Denon is 110 years old. And of course that has to be celebrated in style. The Japanese Company does that with a special 110-Anniversary edition of an amplifier and CD player (and a phono-cartridge by the way). No: not so much a ‘pimped’ 2500-series. More a mix of the SX-series and the 2500-series. Let’s see how that wedding turned out.
We have had the Denon 2500 series for a visit twice. The last time in our multitest integrated amplifiers. And there the Denon scored fine: high fun factor, lots of energy and punch… …but it might be a little more sophisticated for the connoisseurs. However, the total package is very interesting: analog and digital. And that for 2500 euros.
The Denon A110 series
The Denon A110 series with which Denon celebrates its birthday, seems at first sight identical to the 2500 series. Apart from the beautiful, grey housing, of course. (Now not everyone is happy with the different colour, we have noticed. That’s understandable, because matching with another series will be difficult now). And the specifications seem the same: 160 watts power, PCM 1795 dac, same sample rates. Same drive for the DCD, also only an optical player…. et cetera.
Appearances can be deceiving, though. The biggest differences between the 2500-series and A110-series can be found under the hood. For example, the Denon A110 series uses four PCM 1795 dacs – two per channel – to lower the noise floor (if you ‘stackt’ / stack dacs, the noise floor can be lowered). Also, the AL32 processing is twice as fast; the sampling rate is doubled. With this trick, the dacs need less internal conversion, which prevents errors… and that in turn improves the sound. We see this method being used more and more. Partly due to the powerful FPGA chips that are now available.
In the amplifier better capacitors, nicer power supplies and better transistors have been used. This should reduce distortion and offer more calmess and refinement. You can read further on whether this is successful.
Denon VS Marantz
It’s no secret that Denon and Marantz are in the same Sound United group. That’s why they share technology. However, Denon has a different sound and approach than Marantz. That’s good, because complete unity is of no use to anyone.
Marantz has chosen a complete analog amplifier. Denon did put the dac in the amplifier. Marantz has a streamer / optical player / dac. Denon has a purely optical player. Really a different vision of what is good and where the need of the consumers lies. For both approaches there is something to say.
What we really miss with the Denon DCD-A110 is a streamer. Absolutely no streaming audio in this setup we find anno 2020 a bit odd… to say the least. They could have implemented either in the amplifier or in the optical player. Both had been fine. But no streaming possibility … difficult to explain.
The Denon DCD-A110 is a purely optical player with the now famous Sound United optical drive. That is a very decent piece of equipment. It’s quiet, very accurate and it can not only play CDs, but also sacd and even DVD-ROM with files. Perfect.
The Denon PMA-A110 not only has analogue inputs – phono MM/MC, 3 x single ended – but also digital: 3 x optical, coaxial, usb. There is also an external pre-in and a record-out. Of course we also find the speaker terminals. One set at the Denon.
Now there is always something to complain about. Especially with a device of 3500 euro. We miss a balanced input ourselves. And for users who like bi-wiring, a second set of speaker connections would have been nice. In this price range, that could be realized, in our opinion. But okay: it’s pretty much complete.
With the DCD-A110 – 2999 euro – a streamer would be really nice. The Marantz SACD-30N delivers a streamer ánd a plethora of dac-inputs for the same amount of money. The Denon does play cd’s a bit better though… but still.