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HK 525 vs Denon 3803?

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103 replies to this topic

#1 of 104 OFFLINE   Dan_Diesel



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Posted January 27 2003 - 04:47 PM

I narrowed the receivers to these two. And I was just wondering if you guys know which receiver is better for music. The speakers that I have are Studio 20's and a Studio CC.

#2 of 104 OFFLINE   Doug Brewster

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Posted January 27 2003 - 11:35 PM

I am totally biased in favor of Harman Kardon when it comes to music. Despite that, others in these forums tend to agree. I think it's a matter of what you prefer. Denon tends to be a bit brighter than HK and their amps tend to be rated much higher than they can actually deliver. Harman Kardon's ratings tend to be honest and/or under their potential. They have a rated reserve power and are considered true "high current" amps. What this translates to is an ability to deliver power evenly, without straining or distorting. It makes music more appealing.

Having said that, I will remind you of my bias and tell you I have never listened to the 3803. How it specifically compares to the 525 is beyond my experience. I can assure you that the music my produces is delivered effortlessly and is very enjoyable.

For more on the 525 see my comparison of the 520 and 525 in this forum. I'm no expert, but I have been listening to descent audio equipment for 30 years.

Turn It UP!

#3 of 104 OFFLINE   CurtisC


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Posted January 27 2003 - 11:45 PM

I don't think there is any comparison,Denon,I have owned hk,onk jvc,pioneer etc..it just sounds better and has more features,imho.Listen at home for yourself,everybody has different taste

#4 of 104 OFFLINE   Jonathan_D


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Posted January 28 2003 - 06:27 AM

I agree on the H/K. I own the AVR 520 and also purchased an PM650 (a 20 year old HK integrated amp). The PM650 was rated, odly enough, at 65 watts per channel. The shop I bought it from hooked it up on a test bench and measured its output at 90 watts per channel at .1% THD. That's seems pretty typical of how HK's specs are understated.
My Home Theater (in progress):
JVC AV-32F703 32" TV
Harman Kardon AVR 520 Receiver
AR-DIY Loudspeakers Front MainBIC DV62CLRs Ed Frias Modified Center ChannelBIC VI-38 In Wall (ceiling) SurroundsAdire Tempest 122L sealed passive subwoofer powered by a H/K PM650 Integrated AMP....

#5 of 104 OFFLINE   Jeff.bart


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Posted January 28 2003 - 07:43 AM

If you never hear the HK, the Denon will sound terrific. If you hear both, the Denon will still sound terrific, but the HK had the clear edge to my ears. Especially on music. Clear and warm, with precise highs and tight, punchy lows. I wish I had Denon’s up conversion, but I love HK’s triple bass management. Logic 7 is nice too, but not a dealmaker in my view.

I’ve said earlier that all the receivers I heard sounded quite good in the $600-$1200 range. Some distinctions are evident, but I don’t think they are huge. Most important, I found, is the pairing of the speakers with the receivers. If I had different speakers, I might choose the Denon.

#6 of 104 OFFLINE   RickBlacker


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Posted January 28 2003 - 07:43 AM

I love it when I hear positive about HK... Makes me know I made a good choice. Posted Image I have the 520 as well as thier PA4000.

I am now thinking about upgrading to the HK 8000.

My Home Theater Project

#7 of 104 OFFLINE   Phil*K


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Posted January 28 2003 - 12:28 PM

Denon 3803 in a heartbeat. I also had an AVR-520 and couldn't stand the thing. Initially I was really excited and traded in a HTR-5490 for it. After a day I was begging to get the Yamaha back. IMO the HK was much too bright and hurt my ears in music and the bass was so boomy that it drowned the rest of the song. After I Adjusted the level of the bass and turn down the trebble I could tolerate it. The music was very detailed, but that why the Yamahas were bright for so long. I was going to keep it until I found something better, but after a week it died.

I thought well maybe it was a mismatch with my speaker, but I went out and listened to it again using every speaker I could put on it and while some tuned it down a bit I still felt the same way.

I finally took a 3803 home for an auditon and I couldn't be happier. In the pure direct mode music is so clean and detailed without the extreme brightness of the HK. I know that a lot of people call the Denon bright, but IMO this is due to the level of detail they produce giving the illusion of being bright. I've heard notes in the music I play that I've never heard before.

IMO, I also think the Denon has superior components as well and the video up converting of the 5803.

