Denon AVR-3805 7.1 Receiver with Auto Setup Room EQ

 

Specifications:

 

- Seven Channels plus LFE (120 Watts x 7)
- Codecs: DD, DTS, DPL-IIx, DTS Neo:6, DTS ES Discrete
    6.1, DTS 96/24
- Auto Setup Room EQ with Optional Microphone
- 24/192 DACs on All Channels
- Component Video Inputs have 100 MHz Bandwidth
- Monitor not Needed for Setup
- Dimensions: 6.7" H x 17.1" W x 16.4" D

- Weight: 37 Pounds
- MSRP: $1,199 USA

Denon Electronics

 

www.usa.denon.com

 

Introduction

Recently, I decided to do some car shopping. I deserve it, and after almost 30 years of driving a manual transmission, I thought, albeit briefly, about buying an automatic.

I found out there are cars with manual transmissions that work like automatics and vise versa. So if you want to shift you can, but if you'd prefer one day to set it in drive, you can do that too. They have features galore, most I'd probably never use and some nice to have just in case.

That's what I think of the Denon AVR-3805, plenty of features and options, and with the new Auto EQ, you can set it on auto, or you can do it the old fashioned way, set it manually.

I know Denon has a dedicated following, and quite frankly over the years, I've been an enthusiast myself. Not to say there aren't other manufactures that also have repeat buyers, but in my experience, the first question from friends is, “What do you think of the Denon?”

I was thrilled to find out Denon was sending me the much anticipated Denon AVR-3805 receiver. Just like all of you, I'm a fan first, and I was anxious to get my hands on one.

This receiver replaces the highly regarded AVR-3803. As I reviewed the specifications of this unit prior to receiving it, I was curious to know (always with price in mind), what other receivers offered this impressive array of features. My first reaction as I read down the list is I think there are a lot of home theater and music enthusiasts who are going to love the 3805. Now that I've spent some time with it, I can only agree with my first hypothesis.

The Front Panel

The AVR-3805 I received was in the standard black, but is also available in Silver. The Denons are always handsome. The front of this unit presents a simple face with a large bright (dimmable) display of information, and it's a lot of information. Silky feeling Master Volume and Function knobs, and a pretty green-on/red-off standby button are the obvious controls.

Press on the Denon Link logo and most controls are behind a flip-down trap door, including all the setup features.

Click on the photos below to see larger versions of individual sections of the receiver front panel.
 

The logos that catch your eye are the exciting features of this receiver. The first is the Dolby Digital EX and Pro Logic IIx (DPL-IIx), the latest from Dolby Labs. Dolby Pro Logic IIx has the ability to decode audio signals recorded on 2 channel and 5.1 channel sources and play them with up to 7.1 channels. Secondly, from DTS, there aer Neo:6,  DTS-ES, and DTS 96/24 decoding. Impressed yet? Hold on, because it's all good. As a side note, what is conspicuously missing is the THX logo, but for those who are shopping in this price range, that may or may not be an issue.

Most importantly for me is the Denon Link logo, identifying the proprietary connection that Denon has developed as their answer to multi-channel audio decoding with most importantly, digital bass management compatible with some of their own DVD players. Denon graciously provided me with the DVD-5900 Universal DVD-Audio/SACD player to test with the 3805.

The Rear Panel

The layout of the rear panel is somewhat more ergonomically arranged than previous Denon receivers I've owned. I especially like the speaker posts placed horizontally, which, without banana plugs, is always the most painful part of a receiver hookup.

Click on the photo above to see a larger version.

Besides the removable power cord, two additional outlets are provided for other components. There is the usual array of audio/video inputs: 11 analog audio inputs one of which is on the front, 5 Digital (Optical) inputs (again one on the front), 2 Digital (Coaxial) inputs and 1 Denon Link, (more on that later). Also provided are 8-channel analog external inputs (pre-ins) for multi-channel music.

On the audio output side, there are 8 analog pre-outs, 3 analog rec-outs, 2 additional Multi-Zone outs, and finally, 2 Digital (Optical) outs.

Video inputs include 3 Component Video, 7 composite, and 7 S-Video (check under the flip door for one of these). Outputs for video include 1 Component out for a monitor, 3 Composite outs, 3 S-Video outs, and 1 additional Composite output for multi-zone.

Rounding out the back panel there is an RS232C Control Port for integrating with a Crestron control system.

What's Inside?

How about 120 watts per channel, 8 ohms with a THD under 0.05% (20 Hz-20 KHz) or 160 watts per channel into 6 ohms with a THD of 0.7%? On the audio side, Denon gives you a HammerHead SHARC 32-bit floating point DSP processor for all analog devices, 16 Burr-Brown 24-bit 192 kHz high resolution DACs (2 per channel on 8 channels). Also, Denon supplies its own AL24 processing, which supports 192 kHz sampling of high resolution audio.

