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Denon PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier Review: BIGGER Sound than Power Ratings Reveal?

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Denon PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier

Denon PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier

Summary

  • Product Name: PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier
  • Manufacturer: Denon
  • Review Date: July 12, 2021 16:30
  • MSRP: $3,500
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!
  • *For your convenience, we've included a link to Amazon.com to buy this product. As an Amazon Associate, Audioholics.com benefits from qualifying purchases.
  • Channels:    2
  • Sample Rate digital In    192 kHz / 24-bit
  • USB-B DSD Audio Streaming (DoP): DSD2.8 / DSD5.6<=DSD11.2
  • USB-B PCM sample rate    384 kHz / 32-bit
  • Quad DAC Configuration    Yes
  • DAC chip    4x PCM1795, Burr Brown Mono-Mode
  • Asynchronous mode rear USB    Yes
  • Bit-perfect transmission    Yes
  • Ground isolator for DAC Mode operation    Yes
  • AL 32 Processing    ULTRA AL32
  • LC mounted twin transformer    Yes
  • Phono Input: MM / MC    Yes / Yes
  • Audio Outputs    1
  • Power Amp Direct IN    Yes
  • Gold plated Cinch    Yes
  • Number of terminals    4
  • Headphone Out    Yes
  • Output power 8 Ohm (20 Hz - 20 kHz, T.H.D. 0.07%) 80 W
  • Output power 4 Ohm (1 kHz, T.H.D. 0.7%)    160 W
  • Total Harmonic Distortion    0.01%
  • Input Sensitivity: MM    2.5 mV / 47 kohm
  • Input Sensitivity: MC    200 uV-100 ohm
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: MM/MC    89 dB / 74 dB
  • Input Sensitivity: High level    135 mV / 47 kohms
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: High level    110dB
  • Treble Control    ± 8 dB at 10 kHz
  • Bass Control    ± 8 dB at 100 Hz
  • Power Consumption  400 watts
  • Maximum Dimensions (W x D x H inches)    17 x 17.7 x 7.1
  • Weight  (lbs)    55.1

Executive Overview

Audio electronics legend Denon looks to have a banner year after COVID-19. Last year they released a suite of 110th Anniversary Edition products like the AVR-A110 13.2 Channel 8K AV Receiver, PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier, DCD-A110 SACD player, and DL-A110 MC phono cartridge. Denon also recently released upgrades to their flagship AVR-X8500H AV receiver making marked improvements to the video side of the system. Now that production of their suite of 110th Anniversary Edition products is in full swing, we had a chance to take a look at Denon's PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier.

All four of Denon's 110th Anniversary Edition products leverage Denon’s century-plus experience. Each one features an exclusive silver-graphite colorway, 110 Anniversary logos on the front panel and are meticulously tuned by Denon Sound Masters to set them apart from their standard counterparts. In addition, each new product comes with a special certificate of authenticity stamped with the approval of Denon’s head engineer and a five-year out-of-box warranty. All four 110 Anniversary products are manufactured exclusively at the Denon factory in Shirakawa, Japan and undergo an extended quality assurance process prior to delivery.

Denon PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier YouTube Review

PMA-A110 Integrated Amplifier Overview

The $3,500 Denon PMA-A110 is the highest-end integrated amplifier Denon has introduced to the North American market. The PMA-A110 is powered by Denon’s patented 7th generation advanced Ultra High Current (UHC) power amplifier which delivers 80 watts/ch at 8ohms (20kHz-20Hz, THD: 0.07%) and 160 watts/ch at 4 ohms (1 kHz, T.H.D. 0.7%). The PMA-A110 comes with dual heat sinks and dual power transformers (one for each power rail). Denon packed a serious power section into this unit!

