Complete sound master
Denon’s latest integrated feature is a savvy jewel that covers most audio file needs, and sounds like a much more expensive amplifier.
- A large and airy soundtrack with rich sound, combined with a wide range of inputs and a very good digital converter.
- At the limit of useless speaker terminals, and it is limited with power for those who have very heavy-duty speakers. That’s it.
When Radka Toneff’s delicate voice warms the heartbreaks, and the piano sound hangs thick like honey in the room, you know you have not done a bargain. For Denon’s latest amplifier is not only a big advance, it is among the best we’ve heard under $4,000.
While The Moon Is A Hard Mistress, starting with a hug when the pickup falls into the black vinyl, I’m going to check the remastered digital edition as well. The same is repeated in digital version. I’m thinking about a boost for an amplifier.
For the last time we tested Denon’s best integrated amplifier (in sales outside of Japan), we were unusually excited about the detailed space sensation that created a scary realism on the music we used, but not as happy that it did not have rock control in the bass when we played loudly .
It also did not have a digital converter, as the norm is now a day when everyone flows the music to a DAC. Or an integrated amplifier, such as Hegel H160 or Parasound Halo, which costs a few thousand flaps more.
In the new edition, the effect is the same on the paper, and yes, it still has a record player input – and finally a DAC that makes it far more interesting than its predecessor. Or others integrated without that part.
DAC with power switch
The amplifier is sturdy built, something the weight of 25 kilos and the elaborate performance tells a little bit. It may be missing a few balanced inputs and does not have network connection. Neither is it wireless either (no AirPlay or Bluetooth). All we can live with, but the small speaker terminals are hopelessly ground and banana barely fits the holes. It almost does not make spades either, and in addition they are so small and slippery that they are difficult to tighten.
If you want to believe Denon’s own words, the new PMA-2500E is more powered with two transformers, and it has got much better components that are mounted in six separate chassis modules to mitigate interference and vibration. For example, the disc player circuit is separate from the preamplifier and the DAC, the power supply resides on its own module, and even the volume control has a physical separate circuit.
Denon also says that two instead of a transformer is better because they are mounted in each direction to equalize the magnetic field created when power fails through the windings in the transformers. Large, specially made electrolyte capacitors, Schottky diodes and short signal paths provide cleaner power with less noise.
The speaker terminals are not easy to get either banana plugs or spades to get stuck in. (Photo: Manufacturer)
They also have their own technology aboard the amplifier. Denon’s UHS-MOS transistors with up to 210A power capacity, and AL32 processing on all digital inputs, are not unknown to those who know Denon’s amplifiers.
The new DAC is less known, of course, because it was not used in its predecessor PMA-2100, and is new in the new edition of Denon’s best integrated amplifier.
For those who like this, it’s good to know that it supports DSD files (studio quality is another term for that) up to 32-bit and 384kHz via the USB input. Of less academic nature, support for more common digital files with 24-bit and 192kHz via the other digital inputs: Two optical and two coaxial digital inputs.
In other words, the DAC in the amplifier supports all known digital audio formats from MP3, AAC (Spotify and Apple Music) via PCM (Tidal HiFi) to 32-bit Hi-Res Audio.
Digital and analog magic
By the way, the digital input can be switched off with a button on the front and remote control, labeled Analog Mode. Next to it, there is also a button labeled Source Direct, which disconnects the tone controls. All to remove as much noise as possible to reduce as much noise as possible.
An engineer will tell you that a live digital circuit does not exactly create ideal operating conditions for a disc player circuit – RIAA step. Since it’s here, for MC and MM pickups, Denon has chosen to give you the opportunity to get some more out of the music on vinyl with the two buttons.
You must have much higher karat gold than me, to hear the difference in Analog Mode, because the difference is barely audible. Anyway, the record player entrance is brilliant good.
As I started with, Radka Toneff’s classic Fairytales is a good example of how good the amplifier can sound. With a Rega Planar 3 connected to the record player input, the album sounded big and the sound was full and warm. But not the wool or packed anywhere in the frequency range. The voice was touching sart and closely reproduced on our reference speakers, Sonus Faber Olympica III. The piano sound was not as fat and the dynamics were not as powerful as McIntosh’s five times more expensive MA8000, but far more natural and open than from a Hegel H80. However, it costs half.
The interesting thing was when I connected the Mac to the DAC via the USB port, and started the remastered version of Fairytales from Amarra for Tidal, did not change the amplifier sound rating. One hears that the remastered album does not sound like the original on vinyl, but the sound rating was the same. The warm, full, open and sound image was equally transparent, without any noise.
As the predecessor, this amplifier is also of the generous type. The sound image is so transparent that you can touch the tones, and the sound is always hot and full of shades. There are probably more sound-stricken, and clinically sounding amplifiers, but I’m among those who prefer some sugar on the porridge and fill in the sound.
The jazz-interested, almost legendary recording with Keith Jarrett in Live in Montreux on vinyl, is an example of how accurate it can be when the amplifier adds some extra heat to the piano’s lowest octaves, or pulls up the scale to the double bass so it gets a little extra weight. On the opening track, I noticed that the bass and drum soles could be a bit tighter rendered, one of the back parts with the hot sound, maybe. But I liked it, a bit because the deep bass rough so deeply driven in the rhythm, nevertheless, did not suffer from it.
The much more complex Live from the Detroit Jazz Festival, with Mack Avenue Superband at Tidal, is like the oxygen test that reveals the brass blow or the hi-hate comes too sharply in the soundtrack. They do not do it here, because the amplifier has no shortcomings, artifacts or sounds that pull down the impression of a very successful construction.
Lovely feeling when turning the knots a bit … (Photo: Manufacturer)
The stated power of 80 W indicates that we do not have any fireworks to do, but it’s not entirely true. It lacks the brutal muscles of a Hegel H360 (double price), but keeps feeling well with the H160. The exception is enough if you use very heavy-duty, low-impedance speakers with difficult phase angles. Combined with a large room, such speakers can be a challenge for the Denon Amplifier.
Although it has greater dynamic contrast and amounts of power compared to its predecessor.
A good choice
With record player input and a DAC with many inputs, the Denon PMA-2100NE is a great purchase for those who are considering upgrading the facility. It sounds better than anything we’ve tested below $ 20,000, and as good as most up to 30,000. If you can live with 80 W and do not need a built-in wireless or network connection, you should definitely write the PMA-2500NE in the list. But the condemned speaker terminals can be an annoyance.
Type: Integrated amplifier with DAC
Outputs: 2 x 80 W 8 ohm/2 x 160 W 4 ohm
Inputs: 4 x analog, 4 x digital, USB, disc player input
DAC: 24-bit/192 kHz – 32-bit/384 kHz
Other: MC / MM pickup, pre-out