Denon PMA-A110 Review: A successful anniversary amplifier

Denon PMA A110
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During its 110-year history, the company, which in 1939 received the modern name Denon (from Japanese denki – electricity and onkyo – acoustics, noise), has released a wide range of products that exactly correspond to the meaning of the trademark. And today its assortment is quite diverse, but mostly excellent AV-receivers of the Japanese Hi-Fi manufacturer are heard. Nevertheless, the line of amplifiers also occupies a noticeable place in it. Well, for its own anniversary, the company released a limited edition of three components: an AV receiver, a SACD player and an integrated amplifier. We will get to know the latter better.

As befits a solid anniversary product, the Denon PMA-A110 incorporates all the company’s proven technological and design achievements. It is based on an upgraded proprietary patented push-pull power amplification circuit based on ultra-high current field-effect transistors (Advanced UHC-MOS), which, according to the company, allows you to control almost any speaker. At the same time, its output power is 2×80 W (into 8 ohms) or 2×160 W (into 4 ohms).

Its preamplifier part uses electronic controls for volume, tone and balance, but the developers have tried to provide the user with a sense of communication with an analog device: the microcontroller accurately measures the position of the corresponding knob and changes the volume or other settings in digital form.

Modern digital technologies are even more widely represented in the DAC block with which the PMA-A110 is equipped. It is based on four Burr Brown PCM1795 digital-to-analog conversion chips operating in parallel. The digital streams coming to them are preliminary prepared – resampling with interpolation – using the latest proprietary Ultra AL32 processor.

The vinyl lovers are also not forgotten: the Denon anniversary amplifier is equipped with an MM / MC phono stage. In addition to the corresponding input, there are three more analog RCA, as well as a connector for supplying a signal regulated by a third-party device directly to the power amplifier.

The Denon PMA-A110 in a graphite finish looks solid and weighs a lot: 25 kg. Its body provides six separate shielded and damped chambers for phono stage, USB-DAC, volume control, amplification, control section and power supply. The latter, located in the center, has a thick two-layer metal plate at the base for installing a pair of transformers oriented in relation to each other so that their stray magnetic fields are mutually compensated, and the influence of their electromagnetic fluxes on the amplifier’s electronic circuits is eliminated. The top of the device is covered with a thick aluminum panel.

Particular attention is paid to eliminating the mutual influence of the analog and digital parts of the amplifier. Three separate power supplies are provided for them, which, if necessary, allows you to disconnect those circuits that can interfere with the operation of analog circuits.

Denon PMA-A110
The power and Analog Mode buttons are located on the lower left quarter of the front panel. The Source Direct button routes the signal bypassing the tone block and balance control, the one to the right allows you to adjust the phono stage to the type of cartridge used in your turntable: MM or MC. Bottom row – headphone output and tone and channel balance controls.

Sound to taste

In general, the sound of the Denon PMA-A110 can be described as balanced, detailed, energetic enough, confident and elaborate. However, there are particulars that are worth understanding. This unit is really well equipped in a modern way, and it also offers a number of options. Noteworthy are two buttons on the front panel: Source Direct and Analog Mode. If everything is clear with the first – almost all amplifiers equipped with a tone block have corresponding modes – then the effect on the sound of the second is not so obvious.

First of all, it should be noted that by pressing it alternately, you can make three settings: Mode Off, Mode 1 and Mode 2. According to the manufacturer, in the first case, the mode is turned off, and the indicator above the button goes out, in the second case, the power supply to the digital input circuits is turned off. the third is also the display. It would seem, stop at the latter – and get the highest sound quality. However, things are not so simple.

With DAC / Network Player Merging + Nadac PL8 connect to the Tidal music service and find Beethoven’s fifth symphony performed by the orchestra conducted by T. Currentzis. It sounds best when Analog Mode is off. In this case, the scene is clearer and more detailed, the detail is higher, the voices of the instruments are made more natural and rich, and their consistency and coherence are at a higher level. This expressive interpretation of the famous piece is impressive and enjoyable to listen to.

