Which AV Amp? avr-3805 or AX3?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by ShinObiWAN, May 25, 2004.

  1. ShinObiWAN

    ShinObiWAN
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    I've got a bit of a conflict going on here.

    Which one of these is the better? Denon 3805 or the Pioneer AX3 or maybe even the AX5?

    Basically I've got around £1000 to spend on an amp that will last.

    Cheers for any advice.
     
  2. ShinObiWAN

    ShinObiWAN
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    Also considering the avr-2803 if it offer significantly better value than the others.
     
  3. Dfour

    Dfour
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    I would go for the AX5i. The only thing it misses is DPL2x from the 3805 while the AX5i has THX instead.
    They are all great amps and which ever one you choose you will be happy with them. Make sure you can Demo them as this is the only real way of learning if you will like the sound :shashin:
     
  4. Ed Selley

    Ed Selley
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    I concur with Dfour that you should be able to find an AX5i for about a grand which is a more competitive spec than the AX3 when compared to the Denon. There are some pro's and cons.
    1) If you're only using 5 channels, the Pioneer offers something to do with the two redundant amps.
    2) The Pioneer has two ilink players at a similar price ready to go whereas there is a bit of a wait for the Denon one.
    3) The Denon will be comfortably better in stereo and if you have 7 channels PLIIx is a worthwhile feature.
    FWIW I have an AX3 and it suits me fine.
     
  5. Dfour

    Dfour
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    Im sure that Pioneer must seriously be considering upgrading the AX5i as they are upgrading everything else soon inc the budget line.
     
  6. ShinObiWAN

    ShinObiWAN
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    Thanks for all the replies folks.

    I've just ordered an AX3 since I felt this offered the best value in terms of sound and features, at £575 it was too good a deal to miss out on. The Denon was £820 so another £250 then, I doubt it sounds much better than the AX3 for movies - which is what I'm buying the amp primarily for.

    I also found out that the AX3 includes the setup microphone with the amp whereas the 3805 does not, so thats yet more expense. Would have liked PLIIx but at the end of the day the AX3 won through.
     
  7. Brogan

    Brogan
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    I would have thought you could get an AX5i for a few hundred pounds more than that.
    Definitely worth the little bit extra IMO.
     
  8. jamesl01

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    My 3805 came with a setup mic in the box. Like the Pioneer it can also send two other channels of amplification to another zone in your house.

    I've not heard the AX3 but it always gets good reviews, particuarly for movies. Let us know how it goes.

    James
     
  9. ShinObiWAN

    ShinObiWAN
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    I did really fancy the idea of the AX5 but was talked out of it by the sales assistant at Superfi.

    They didn't have a demo model of the AX3 but had the AX5 in. I had a good listen to it on mainly movies (fifth element, finding nemo & LOTR ROTK) and really enjoyed the sound. Afterwards I had a brief encounter with the Denon AVR2803, which was clearly a step down from the AX5.

    I was already to pay up for the AX5 at this point when the assistant manager started on about the AX3 being on offer and had the same amps, processing and surround formats of the AX5 but for £300 less. Only things missing were the firewire, remote, some inputs on the back and a slightly better build quality - or so I was told. He went on to say that the differences in sound between the two was so subtle that its very hard to tell the two apart if you did a blind test.

    So on that note I switched over to the AX3 and saved myself just under £300. Which I plan to spend on another pair of surrounds for 7.1

    Can anyone clarify just what are the differences between the AX3 and AX5? Is it just the firewire/inputs, remote and the uprated chassis?

    I've had a good look through the pioneer specs on both machines are identical in power output, processing modes, DACS etc.
     
  10. ShinObiWAN

    ShinObiWAN
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    I've both read and was told that the mic was missing and could be bought as an accessory.

    Since you say it does include it, then I'd rate the Denon a little more highly because of it. In retrospect it would be rather daft to include a major feature like auto calibration and then not include something as simple as the mic.

    I will also report back with my feelings on the sound. To be honest this is a downgrade from a my pre/power combo using a Lexicon MC1 and Chord power amp. So anything is likely to be anti climax. I half regret selling the combo but it was wasted because I rarely have time to watch movies and my system was unbalanced with a high quality processing and amplification and middle of the road speakers.
     
  11. bluesfan

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    You could have bought the AX3 for £400 from germany.
     
  12. ShinObiWAN

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    No thanks, if something goes wrong its a long wait and I like my manuals in english ;)

    But I can see that would be tempting to the right people.
     
