Denon 3803 + vs Rotel or B&K receivers

I am close to purchasing a new 3803 Receiver to control my home theater and replace my Adcom 545 based Stereo system.
I'm estimating usage at 40:60 (stereo:theatre) & room large 25x22x18.
Speakers are all Mirage, M-7si mains, OM-C2 center and OM-R2 surrounds.
Sources are Nakamichi MusicBank CD, Phillips Q-50 DVD (both with coax digital outputs).
Video is Satellite (& Cable) on the Sony XBR 40" HDTV.

I am considering getting the Denon now and possibly adding a multichannel amp later if needed. I also very much like the sound of the Rotel 1065 and B&K 307 receivers as well but they do not compare with the Denon for features, flexibility or processing power. Also, I have not heard any of these receivers with my speakers since they have been discontinued.
So I guess the questions are:
1) how does the new Denon 3803 with it's SuperSharks & BurrBrowns stack up with the other receivers on sound and
2) can the Denon as a preamp with a decent (~$800?) outboard amp best the B&K or Rotel and
3) do my speakers dictate one receiver over another.
Any experiences would be greatly appreciated.
Wow, what a lot of great inputs. I think it is fantastic that you all took the time to contribute to this discussion. From reading the responses there is clearly a range of opinions. To recap, it appears all agree that the 3803 is clear choice for performance and features at the 1000 mark. When in comes to the Pre/Pro section (or at least the preamp section) of the Denon, views appear to diverge.

Foreverhifi, you make a very good case with the speakers being a good match for the Denon. Since I have been annoyed by out-of-sync audio on some progressive DVDs, the audio delay feature on the 3803 is a big plus over the 2803. As for your recommendations to run the M7s on "small" and add a quality amp later, what sub and amp (5-7ch) would you recommend for my application – priced about $1k each?

JCL likes the 3803 Pre/Pro section as well. Even compared to Flagship Marantz or the B&K (although slightly older model). Also gives good results with an outboard mid-fi amp.

Truaudiophile takes things up a notch. I would have to agree that the power amp section of the Rotel 1065 is superior (the aesthetics are attractive as well). Just a few comments/questions: 1) Volume control issue: It has been discussed in a number of threads that this “variable gain” was done purposely to give higher resolution increments of adjustment -- half a dB -- since you normally do not use half the range of the vol knob anyway, on most receivers, 2) Firmware: have there actually been any useful downloadable updates to the Rotel 1065 since its introduction; for comparison I noticed that Sunfire -- notably a more expensive receiver -- appears to be actively addressing customer issues with their firmware updates as well as making them easily available, 3) Since you have both units and the Denon pre/pro looks better on paper, could you elaborate on your Denon pre/pro conclusion, with any direct comparisons you may have performed on the Denon pre/pro section compared directly to the Rotel pre/pro with perhaps the same amp? Lastly, 4) Do you have any speaker considerations you could comment on with matching Rotel & Mirage.

I am amazed at all of the great feed back you have gotten.
I am a begginer and not real familiar with the audiophile jargon, so please bear with me.

I wanted to add in my experience with B&K and Denon.

My Current system
Use: 60%2ch/40%HT
Room size (W 12ft, L 22ft, H 8ft)
B&K AVR 307 receiver
Jeff Rowland Model 5
Essence Supper Gem Speakers (fronts) 4ohm
Monitor Audio Studio for Center
Monitor Audio 2.5 for Rears
XLO Pro Speaker Cable and interconnects
Glass Toslink (from Ebay seller $30)
HSU VTF-3 Powered Subwoofer
Hosa Subwoofer interconnect (cheap)
Sony 229ES CD player
Sony NS700P DVD Player

I was able to audition a Denon 3802, B&K AVR 507 and a B&K AVR 307 at the same time with the above equipment in my home.

I used the Sony ES CD player as a tranport and ran digital toslink and digital RCA into all three players. All three receivers blew away my old cd player when using their on board DACs. I really couldn't tell much difference using the toslink or RCA digital connects. So I ended up using the glass toslink more often because it saved time.

