Denon AVR-3805, review

November 7, 2004

avr_3805Being a recent convert to the joys of Denon, I have to admit it feel’s a little odd having the ‘competition’ in my setup. My interest in the line really started with the addition of an AVR-3802 to my system. It got me thinking this is a decent piece of gear, what’s the rest of lineup like. Just like my misconceived notions of Harman Kardon, I hadn’t looked at Denon in years, and well I was impressed. I’ve really enjoyed my AVR-3802 and wanted to get a taste of what a few years worth of improvements would add, not to mention current Dolby Digital EX and Dolby Pro Logic IIx, of which I haven’t really had in my system for any length of time. I’ve specified processors and receivers with these types of decoders for clients, but it’s hard to make serious observations about performance, in a setup consisting of gear you aren’t familiar with. Now with the AVR-3805 safe and snug in my system, I was ready to do just that.

The AVR-3805 is a 6.1/7.1-channel Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES capable A/V receiver with a rated power of 120 watts x 7 into 8 ohms. Onboard amplification provides power for the main 5 channels as well as two back surround channels. Additionally, the popular Denon-Link for digital multi channel audio is also integrated. So with receiver in hand I got started. I unboxed the receiver and began looking through the usual assortment of accessories, owners manual, antenna leads for AM/FM, and wait a minute what the H-E double toothpicks is this? It looked like some sort of medical diagnostic tool from star-trek, geesh it was the remote control for the receiver, I began to worry.

Anyone who has read my product reviews knows I’m knit-picky about remote controls and this one was no exception. First of all the receiver was black (they do come in silver) and the remote was silver, no biggie. Alright, what’s this? The remote ratteled a little, ok what gives. I did a little digging around and apparently this is a roller or a rocker switch to wake the remote’s backlight up from standby. Ok, I can live with that. Beats having to inadvertently press the wrong button in the dark, just to be able to see the display. Like I stated before, even though I’m a stickler for good remotes, it’s almost a moot point, as many of us (myself included) use separate universal remotes by and large. But if not, the AVR-3805’s remote is more than functional enough by it’s self.

I wanted to take a few lines to devote to the rear panel of the 3805. I for one like the horizontal arrangement of the speaker connections, those vertical rows on older Denons and many other receivers aren’t fun to deal with, and as a matter of fact they can be downright annoying. I found the horizontal arrangement much easier to deal with. I popped in my speaker leads and digital source feeds from the Voom box and DVD-1910 and was up and running in a matter of minutes. I say up and running in the sense the receiver made sound. However this is where I noticed something else about the included accessories, or rather lack thereof. The AVR-3805 has an auto-setup function like many other current A/V receivers, however the necessary microphone is not included. I suppose this isn’t a terrible idea as adding the price of the microphone to the bottom line of the receiver, to only use it at most a few times, would be wasteful. But in my case I had a review sample that I couldn’t fully utilize for a few days, until I received the microphone. No biggie just wish I’d known this ahead of time.

Alright, a few days later with microphone in hand I began the setup process. With all the leads connected and microphone in place, I ran the auto-setup. The receiver spit out some tones and in what seemed like an extremely short amount of time, I was ready to go. Or was I? Being somewhat suspicious by nature of anything ‘automatic’ I pulled out my SPL meter and AVIA test disc to see if the 3805 had gotten it right. Ok, I can admit defeat. It was as dead on as one could expect for such a process. I believe what allows the 3805 to be so accurate is the quality of the mic combined with being able to get it into the exact listening position. The cable on the mic is about 20’ long and allows almost any setup’s ‘sweet spot’ to be reached. I found this process to be much more exact in three out of three tries, than the recently reviewed Harman Kardon AVR-330. Considering the price difference (AVR-3805 $1,199 SR) this shouldn’t be surprising.

Video section, I have to tell you that due to my room dimensions and construction, I am unable to use a receiver as a video switcher. It boils down to a super high ceiling with concrete construction, and where my gear is located in relationship to the projector. I did however setup the 3805 temporarily with video switching just to test it out. Unlike many A/V receivers the 3805 can display the setup menu over the component monitor out. However the overlay display for volume change and input switches is only displayed in 480i. Personally this wasn’t an issue for me as I would never display such overlays to my projector. As far as I’m concerned, seeing a volume bar every time I have to make a slight change in volume is just annoying.

Putting the 3805 though its paces, I started out with Behind Enemy Lines (2001) with the DTS soundtrack. Specifically the jet fleeing the missile scene provided my first taste as to what the 3805 could deliver. I had seen this section several times, but never had I felt such impact and tension over the outcome. The sound of the surface to air missile chasing the U.S jet was more nerve-racking than ever before, even with knowing the outcome. The sound coming from my speakers was familiar in the sense that I knew the scene well, but I was hearing it more cleanly defined that in previous viewings. Definitely a good omen.

Next up was a rental, Pitch Black – Director’s Cut. I hadn’t seen this one but on the recommendation of a friend I gave it a shot. It was a cool flick, Vin Diesel aside. The opening sequences onboard the starship provided some really palpable audio presentation. The last time I remember hearing science fiction effect’s with such believability, if that’s even possible, was in a top notch theater. Later when the first wave of ‘alien terodactyls’, for lack of a better term, began the attack their shrill screams filled the room. It was interesting to be able to pick out certain creatures sounds in the soundstage while others, just as defined threatened from another part of the screen.

Lastly I popped in my trusty copy of Master and Commander and hands down, the sounds of the deck splintering were the most realistic multi channel sounds reproduced in my living room. And while I’ve heard much about the cannon ball’s impact, in certain scenes, it wasn’t until I had the 3805 in my system that I understood what all the fuss was about for this disc. The impact of the cannon balls was felt as much as heard through my system. A kind of impact I haven’t had in my setup, until now.

Wrap-up, the Denon AVR-3805 was thus far the best surround receiver I’ve had in my setup. I’d speculate that you’d have to spend at least twice as much and possibly move to separates to achieve the sonics the 3805 is capable of. Given this, with Denon’s proprietary D-Link connection for multi-channel audio and the wideband component video switching, the Denon AVR-3805 is highly recommended.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Reviews, Surround Receiver Reviews


  • B.Greenway

    Hey thanks, I use Linn Kaber’s, I try to keep my system specs on the about page up to date.

  • B.Greenway

    Hey thanks, I use Linn Kaber’s, I try to keep my system specs on the about page up to date.

  • Great review.. I’m a very happy 3805 owner, and was wondering what speakers you’ve got in your setup. My speakers are the last thing that I need to upgrade, and am always looking for good recommendations.

  • Great review.. I’m a very happy 3805 owner, and was wondering what speakers you’ve got in your setup. My speakers are the last thing that I need to upgrade, and am always looking for good recommendations.