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Demo results: Onkyo 701 vs Denon 3803

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by GavinH, Nov 3, 2003.

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  1. GavinH

    GavinH
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    Hey all,

    this is the second phase of my amp testing... first time round I ran the new Yamaha 1400 vs the Arcam avr200. Initially I was considering stereo performance as well as movie performance, but since the first test, I have decided to concentrate purely on movie performance.

    The other equipment in the test included the arcam DV88+, 3 M&K K7s, a pair of K4 tripoles, and an M&K V850 sub.

    I used the following scenes to test the movie sound: (1) the church scene, "choices", from Saving Private Ryan. (2) The scene with the tanks, later in the movie, from Saving Private Ryan. (3) "Balin's Tomb", from The Fellowship of the Ring. I also listened to the opening scene from "Two Fast Two Furious"...

    The Onkyo receiver. I must say that this was an impressive amp, and would encourage anyone considering an amp in this price range (the Onkyo is 700) to try it out. I won't go into the technical specifications, as I don't know them too well :), but it is worth mentioning that this machine has THX Select certification.

    I thought the Onkyo produced a very well balanced sound, and was particularly impressed with the way it used the rear speakers. The 2 scenes from Saving Private Ryan are very atmospheric, and the Onkyo was great here. In the tank scene I felt completely enveloped by the background sounds.

    I picked the LOTR scene as there is some difficult bass in there to deal with, and it is generally a very action packed scene. The amp seemed to handle the bass well - the big stopms, but again I was most impressed with the surround effects. When the cave troll is swinging at Gimli, the orcs that are knocked to the side move very quickly and accurately around the room (in terms of sound) - it was very impressive.

    The Denon receiver. As I watched the first scene from SPR, I struggled to notice much difference from the Onkyo. However, as the scene progressed, and as I moved onto the second scene, I began to think that I preferred the Onkyo, due to the atmosphere it created. Further into the second scene... I became aware of some of the Denon's benefits. I felt that the Denon was a little bit more precise and accurate with its sound. It too was very good with the whole "surround sound" - but I would say that it seemed to place the different effects very accurately, whereas the Onkyo seemed adept at creating ambience. It was very much the same with the LOTR scene...

    Overall, both receivers were very good. I felt with both of them that I was beginning to sit back and enjoy the sound. It was honestly difficult to pick out clear differences between the two, and the difference in surround sound that I mentioned above was certainly not obvious, it was just my interpretation of small differences.

    The Onkyo is 100 pounds cheaper, and has THX Select certification. However, I am not sure why, but I think I preferred the sound of the Denon. The intention was to pick a "winner" from these two, and test that against the Yamaha... However at this point I think I like these two more...

    Despite that, I think I will test one of them against the Yamaha, for the following reason. Both of these amps stood out to me as being very good with creating a well balanced, surround field of sound. The thing that struck me first with the Yamaha was the clarity and precision of the sound/effects. So, by comparing one of these against the Yamaha, I will hopefully have two amps with greater difference between them than the two I tested today - and I can pick the type of sound that I like best :D

    Of course, it may turn out that there is very little difference between the three, in which case I will be happy which ever one I end up with :smoke:

    Once again the guys at SOs were really helpful. Hope these findings are useful to some, and any comments are welcomed.

    Gav
     
  2. woody123

    woody123
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    Thanks for the update, looking forward to see what your final decision is!
     
  3. emad

    emad
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    GavinH

    Are you going to Demo the Pioneer AX5 against the Denon or the Onkyo. I would be very interested to see how they stack against the Pio.

    Thanks
    Emad
     
  4. GavinH

    GavinH
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    Emad,

    I'm not sure. There are a couple of other amps in my price range that are most likely worth demo'ing - one of which is the Pioneer. Understandably, my local SOs don't stock every amp at this level, and up until this point, I have been happy with what I have heard. Trying another couple of amps may be a little confusing :)

    In fact, I must say that when comparing quite a few models all at a similar level, it can be very difficult to pick out clear differences. This is a little bit of a problem for me because I currently have no AV equipment, so unlike an upgrade, where you are looking for something significantly better than what you have presently, I am looking for something significant between models at roughly the same level...

    Once I have picked the amp from this bunch that suits me best, I suppose there is nothing stopping me comparing it with other amps... However, it is more likely that I maintain my selection, and only compare it with promising, newly released amps that come out in-between now and when I buy, which will be around feb/march next year :D Looking forward to that!

    Gav
     
  5. nickcross

    nickcross
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    Just like to say thanks for this very interesting comparison! Was looking at a 2803 (how does that compare with a a 3803?) with maybe a Marantz for stereo duties (tho how to connect them together I'm not sure :) )
    Nick
     
  6. wilber

    wilber
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  7. Gatto

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    Lately i have seen a review of the Onkyo and it was able to deliver only 50 Watts with only 5 channels driven together. I think if all Six channels were driven in the Lab test results the power output would have gone even lower! Very surpriced as the receiver is rated at 100 Watts per channel!
     
  8. Wasabi

    Wasabi
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    Just to back up that Onkyo in general one of the better brands in terms of delivering their watts and producing good stuff.

    http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_10_2/onkyo-tx-sr800-receiver-4-2003.html
    (Many members knows this site, an reference site)
    (They testetd the sr800 - "As we pushed the volume up, there was a fairly obvious threshold beyond which the receiver's amplifiers were not able to maintain absolute composure, somewhere around 6 dB below reference. I'm not talking about clipping or other such extreme distress. The unit can do ref level in the size of room the THX Select spec caters too and do so without noticeable change in spectral response. It simply lacked that final "punch" when going for broke. But, that seems to be the only limitation of this receiver, and undeniably one of any receiver in this price range.

