Since its launch earlier this year, Denon's AVR-3805 has been the amplifier by which all others are judged. It is jam-packed with features that were the stuff of dreams a couple of years ago: seven channels delivering 120W RMS each, an automated microphone setup system, the latest Dolby Pro-Logic IIx and DTS Enhanced Neo:6 processing plus 24bit, 192kHz digital/analogue conversion and a Pure Direct mode that switches off video processing during music playback to provide interference free audio.
Then there's the three real 'zones', for a multi-room system, a DenonLink 3 for direct digital DVD-A/SACD connections, video up-conversion with 100MHz bandwidth, HDTV-ready component inputs and a funky learning/preprogrammed touch-screen remote control, which has a motion sensor that can switch itself on whenever the handset is moved or picked up.
Automated installation (using the microphone) is quicker than ever - in a couple of minutes the AVR-3805 determines the size, number and position of the speakers in the room. It also quickly establishes the best equalisation setting, all from a single burst of white noise from each speaker. As well as being simple to set up, the cool remote control makes it easy to use.
The inclusion of DenonLink makes the AVR-3805 the perfect match for the latest crop of Denon DVD players. This connection will hook up digitally to a universal DVD player to allow DVD-A and (when the lawyers agree) SACD from player to amplifier.
We can't comment on SACD performance as yet, but DenonLink makes DVD-A considerably more direct and detailed than the traditional six analogue cable connections, using the built-in processor of the player. It also allows the speaker settings of the amplifier to be applied directly to the DVD-Audio signal, which makes for greater flexibility.
The AVR-3805's performance is stunning. It delivers the sort of restrained yet powerful sound normally found on more up-market amplifiers, and yet retains all the excitement and dynamism that Denon's home cinema amps are best loved for.
Star Wars: Episode IV's surround soundtrack can become fatiguing with some amps - the screeching of the TIE fighters, the brash 'ptssssh' of the blasters and the endless Luke Skywalker whining - but not here. Instead you'll find yourself wanting to join the action, to outmanoeuvre the Imperial fighters, dodge the blasters and punch Mark Hamill.
The Denon's sheer control of the situation, as sounds move from speaker to speaker with unheard-of accuracy, is enough to make a person get carried away....Denon has upped the ante with its AVR-3805. It sounds remarkable and offers a wealth of great features. Go buy one.