What I did on my weekend - AVR 300 test

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by Barend, Jul 18, 2004.

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  1. Barend

    Barend
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    Here are the findings of the Dutch jury! :hiya:

    Sorry no functional aspects, read the mags and real reviews for that, don't read the verdicts as you can't believe 'em anyway...
    Comments very very welcome, but not on my TONE pleeez...
    Also, postings like "Just had my receiver in. I love it very much" aren't very informative, although if that's what you want off your chest go for it i'd say.
    To tell you the truth, I don't like the way this Lance Armstrong character runs the Tour de France with his well oiled factory, I must admit I sometimes hope he'd fall off his bike :D -don't tell anyone it's MY mean streak...
    Did you notice the bulging backs of his personnel cyclists? That's cushions they shove under his bottom should he ever land flatside...

    :lesson:
    Here's what- yesterday put the Denon 3805 and the Arcam on top of each other on the coffee table (Arcam topside as it starts with A :D ).
    First set them both to analog cd in, (pure) direct in both cases, no sub, but 2 extra channels used to biamp my KEF Ref 203's.
    Used normal well screened RG59C/U cabling with screened metal RCA plugs and 6mm speaker twins with BS (that's the brand believe it or not) bananas.
    These have a gold plated insert with 2 clamping screws on the sides, and they don't fall out like these shiny "gold" rubbish-with-the-rear-screw they sell everywhere. Hint: check the rear screw and then as it WILL come loose...
    The BS are very cheap (Ebay Germany) and have springs all the way to the end not just in the middle, and take copper 6mm max.
    I don't believe in any other cable wizardry.

    Played Schumann's first (old Academy cd now on Brilliant (Naxos) for silly money- a very ambient disc), both sounded very detailed, with the instruments exactly spot on.
    Arcam won because it was more...musical. Yeah the word's used all over and leads to much parroting so I'll try to elaborate:
    1. Violins sounded more rounded on the A with no trace of graininess at all;
    2. Highest percussion notes seemed a bit rolled of on the Arcam, but still well placed and enjoyable;
    3. Mids on the D seemed slightly recessed while the Arcam seemed to engulf me with a pampering and comforting sound;
    4. Could not hear any diffs in the bass.
    5. A's output was completely silent due to it's internal biamping switching. Denon had a slight hum. Tried more than one cable to test to eliminate thát.

    Played Daniel Lanois SHINE cd, a lousy recording of beautiful music, with droning electronic bass lines and sloppy staging.
    1. First three tracks sounded rather disappointing on the Arcam, no clear staging, nasty bass as expected. Track 4 changed all that (recording tech woke up?) with a very lifelike voice exactly center, and nice instrumentals too. So the A was just giving me what was there, nothing more nothing less!
    The D sounded "reasonable" on all tracks, including the 4th, that sounded very good on the Arcan. Puzzling!
    2. Most recent Norah Jones CD. Very well controlled bass on both receivers, same story really: voice more lifelike (she comes to tea often :D ) on the A and high percussion...well...different: hard to describe, seemed a bit more poignant on the D and smoother on the A. Couldn't work out the diffs here yet, must hook up my audio analyser.

    Played The Girl in the Other Room (Diana Krall sacd) in analog (5.1 bypasses all things digital in both receivers).
    Beautiful sound of the title track (a great song!) on both kit, while the D sounded a bit more crisp I felt I could listen on for hours on the Arcam without any fatigue, and invite her for tea too, even let her sit on my lap... :D
    Although the bass lines were taut on both receivers I feel one should be careful with the Arcam, because it tended to a slight emphasis- not boominess as it appeared that way all the way down the bass spectrum, and my 203's produce 30 Hz with ease.

    1.Display.
    Here I prefer the Denon, as I find watching the dB setting all the time rather useless- I would've preferred a well visible mode display. To be honest, the Denon's figures are rather smallish in size...