    In perspective, despite my highly damped room, the loudest we ever watch a full length movie at is normally -13 dB, sometimes -10 dB if I'm in a testosterone mood. This is well within the TX-SR800's range.

    When for fun we connected the Onkyo to our outboard THX Ultra power amplifier, the results were commensurate with what we would expect from an excellent THX Ultra processor and a truly first rate preamplifier.

    We spun the always demanding Andrea Bocelli DVD and listened for aberrations which usually cause me to squint, but we could find none, even at the nearly irresponsible playback level of 0 dB. We tried in vain to get any distracting hiss from the noise floor: During the near silent passages of the "Star Wars" soundtrack, all we got was a background of delicious, sonic void. The dynamic, complex riffs of "Dire Straits" rendered with aplomb, and my staple, if somewhat compressed, Alana Davis and Amanda Marshall albums came through with the sort of believability that scares me.

    "Moulin Rouge" had an exquisite reproduction of the track. "Saving Private Ryan" came through with every bit the frightening sonic experience intended. "Attack of the Clones" was immersive and had palpable sonic environments, even if the movie wasn't that great.")

    http://www.audioholics.com/productreviews/avhardware/onkyo_TX-SR601_review_06.html
    ("So far the TX-SR601 has proven to be a workhorse in my home theater system. I expected the receiver’s amplifier section to balk at the 4-ohm load of the Axiom M80ti(s), but Onkyo makes a decent amplifier section. I noticed no audible distortion in CD music played in excess of 100dB – far above the listening levels I use when watching movies or listening to my CD collection – and my Axioms were grateful to be able to exercise their bottom end throughout this test. During normal listening sessions, the amplifier drove my system with plenty of gusto. Highs were clear and precise, and lows were authoritative and controlled. Essentially, music sounded the way I expected it to, and at a level that I did not expect, having come from a receiver that priced out at twice the price, but only 20% more rated power.")


    http://www.onkyo.net/uk/cms/products/home/av_rec/TX-SR501E/indtip.htm
    (German respectable Audiovision - "It really impressed the testers in the laboratory: being able to deliver 5x119 watt into 4 ohms is an amazing feature for this price category.")

    http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Hollow/3401/ratevsac.htm
    (A table of all amps tested by highly regarded US magazine Sound and Vision, and out of 7tested only 1 let down, the others were over/near or just below - a better average than say Denon, Pioneer or Yamaha. Yes H/K really excels here ;p)

    Wasabi
     
  9. Gatto

    Gatto
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    The review, that I have read of the TX701E is not posted yet on the NET, but it will be posted within the next few months. The below is quoted from a very recent review.

    This is what the MAG quoted :

    " This is a more powerfull receiver than the others, when driving two channel at least, with a measured 120W per channel rating (8ohms). However, the all too finite size of the common power transformer and reservoir combine to ensure that, when all the channels are driven, power output into each channel plunges. Our lab tests measured a drop of 50W per channel when in full multichannel mode"

    I am not saying that the onkyo's are bad far from it, but just to be aware that when driving all channels the power will drop drastically!
     
  10. GavinH

    GavinH
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    Thanks for the info Gatto, that's useful. Do you know what the power is like when the Denon is driving all channels?

    Also - what is the Yamaha 1400 like when driving all channels?

    Gav
     
  11. GavinH

    GavinH
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    BTW, forgot to ask...

    I noticed that the two THX receivers I tested, the Yamaha and the Onkyo, they show the volume as -10.0db (for example). From Wasabi's post above, I gather that this means 10.0db below reference level... is this correct?

    If so, what type of things are reference levels used for? For example, will a THX amp be tested for against certain criteria at reference levels?

    Ta,

    Gav
     
  12. Gatto

    Gatto
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    GavinH i don't know exactly, but if you search around the NEt or check out Hardware tested by MAgs, you will surely find the info required. What I can say is that I have seen a review of the Denon 2803 and at 8 ohms with all channel driven together it rated at about 70w * 7. Which is quite good for a receiver at that price.

    And as you might know, one of the most expensive part in a receiver is the power Supply. Thats why most of the manufacturers try to impress by specs and leave the power section out!!
     
  13. Andywilliams

    Andywilliams
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    Hi Gato
    I think most people pass judgment on nad receivers without ever hearing one.Iwas slightly worried about my nad running the m&ks but it does so very well.when the nad t752 was tested it output 93 watts all channels driven its spec is 80 watts all channels driven ,In stereo it sounds great considering its a 600 quid receiver cant understand why people dont go and have a listen before passing judgment.
    Cheers Gonzo.
     
  14. wilber

    wilber
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    watts/ch ain't really worth worrying about - it's how it sounds that really matters. All of these amps have power to spare with easily driven speakers.

    Gavin read nothing into the relative volume level - my pioneer at -25 will give you a headache, it's all about how it's set up
     
  15. Gatto

    Gatto
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    Yes Gonzo, NAD are very realistic when they rate their receivers! as They rate them with all channels driven together and not 1 channel only!
     

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