In 2019, Denon released the high-quality DRA-800H two-channel receiver with built-in radio tuner and the ability to both wired various external devices and over the network. I bought it from an online store.
Network stereo receiver Denon DRA-800H
Why did you decide to buy a Denon device? Because this company is one of the world leaders in the production of Hi-Fi audio equipment, founded in Japan more than 100 years ago, and since 2002 it has been part of the Denon – Marantz concern (also a well-known brand in the world of musical equipment).
Why exactly this device, which looks like a clone of a Denon AV-receiver, but is like a stereo amplifier? To answer this question, you need to ask yourself another question: what is generally needed for a home audio system – an amplifier or a receiver? But the next question immediately arises: what’s the difference?
Briefly and amateurishly: a receiver is also an amplifier, only not a stereo one, but a multichannel one, that is, a more complex device in comparison with a stereo amplifier. For the cinema lover – an AV receiver, for the music lover – a stereo amplifier. But for ordinary consumers who do not have an “extremely vital need” to overpay for multichannel, memorable stereo receivers (integrated amplifiers with a built-in tuner) are intended.
Denon offers such a hybrid, but unlike traditional stereo receivers, this DRA-800H is already a multifunctional device with such additional features as:
- HDMI ports switcher for connecting up to 5 video-audio sources;
- Wireless connections via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, proprietary HEOS technology with support for Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa;
- Traditional digital and analog connections for playing music collections from various players or file storages.
The delivery set, in addition to the receiver itself, includes:
- Remote control with batteries;
- Power cable;
- Antenna for FM / DAB + radio;
- A quick start guide.
The receiver is really with such great functionality that it is impossible to describe all the countless possibilities and nuances of its use in a brief overview – for this, a very convenient and already very detailed Web manual is posted on the Denon website.
I will dwell only on the main technical and interesting, from my point of view, capabilities of this device.
Dimensions, texture, colors, general design and slight curvature of the upper part of the front panel of the DRA-800H network receiver are the same as those of the new Denon 800 NE Hi-Fi models (DCD-800NE CD-player, DNP- 800NE and integrated amplifier PMA-800NE), so all these devices look organically in a line (“shelf”). All these devices are also available on OT.
There is a display in the center of the panel – a very convenient visual addition to the control system. One and a half dozen indicators clearly show various modes of operation of the device. And directly on the information display, the name of the input source, sound mode, setting values and other information is displayed. It is a pity that the line is limited – only 16 characters, so for the initial settings it is better to connect the receiver to the TV via HDMI and use the remote control to select the option to display information on the TV screen – it is very convenient to set up on a large screen!
If desired, the brightness of the display can be reduced, each time you press the DIMMER button on the remote control, the brightness of the display changes – 3 levels of brightness. Turning off the display completely removes one of the sources of distortion (“noise”) affecting sound clarity, thereby dramatically improving sound reproduction.
And with the help of the remote control ( the SOUND MODE button), you can generally set the sound mode at your discretion: Stereo (allowing regulation of low and high frequencies), Direct, in which audio is reproduced in exact accordance with the original recording (the signal will bypass the tone of the block, so both balance and tone cannot be adjusted), and Pure Direct, where the sound quality is improved compared to Direct mode (video path and display will be disabled).
To the left of the display is a massive input source selection knob.
On the right is an even larger knob for smooth adjustment of the sound volume.
Below the display is a series of discreet rectangular buttons:
– buttons for switching and controlling sound in another room, tuner channels, choosing speakers, changing information on the display;- 4 quick-select buttons for pre-stored audio preferences for four sources such as TV, Blu-ray and CD players, HEOS in-house system.
On the lower part of the front panel there are knobs for adjusting high and low frequencies, stereo balance – these functions are inherent in Hi-Fi equipment.
In the lower left corner there is a button for turning on the receiver and a headphone jack (stereo 6.3 mm).
There is a USB port (type A) in the lower right corner of the front panel for playing audio files from an external USB storage device ( “NTFS” or “FAT32” file system ). Supported files are MP3, WMA, and Hi-Res (high definition) formats FLAC, WAV, Apple Lossless and DSD.
Access to all the countless functions of the device is carried out using the universal remote control.
But the Denon DRA-800H can be controlled not only with the buttons on the front control panel, or on the remote control, but also by voice – the receiver is programmed to support as many as three personal assistants: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri. And, if you have smart speakers that also use any of these assistants, then you can turn on a track, change the volume, skip to the next track, switch inputs, and more using voice commands, without a remote control or smartphone. And the setting is done using the proprietary Setup Assistant program.
