% of the time I would have sworn I had a CD playing. Each unit had it's pros and cons here.
The Pioneer shows the artist and song name on the front panel. This is really nice if you have the projector turned off and want to quickly take a peek at what you're listening to. The same holds true for switching stations, genres, etc. The Denon simply shows "Internet Radio". The search feature is where I feel the Denon outshines the Pioneer here. The Denon quickly recognizes your location and then displays a list of channels that are close to you, followed by automatically playing the most popular station in your area. To find stations in Minnesota on the Pioneer I had to search by category, then choose United States, and then hope I got lucky on one from Minnesota. The only option to search for channels by state was when looking for local podcasts.
Finally, I like having the extra 2 channels on the 9.2 Pioneer receiver. I'm not currently using them, but they're a nice to have. Both units have a jack for Iphones and Ipads, although nothing for my Iphone 5. They also both have a front HDMI jack for plugging in video cameras or whatever else you choose to hookup. Another thing I liked about both receivers was the addition of a 2nd subwoofer input. I don't have one yet, but do eventually plan to add a second subwoofer, so it's nice not having to worry about a splitter.
The weight between the two units is noticeable as well. The Denon weighs in at 24 lbs, although it felt much lighter. The Pioneer comes in at a hefty fatboy 33 lbs.
The price difference between these two units for me was about $200. However, with the Pioneer showing an MSRP closer to $1500, I'm not sure if this was even a fair comparison. While the Denon sounded very nice, I think my space was just a bit too large for it to shine. If I moved it up to my family room setup, I'm guessing I would be VERY pleased with it.
Anyways, I hope this helps anyone that might be looking at either of these units. The Denon will be going back this weekend and I'll be ordering a faceplate for my Pioneer tomorrow. On that note, if anyone wants to buy a custom faceplate for the Onkyo TX-SR806, shoot me a PM.