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Denon PMA-700AE review

This is an amp we so wanted to like, but it’s consistently out-pointed by rivals Tested at £330.00

Our Verdict

Denon’s ‘affordable audiophile’ amp certainly looks the business, but it fails to deliver the performance to match its style, and is bettered

For

  • Attractive pricing and specification
  • built to a very high standard.

Against

  • Just doesn't put music together too well
  • sounds strained and brash, and also has a strangely overblown bass

All credit to Denon for getting back to basics with its Advanced Evolution hi-fi range. As well as the more expensive ‘-1500AE' SACD/CD player and amplifier, it also has this £250 stereo amp and matching DCD-700AE CD player.

Clearly Denon hasn't skimped on build-quality either; the new amplifier looking and feeling like a scaled-down version of its pricier sibling. The company says close attention has been paid to performance, too: the 50W amplifier uses a high-speed, high-current power amp design, has a control microprocessor that shuts down when not required to protect the audio signal, and a Source Direct function to bypass tone, balance and loudness controls. Ample socketry includes a moving magnet phono stage, and preouts for power amps.

What's it like in action?
So far so good, but in use the Denon doesn't hang together as well as we'd expect. Even after several days' use, there's a brashness about the treble that always makes it sound like the amp's working hard, while bass has a strangely monotonous, overblown quality that dominates proceedings. The result is a slightly muddled presentation across a range of music, and we're talking everything from dramatic orchestral pieces such as Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite on Naxos to Sean Rowley's Guilty Pleasures collections.

This is an amp we so wanted to like, but it's consistently out-pointed by the likes of the £350 Rotel RA-05 and the price-matched Cambridge Audio Azur 540A V2.0.

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