When we last saw a similar Denon – the PMA-710AE we tested back in 2010 – we claimed it to be the most thrilling Denon amp we’ve heard in ages. And the new PMA-720AE that replaces it certainly gets off to a good start.
Denon PMA-720AE review: Build
Build quality is excellent. The Denon is solid and weighty, with black or premium silver finishes and an array of buttons and dials that have just the right weight and feel to them – it’s a pleasure to use and feels like a quality piece of hi-fi kit.
There are five line-level inputs – ample to connect to your CD player, streaming device and so on – and a moving-magnet phono stage for a turntable. Two sets of speaker outputs, tape loop, and headphone and preouts round up the exhaustive list of specs.
Straight away the Denon sounds strong and confident, with good levels of clear detail. We’d definitely keep the Source Direct button on – it bypasses the tone and balance controls for a more subtle and purer sound.
The 720 retains that surefooted sense of timing that we praised in the 710, with the added benefit of a tauter, more controlled bass.
This amp does have a penchant for a forward-sounding midrange/treble, but there’s no excess brightness to that top end, which has space to breathe. Play Quincy Jones’s Blues in the Night and the brass section soars with energy.
Denon PMA-720AE review: Sound quality
There is, however, a hardness to the sound that the amp refuses to part with. Leave it running in and you’ll find that hard edge starting to thaw – but only up to a point.
The PMA-720AE is a stubborn and uncompromising performer, with a determined sound that won’t allow itself to loosen up. That doesn’t mean there’s any enjoyment lost, but such a particular presentation means the Denon will favour certain styles of music over others.
Play the record of 18 With A Bullet by Lewis Taylor and Carleen Anderson, and the Denon charges through the mellow do-wop tune with undue impatience and zeal.
In its determination to get the song out, it doesn’t slow down to relay the subtleties of voices, or the track’s undulating dynamics.
Switch to the Dust Brothers-composed Fight Club soundtrack, and the Denon revels in a tightly controlled net of drum loops and computerised samples.
Queue up a playlist of Major Lazer, Nine Inch Nails and even Rhianna, and the Denon happily zips through with speed and alacrity – if it suits your music style, the amp is a thoroughly energetic and entertaining listen.
Denon PMA-720AE review: Verdict
The PMA-720AE applies the same approach to a soft, emotional song as to a metronomic drum-and-bass track.
While it has plenty of verve, its unyielding character might not hold up against rivals at such a competitive price point.