The Remote Control Unit

The RC-969 supplied with the receiver is just plain sexy. Satin finished metal, “Electro-Luminescence” technology automatically activates when picked up, (or when it's sitting near the subwoofer). My few issues with this remote control: During daylight hours, the backlight is a bit hard to read. Secondly, once activated, you can program it to stay lit for 5, 10, 15, or 20 seconds. During initial programming, this short amount of time is not enough and you end up shaking the thing in your hand to get it to re-light. Which brings me to my last minor complaint, the light buttons are a bit small, and you're not quite sure if you hit the right one or not.

The great features though are plentiful. Besides all the Denon equipment, it is universal for other non-Denon products. I easily used it to control my RCA monitor and Pioneer DVD player. From the source menu, all three zones can be controlled, as well as 10 components. Once a source is chosen, a new lower screen activates specific functions to that unit. For example, activating the DVD player gives you pause, play, skip, etc.

All receiver programming, surround modes, and set up can be done from the remote as well as the front panel.

Denon LINK Technology

The AVR-3805 supports Denon's own digital audio signal transmission called LINK. This unit represents the latest known as LINK 2nd Edition specifically used for digital transmission of DVD-audio. Not far behind is the LINK 3rd Edition with digital transmission of Super Audio CD (SACD). I'm told once all the legal issues are taken care of, Denon would release an upgrade for the AVR-3805. In the meantime, SACD playback is accomplished through the EXT in analog connections.

Sound Zones

The AVR-3805 has great flexibility in speaker zone assignments. For example, you can achieve multi-room two-channel power amp assignment, not only in a 2nd zone but also a 3rd, complete with source selection and volume control for each zone. If you'd prefer to assign the rear channel to back surround, either 1 speaker or 2, you can, and I did.

With Dolby Pro Logic IIx and DTS-ES (extended surround) 5.1 channel, or DTS Neo:6, 2-channel becomes 6.1 or 7.1. DTS-ES is further decoded as Discrete 6.1 which is an independent channel recording, or Matrix 6.1 which undergoes encoding to the SL or SR channels. Of course, the AVR-3805 set on auto will detect either and play back for optimum performance.

My favorite feature is the Dual Surround speaker mode, which is the ability to connect both a movie mode and a music mode speaker arrangement. Multi-channel music modes require the rear surrounds behind you, while movie sound surround reproduction is best to your side. The diagrams illustrate the difference.

Movie Mode

Music Mode

Auto Setup Room EQ

Denon has introduced in the AVR-3805 for the first time with an Auto Set-up calibration and room EQ by means of an optional omni-directional Microphone. Calibration includes six settings. Realize that the Auto EQ can be disabled and all these settings can be handled manually, but where is the fun in that? By placing the microphone in the “sweet spot”, the EQ process lasts a few minutes and takes you through adjustments for speaker size, phase, and frequency response. It will adjust channel and time delay, and without your permission adjust frequency response through an 8-band parametric equalizer for your room configuration and “optimize” the sound field for up to 7 channels. Room EQ can then be checked and modified as you wish. You then have the option to choose the EQ Curve. Firstly you have the option of turning the EQ off. Additionally, you can choose the “Flat” to all speakers, “Front” which sets the characteristics of each speaker relative to the fronts, and also “Normal” for general surround. Or go nuts, and do it manually for each channel.

The images shown below indicate typical EQ for one channel, in this case, the Front Left, the settings after the Auto EQ ran its setup. For the same setup, you can opt to make your trim adjustments at 0.5 db intervals manually, again for each channel.

Speaker Setup Options

No surprise in this excellent receiver, all the usual speaker options include: Configuration, Delay time, Channel Level, Crossover Frequency (40 Hz - 250 Hz). This can be applied to both LFE and Mains. One other noteworthy issue regarding the subwoofer is during multi-channel music playback through the EXT In, the sub can be set with additional boost of 0 dB up to +15 dB (default) in 5 dB increments. Denon thinks of everything.

Video Setup

I'll be honest, one S-Video connection for on-screen setup, my preference is to connect direct from source to monitor and bypass the receiver. Denon specifies component video switching bandwidth of 100 MHz, but I did not test it.

Tuner

Other than my wife listening to Howard Stern in the mornings, the tuner capable of storing up to 56 stations goes mostly unused in our household.

