Using Amp With Denon 3803


amp question
I was thinking of using my Denon AVR 3803 as a pre-amp, and buying an amp to go with it. But I'm a little confused over whether to go with a 2-channel amp or a 5/7-channel amp. Are there multi-channel amps with stereo switches? Do they work well?

And has anyone else used an amp with their Denon A/V, and if so, which amp did you choose?

There are quite a few receivers that have the ability to pass a signal from the cd player unprocessed (or straight through)the receiver's pre-amp to the amp section and then the speakers. This is the same as having a stereo or multi-channel amp with a straight line analogue pre-amp.

The Denon 3803 has something they call--Pure Direct Mode--which shuts off power to the video circuitry and front-panel display. And if you use an analog source, Pure Direct also shuts off the digital circuitry too.

So, the Denon 3803 has the ability to pass a pure analog signal (such as a tuner, cassette player, or record player) in stereo mode; or the ability to pass a digital cd signal through one DAC (afterall, the signal must be converted to analog to play in the stereo speakers) to the amp and then to the speakers.

I am not exactly sure what you are trying to accomplish, as the Denon 3803 plays as well (or better) in stereo as any of the Denon stereo receivers did many years ago. Do you have a large room and inefficient speakers? Are you trying to buy a 200 watt amplifier because your Denon 3803 isn't powerful enough?

amp question
The Denon is powerful enough for multichannel and stereo, but I figured with a dedicated 2-channel amp, I'd get a cleaner, warmer sound. Maybe I'm wrong on this, and maybe I just need better loudspeakers. But I could swear that CDs (and SACDs and DVD-Audio, to some extent) still sound kinda thin on my system, whether I play them through the Rotel CD 1055 DACs or the Denon 2900 DACs.

I would recommend borrowing a 150 to 200 watt/channel stereo amplifier from a friend or a retailer and see if there is an improvement.

If after listening to the "borrowed" amp you are still sonically dissatisfied (or don't notice any real improvement), you will either have to get new speakers, or at least buy an SPL meter and "dial in" your speakers. Hopefully your room acoustics aren't so bad that it is ruining your music appreciation.

I am not suprised that there is little to no difference between the Rotel CD player and the Denon DVD player. I own the Denon 2900 and it plays everything very well and has excellent DAC's.

What kind of speakers do you have? Also, what subwoofer? How big is your room? You may well need to change your speakers if you want a dramatic change. Unless you have very inefficient speakers that could use an awful lot of power to really SING, I doubt that a change in amplification will do what you want. The Denon receiver is very clean. It may be that you have CLINICAL sounding speakers with a bright high range, poor bass range, and a thin midrange. Or the speaker and room are a bad accoustical match. If your sound isn't warm it may be you have a lot of hard surfaces in your room--such as no rug, no drapes, etc.

But nothing can make a dramatic sonic change like new speakers. But in the interrim there are also other things you can do. You can go into your receiver menu and add and subtract db's at various frequencies to "dial in" the responses that appeal to you---such as boosting the midrange and trimming some treble will "warm" up the speakers sonic signature. This is where having a good relationship with a local audio salon house will help. If you could borrow a high quality equalizer, such as some models by Audio Control that list anywhere from $1,000 to over $2,000. The real good ones have a ton of frequencies that you can trim or boost and some have computer connections that permit you to make acoustical graphs and log what you have done on your computer. Of couse, you don't need to own this equalizer, just to use it and return it. Good ones have great instructions that lead you on the way to almost precisely "dial in" your speakers to a ruler flat room response---or in the quite possible event that you don't like a flat frequency response, the equalizer instructions will give you advice on how to "warm up" the sound.

Now I gave you more info than you ever wanted:-) And you were hoping for a simple answer--Hah!!

Another possibility is getting an ISF trained professional home theatre expert. They have a site for those trained around the country. The following is a blub from a page:


Many people have purchased very expensive systems, but never having it properly calibrated, they were never completely satisfied with the sound they were getting. We have seen many occasions where we have been called out to a new customer's house because they thought they might need a whole new system. After taking some acoustic measurements, we often find that the system was simply not adjusted correctly for that room. After our surround sound tune-up, you will hear those surround speakers like you did at the showroom but never could at home.

The Surround Sound Tune-up ($250) includes:

-Computer aided room simulation and analysis (tells us any problems that are associated with the room dimensions)

-Pre calibration acoustic analysis and documentation

-Checking all connections for correct wiring

-Balance all speaker and subwoofer channels

-Adjust main speakers for proper imaging (toe in/out)

-Adjust subwoofer phase

-Adjust actual speaker placement when available or necessary

-Adjust time delay settings when available

-Post calibration acoustic analysis and documentation

-Offer suggestion on improving placement, equipment, and room treatments (such as sound absorbers, throw rugs, window coverings).

amp question:

As a Denon owner, you are correct in observing that the Denon's amp sounds "thin" (part of the Denon's charecter) and that you could get a warmer sound with an outboard amp. I do not believe it has anything to do with your CD player or your Denon 2900 DVD player--it is the Denon amp, and as a Denon owner, I am not surprised at all.