Denon DRA-800H: rear panel view of connectors and connections (gold plated connectors – HiFi!). On the rear panel, the absence of terminals for multichannel (surround) acoustics is immediately striking.
Nevertheless, the DRA-800H has 2 sets of speaker terminals (A and B) with connectors for connecting an acoustic wire – either on a screw clamp with a stripped end of the wire, or using “bananas” (but, IMHO, extra connectors only spoil the sound) … There are various options for wiring speaker systems:
- you can connect one speaker model to terminals A, and another to terminals B, and, switching, play sound either from one pair of speakers or from another, depending on personal preference for sound sources (movies, games, music genre, etc.) etc.) or from the location of the speakers (in different rooms);
- you can simultaneously turn on and listen to all 4 speakers by changing the impedance settings on the receiver accordingly;
- you can connect only one pair of speakers to all four terminals, which have additional terminals (bifurcated leads) for this, the so-called bi-wiring connection! With a standard stereo speaker connection (each column into two terminals) the most energy-woofers intercept most of the energy, and mid- and high-frequency speakers – “what’s left.” And when connected by bi-wiring (each speaker with 4 terminals), each of its speakers receives enough power to fully disclose its capabilities.
Moreover, unlike the most common biviring, which uses only 2 terminals (terminals) on the amplifier, Denon DRA-800H offers 4 terminals for this purpose. And yet this is not biamping, since the receiver has only one stereo amplifier (two symmetrical and isolated mono amplifiers), and for biamping you need 2 stereo amplifiers (four mono amplifiers). In the manual for the receiver in Russian, this method is called two-wire connection, and in English, it is directly indicated – bi – wiring .
I connected my acoustic three-way stereo speakers Dynavoice Definition DF-5 (125 W, 92 dB, 8 Ohms) via biviring using Eagle cable high standard (2×2.5mm2).And, again, alas, there is no “room correction” for adjusting the equipment for a particular room.
There is another possibility of simultaneous playback in two zones of the same signal source – by wired connection of two additional speakers: connect them through your separate amplifier to the Zone 2 output terminals of the Denon DRA-800H preamplifier.
There is a preamplifier with two outputs for connecting subwoofers – at least two at the same time! The possibility of frequency adjustment and setting of delays is provided, which allows the subwoofer to be matched with stereo speakers better and more accurately than in a conventional triphonic system. It’s Hi-Fi!
A whole switcher of HDMI inputs – 5 pieces! Few even hi-fi amplifiers can boast such an abundance of ports supporting 4K / 60Hz resolution, the latest HDCP 2.3 protocol, and Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10 high dynamic range video standards. This allows you to connect to these ports the latest models of satellite receivers, players, game consoles, etc. The inputs are even signed as “CBL / SAT”, “DVD”, “Blu-Ray”, “Game”, “Media Player”, but this is just for convenience, since the inputs are completely equivalent, therefore, the desired device can be connected to any of them.
One HDMI output labeled “MONITOR” supports Audio Return Channel (ARC) technology. This technology allows using the same HDMI cable to output from the TV (also having an HDMI ARC port ) the audio signal of the sound accompaniment of TV programs to the receiver and listen through the speaker system, and also send the video signal from the devices connected to the receiver back to the TV. This output, like the rest of the HDMI ports , is designed to deliver audio and video in the highest resolution 4K Ultra HD 60Hz and HDR10 dynamic range. I connected my Sony KD-65XG9505 Bravia smart TV via these HDMI ARC connectors with a GCR HDMI 2.1 cable ( 48 Gbps – supports 8 KHDR!).
One input with built-in MM phono stage for connecting a turntable with MM pickups (Moving Magnet). Denon also knows a lot about this – for almost 50 years it has been developing and producing turntables, cartridges and phono preamps. E If the player will still be equipped with a phono cartridge type MS – you will need to purchase additional reinforcement / combining device.
The receiver terminal (SIGNAL GND) is optionally connected to the corresponding terminal on the player: this can reduce the noise during playback, or, on the contrary, increase, in this case do not connect this wire.
2 Equivalent RCA Analog Audio Inputs. They are designed to optionally connect devices equipped with analog input connectors (either cable or satellite receiver, TV, or CD player without HDMI port).
I connected my Denon DCD-800NE CD-player exactly through the analog inputs using the QED QE6100 Performance Audio Graphite interconnect cable. This player has a high-quality DAC (PCM1795 from a major analog microcircuit manufacturer, American company Burr-Brown), so after listening to the playback, I decided – let it convert the digital to analog, and then send such a signal directly to the amplifier and then to the speaker system.
