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Amplifier Denon PMA-450 review

The launch of any Denon product is traditionally associated with vast wads of hyperbole. On this occasion, however, Denon definitely has something worth crowing about. The PMA-450, has been ‘designed from the ground up in the UK as an audiophile amplifier’.

Nevertheless its design is something of a departure for Denon with shades of both Pioneer and Marantz designs discovered inside. Which is hardly surprising as all three companies are vying to come up with the same ‘UK sound’.

The circuit layout is particularly elegant with localised input selection for MM, three line sources and two tape decks. There is also relay-fired A/B speaker selection and protection plus highly symmetrical disc and power amp stages. Such simplicity is reflected in the workmanlike fascia which provides only the most essential facilities.

Internals include plenty of first rate components, including Elna Cerafines in the power supply and Ansar Super Sound polypropylene caps in both MM disc and power amp stages. All of which adds up to an intriguing brew.

Sound quality

Big, brassy and very detailed, the sound of the Denon PMA-450 burst from our speakers like a souped-up Audiogram MB1, an amp with energy, atmosphere and sparkle to spare. In fact the PMA-450 surpassed the Audiogram MB1’s performance, conveying the magic and drama of the music without, in the panel’s opinion, cropping any of its bite or crispness.

This is not a rosy sound; rather it is confident and incisive. This became evident on hearing the stridency and woody timbre of Paganini’s violin — the sound of a real instrument not a bland facsimile.

Tracy Chapman also sounded clear and sharp, though the image of her voice was a trifle phasey at times. The panel linked this effect to the very quiet backgrounds and wide and deep soundstage of the amp — one that can stretch the music a little too far.

Bass, meanwhile, proved to be strong, clear and precise with music as diverse as Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (CD) and Peter Gabriel’s So (LP). Criticisms, and there were only a few, centred on the 450’s loss of composure when pushed too hard, its cooler and less emotive presentation contrasting with the more agreeable sound of other favourites in this month’s test.

Conclusion

The panel confidently identified the Denon PMA-450 as a ‘well-executed budget amp’ and was more than content to endorse its ?250 ticket. Technically too, it is dependable, powerful and will comfortably wrestle with the most formidable of speakers. Whether it’ll handle the most taxing of musical styles with equal aplomb is another matter, but with an elegant classical recording the PMA-450 can truly sing.

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