When you select Mode 1, the energy increases, but the integrity of the feed decreases, and the detail deteriorates. Mode 2 makes the sound a little warmer, the bass is more significant, but, again, with the accompanying decrease in the organization of the complex picture. The same effect is observed with other large-scale works of classical music.

But with the album Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! Ella Fitzgerald’s “analog” Mode 1 gives the most advantageous result. The image of the singer becomes very reliable and detailed, everything is heard – before the movement of the lips, in her voice the characteristic fluidity and unique timbre are better manifested. The instruments seem to recede into the depths of the stage. We seem to be listening to a vinyl record. Well, in Mode 2 the vocals are a little harsh.

If you want to hear all the intricacies of melodic lines and rhythmic patterns in the compositions of the Muse group, for example, Uprising , then, as with the classics, you should use the Analog Off mode. But if you choose Mode 2, then the music will become a solid wall, filling all the space around – and its indomitable drive will simply overwhelm you.

Thus, it is worth trying all three Analog Mode options when listening – depending on the genre and mood, any of them may be useful.

Denon PMA-A110
The amplifier has five digital inputs: a USB port (type B) for connecting a PC (accepts PCM streams up to 32 bit / 384 kHz and DSD up to 11.2 MHz), three optical and one coaxial (PCM up to 24 bit / 192 kHz).

Connections

If the source in the audio path has its own volume control, as, for example, Merging + Nadac PL8 in our case, then the signal from it can be fed to the input of the PMA-A110 power amplifier unit. Sound of the album Recomposed by Max Richter. Vivaldi. The Four Seasons in MQA format from the Tidal service then takes on even more nuance, subtle variability and expressive dynamics, the bass line appearing in the middle of the Summer 3 trackand developing into a full-fledged part of electronic instruments to its finale, is served even more texturally, voluminously and energetically, providing heightened emotionality to this mystical interpretation of Vivaldi’s concert. However, here you should take into account the very, very high class of the DAC / network player Merging, but even this connection option should be tested if available.

A more natural and obvious hi-fi companion for the PMA-A110 could be the anniversary model of the SACD player, the Denon DCD-A110 . It is in harmony with the amplifier not only in design, but also in audio characteristics, providing it with an optimal analog signal for further processing. So one and the same recording of Prokofiev ‘s ballet suite “Romeo and Juliet” in CD quality from the Tidal service, reproduced by our Merging, and from a CD using the DCD-A110, in both cases was performed wonderfully: detailed, energetic and expressive. And it can even be noted that with a related component, the HF turned out to be more sparkling and mobile, and the LF – deeper and more weighty.

However, the connection of these devices via a coaxial cable gave less impressive results: the sound became poorer and somewhat crumpled in timbre, and the bass became less deep. This is surprising, since the digital blocks of these components are almost identical.

The Denon DCD-A110 does not have digital inputs, but it can play DVDs with Hi-Res audio recordings. To test the DAC unit of the amplifier, we used the Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra network player and connected it to the PMA-A110 USB port. “Koshchei’s Rotten Dance” from Stravinsky ‘s ballet suite “The Firebird” in FLAC 24/192 format, I must say, did not produce the “wow!” Impression that usually occurs when switching from recordings in standard definition to Hi-Res releases. Nevertheless, the sound is quite high quality, without obvious flaws.

Denon PMA-A110
The name of the model is executed in a jubilee artistic way. In addition, a Denon Chief Engineer signed Certificate of Authenticity and a five-year warranty are offered.

Conclusion

Denon PMA-A110 amplifier turned out to be quite successful. It logically crowns the line of devices of this type, among which there are quite affordable models, but they all have common features with the flagship. It is superbly equipped and provides quite high-quality sound from all inputs, but it is especially good in its analog incarnation, and even with a choice of nuances in its character.

The Denon PMA-A110 will look very solid with the Denon DCD-A110 SACD player – and the sound of this pair will not disappoint. In conclusion, we note that this Denon quite confidently coped with the solid Revel Performa F-52 floor standing speakers, which were used in the testing process.

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