So this weekend I had the pleasure of meeting onn(Mel). He was coming to town today to enjoy some Junior hockey playoff action. He contacted me with the idea of bring down his temporarily unused A1400 for me to try out with my system. I just couldn't say no to such a deal. He arrived around 11AM, we went downstairs and I gave him a quick audition of the PB13 and the QS8's as surrounds, with the 3808 running on it's own, he has M80s as surrounds in his sytem.
While he went to the game, I quickly hooked up the 1400 to run in 2 channel with the M80s and was able to simply plug and unplug the speaker wires from the back of the M80s(banana plugs) while switching between Denon amp and Denon/A1400. The Denon was set for 2 channel, direct, no sub, so mains are set to large.
I checked for calibration differences with pink noise from the Denon to see if the extra power or anything else would allow for the A1400 to have greater SPL at the same speaker settings, too my dismay or luck there was a minimal 0.5 db differential between the 2, the Denon amp being quieter. I also confirmed the same levels were used while listening to various sources and music just ensure something wasn't amiss.
I wasn't prepared for the differences I was about to hear.
First up was Pink Floyd - Time, I love this track for it's open and airy sound and great bass line. After a quick listen with just the Denon measuring around 83db, I switched the speakers over to the cables from the A1400 and turned it on. The sound stage opened up as well as lifted up well above the M80s, the bass was also tighter, yet more pronounced. I was shocked. I wasn't about to believe what I was hearing, I doubled checked the SPL and it was reading the same as just the Denon on it's own. I went back and forth between the 2 amps for about 20 min. and everytime the A1400 sounded better/crisper and the bass was nice and tight, I found the bass on the 3808 to sound boomy and loose by comparison.
Ok, so it sounded good on that song, next was Gwen Stefani - Sweet Escape, a bass heavy song to validate my feeling of better bass with the A1400. It was confirmed. The bass was indeed tighter and hitting lower than on the A1400. I could hear pictures rattling when using the A1400, but not so with the 3808 on it's own. Again I double checked the SPL and it was the same, around 83db.
So I thought let's see what some of my lesser quality cd's are like, I put on Simple Plan, Journey - Greatest Hits, Van halen 1984, a few others I failed to write down, they all sounded more open and spacious with better bass.
OK, so it sounds better across the board, How much more power, SPL, can I get out of it, I achieved 103-105 with the Denon on it's own and reached 110-111 with the A1400, holy @#%$ that is loud!
Well the A1400 was better at everything at reasonable to reasonably loud levels and beyond, can I hear a difference at lower volumes?
I set the volume to read an SPL of 65 db and yet again I could hear the differences, the top end being the most obvious. It still had that wider and higher sound than the 3808 alone.
I still wasn't believing what I heard, so I asked my wife to come and have a listen. We played some INXS - Listen like Thieves, while she was listening I was busy switching the wires back and forth knowing the SPL was nearly identical, it shouldn't matter, she only smiled and nodded that she could indeed hear a wider and higher soundstage than with the A1400 compared to the Denon on it's own. Next up was Elton John - Levon, she felt the piano had much more presence and sounded like it was right in front of her. She asked for Simon and Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence, this was the song that she didn't like the more open, airy, detailed sound the Ninja XO's gave to the M22's. The A1400 sound fantastic, no harshness and still all the detail that the modded M22s offered, amazing was the word she used. We continued with many other of her favorite songs, Neil Young - Harvest Moon, The Who - ..Fooled again, Journey - Anyway you want it, and so on. All sounded even better on the M80' swith the A1400 than with the Denon 3808 on it's own at all volume levels.
The difference so much for the better she actually asked me which I wanted more, a new TV or a new amp. I WANTED this amp more than a new TV, it is that much better, IMO. I know I will end up with a new TV before I get this amp, or any other amp(maybe
) due to it's cost and the fact TV's are not changing that much and I know there are new pre/pros to come yet, so I will wait for a new amp, at least at the time of this review.
I have yet to try the A1400 in a full HT environment to see if it is that much better with Soundtrack material, this review to come later this week, as Mel was kind enough to let me hang onto this amp, until he is ready to put his HT back together when the EP800 gets back to him. He also has those expensive Denon seperates to tide him over till then, so he isn't missing this amp too much.