Component Reviews

Denon AVR-3805 Surround Receiver – $1199.00 SRP (See also review of Denon Universal Player)

A reasonably-priced AV receiver with all the bells & whistles, plus capability for 6-channel digital connection with a matching Denon Universal disc player

Published on May 24, 2005

Denon AVR-3805 Surround Receiver – $1199.00 SRP
(See also review of Denon Universal Player)
Denon AVR-3805 Surround Receiver – $1199.00 SRP
(See also review of Denon Universal Player)
Denon Electronics (USA), LLC
P.O. Box 867
Pine Brook, NJ 07058
(973) 396-0810 (voice)
(973) 396-7455 (fax)

http://www.usa.denon.com/

Basic Description

7.1 Digital Surround Receiver with DD EX, DTS ES, DPL IIx
(music/cinema/game modes), DTS Neo:6, 10 DSP enhanced audio surround
modes, HDCD, Auto microphone setup and Room EQ function, 120 Wpc x 7
channels, 24-bit and 192kHz A/D conversion, Pure Direct mode to turn
off certain circuitry to improve analog audio performance, video
upconversion, 3 component video inputs, 7 composite and s-video inputs,
7.1 channel analog inputs, audio delay (0-200ms) to match video, Denon
Link digital multichannel input (for compatible Denon DVD products), 5
optical inputs, 2 coaxial inputs, 2 optical outputs, 8 analog inputs,
phono input, and built-in AM/FM tuner, 3 source and zone control,
RS-232 control, IR ins and outs, 12V triggers (2), 2 assignable
amplifier channels to drive Zone 2 or 3, allows connection of two
different types of surround speakers to be used for music or movies,
LCD touchpad Remote Control. 2-year warranty. 17 3/32” W x 6 47/64” H x
16 57/64” D, 37.5 pounds.

Associated Equipment

Bowers & Wilkins 703, HTM7, 705, ASW750 speakers, Monster 2000
Power Conditioner Strip, Rotel RSX-1056 receiver (for comparison),
Denon DVD-3910 DVD player, Audioquest Cables.

Setup and Options

Setup was fairly easy. Denon claims that you can adjust the unit
without connecting it to a monitor, but I preferred to go through the
on-screen menu system for all setup. Unfortunately, I was not supplied
with a microphone to utilize the automatic setup and EQ function of the
unit. I was told by a fellow industry veteran that many of these auto
setups don’t work all that well, and I don’t mind doing the adjustment
manually anyhow, so it wasn’t a big deal.

The equalizer can be used for each speaker individually and works at
63/125/250/500 Hz and 1/2/4/8 kHz. You have an adjustment range of +/-
6 dB in .5 dB increments. This can be done per surround mode or for all
modes. I did not use the EQ during the auditioning.

The speaker distance adjustments can be made in .1 foot increments, so
you can get the delay very exact. The other adjustments are typical and
include speaker size, crossover frequency 40/60/80/100120/150/200/250
Hz, 5- or 7-channel setup, and levels. Additionally, you have the
option to select one of the two sets of surround speakers for the
different surround modes. You could use a dipole and a direct-firing
set in different locations and turn one on for movies and the other for
music. I used a single set spaced in an SACD configuration for the
entire review.

The manual is extensive and covers all the adjustments of the unit. You
may want to take it in during a few different readings—it’s 101 pages.

DSP Surround Modes

I’m
not a huge fan of DSP modes, but truth be told, they are getting much
better sounding than they used to be. Like most surround receivers
today, the Denon offers multiple surround modes to enhance your
listening pleasure. These include: Wide Screen, Super Stadium, Rock
Arena, Jazz Club, Classic Concert, Mono Movie; Video Game, Matrix,
Virtual, and 5Ch/7Ch Stereo. The manual goes into detail about what the
idea behind each of these modes is—see Page 80.

Multi-zone Audio/Video

I didn’t really have the need to make use of the multi-zone audio/video
setup, but the Denon is very flexible in this regard. Zone 2 or 3 can
be powered by the internal amplifier if you are not using the receiver
in a 7.1 configuration. Zone 2 also offers a video output. Zone 3 is
fixed analog audio only, but this shouldn’t pose a problem for most
people. The idea is to make use of a common set of equipment and run it
to multiple rooms of the house. With remote extenders you can then
control them from these other rooms—see the manual for more specifics.

Component Video Switching

Unlike some units, the component video inputs are assignable, so you
don’t have to worry about what source uses which input. I tried
switching component video through the receiver and used a few test
patterns from Video Essentials to see if there was any loss. Everything
looked fine. Denon rates the bandwidth of these inputs up to 100 MHz,
so you really shouldn’t have any trouble (if the rating is accurate).

FM Tuner

The receiver offers an auto-tuning function that I tried right away. It
took half a minute or so and programmed a bunch of stations into
memory. Unfortunately, it programmed stations that didn’t exist—didn’t
have a signal at all. I briefly tried the tuner and it sounded okay. It
was a little harsh and there was more static than I expected on a few
stations that are fairly strong. It was most likely due to the
inadequate antenna that came with the receiver. My suggestion would be
to put up a good outside antenna if radio is important to you,
otherwise get an external tuner. The tuner section on the AVR-3805
should work for most people, but it is nothing to call home about.