  13. Ed Selley

    Ed Selley
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    You lose the Firewire, Component switching and the learning remote (to a pronto owner no great shakes). The chassis difference is pretty negligable- the weight of the units is so similar, it cannot be anything you'll lose sleep over.
    I was lucky enough to do an enormo test of this and the other receivers in the range in the company dem room and the AX3 really did excel at doing what I needed it to. Until I actually have the option of Prog scan on my telly (unlikey to be anytime soon given my financial situation) and the firewire connection is a true universal standard, I don't feel I'm missing anything.
     
  14. ShinObiWAN

    ShinObiWAN
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    Well the AX3-S arrived today.

    Must say it really looks the better than expected, still a little ugly and rather tall but kinda macho looking.

    Not rigged it all up yet but will do over the weekend when I'm not so busy. So I'm looking forward to it.
     
  15. Brogan

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    A bit like Jeremy Clarkson then... :D
     
  16. ShinObiWAN

    ShinObiWAN
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    Couldn't resist playing, so just spent a couple of hours setting it up :)

    Well the news isn't great on the music side of things. This reciever is just plain slow sounding. Where's all the subtlety gone? The Chord was many leagues above this amp when it comes to stereo. I wouldn't recommend the Pioneer if you do a lot of stereo listening. Its just no competition even for a decent £200 amplifier.

    Movies are a totally different matter, such massive power and the effects processing is definitely better than my old MC-1. Very crisp and totally believable. Sounds also never seem to get lost when there is a lot going on sonically.

    Perhaps I was a little harsh with the 2 channel side of things but it is a large step backwards after using the Chord. Movies on the other hand are definitely better and the more modern processing techniques are showing the MC-1 up to be old.
     
  17. Brogan

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    I think you may need to give the amp a while to 'bed in' before judging it too critically.

    I have to say I'm more than pleased with stereo playback from my AX5 and they're not that dissimilar so it may just need a bit of time.
     
  18. deckard

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    I guess that's a bit of the downside of the AX3 against the AX5i's i-link feature. I bought an AX5i in Feb (for £850) and partnered it with a 757Ai; via i-link the stereo reproduction is quite impressive, via analogue it's only so-so. Still, you've got a great AV amp for a good price there! :smashin:
     
  19. Brogan

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    I use phono for CD playback and find it great.
    I couldn't tell any difference between phono, optical, co-axial or iLINK so stuck with phono as it enables me to use different inputs on the amp for stereo and MC playback.
     
  20. Ed Selley

    Ed Selley
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    As an AX3 owner, I'd be inclined to say that it will remain rubbish. I consider that a completely acceptable trade off for the film performance though.
     
  21. Brogan

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    I stand corrected :blush:

    Told ya to go for the AX5.... ;)
     
  22. ShinObiWAN

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    When I demoed the AX5, I only listened to movies and not stereo :suicide: :oops: So I maybe wrong here but to my ears the AX3 sounds exactely the same as the AX5 did in the showroom. Doubt the improvement in stereo would be massive and certainly not £300 worth.

    I'm now seriously considering putting the £300 that I saved into a decent stereo only amp such as the new NAD 352. I'm sure that this would offer far better stereo performance than AX3 or AX5.

    Its such a shame really as the movie side of things are fantastic. Just watched the DTS version of XMen 2 earlier and it was a revelation. A total contrast to the stereo side of things, with bags of subtlety and detail plus life like effects placement. I guess the AX3 much prefers compressed audio.

    TV is great too with PLII, very similar to the Logic 7 on the MC-1 infact. Personally I prefer the Neo 6: Movie setting though - there seems to be more pull through on the rear channels.

    Can I just ask you what surround modes all you AX3 and 5 owners use for movie playback?
     
  23. deckard

    deckard
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    Standard DD/DTS/DPL for me without THX post-processing (I don't like the treble roll-off, makes things sound a bit veiled IMHO). I also used to have the surround backs set to always on as I thought "I've got these channels I'm going to bloody well use them!", but now I've changed my opinion and only use them if the soundtrack was created with them, sounds better to me.
     
  24. Brogan

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    Same here. I originally had them 'always on' but now let the amp/soundtrack decide whether to put them on or not.

    I watch Sky in THX MOVIE mode.
    Not sure what 'treble roll-off' means and it sounds the same as DD/DTS to me so I leave it on that.
     
  25. deckard

    deckard
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    THX post-processing applies a small amount (? -3db IIRC) of treble reduction as film soundtracks are typically a bit too 'bright' for domestic use.

    In a cinema the treble tends to be naturally attenuated by the space/furniture/people which doesn't happen at home so soundtracks may appear to have excess treble.

    Personally I find applying THX processing removes something of the finer detail from soundtracks and adversely affects female vocals.

    NB this is only for my preference, in my room, with my system. It might be different for you.

    To see what I mean try listening to Kate Blanchett's voice during the opening of LOTR:FOTR and switching between THX and regular DD for comparison, with THX on her voice sounds a little muffled to me.
     
