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Old Arcam Alpha vs. Denon 3910

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by MPK, Feb 23, 2005.

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  1. MPK

    MPK
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    Hi All,

    I just upgraded my system recently and bought a Denon AVC-A1XV amp and a 3910 DVD player. From my old system I still have an Arcam Alpha 8SE CD player and wanted to get the opinion of some experts here:

    Considering that the Arcam is quite old, should I keep it or use the 3910 for CDs as it probably is more technologically advanced?

    If I should keep the Arcam, should I run it into the A1XVs analog inputs (as I have done it now) and switch of the D/A converter in the amp or should I use the digital out in the Arcam and use the A1XVs highly advanced (so they claim) D/A converter to process the signal?

    Apart from the money I'd get from selling the Arcam, I'd quite like to get rid of an extra box, but if it's significantly better than the 3910 for CD use then I'll keep it. You'll probably say "sit down and listen to both", which I will do when I have a quite weekend, but I was simply wondering from a technological perspective which one is better.

    Thanks for any advice
     
  2. phillfyspoon

    phillfyspoon
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    am I right in thinking the 3910 has a pure direct mode for switching off digital and video circuits. I would think the denon might have the edge with this mode.
     
  3. jookster

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    My advice test each and see which you like best!!!!!!
    That is your answer!

    The technological answer is what your ears prefer. Interesting though.
     
  4. MPK

    MPK
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    You're right both the 3910 and the A1XV have Pure Direct modes which switch off any unneeded circuits.

    I knew someone would say that I should sit down and listen and decide myself... :D It's a bit like with wine; what I like is not necessarily the best. I'm not sure whether I can trust my ears and obviously don't have all kinds of testing equipment. But I'll give it a try anyway.

    Cheers
     
  5. jookster

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    But what you like is necessarily best to you!!
     
  6. MPK

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    ok, I finally took the time and did some testing last weekend and am now in a position to answer my own question :)

    I must say that before the test I was heavily biased towards the 3910, not only because of the money I could get for it and the extra box that would disappear from my HiFi rack, but also because I am a "believer" in technology and progress. So how could a 6 year old Arcam CD player with its old 1 bit DAC vs. the mighty 3910 using the A1XV's 24bit 192kHz DAC, AL24 Burr Brown processor and more techy acronyms than you could possibly think of.

    I'm afraid to admit that the old Arcam beat the 3910 hands down. Both in Pure Direct mode and the Arcam using it's own DAC (analog out, A1XV DAC switched off). I haven't tried the digital out using the A1XV's DAC but the results were so different, I sometimes had to make sure that I was comparing the same track.

    The Arcam had so much depth, clarity and warmth. And the bass was leagues ahead of the 3910. I'm probably not using the right terms here to describe the difference as I'm not an "expert", but it was significant. I tried classical music, pop, rock, you name it and each time I preferred the Arcam.

    I can't help wondering what the difference would be like with one of today's state-of-the-art Arcam CD players. Well, I guess won't be getting rid of it then...
     
  7. mark.king

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    Hmm you may have answered my problem. I have a arcam alpha 6 which I compared to a appha 8 bought for a friend and there was little difference except the 6 sounded a little less artificial ( very little difference) I am looking for a dvd to buy and was hoping to replace the cd player with it but it's not looking like a good idea now. What about at the next step up say £2000 bracket for a dvd. Is that likely to better the alpha 6?
     
  8. MPK

    MPK
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    well, I have no doubt that the DVD-A1XV will sound better than the 3910 (it'd better sound a lot better for 3x the price). However, you have to ask yourself whether it's worth it. With Blu-Ray and HD DVD around the corner, why go for such an expensive player. I thought I'd get the 3910 with a view to upgrade in about two years.

    Compared to a good CD player for, say, £500, I have real doubts whether even a top range DVD player would sound better. I'd keep the Alpha 6 and go for something like he 3910. Alternatively, go for a DV79 which I am sure will sound better for audio than a 3910, but probably not as good for video.
     
  9. spl23

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    This is interesting to me, as I replaced an all Arcam audio setup (Alpha 9 amp, Alpha 8SE CD player and Alpha 8 tuner) plus a Pioneer DVD player and Yamaha Surround amp, with a Denon 3910 and Denon 2805. I quite deliberately haven't tested the 8SE back to back with the 3910 as I am sick of all the boxes and wires, and really don't want two disc players any more.

    I liked the sound of the Arcam gear. When I switched to Denon, I originally had the 2910 DVD player, which got replaced with the 3910 due to the problems it had with slightly iffy discs. The sound of the 3910 was noticeably better than that of the 2910 on CD, without even doing a back-to-back comparison. I was a bit disappointed by the sound of the 2910/2805 on CD - I can't say the same for the 3910/2805 on CD, which is very pleasant to listen to. I really don't miss the Arcam on CD playback - maybe I would if I heard them next to each other, and that's why I'm not trying it!

    So, as one who's tried it - if you really do prefer a one-box solution, stick the 8SE in the cupboard for a few weeks and see if you actually miss it in use... My entire system is now the 2 Denon boxes, a Humax PVR and a ViewSonic LCD TV - 4 mains sockets against the 10 or so I used to have, and a lot more free space in the room. Plus I can now switch the radio on in the morning without getting out of bed - and dusting the AV gear takes 1/4 the time. I must be getting old... ;-)
     
  10. MPK

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    spl23

    I fully agree with you and the whole reason why I upgraded my system was to have less cables, boxes and hassle. You almost had to be an engineer to put on a DVD with my old system. However, as I have plenty of other boxes, one more or less doesn't make too much difference in the end, especially if it is real value added. In terms of hassle, it's about the same to change the surround mode settings from video to music on the amp as to simply change the Input selection from DVD to CD, which has the right modes already stored. Agreed it looks horrible as the old Arcam design doesn't go at all with the new Denon design, but I have it behind cupboards anyway.