The head to head comparison below was a 2 Channel compairson only. I used my Super Gems and the preouts with the Rowland Model 5. Unfortunately I did not test them using 5 channel or movies. My assumption (maybe incorrect) was that if I could here a difference in 2 channel listening, which was most important to me, the difference would carry over to 5 channel listening.

When it came to sound quality, listening to Lyle Lovett, Josua jugdes Ruth and Eric Clapton unplugged. I heard a lot more detail from the B&Ks compared to the Denon. It was almost like the Denon sounded dirty, thus hiding a lot of the detail in the music. MY POINT is that it was a very noticeable difference. I heard it immediately and it was reproducible. I'm guessing this difference has a lot to do with the preamp section, not so much the proccessors.
Between the 307 and the 507, the 507 sounded ever so slightly better, but not enough to warrant the difference in cost. If I had my choice though, I would choose the 507 because it has a much better remote and is more user friendly than the 307. Sound wise they were very close.

The 507 was the easiest to use, then the 307, then the 3802. The plug-n- play feature was the biggest advantage that B&K had over the Denon. I beleive both the 507 and 307 have component switching.

I wish I could comment on the 3803, but I have not heard it yet. I'm guessing that even though it has better chips, it probably still has a dirty preamp because of all the protection circuits that denon builds in. (a dealer told me this?) Maybe it would do better on movies though?

One more comment on the addition of amps.

I tried driving my power hungry speakers with all three recievers by themselves (again in 2 ch. only) and it was not very pleasing to the ears. I was used to hearing them driven with the Rowland. The B&Ks did a little better job than the Denon, but the speakers did not sing until I used the pre out with the Model 5 amp. Reserve current is good!

Now I am sitting here wishing I had a mono amp to boost the control of my center channel.

After 4 months of playing around with all this stuff, I think when the funds open up again I am going to go with separates and get away from the receiver.
But for now, I am happy with the sound of my system. The 307 drives the Monitor Audios just fine and the DTS/DD concerts and Movies really do sound very nice. Diana Krall in Paris sounds like her piano is in my living room.

One note of Caution. Before I got my subwoofer I did not set my front speakers to small and I damaged one of my woofers watching The Lord of the Rings DVD. Too much bass to my front speakers, I didn't know DVDs come loaded with bass. (rookie mistake)

You mentioned Subs too. I bought the VTF-3 for $300 on Ebay; factory refurbished. I nevered audiotioned any subs I just wanted one quick and HSU had decent reviews. After listening to it for 2 months, I can't say that it has the tightest bass. I'm wondering if a cable upgrade would help tighten things up a bit?, but my first impression of HSU is "just ok". But it works for now and maybe in that price range It's a good sub.

Hope this helps,


PS I hope I don't sound to negative on Denon. They do make nice stuff. From everything I read, Denon was the one to buy. It was a last second thing that I tried B&K. I had never heard of them until this X-mas.
Wow is right!
The Denon 3803 in my opinion is a better unit than the Denon 3802. The pure direct mode on the 3803 is just awesome. Also, the new dac on the 3803 made movies sound just a tad bit nicer. Of all the different amps, receivers, I would love to have tried out a Rotel. Anyhow, I have been really satisfied with my Denon 3803 as a pre-amp. Perhaps down the road I would like to try out a dedicated pre-amp(B&K).

I wish I could have tried the same comparison only with the 3803 instead of the 3802.


Does the VTF-3 comes with a detachable power chord? You may
want to try a premium power chord. I've owned a B&K AVR 202 in the past. The B&K sounded awesome for musical pieces (piano) but sounded a tad bright for vocals coming out of the center channel (Paradigm CC). The B&K also needed lots of ventilation space. My Denon 3803 and HK Signature 2.1 stays cool no matter how hard I drive it. Hopefully one day I could afford to try all B&K separates. (Reference 50 and 7270)