  26. Brogan

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    I'll try that - thanks for the info'.

    What about normal Sky/TV viewing?
    Which mode do you use for that?
     
  27. deckard

    deckard
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    Er, actually I hardly watch any broadcast TV these days, if I do it's on our regular TV in the lounge :blush:

    I've found DPLII Music surprisingly good with music though, particularly as you can adjust the strength of the centre channel output (I keep it fairly low), and DPLII Movie makes a good job with some of the 2-channel DVDs I've got.

    Not quite so keen on Neo6 though, even if it does use an extra rear channel.
     
  28. ShinObiWAN

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    My bad!

    I've been on the telephone today to Superfi (where I bought the AX3 from).

    It appears that I've neglected to change the speaker impedance setting on the amp. The default is 8ohms but I have 6ohm speakers and it seems the amp didn't like this fact.

    Pioneer in there infinite wisdom has chosen to hide the impedance setting within a power on combination of button pressing, instead of the tried and tested switch on the back of the unit :rolleyes:

    Anyway, the bottom line is that the amp now sounds much better with music, cetainly not perfect but definitely listenable.

    Now I've spent somemore time with the amp, I can comment on a few things that I like and don't like.

    Remote:
    Firstly the remote is a little naff. Its a real struggle finding the buttons in a pitch black room, there's simply too many of them and they are too small. It would have been so much better if they had made them backlit but again I suspect that corners were cut to get the price down. It also feels and looks cheap, the sticker identifying the buttons is coming off in one of the corners already! This isn't a problem if you have a pronto or similar - I don't though :(

    Auto setup:
    I'm new to this and really do love this feature, mainly because it makes the SPL meter totally redundant, which is unfortunate for me as I have only just bought one a couple of months back. Pioneer have really nailed this function and it was very, very close to my actual setup. The only thing it missed was the fact that I in fact prefer to run my speakers in SMALL mode even though they are fully capable of the LARGE setting - to me this gives a more dynamic movie experience. The rest like distances and levels was absolutely bang on the money.
    The Auto EQ is something I really do use and find makes a big difference to the overall cohesiveness of the system sound on movies. If you disable the function and run the test tones, its very clear that the timbre changes as you switch the tone from one speaker to the next. With Auto EQ on the timbre is very closely matched and make the whole sound far more realistic.
    This feature really is a godsend for those of us with different brand speakers or just arkward rooms.

    Build Quality:
    Build quality is absolutely faultless. The front panel, volume and jog dial both feel and expensive and well damped, all the buttons are positive in feel and operation. Round the back is gold plated RCA's everywhere and very nice binding posts which all happily accept banana plugs. Weight is reassuringly large and none of the panels flex from cheap thin panels as some do (Arcam AVR300)

    Looks:
    Looks are a matter of taste and even though it is a little ugly, it looks expensive and thats why I like it.

    Processing:
    Surround modes are plentiful but alas the only ones worth using are straight DTS/DD and DPLII for movies. The rest sound unatural and distracting or even worse you lose something in the process.
    Music modes for me are either Direct or DPLII with judicious use of the center width function and Dimension (I have mine at 5 and 1 respectively).

    Movie performance:
    I'd also like to convey again :) how impressed I am with the AV performance, its really humbling. I really cannot believe how much things have moved on since the MC-1, which itself was considered one of the very best in its day only a few years ago. The AX3 however simply out does it in every area!

    Despite the weak bits anyone how wants the best AV amp for under £1000 simply must audition the AX3.
     
  29. Brogan

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    Or the AX5 which can be had for around £800.... ;)

    Seriously, glad to hear you are more pleased with it now although I am surprised that the impedance setting affected the sound. :confused:
    Normally this would usually only cause the amp to draw more current and unless you're driving it really hard it shouldn't really be an issue.
     
  30. ShinObiWAN

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    To tell you the truth I find it hard to justify the extra £250 on what is essentially the same machine. I have no use for component switching nor do I need the firewire since I use a HTPC and CRT projector, the remote on the AX5 on the other hand looks far better than the cheap and nasty one given away with the AX3.
    What matter to me is the sound and I've heard both on AV and can tell you that they are identical in this respect. I really wish I'd demoed the AX5 with music but I didn't so cannot give a comparison between the two. But I doubt that its £250 worth of musicality difference. Its a much better idea to put that £250 toward something else unless you really need the fancy extra's of the AX5.

    As far as the impedance setting, being a total electronics layman I couldn't tell you why or how it made the difference, it just has.

    The sound has more air and spaciousness to it. I suspect that the speakers were giving the amp a hard time but everything sounds OK now. Like I said above its never going to impress a die hard audiophile but its more than acceptable for kicking back and just listening to some music.
     

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