    Do you still have the 8SE, maybe you should give it a try...? :)
     
  11. CJROSS

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    Guys – if one of your concerns is trying to cut down CD players + DVD players for use with CD, have you ever considered an offboard DAC ? There are loads about at many different budgets and I can say that it’s a great way to have 1 CD/DVD transport for use with both devices (ie DVD-V & CD if you have a good stereo system) the other plus point is routing other digital devices thru it : For example my DAC has the following formats hooked up permanently :

    CD
    DVD-V
    Freeview Digital TV-Radio – Humax 8000T PVT
    MD – Sony MDJ-510

    And has also had my PC via M-Audio 24/96Transit for MP3 (320kbps) and uncomped WAV files via I-tunes. Plenty of threads about it – use the search facility.

    HTHs
     
  12. Bernard Barnett

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    I've had both the DV79 and the 3910 and they performed equally well on video. I also tested both on audio (only briefly, as I'm a music freak and keep a CD player plus DAC for that) and the Arcam was indeed quite a lot better. I'd echo CJ's suggestion that an offboard DAC is worth a try.
     
  13. mark.king

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    I thought the problem with dvd players was not the dacs but the dvd transpor system? I noticed that the denon 3910 and arcam dv79 both have seperate dacs for two channel audio anyway. Has anyone had any experiance with even higher models of dvd? I am now thinking about the new denon which is going to be about £2500. I would love to try a meridian but I think it is a bit beyond me price wise and would be way more expensive than the rest of my system (audiolab 8000s monitor audio silver 8i's)
     
  14. superpixel

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    I think you need to be careful in generalising from one CD player and one DVD player to them all.

    I have an Arcam 7SE and compared it to a Denon CD player (£300 player)some time ago, with much the same results as you found with the Denon DVD player, so it may be the Denon sound/analogue stage rather than anything else. The Denon CD players are among the driest sounding you can buy, whereas the Arcam's are some of the warmest.

    Its a good possibility I reckon, and so maybe an Arcam DVD player would be worth checking out....?
     
  15. Jules

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    My Denon DVD-A1 (£2500 when new) is simply staggering as a CD player.
    When I got it approx 2 years ago (to replace a Pioneer 737), it absolutely wiped the floor with the 737 AND my previous £400 CD player.

    I used to believe that all CD transports would sound the same and that you could use a good DAC with a cheap transport for great results.
    I bought the DVD-A1 as a video source, but I was so shocked when I played a CD through it that the CD player was removed instantly.
    All my CD's are played through the A1 now, and anything else just sounds pants in comparison.

    DVD players like the 3910 are a compromise, but a true CD/DVD capable machine is possible if you're prepared to pay for it.

    But before anyone rushes out to buy a £2500 Denon DVD player, you should do a search to see why as a DVD player it is somewhat temperamental.
    Ironic isn't it?
     
  16. mark.king

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    hmm I think I need to put a bit more thought into this and maybe go and listen to a few machines
     
  17. MPK

    MPK
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    I agree that the new DVD A1XV will probably sound a lot better than the 3910. But on the other hand it might just be what superpixel said. Denon has a different kind of sound which is not necessarily worse than Arcam, just different. And as with so many things in life, it's just a matter of taste.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that if you put the 3910 vs my old 8SE in some kind of audio lab, measured and analysed everything, the 3910 would probably win hands down in terms of reproduction of the original music source due to its more sophisticated technology.

    Unfortunately, one hardly gets a chance to compare two machines at home. I'm sure if I had only heard the 3910 on its own I would have liked it, just not in comparison with the Arcam.
     
  18. Crocodile JD

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    You mention thatyour Alpha 8SE has an old 1 bit DAC. I have the 7SE which is supposed to be a step down in the range from the 8SE. However, the 7SE uses a 24/96 bit DAC from Burr Brown and includes low jitter features etc. So surely even if the 8SE does use a 1 bit Dac, it will still be a good DAC else they wouldn't use it and the 8SE also has low jitter features as well as HDCD. Sample rate per se does not equal quality.

    Also if you look closely, the exteriors often change more radically than the interiors when introducing a new model. I understand that the Arcam Diva CD72 was virtually the same as the 7SE electronically. You often find that more electronics tweaks come later in a product range's live in order to keep it going a little longer.

    I take the view that if my 7SE is similar to th CD72 and the CD72 was still a current model until fairly recently, I'm not actually as far behind as people might at first think.

    Cheers

    Croc
     
  19. Bonzodogdick

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    Id keep the Arcam stuff anyday of the week for pure Audio. I must confess that since I added an 8P power amp to my system, the thing has just come alive. Definately the best upgrade I ever bought!
     
  20. Peter Baker

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    I've always found that the Japanese DVD/CD players just don't produce a musical sound, although I haven't heard the top of the range stuff. To me they lack in timing, and most importantly, fail to present a natural timbre to instruments. Instead they provide so much individual detail, and in such an unintegrated manner, that music doesn't sound, well musical, and quickly becomes fatiguing and annoying.
    Having said that, I was also a little disapponted with the Arcam DV27, particularly next to my Wadia
     
  21. Withdrawnmist

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    If you ever get the chance to dem the Marantz SA11....do it !!..it's astonishingly naughty !!
     
  22. Crocodile JD

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    Yep me too :smashin: Bi amping a couple of "old" Arcam amps and hooking them up to my Alpha 7SE CD player and Kef Q35.2 speakers and the sound is superb. I dread to think what I'd have to spend to better it :eek:

    Croc
     

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