    2. Remote.
    Denon's remote is a complete disaster. Will say no more although you might disagree.
    Arcam's remote is excellent and not cheap at all, it feels good in my shovel like hand (kinda rubbery, the feel I mean) and all buttons have a good tactile feel. Maybe it's run-of-the-mill but I hate eccentrics here. Quite a diff with the shiny rest of the Diva's remotes. Praise!
    Oh yes, must add one nag: Why can't I set the backlight on time? The D's remote has to be shaken every 20 seconds but the A's has to pushed every 5 seconds!

    3. OSD.
    Works well on both.

    4. Bass Management.
    Slightly better on the A because you set a different sub level for stereo.
    Sorry to say none offers BM for 5.1 analog in like the HK does. So you must do with what your DVD player has on offer - not much on my Denon 2900 alas...just 80 Hz crossover is a bummer!

    5. Surround and DD.
    Not tried yet- wife must watch the Tour de France.

    6. EQ.
    Not missed at all now I have matching speakers:Kef Ref 2x 203 - 202c - 2x 201. Will keep the coffee table pile in place till I can spin some serious movies!
    Maybe the "surround bubble" I enjoyed so much thru the Denon in EQ-FLAT position will prevail, but that was before the 201's that arrived on Friday!

    7. Op.
    Volume on the A is much preferred- gimme a good pot any time compared to the Denon's rotary encoder, it's too slow and too fine.
    Also, why use digital circuitry here? Bourns makes fine potentiometers (yeah I know a rotary switch-with-resistors is better but only for the Pure Purists...).
    Buttons- well I rarely use them anyway...
    Hated to drill out the speaker socket bungs on my Denon, only applies to the continental model though. The Arcam's bungs could be removed very easily, and HALLELUJAH no DFA (or what is the name of those good but completely off standard Britbananas...)
    Found operation OK on both, with the A definitely less confusing- Zoning can only be set on the D thru the front button AFAIK. Ah well, it doesn't work anyway around here...

    8.Zoning.
    Does not work on the mainland Euro models as my dealer and Penhold (Dutch importer) confirmed. You have to biamp thru the FL/FR pre outs, the ZONE2 pre outs are silent or just hum.

    9.Manual and extras.
    Manual: Arcam wins. Nuff said. Download just the E manual if you have a Denon, print it enlarged to A3 and maybe you can understand what these Japanese mean. Seems only Arcam ever heard of biamping... :thumbsup:
    No microphone with the Arcam!

    10.Levels
    Denon: No maxvol or matchvol. Power up with your fingers in your ears!
    Arcam: Analog inputs can be sensitivity matched and max volume can be set for both zones. A real blessing!
    Denon: No muting-to-zero, leaving you with irritant swishing you can hear but never understand...
    Arcam: muting to zero and back gradually - nice touch, sweet to my ears!

    11.Video
    Good pic via both receivers thru YUV on my Panasonic plasma- DVD ánd upscaled composite pic, upscaled composite OK from my satbox, cable horrible as usual and excellent from DVD.
    No diffs direct DVD vs switched.
    Arcam seems to handle RGB-with-sync-on-green, not tried.

    AND NOW MY RAY-SUMMAY !!

    Denon's going and the Arcam stays. Not because the Denon's bad (I never had a more musical (The M word again! :D ) sounding Denon kit...but the Arcam is sóó smooth on my old ears...
    Both are reassuringly back straining heavy, both are built like a tank, both look the part but in a different manner.

    To conclude I feel I must punish Arcam for the document about the wattage on their website, allright to specify the power diffs under load for n channels driven compared to "some" Jap receiver (be frank which one guys!).
    But you are not very truthful either, specifying power output at 1 kHz instead of 20-20000 Hz.
    Think about it!

    Barend

    PS
    You noticed I try to write like a real reviewer here and there, that's because I want to have some free kit sent in the future...
    Paid 1425 Euro's for the Arcam (975 GBP including our 19% VAT).
    Yes, it came it the original Arcam sealed box, and yes, I ran for the door!
    I think this was a fair price for the unit, compared to the Denon's street price of 1199 Euro's in NL and Germany. I still believe the AVR300 is overpriced at 1299 GBP.
    Future plans:
    Triamping of fronts, biamping of rest. Bought some second hand amps on Ebay: HK PA-2400 (2 ch) HK PA-4000 (8 ch or 4 ch * 100W) and NAD C272.
    Will try them all and flog what I don't need nor like...
     