Final Comments About Setup

Once complete, the final configuration can be locked, not that anyone else in my house would ever attempt to override my settings, but it's nice to know all that hard work can't be changed without your knowing about it. How easy this Denon is to set up is entirely up to the user's knowledge and a bit of luck and experimentation. After 2 months I admit I'm still tinkering. My last two receivers were also Denons and that was a tremendous help. The manual, thick with information, is somewhat hard to follow at times. For me, I was asking why, a lot. Or what's the advantage of one setup over the other. Be patient and enjoy the ride, after all that's most of the fun, right?

Audio Playback

Playing back audio sources on CDs and DVDs, the 3805 has three modes. Pure Direct mode turns off all video-related circuitry for the best possible audio quality. Direct mode allows video images, and Stereo mode allows tone adjustments while also watching images. Tone adjustments for bass and treble are not available for Direct or Pure Direct modes.

Surround Functions

I've mentioned the surround parameters, Pro Logic and Pro Logic IIx earlier, but the 3805 can playback in: Cinema, used in stereo TV programming, and Dolby Surround. Music mode is recommended when no images are present. And lastly, Game mode is provided for two-channel audio. Cinema, and Music modes can also be chosen for DTS surround parameters.

DSP Surround simulation in the AVR-3805 uses digital processing to alter the sound field. There are 10 preset surround modes that can be used with material not recorded in Dolby or DTS surround, ranging from WIDESCREEN - movie atmosphere, SUPER STADIUM - like in sporting events, ROCK ARENA - for live concert, JAZZ CLUB - for small club realism, CLASSIC CONCERT - for concert hall reverberation, MONO MOVIE, VIDEO GAME, MATRIX for improving stereo recording, VIRTUAL, and lastly, my favorite, 5CH/7CH STEREO, which simulates multi-channel audio like DVD Audio and SACD.

Performance

I was fortunate to have used the wonderful Krix Loudspeaker package I'd previously reviewed as reference speakers for this article. I also dragged out my KEFs from the closet.

The KEF C40's rated at 100W/8ohms have served me well over the years, and I needed them one more time. Since I only have one pair, two-channel music was predetermined. I'll just tell you the KEFs were alive as ever. I'm not going to say I heard things I didn't before, but I did hear excellent stereo playback. That short-lived test over, the Krix went back on line.

I do all my television watching with the receiver on, you never know when you cross a great movie score or a live performance sending you scrambling for the remote to turn the system on. Chick Corea's Rendezvous in New York on HDNET came alive as the receiver clicked into Digital and the piano keys and xylophone were sharply reproduced.

Naturally, I really wanted to listen to a lot of two-channel music. Switching through Pure Direct mode, Direct and Stereo produced very subtle differences if any. I don't think of this as negative, but an indication that even in stereo mode, this receiver was very musical.

I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed most CDs in five-channel mode. There was no harshness or edginess or strange effects this format might have created, just nicely balanced levels from all channels.

Multi-channel audio was superb, especially partnered with the Denon DVD-5900. I can honestly say this was the big surprise for me, stunning clarity and fullness from a receiver, and once again the channel distribution was perfect. I pushed the limits of my own hearing threshold by pumping it up to 100 dB+, and the receiver gave no indication of fatigue. I almost felt like it was daring me to crank it up even more.

If the audio success wasn't enough, where the 3805 really shone is in the home theater environment. Watching the recently re-release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the music was brought to the forefront, integral with the dialogue and action. The AVR-3805 nicely placed the sounds in a very natural position. As many times as I've watched that movie, the music score was still entertainingly dynamic and very elegant.

So what about that 7.1 configuration? The first DVD down my rack was Gladiator in DTS ES. I truly enjoyed the additional rear speaker. My preference for multi-channel music is to have the rear speakers behind me, rather than to the side as in movie watching. Having the extra channel(s) behind you during the movie further engulfs you, simply filling in the details. I truly endorse the rears, and my home theater is now permanently upgraded. I give the 3805 credit for delivering a stellar surround experience.

I can't say enough about base response, but in summary, it was smooth, tight, and timing was right on.

Conclusions

Although I have the Denon that precedes this unit, with the additional features, giving up the AVR-3805 will be difficult. I think the Auto Room EQ is very precise and a must-have feature for the new home theater enthusiast. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of setting up for the first time. Seasoned home theater aficionados will enjoy the interaction with the Auto EQ. Bypass the auto setup and maneuver the murky waters of complex room EQ on your own . . . your choice. With the AVR-3805, they have the right tools.

I can tell you straight out, the AVR-3805 was a joy to use. I can't think of anything a $1,200 MSRP receiver can deliver more than this unit. Denon has a winner, and I highly recommend it.

 

- Piero Gabucci -
 

© Copyright 2004 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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