We can't wait to bench test it to see if it's the over achiever we think it may be. - Audioholics

Denon engineers carefully constructed the amplifier circuit to secure a frequency response they measured up to 100-kHz during applied use. Denon claims the volume circuit suppresses noise in the amplifier, achieving high sonic resolution. The PMA-A110 should be able to handle a wide, dynamic range of Hi-Res audio sources.

The PMA-A110 comes with a Quad D/A converter which uses the Burr Brown PCM1795 chip which operates in a quadruple configuration for "optimal" high-grade sound. Each channel has two PCM1795 chips working in a differential mode to achieve what Denon claim to be "the highest accuracy and best signal to noise ratio." We remember this DAC configuration in the legendary AVR-5800 series of AV receivers. These DAC's sound sweet and the measurements prove it.

The PMA-A110 is also equipped with Ultra AL32 Processing, the latest in analog waveform reproduction technology from Denon. By using data interpolation algorithms and supporting Hi-Res 384-kHz/24-bit PCM signal input, these algorithms interpolate points that should exist before and after the points in large quantities of data to achieve a smooth waveform that is close to the original signal.

The PMA-A110 can connect to both analog and digital sources including a built-in phono preamp compatible with both Moving Magnet (MM) and Moving Coil (MC) cartridges. High-resolution digital audio content can be accessed via Coaxial, Optical or USB-B inputs all connected to an exceptional Quad DAC for playback quality of PCM up to 384kHz and DSD up to 11.2Mhz (aka DSD 256).

Listening Tests

HamiltonI started out my listening sessions in the family room of the new AH Smarthome we recently built. This is a wide open area with a diffuse front wall serving as the focal point of the entire house. It has a full fledged 7.2.4 Atmos/DTS:X speaker system that sounds as brilliant as it looks. I enjoy the acoustics of this room so much that I decided to use it for the evaluation of this amplifier focusing on two-channel listening only, without the aid of a powered subwoofer. The speakers were the very impressive Paradigm Premier 800F towers. The system was wired up using Kimber 8TC speaker cables and Hero interconnects. Music sources included streaming high-res from Tidal and Apple Music. I also listened extensively to movies and TV since at the time I didn't have the 7.2.4 system up and running.

I started out watching the musical The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman streaming from my AppleTV in 4K on Disney+. What struck me about this demo was how LARGE the Paradigms sounded when powered by the PMA-A110 integrated amplifier. My sister-in-law was over at the time watching this musical with us and she was shocked to learn were weren't listening in surround sound. She commented on just how expansive the sound was and I agreed. Later I'd re-watch this Musical in full 7.2.4 using my Marantz SR8015 and noted how I missed some of the fullness I heard listening in ordinary two-channel when powered by the PMA-A110. We watch nearly the entire first season of War of the Worlds in just two-channel and again found it very satisfactory. While the Premier 800F's don't dig as deep as larger towers, the PMA-A110 really drove them to their full ability. My favorite demo was watching the musical Hamilton for the first time using this system. The PMA-A110 allowed me to really crank up the volume without distortion or compression. All of the vocals were incredibly clear and concise and because of the liveliness sound of the room and the excellent acoustical qualities of the 800F's, it really felt as if were were attending the musical first hand.