Other standard connections are also available:
- 2 optical digital audio inputs TOSLink – for optional connection of a TV or CD player (instead of, or which do not have an HDMI port);
- 1 coaxial digital audio input – for cable or satellite TV;
- 1 DAB + / FM antenna jack. FM tuner has been a traditional functionality for receivers since ancient times.
And Denon DRA-800H also offers:
- digital radio DAB / DAB + (Digital Audio Broadcasting);
- listening to stations with support for the radio broadcasting service according to the RDS (Radio Data System) standard, with the ability to transmit along with the usual signal of the radio program and text information (station name, track, song artist);
- Internet radio – it is possible to receive Internet radio stations from all over the world (the Internetradio button on the remote control);- music playback of streaming internet services through the installed support for connecting a free Spotify account, or through the Denon HEOS app (Deezer, Tidal, etc.). Incidentally, this built-in networked remote control and HEOS wireless audio streaming technology allows you to create synchronized BGM playback throughout your entire home in “Multiroom” mode.
NETWORK connector (RJ-45) – for connecting a LAN cable with a wired LAN router. This will allow the receiver to both play audio content from storages on a computer or home server, and have a stable wired Internet connection via a router / modem. I connected the receiver to my home router using a GCR cable – LAN Ethernet FTP Cat 6 ( 10 Gbps, 250 MHz).
But the receiver can also be connected to a wireless LAN using two rod antennas and built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 adapters.
Supports advanced dual-band Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11a / b / g / n, or the so-called Wi-Fi 4 – with data rates up to 600 Mbps in the 2.4 or 5 GHz bands.
Bluetooth version 4.2 with updated firmware enabling audio streaming to Bluetooth headphones. Range 2 , 4 GHz, connection is possible within a radius of about 30 meters in line of sight – in my apartment a couple of concrete walls easily available.
The supported audio profile A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) and the used codec for signal compression – SBC ( Sub Band Coding) – are reliable, but old-fashioned and do not cause delight, since the “compressed” sound is worse even than ordinary MP3 files. Alas, advanced music lover codecs LDAC, AptX or at least AAC are not supported on this receiver.
But the Denon DRA-800H receiver is compatible with AirPlay 2. This technology, developed by Apple, works over Wi-Fi and transmits a sound stream without compression (!!!) – the quality depends on the source itself. Supports Lossless formats : DSD, FLAC, HD 192/24, ALAC 96/24, WAV 192/24 and video. AirPlay 2 allows you to broadcast music to more than one compatible device, that is, it is possible to organize a wireless multi-room system. Yes, and watch YouTube!
Of course, the sound is much better than on bluetooth, but still worse for my taste (hearing) than when playing from a USB drive or via a wired (LAN) connection to a “storage”.
Remote Control IR connector – An optional infrared receiver can be connected if the receiver is installed in a location where remote control signals cannot reach. Or you can even integrate the receiver into the “Smart Home” system – connect infrared receivers / transmitters to control the receiver and all external devices from another room (or in another room – ZONE 2) from one remote control (or even a smartphone!).
Connector for a detachable network cable, another evidence of HiFi models.
For the pros, some additional data from the Denon DRA-800H datasheet:
- Wireless Protocols: HEOS, WiFi, Audio Streaming (AirPlay, AirPlay 2, Windows Play To), A2DP Bluetooth AptX;
- Bluetooth: version 4.1.
- Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11a / b / g / n, 2.4 / 5 GHz.
- Supported formats: MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, FLAC, ALAC, DSD2.8 / 5.6;
- Video signal support : 4K Ultra HD / 60 Hz, HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG;
- HDMI support : 4K / 60 Hz, HDCP 2.3, ARC, CEC;
- Frequency range 20 – 20,000 Hz;
- 32-bit DAC AKM AK4458;
- Speaker Impedance: A or B: 4-16 ohms; A + B: 8-16 ohms;
- Signal to noise ratio: 98 dB;
- Output power: 2 x 100 W (8 ohms, 0.08%);
- Power consumption: 220 W;
- Dimensions: 434 x 151 x 339 mm;
- Weight: 8.6 kg.
In summary, the Denon DRA-800H is an inexpensive yet superbly packaged multi-functional hi-fi device that combines a quality stereo amplifier, network player and phono stage to connect a turntable. HDMI ports let you connect to today’s high-end smart TVs and a variety of other external devices, while built-in WiFi, AirPlay and Bluetooth adapters make the choice of music sources inexhaustible.
The article is written on the basis of materials of this site.