Remote Control

The remote control that accompanies this receiver looks quite different
from many of the other remotes I’ve used. It’s got a blue backing with
two screens that light up with blue lettering above and below some hard
buttons. In the light visibility is fine, but in the dark it is easier
to read than just about any other conventional remote I’ve seen. It
worked the Denon DVD-3910 without any programming, and the buttons
change in the screens depending on what you control. I did all the
receiver setup via the remote control through the on-screen menu
system. It can be programmed to control cable boxes, CD players,
cassette players, laser disc players, satellite boxes, vcrs, DVD
players, televisions, CD recorders, Minidisc players(!), and DVD
recorders. When you move the remote at an angle it will light up
automatically and then go off after several seconds if nothing is
pushed.

Listening, Part I – Multichannel Analog vs. Digital

Having
a single connection to transmit multichannel digital audio has been a
dream for many years. Companies like Meridian offered it on the
transport to preamplifier connection for a long while, but they don’t
do SACD, and much of their components are priced well out of the range
of most people. In the past year or two a few mainstream audio products
have addressed this issue. The Denon Link system is one of these. Via a
CAT5 cable, a connection is made between a compatible DVD player (I
used the DVD-3910) and receiver to transmit digital audio both stereo
and multichannel.

Given the relative costs of
the components involved (the DVD is $1500); I felt that perhaps it
would be good to compare the quality of sound via both inputs (the
analog 5.1 input and the digital Denon Link). I used Kelly Rowland’s
Simply Deep SACD and switched back and forth on the amplifier and DVD
player. I did my best to match levels in the receiver and in the
multichannel analog outputs on the DVD player. I thought the audio was
cleaner and clearer in both the high frequencies and the voice with the
analog connection. I wasn’t using more than $50-75/pr interconnect
cables either. It was enough of a difference that I chose to use the
analog connections throughout the testing and would recommend others do
so with this combination of equipment. With a higher model receiver (or
lower model DVD player) it is possible that the digital connection
would be the optimum choice.

Listening, Part II—Stereo Sound vs. Rotel RSX-1056

To compare the digital decoding inside the receiver as well as the
analog circuitry, preamplification, amplification, etc. I connected the
digital output from the DVD-3910 and ran it into both the Denon
receiver and a Rotel RSX-1056 ($1300). The Rotel is strictly 5.1
amplified and lacks some of the features offered by the Denon, but I’ve
always thought highly of its sound. I matched levels and switched
speaker wires back and forth. I was lucky enough to have two co-workers
sit in and help with the judging and the cable swapping.

The first track we tried was off a Cello Demo Disc,Volume 4 and the
track was by Julian Rachlin—piano and horn. The Rotel was sweeter
sounding and all thought the Denon was not as open and made the piano
sound slightly compressed.

Next was track 2 from Sade’s Lover’s Rock CD. With this track the
consensus was split. My co-workers liked the bass better on the Denon
claiming that it was tighter and more controlled (as if having a better
damping factor). Still, it was thought that the Rotel had more air
around the instruments and transitions in the music and phrases seemed
more punctuated and less homogenous. I felt the Denon definitely had
more bass although, for me, it was hard to judge what was correct with
the electronic music.

I moved onto a favorite, track 5, from Candido and Graciella’s
Inolvidable. The Denon was tight, punchy, but dynamically softened at
the extremes. The Rotel again had more air and made the instruments
sound more realistic. These differences would likely be missed without
the direct comparison. The Denon sounded very good, it was just the
Rotel sounded more…right—one of those difficult to describe experiences.

For the last stereo test I put on track 8 from a London Sampler
DCI-21088, Bizet’s Carmen Entr’acte to Act 4. The Rotel clearly sounded
sweeter, richer in the midrange, had more top end, and greater
delicacy. The Denon sounded edgier, rolled off or toned down—something
that seemed to permeate throughout the various recordings.

Listening, Part III—DVDs

The best part of the reviewing process is when most of the note taking
is done and you get to sit back and (hopefully) enjoy using the
product. After being critical about varying aspects of the receiver, it
was a pleasure to just sit back and enjoy some movies. I put on the
first Spider-Man flick—and watched some of the more exciting action
scenes (like the first appearance of the Goblin at the fair). The Denon
always had more than enough power to convey the excitement and volume
of the sound effects and musical score.

This was also the case while watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of
Azkaban. This film has several “surrounded” sequences and the Denon
didn’t get in the way of the film. Using speakers that were well
matched made the receiver’s job easier and when characters and objects
moved from speaker to speaker, the effect was effortless.

Power was in reserve and when I turned it up on a few occasions, the
AVR-3805 handled it with aplomb. The unit never made any strange
noises, and always locked onto the signal quickly and without error.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the receiver market around $1000 is quite
populated. Denon has always strived to be a cut above the mass market
models in both features and sound quality. I have to say that there
wasn’t a single feature that I’d want missing from this unit (though
some might desire HDMI switching—I can surely do without). The remote
worked well and was easy to see in the dark. It accommodates many
sources and offers sophisticated automation control for more advanced
users. The unit worked flawlessly the whole time it was in use and
sound was consistent throughout. If you have a Denon DVD player with
the Denon Link option and want to make connections simpler, then this
receiver offers an answer to that need. Its sound was on the smoother
side and had a lightly rolled off top end, so if you are sick of
brightness in your system, ear-bleeding due to harsh-sounding CDs or
DVDs, or general fatigue, then this receiver might be a great solution
for you.
 
[See the review of the matching Denon Universal Player HERE.]

- Brian Bloom




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