Alanis MorissetteThe real test for the PMA-A110 was to see how it would handle two-channel music. I cued up some of my favorite playlists in Tidal, including one that HD2020 prepared for client demos. You could feel the Alanis Morissette's pain in "You Oughta Know" unplugged with her voice dead center between the speakers. It was such an intimate experience listening to this well recorded classic on this system. I wanted to push the PMA-A110 amps harder which I did with songs from Post Malone and The Weekend. "Wow" has some deep bass layered in with Post Malone's lyrics that wimpy amps and speakers struggle to reproduce. I am pleased to say the A110 was right at home belting out the low notes and the Paradigm's did a respectable job reproducing it without losing composure. "After Hours" from The Weekend is my favorite song from his collection. This song begs to be cranked and the ambience in the recording layered over his angelic falsetto voice is hypnotic. When the bass kicks in, you're rewarded with a nice adrenaline surge. "This shit sounds good" popped into my head. I had to include my buddy Ed during this listening session and suffice it to say we both enjoyed skipping around on notable Tidal tracks to hear the glory of this system. Lastly, I wanted a chill listening session one night while I was home so I put on some Pat Metheny.  The celestial sound of Pat's 42-string Picasso guitar (essentially a portable harp) in "The Sound of Silence" takes you to another world. It's the space between the notes and the story Pat conveys in his playing that really elevates his music beyond most Jazz musicians today. Whether you're a Metheny fan or you want to hear his take on this Simon and Garfunkel classic, you owe it to yourself to take a listen. The PMA-A110 provided solid amplification for every music source I threw at it. At it's best, it sounded buttery smooth with great heft beyond what you'd expect from its 80wpc power rating.

Measurements and Analysis

All measurements were conducted using our Audio Precision APx585 8 Channel HDMI Audio Analyzer following our rigid Amplifier Measurement Test Protocol. 

Power Measurements
Using our Audio Precision APx585 8-channel HDMI analyzer, I conducted a full barrage of power tests on the Denon PMA-A110 amplifier. The PMA-A110 was tested on a dedicated 120V / 20A line. 

We tested power using three methods all of which were taken at < 0.1% THD + N:

  • Continuous Full Power Bandwidth (CFP-BW) from 20Hz to 20Khz into 8 and 4-ohm loads
  • 1kHz Power Sweep vs. Distortion (1kHz PSweep) - popularized by the print magazines, this is an instantaneous power vs. distortion test at 1kHz. The problem with this test is it often masks the slew-related and/or frequency response problems that some amplifiers exhibit at the frequency extremes, and thus inflates the measured power results. It does provide an instant gratification number for consumers to argue over on the forums, so we are now incorporating this test to please the masses.
  • Dynamic PWR - 1kHz CEA-2006 Burst Method testing. This is a dynamic power measurement adopted from the car industry similar to IHF method, only a bit more difficult for an amplifier and more representative of real musical content.

Keep in mind most review publications don't do continuous power measurements and they usually publish power measurements into clipping at 1% THD + N. Our measurements are very conservative as we use a dedicated 20A line with no Variac to regulate line voltage.  We constantly monitor the line to ensure it never drops more than 2Vrms from nominal which in our case was 120Vrms. 

For more info on amplifier measurements, see:  The All Channels Driven (ACD) Test

A110 THDvsFreq-ratedpwr=8ohm.JPG

Denon PMA-A110 Frequency Response and THD+N @ rated Power (8 ohms)

The PMA-A110 exhibited extremely linear bandwidth (-3dB @ 62kHz) even up to full rated power (80 watts/ch, 2CH driven) and at very low distortion levels (<.02% THD+N). I measured similarly low distortion when driving a 4 ohm load when slightly exceeding full rated power (165wpc, 2CH driven).

A110-SINAD-8ohm-alldirect.JPG 

Denon PMA-A110 Frequency Response and SINAD @ rated Power (8 ohms)

In effort to help our readers directly compare measured results on Audioholics and Audiosciencereview.com, I am starting to report SINAD figures which is basically the reciprocal of THD+N. At rated power, the PMA-A110 produced 93.5dB SINAD in Source Direct mode and about 2dB worse when NOT engaged in Source Direct.

A110-Psweep-8ohm.jpg 

Denon PMA-A110 Power Sweep vs Distortion ( 8 ohms) 

The PMA-A110 exceeded its 80wpc 8-ohm rating by delivering 91wpc at 0.1% and 96wpc at 1% THD+N, both channels driven into an 8-ohm load.

