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Old 15th June 2012, 10:39 AM   #1
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Location: Swindon, England
Default Denon AVR upgrades

Hi all

I asked this same question on a karma based site, but I thought I would like to get your opinions as well.

I have a Denon AVR3801 HT amp, and I am looking to improve the stereo sound if I can. The suggestion was made to buy an amp from Musical Fidelity or similar and run it in HT bypass mode from the front pre-outs of the Denon.

I am currently using the amp for digital sources, and analogue in the form of a turntable (I am currently building a new phono-pre stage to use).

I have managed to secure a copy of the service manual for this amp, and I wondered rather than going and spending a grand on a new stereo amp with all the associated headaches of setup to work with the HT amp, would it be worth upgrading some key components like power supply caps etc inside the Denon, or should I just leave it well alone and save up for a new amp.

Thanks
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Old 17th June 2012, 12:16 AM   #2
gootee is offline gootee  United States
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What are your requirements for a stereo amp? There are some exquisite ones available, used, for much less money.

What is it about the Denon that needs to be improved?
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Old 17th June 2012, 02:45 AM   #3
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Hi Gootee

Before I had the Denon (which I got second hand), I had a Yamaha AVR amp. The Denon is a far superior dolby digital amp than the Yamaha, however, I feel the Yamaha was musically superior.

The Denon is almost too clinical if you know what I mean, the Yammy was "warmer".

I am driving a 20 year old pair of KEF Q80's, which I still love and sound superb. I recently renewed the crossover caps so that's all good!

I don't really want to make the setup to complicated, hence the thoughts of doing some select upgrades to the Denon.
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Old 20th June 2012, 07:15 PM   #4
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Can't be done I'm afraid. Most typical "upgrades" aren't real, and just give an imaginary improvement. Either that, or a very minimal one. If you want to change the character of the sound you'd have to do some major modifications. I recommend getting a vintage power amp if you want a warmer sound. They can be cheap.
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Old 22nd June 2012, 12:43 AM   #5
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I think that's correct. If an amplifier has been designed for very low distortion and thus sounding "too clinical" for you, upgrading without a redesign can't diminish that (if the literal meaning of "upgrade" is taken).

IMHO, people don't like to be told that what they seek is a bit of selective distortion with their audio but this is where the warmth comes from and what we understand a lot of audiophiles prefer. The best way to get to what suits you is to follow some threads that discuss the older amps which seem to have been designed for sound quality rather than lowest distortion. There's nothing wrong with designing amps to reproduce audio any way that pleases us, as long as we have an understanding of what and how it can be done safely.

Alternatively, being a DIY forum, we have some projects and group buys here that often have some excellent sounding amps in this category. Fetzilla, for example, is no slouch in SQ. Then you have all the old favourites from the Pass Labs forum, JLH's class A, Le Monstre and many widely popular designs that are even available very cheaply as kits. If you like the idea of "upgrading" things, you can do all you like to these in pursuit of what best suits you and there are many members doing and discussing just that, on many audio forums.

Why risk the same dissatisfaction with current new mid-fi amplifiers when you could DIY and explore the possibilities?
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Old 22nd June 2012, 05:55 AM   #6
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I agree with what coconuts and Ian have said. If you want to upgrade the Denon, you obviously have the skills to do a bit of soldering and read a schematic so why not build your own power amplifier from these forums. You will get much better satisfaction to produce your own amplifier and better yet, learn something new in the process.
I could only recommend out of what I have personally built which is symasym, Blame ST and Honey Badger amps. All should sound better than a chip amp HT amp (all 3 are better than my Pioneer LX-60 HT amp). Out of these 3 my fav is the ST. I am sure the suggestions from Ian sound superb as well. Comes down to what you're willing to spend really?
You could always do what I did for dad and that is remove the amplifier section from an old 5.1 channel HT amp(in this case a cheap pioneer amp), and install a design from these forums utilising the existing transformer, case, heatsink and input/radio circuit. Now has 2 channels instead of 5 though.
Options seem limitless.

Regards

Simon
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Old 22nd June 2012, 08:08 AM   #7
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Thanks for the input everyone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by niss_man View Post
You could always do what I did for dad and that is remove the amplifier section from an old 5.1 channel HT amp(in this case a cheap pioneer amp), and install a design from these forums utilising the existing transformer, case, heatsink and input/radio circuit. Now has 2 channels instead of 5 though.
Options seem limitless.

Regards

Simon
Hi Simon

Now that is a blooming good idea. I was looking at the design for the Honey Badger the other day and thinking to myself.... nice :-) Re-using a case is such a great idea I don't believe I had considered it!
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Old 23rd June 2012, 05:40 AM   #8
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If you are to use that method. You have to make sure the transformer is of the correct size and voltages, heatsink is adequate for your purpose and there is enough room inside the case especially if leaving some existing circuitry. Also it would be pretty hard to do without the sacraficial amplifiers existing electrical schematics.
I was just able to fit 2 channels of Blame ST into that amp I made. Had to stack two power amp pcbs in a double decker formation. Unfortunately I didn't take any pics of the final product but only part way through.
All of the above would have been inadequate if wanting to install a honey badger inside in my case.

Regards

Simon
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