Product Type: Denon Amplifiers
Newest Review: ... little amp although it's not the best of the best sadly which surprises me for Denon as it's performance isn't the best I've used. It'... more
Squeeze every drop from your bookshelf speakers...
Denon PMA-500AE amplifier
Member Name: Alfettaman
Denon PMA-500AE amplifier
Advantages: Clarity, balance & mid-range definition of a more expensive amplifier: simple controls
Disadvantages: Almost too pure and crisp at very high volumes
So much so, that I went home and ordered a second PMA-500AE for myself. Mine is coupled to Mordaunt-Short's award-winning 902i bookshelf speakers - and it's completely transformed them.
The very best thing a critical listener can say about any hi-fi system is that they didn't notice it, because they were too busy listening to the music. Put simply, a flawed system detracts from your enjoyment, while a great system goes largely unnoticed. I'd place the 500AE in the 'unnoticed' league.
The edge that this amp seems to have over some of its rivals lies, I think, in the way it delivers its mid-range. Listen to and follow a single instrument, and you'll hear it more clearly than with other budget (let's say sub-£300) amplifiers, and that very pure midrange sound also gives a freshness to vocal lines. As I listen to more and more of my CD collection through the 500AE, I keep noticing instruments and vocal detail that just weren't there before.
Pushed to the limit - say, by a complex track at high volume - the 500AE can sound almost too pure and even a bit strident, but perhaps that's because I'd grown used to a far 'mushier' sound. It's certainly true that the more I listen to it, the more I respect it.
Denon, as usual, have thought this through carefully and intelligently. The front panel is dominated by a large, central volume control with other rotary controls for the input source, bass, treble and balance. There's a headphone socket, a loudness button which alters the sound to suit low volume listening and a 'direct' button for purists who want to bypass the tone controls and hear things as they really are: and that's it!
If you want fancy features ('wake-up' timers, graphic equalizers, output level meters, and winking lights) you might be disappointed, but personally I like the simplicity, and the smug feeling that my money was spent on the audio components rather than on the front panel.
The remote control is worth mentioning for a couple of reasons:
* If you have other Denon separates (a tuner or CD player for instance) you can control them from the 500AE's remote handset, which is a lot simpler than fumbling about with two or three different controllers.
* the first time I used a 500AE I spooked myself quite badly, because when you change the volume using the remote control, that big, central volume control on the amplifier's front panel physically rotates too! When you see it happen, you could be forgiven for thinking there's a ghost in the machine...
Summary: Indecently good for the money, and all you'll need with sub-£400 speakers
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