A110-Psweep-4ohm.JPG

Denon PMA-A110 Power Sweep vs Distortion ( 4 ohms)

The PMA-A110 exceeded its 160wpc 4-ohm rating by delivering 171wpc at 0.1% and 184wpc at 1% THD+N, both channels driven into an 4-ohm load. I reran this test into 2-ohm loads and 218 @ 0.1% THD+N and 253 watts at 1% THD+N.

A110-Pburst-4ohm.JPG 

Denon PMA-A110 (2CH) Dynamic Power Test - 4 ohms

A110-Pburst-2ohm.jpg 

Denon PMA-A110 (2CH) Dynamic Power Test - 2 ohms 

Usually an amplifier outputs more power during a CEA-2010 dynamic burst test but my results were roughly the same as the 1kHz power sweep tests for 8 and 4 ohm loads. Denon claims this is to be expected since the PMA-A110 is designed to eliminate the effects of power supply regulation due to output current. Specifically at the voltage amplifier stage, it is optimized and controlled to be driven constantly for rated output.  Yet, when I drove the PMA-A110 into 2-ohm loads, it was able to manage 328 watts both channels driven at 1% THD+N. That's a lot of power from an "80-watt" rated integrated amplifier!

Editorial Note About Heat Dissipation of the PMA-A110:

The PMA-A110 never got excessively hot when driving full rated power into 8 or 4 ohm loads for sustained periods of time (> 5 minutes). I could keep my hand comfortably on the top without getting burned. This amp should be thermally stable even if your loudspeakers dip below 4 ohms.

# of CH Test Type Power Load THD + N
2 CFP-BW 85 watts 8 ohms 0.1%
2 CFP-BW 165 watts 4 ohm 0.1%
2 1kHz Psweep 96 watts 8 ohms 1%
2 1kHz Psweep 91 watts 8 ohms 0.1%
2 1kHz Psweep 184 watts 4 ohms 1%
2 1kHz Psweep 171 watts 4 ohms 0.1%
2 1kHz Psweep 253 watts 2 ohms 1%
2 1kHz Psweep 218 watts 2 ohms 0.1%
2 Dynamic PWR 95 watts 8 ohms 1%
2 Dynamic PWR 181 watts 4 ohms 1%
2 Dynamic PWR 328 watts 2 ohms 1%

Denon PMA-110 Power Measurement Table


FFT Distortion Analysis

 A110 FFT @ 1 watt-diffload.jpg

Denon PMA-A110 FFT Distortion @ 1 watt output

There was slight 60Hz hum and associated harmonics measured <-90dB due to transformer leakage flux but this is inaudible. The 3rd order harmonic was 103.5dB below the fundamental which is an excellent result. The first watt of the PMA-A110 is free of noise and distortion that should make every audiophile happy. But what about at full rated power?

A110 FFT @ rated pwr-diffload.jpg

Denon PMA-A110 FFT Distortion @ full rated output

Similarly rated AV receiver amps usually exhibit lots of harmonic distortion when driven at full rated power. The PMA-A110 is a much different animal. 2nd order distortion was > 91dB below the fundamental at full rated power. This is an excellent result.

A110-FFT-recorder.jpg
 

Denon PMA-A110 FFT Distortion 2.2Vrms Recorder Output

The Denon PMA-A110 doesn't have variable preamp outputs but it does have a fixed level output called "Recorder Out" which exhibited very low distortion as can be seen with the 3rd order harmonic -112dB below the fundamental.

Phono Output Frequency Response and Distortion (THD + N)

 
A110-phono-MM.jpg

 Denon PMA-A110 Phono Pre-Out MM Frequency Response and Distortion vs Frequency

Using the original 3-time constant RIAA curve, I EQ’ed the AP to get the expected flat response of the phono preamp. Input signal was 10mVrms with 1 watt measured at the speaker outputs into an 8-ohm load. Unfortunately when I saved the files for the phono measurements, the right vertical axis figures were not displayed since I didn't have them in full screen. Needless to say, distortion was under 0.05% THD+N at 20kHz.  SNR was measured to be 89dB (A-wt) which is excellent.

