New setup dilemma (Denon DRA-800h)


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Jan 2, 2009
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Seasons greetings!

Some may recall a thread I set up for a TV / Music set up.

I settled on pursuing a stereo amp setup (with ability to add sub later) as my requirement after having testing an active 2.1 setup, all in one and of course a dedicated amp and speaker setup.

At that time amp and speaker combo’s I tested were:
  • Yamaha RN303 with Dali Spektor 2s and QA3020i
  • Denon PMA 600 with Dali Spektor 2s and QA3020i
The best for me was any of the amps with the QA3020i.

One of my requirements was to stream Spotify premium without the TV.

Fast forward to earlier this month I done a deal with RS on a Denon DRA 800h with a set of 3020is. I bought the DRA800 as thought the quality and sound would match the PMA600 (having already heard this) and the telesales person confirmed the same. Having run it for around 2 weeks, I felt the sound not to be of the same quality of the testing I did earlier in the year with the PMA600 (same cables, inputs etc used).

To settle the debate in my mind, I purchased last week again, the PMA600 and another set of 3020i to parallel setup and test.

My findings are that both sound different with all other things being equal, though I appreciate there would be some difference as they are different models. But all in all, I feel the PMA600 sounds better 'quality' specifically
  • Deeper bass
  • slightly more immersive sound which feels a higher quality
  • at times the DRA800h sounds thin and not as rich as the PMA600.
Separately here are the negative points I have about the DRA800h (happy to provide more on this for anyone if useful)
  • Software both on unit and Apps e.g. Heos and Denon AVR remote not great. Few glitches observed.
  • FM / DAB radio poor signal, even with a screw in f connector separate earlier I’ve bought.
  • L / R balance, a complete shift from channel to another still results in the other playing some sound e.g. a total shift to L would still see R having some sound come out - is this normal?
For completeness like for like testing control parameters as follows:
  • Same speaker cables
  • Same speak locations
  • Tested using same source simultaneously putting one on mute after the other, so no human memory fatigue possible!
  • Sources have been Spotify connect / Netflix / Disney +. All via the TV with HDMI input into DRA800 and Optical running into PMA600 (assume using best each has available).

So I post here not quite knowing what I’m asking for going forward, but would welcome thoughts anyone has and specifically on the below points….

  • Are the sound ‘quality’ observations i’m seeing actually a ‘quality point' or just the character of the individual models?
  • The DRA800h as some config available in menu e.g. speaker distances etc - are there any suggestions on what could be done to alter sound for it match the PMA600?
  • Any thoughts from existing owners of the 800h on the negative observations i’ve listed?

I’d like the 800h to work out for me as it is a good deal comparatively, functionality it does what I need, but having confirmed my fear of the quality not being up to par, it makes a difficult proposition. I clearly have the option to return / exchange it.

look forward to thoughts…..

Did you try running the optical into the DRA800H rather than HDMI ? You can get Optical splitter fro a couple of £ on amazon if you want to run the TV simultaneously into both units.

Running simultaneously not a problem, I can do that with current setup for testing purposes.

Optical appeared to be same quality as I'm getting with hdmi.
Marantz is richer in the lower bass, lower midrange. At least in my ears.

Anyway I suggest you stick with the amplifier you like, since this is crucial to get the optimal sound.
Indeed and there is my dillemma.

Overall package the dra800h is better.

Pure sound pma600
Just to update, and help others...

Swapped my first unit for a second. Sound quality difference was massive. So clearly something wrong with the first unit.

Second unit at times had a slight crackle / pop when making adjust to bass and treble. I suspect most wouldn't notice, but it was there.

Third unit seems fine, though does not level on any surface, it seems one of the feet is off.

Not sure if I've just had a string of bad luck, but seems like quality control, or even worst manufacturing and parts is clearly an issue at play here
Not good at all. Maybe shipping damage. If it doesn’t bother you, then keep it.

However if it were me I demand a new one. Last resort try tighten the foot with screwdriver.
Definitely is a bother. Dilemma is do it keep exchanging or give up and get a refund and then pick something else. But there's nothing else that matches.

Other thought is, have read the audio sciences review of this model, its not glowing.
If it isn’t completely in level, the sound might suffer. The foots are there for a reason. Handling vibration from the chassis/amplifier itself.
I’ve read this too. Still don’t get hang up with what other people says. If streaming is important then maybe the Marantz NR1200 is better choice.

Or buy an external classic amplifier without streaming, then add Node streamer.
Why would the nr1200 be better? Based on what I've seen, the specs are identical at least from a feature perspective.

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