  2. RaceTripper

    RaceTripper
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    Nice writeup Barend.

    I have not listened to the Denon at home, but I agree with much of your assesment of the Arcam.

    I have a pair of Dynaudio Audience 72 for the stereo fronts. I have not noticed the bass emphasis you mentioned, but I am not using the Sub in stereo direct mode. Did you use the Sub for that test? OTOH, I haven't listened to that much music on the A yet either. I think you'll find the sound will sweeten a bit once the Arcam has run in a for a while.

    Let us know how you like the sound on movies when you get a chance. You might find the highs a bit harsh at first, but give it a chance to break in before complaining about that because it does go away. In the meantime, lowering High EQ 1 or 2 db will help...I ended up setting it flat again after a couple weeks. If you can, try out PLIIx. It's really pretty impressive.

    Since I'm American I just have to say....go Lance!!!
    :D
     
  3. Plump

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    My brother in law did exactly the same test (me, my sister and two friends took part) and Denon won in his setup.

    It depends on many things, room , speakers etc.

    And tastes are different as Lowrider always states (and straight after claims only his is correct :) ).
     
  4. Barend

    Barend
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    Plump,
    I agree. With some music (rock) I preferred the Denon, because it has slightly more "bite", but I ultimately let my personal taste for a "soft" sound prevail...
    Bottom line is both receivers are excellent really.
    Barend
     
  5. Barend

    Barend
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    Hi Dean,
    No I did not use subs in stereo. Yes, I expect both receivers to open up in the next few weeks, I expect the Arcam even more so. However I don't find it harsh at all out of the box, so I suppose I'll enjoy the sound even more in a few weeks.
    I did not have to age the new surround speakers, as I bought them second hand from the UK.
    ...And I think Armstrong's a marvellous sportsman, was just horsing around, it's just that his victories are difficult to compare to the usual wheelslave that has to do all races...
    You wouldn't believe how little a good pro cyclist earns compared to your baseball players or our soccer heroes...
    Barend
     
  6. Plump

    Plump
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    Since I am not American and I hate same people wining all the time ... FORZAAAA IVAAAAAAAN !!!
     
  7. Plump

    Plump
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    Barend, have you played with room EQ on Denon?
     
  8. RaceTripper

    RaceTripper
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    The upper harshness was slight and subtle, and mostly evident on movie audio. I believe my room may be more revealing of that than on average (plaster on concrete walls, hardwood floors) -- it's pretty bright.

    I think it's fair to say Armstrong is a dynasty right now. His time will pass.

    But we are fans of the Williams and McLaren boys. Remind them for me to do something about Schumi, please. :(
     
  9. >Eric<

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    Hi Barend,

    After your pro-style review of the 2 types of receivers I feel a sudden urge to buy the AVR-300 !! :D

    No seriously, I am trying to decide between the AVR3805 and the AVR300.

    Since I currently have a Denon DAP2500 digital pre amp and a POA 2400 power amp to my satisfaction I feel confident that the AVG3805 is a good product, however given the good reviews of the Arcam I also want to add the AVR300 to the equation.

    However, my big problem is (as yours was..) the huge price gap. :nono:

    Eric.
     
  10. Hifi addict

    Hifi addict
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    you could also go for the Arcam 250. It is based on the 300 but is not that high in price. On the other hand... if you keep it for 10 years.... it's only a few euro's a year extra :D
     
  11. >Eric<

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    Thx 4 the tip.

    Actually i thought of this option, however the 250 doesnt have pre-amp out
    (in case I want to use my Denon power amp :eek: ).
     
  12. barnythebear

    barnythebear
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    Yep the power amp makes a difference to the AV300 you might need the pre-outs.
     

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