 A110-phono-MC.JPG

Denon PMA-A110 Phono Pre-Out MC Frequency Response and Distortion vs Frequency

I repeated this measurement for the MC phono setting. Input signal was 2mVrms with 1 watt measured at the speaker outputs into an 8-ohm load. Unfortunately when I saved the files for the phono measurements, the right vertical axis figures were not displayed since I didn't have them in full screen. Needless to say, distortion was under 0.05% THD+N at 20kHz.  SNR was measured to be 80dB (A-wt) which is again a good result.

Signal to Noise Ratio and Dynamic Range (AES-17)

 

 A110-SNR-1watt-directALL.JPG

 Denon PMA-A110 SNR @ 1 Watt

With a 0dBFs signal to the COAX input, and 1 watt output, I measured 85dB (A-wt) and 95dB SNR (A-wt) with source-direct engaged. I noted the left channel measured between 1-2dB better SNR than the right channel depending on the test conditions which I attribute to layout differences between the channels. This is academic and not something audibly perceptual.

A110-SNR-maxpwr.jpg

 Denon PMA-A110 AES-17 Dynamic Range @ Rated Power

With a 0dBFS 192kHz, 24-bit input, I measured 114dB at  full rated power out (A-wt). Using the standard -60 dBFS input test signal per AES-17 standard, I measured 120dB indicating the PMA-A110 does NOT truncate a 24 bit signal and is capable of achieving 20 bits of SNR which is exemplary low. 

Dynamic-range.jpg
 Denon PMA-A110 Dynamic Range Test (AES-17) with 192kHz, 24 bit signal       

 

 A110 Crosstalk-final.jpg

Denon PMA-A110 CH-CH Crosstalk

The channel-channel crosstalk was about as good as I've measured on the higher end AV receivers from Marantz and Denon. There is about an 11dB difference in crosstalk between the channels which I confirmed is close to their measurement of 10dB. -60dB at 20kHz is still very good channel-channel isolation.

The Downside

As much as I love about the Denon PMA-A110 integrated amplifier, it can't be all roses. For one, the lack of a subwoofer output is almost unforgiveable. I would have been happy if Denon at least included preamp outputs so a user could attach a subwoofer and use its bass management to set the crossover frequency. There simply isn't any easy way to connect a powered subwoofer to this unit, something ALL entry level AV receivers have these days. It would have been nice to see balanced XLR inputs on this unit as well as their matching A110 SACD player.  The lack of HEOS support on this unit is again another oversight on Denon's part, IMO. It didn't affect me since I did most of my music streaming via the apps built into my Sony TV or Control4 system. The volume control is a bit of a let down in terms of function and aesthetics. I would have liked to have seen a more graduated response in level changes like you get with most AVRs. I also think it should have been backlit for added aesthetic appeal to match the great looks of the rest of the product.

Aside from the minor gripes I noted, the biggest concern for the PMA-A110 is it's somewhat steep price. But as my best friend's father used to say, "it's never been cheap to be hip and trendy". You're paying for stunning craftsmanship and exclusivity with this product. A limited production run adds curb appeal and also helps maintain it's value down the road if you decide to sell it. The closest competition to the PMA-A110 comes from Denon's sister company Marantz in the form of the PM-K1 Ruby (MSRP: $3,999) that offers a slight power advantage (100wpc @ 8ohms; 200wpc @ 4 ohms) and higher efficient Class D design, but with no built in DAC. NAD has their M33 Integrated amplifier (MSRP: $4,999) utilizing the SOTA PuriFi Class D amplifier topology (200wpc @ 8 0hms, 380wpc @ 4 ohms) and the slick touch screen interface with BuOS support, DIRAC room correction, balanced connections and preouts to connect a subwoofer. However, the $1,400 premium over the Denon PMA-A110 is quite a substantial price hike.