G-Man's suggestion is a good one--try out a good outboard amp with ample power to see what you think. Frankly, I think all you need a a two channel amp because it is really only in stereo that you really need the warmer, more musical sound. Just running an outboard amp for the front channels will give you the better soundstage, even in multi-channel program material. It will marginally improve the sound of the remaining Denon amps as the 3803's undersized power supply will not have to work so hard.

To get a warmer, more full-bodied, sound, I would recommend trying either an NAD C 270 or NAD 218THX (this one may be overkill), or a Parasound Halo A23 power amp. Any of these has a much better sound quality than the Denon's on-board amps based upon what you are looking for.

Good luck!

I would definitely borrow an amp first to find out if it cures what ails you. It is pointless to buy an amp if it doesn't make the changes you want.

Not to sound like a broken record, but what are your speakers? It is important information to have in order to discern whether amplification is a likely problem, or if it is something else entirely.

amp question
I have a KEF Q-series 5.1 system...

2 Q-1s on 34" stands,
2 Q-2ds mounted on the wall,
and a Q-9C center channel on top of the TV.

I have a Velodyne HGS-II 12" sub, and yes, it kicks the KEF's ars...enal. They're good bookshelf speakers, and they don't seem to be straining when I crank the volume (which is rare, as I'm renting an apartment), but at the lower volumes I listen to my music at, the sound still seems thin...

So what do you think?

amp question
My living room is small, too -- about 10'W X 20 'W x 9'H. It's a carpeted room.

amp question:

You really have a nice collection of audio and video gear. I love the rotel CD player and the Denon DVD player is an awesome unit (pricey, too!).

As I said earlier, I have the same receiver and I have no doubt that is the source of the problem. Your KEFs have a nice sound to them (I strongly considered getting them myself), full-bodied with a lot of nice texture (depth and air) to the sound. If they aren't producing it, it has to be the signal that they are getting, i.e., the receiver. G-Man is correct to suggest that you borrow an amp, but if that is not possible, you should be able to explain your problem to a good audio store and buy an amp to try out with the full understanding that you can return it if you are not satisfied with the change in the sound. I have done this a number of times.

In my case, I am simply going to trade my Denon in on a new NAD receiver, as it has far more detail in the sound as well as being warmer and more full-bodied sounding than my Denon. I am not convinced that the pre-pro section of the Denon is really that good, but I can't be sure.

However, I have another suggestion on an amp. Check out the Adcom GFA-7605, a five channel HT amp that will definitely have a warmer and more full-bodied sound than your Denon's amps. It is priced at $999, but I know you can get one mail order from Kief's (www.kief' for ~$800. I also often recommend an Outlaw 7100, as well. Now Outlaw is an internet sales only company ( and the 7100, a 7 channel amp, goes for $899. The 7100 is a little cool sounding (compared to the NAD or Adcom amps), but it definitely will cure the "thin" sound you are experiencing. They also have a no questions asked return policy, so if you want to try out an amp and have no other means of doing so, you can buy a 7100 and hook it up to your Denon. If you don't like it, you can always ship it back (no restocking fee if returned in 30 days).

Good luck!

Your room isn't small--I would say it is average sized. A little narrow at 10 feet, but fairly long at 20 feet.

The KEF's are quite efficient at 91 db's and KEF recommends driving them with amps from 15 watts to 120 watts. It seems to me that the Denon is at the upper end of this power envelope. The KEF's probably lean more to the warm and laid back style of most British speakers anyway. They are like most of their British brethren, unlike the current Monitor Audio Silvers and Monitor Audio Gold References, which are fairly bright--probably due to their metal tweeters. Even the less expensive Bronze series is probably brighter than most British speakers.

I think it may be meaningful that you say you have this problem at low volume--not high volume.

At low volume have you tried removing the subwoofer from the equation? You might enjoy the KEF's at low volume without the sub. Just remember to access the Denon receiver menu and shut off the crossover. You can't just turn down the subwoofer, as the receiver will still cut off frequencies at and below the 80Hz or so level that you must have set the receiver at previously when hooking up the Velodyne.

By the way, where did you have the crossover set on the Denon?

How does your system sound when you play the Denon in stereo bypass mode, both with and without the subwoofer being engaged?

After trying the the above and if you are still not happy, try accessing the Denon menu and boost the db's in the upper bass--maybe the midrange too. This normally will "warm" the sound. I would try some various situations of playing in stereo and surround both with and without the subwoofer. Remember you have to remove the crossover set-up in the Denon menu to play without the cutoff.

It could be possible that when played softly the KEF's (being a 2-way speaker) thrive when the tweeter and woofer/midrange are free to move and articulate together.

Then again it is always possible that you will never get what you want at low volume with these speakers. Most people I know never listen to speakers softly when auditioning them. I think most of us are used to judging speakers at mid to loud volumes. I know I am guilty of that. Luckily, I have a large house which enables me to mostly play music as loud as I want. Of course there are plenty of times when I just want music as a background during eating, reading, etc. But during those times I am not normally concentrating on the music.

amp question
Can you set the crossover at a particular Hz with the Denon 3803? I was under the impression that it was either all or nothing...or am I confusing the 3803 with the 2900?


The Denon 3803 can set the sub crossover point at five different frequencies: 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120 Hz. You will find the instructions on how to do this starting at the bottom of page 19 of your owner's manual.
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