Conclusion

PMA-A110Spending the last few months with the Denon PMA-A110 integrated amp in my system proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The craftsmanship of this product is off the charts and most importantly, it has the internal guts to back it up. When using the PMA-A110, you'll find yourself thumbing through your old CD/SACD collection to rediscover the music. Its warm, non-fatiguing sonic signature and meaty punchy bass will either reveal the true capabilities of your speaker system or its flaws motivating you to upgrade. There is a reason why I revere this category of product. Simplicity of form and function combined with excellent performance is what two-channel high fidelity is all about. Potential buyers of the PMA-A110 will want to also pair it with the company's matching DCD-A110 SACD player. The pride of ownership of having a piece of Denon's 110th history makes this setup sought after by any Denon aficionado.  You don't just buy the PMA-A110 and dump it after a few years like most consumer electronics. This is a generational product that your budding audiophile kids will appreciate when they inherit one day. Highly recommended.


 Denon Corporation
PMA-A110
MSRP: $3,599

 

About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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Recent Forum Posts:

gene posts on July 15, 2021 03:43
lejack, post: 1493979, member: 4109
Gene. I like your site, and read it daily. It is true. You may not be old enough to remember Julian Hirsch's test reports in Stereo Review , but his tests were done under rigorous conditions,…continuous power, across the entire bandwidth, both channels operating at the same time, with the amp fully warmed up. Note that 0.0002%, was this limit of his test equipment, at the time–1981. I was not commenting upon the listening quality of the amp, simply, it's power/distortion envelope, which I don't believe has been improved upon. There were several other amps, from the same vintage, I could have used for reference.
I did read Stereoreview as a teen growing up and remember it fondly, especially Julian Hirsch. I would need to see the test conditions and how distortion was measured. The 80s era receivers were pretty bad actually. I had a Pioneer that was speced at .008% THD+N that sounded like shit compared to a good 2CH amp. Today's output devices are faster, and more robust so it's doubtful that the old AV receivers before 2000 era would measure as good or better than today's modern stuff.
gene posts on July 15, 2021 03:37
TLS Guy, post: 1493857, member: 29650
The problem is that most towers have smaller drivers now, and f3s in the 50 Hz range are common even for towers. I suspect designers are now assuming the use of subs is the rule rather than the exception. Three way speakers with larger bass drivers are now very much the exception and generally expensive. Denon should remedy this oversight, and it is an easy fix. Jumpers are the best, and cheapest solution.
Yea that is true about bass extension on most modern towers. I think they will release a new unit, since this is limited production, to address my concerns.
Trell posts on July 14, 2021 16:29
oupee, post: 1494000, member: 93516
It would be great if only those who heard it wrote here. But this is true of all products. Today, they are all experts.

49117
PENG posts on July 14, 2021 16:28
lejack, post: 1493979, member: 4109
Gene. I like your site, and read it daily. It is true. You may not be old enough to remember Julian Hirsch's test reports in Stereo Review , but his tests were done under rigorous conditions,…continuous power, across the entire bandwidth, both channels operating at the same time, with the amp fully warmed up. Note that 0.0002%, was this limit of his test equipment, at the time–1981. I was not commenting upon the listening quality of the amp, simply, it's power/distortion envelope, which I don't believe has been improved upon. There were several other amps, from the same vintage, I could have used for reference.

I think in that review it was THD that was measured, not THD+N. If true then it is not an apple to apple comparison.

Gene is probably right, the Benchmark amp and some of the Hypex or Purifi based amps may be just as good or better in terms of those measurements.

I do agree with you that power output/distortion has not improved over time, I guess that's why many of us have been saying, class A, B and AB power amplifiers are products of matured technology and has been for a long time, at least in a general sense.

Review and Measurements of Benchmark AHB2 Amp | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum

49116
oupee posts on July 14, 2021 14:11
It would be great if only those who heard it wrote here. But this is true of all products. Today, they are all experts.
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