But, these are just my ears and you have to trust your own there are plenty of places that give you 30 days to return what you bought take each home and keep what sounds best to you. No offence intended to all the HK lovers out there, it just wasn't for me.


#8 of 104 OFFLINE   Jamey F

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Posted January 28 2003 - 01:07 PM

Does the 525 have preins AND preouts for all channels? I don't believe it does. I can't remember which the HK lacks (I think preouts). This would be an advantage in favor of the Denon 3803. The 3803 can input into each channel and/or output to each channel. This adds a versitility that I don't believe the HK 525 has. Toss in the video handling of the 3803, and there is no comparison feature-wise in the two. The ONLY thing I would give a slight advantage to the HK in features is the bass management. If you don't use DVD-A or another anolog in 5.1 format, I don't see this as an issue. If you don't NEED the better bass management or if you can't clearly say you like the HK's sound better, I think you should go with the 3803. Of course I'm biased. I purchased the 3803 over the 525 and 45tx for the features the 3803 has.

#9 of 104 OFFLINE   John S Choi

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Posted January 28 2003 - 01:27 PM

H/K 525 has pre in & outs for all channels.

#10 of 104 OFFLINE   Jamey F

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Posted January 28 2003 - 02:13 PM

That's good to know. I was just getting my info from a confusing thread about it here when onecall had a great deal on it. It wouldn't have changed my mind about which to get, but I'm glad someone chimed in for sure about the issue. Sorry if there is any confusion added to this thread.

#11 of 104 OFFLINE   John S Choi

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Posted January 28 2003 - 02:21 PM

My mistake 525 only has pre outs.
520 has both.
Since It has 7 channel amp built in this feature is no longer need it. I wish it bad it because I could have used for 2nd room applications

#12 of 104 OFFLINE   Jamey F

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Posted January 28 2003 - 03:17 PM

Just because it is a 7.1 AVR doesn't mean there isn't a use for 7.1 inputs. You yourself see where it could come in handy.

Will someone please post the channels of preins and preouts that actually has one? I would love to know for sure so the confusion is put to rest.

#13 of 104 OFFLINE   John S Choi

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Posted January 28 2003 - 03:49 PM

I rechecked H/K web site and it does not have 7.1 pre in for internal amp use like AVR520.

It was great selling point for avr520.

It does have one(7.1) DVD-A/SACD input.

#14 of 104 OFFLINE   CurtisC


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Posted January 28 2003 - 03:58 PM

Denon's got 8 in 8 out,maybe 10 out

#15 of 104 OFFLINE   Doug Brewster

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Posted January 28 2003 - 08:06 PM



I'm not sure what happened but anyone who hears HK as much too bright compared to Yamaha is not doing something right. There is no way that HK is brighter and no way it should be perceived as significantly brighter than Yamaha. Sorry to be so harsh (no pun intended) here but it just isn't true. This goes beyond personal preference. This is a matter of fact. I believe something else happened. One of two things:

1) You had a defective 520.
2) You had not made proper adjustments.

Since you talked about boomy base, I suspect you knew how to adjust it and that it was simply a defective receiver. I don't doubt what you heard, only that what you heard was reflective of what a normally functioning 520 is capable of producing.

I will take no specific issue with your comments about the 3803 because I've not compared that to the 520. Denon, in my experience is not nearly as bright as Yamaha. If you're saying that the video of the 3803 is the same as the 5803, then you'd probably be correct about superior component. On the other hand, if you are comparing the 5803 to a 520, a more representative model from HK would be the 8000, which right now can be bought from authorized dealers for less than $1500. I believe that at it's price, it more than holds its own against the 5803.

Finally, 1 more point:

The thread was to be a comparison of the 525 and 3803. I believe (having both the 520 and 525 at home right now) the 525 is a significant upgrade in home theater and 2 channel sound. I also believe it will favorably compare sonically to Denon because the superiority of the HK amplifier section at any similar price point (the 525 can be had from authorized dealers for around $700, while the Denon will be $300-$500 higher). Don't let the manufacturers specs fool you. HK can deliver higher than its rated wpc, while Denon (and most others) can't come close to theirs. Denon would get the nod for home theater processing at similar price points. While still lagging behind, I believe HK is gaining ground in that area as well and is far superior for music and for powering more demanding speaker systems.

Therefore, for the money and/or for music the 525 would seem a better investment. Cost not considered, I'd pick the HK 8000, but the 3803 is also a nice piece... By the way... I like Denon... Really... I just prefer HK because of it's amps and Logic 7.
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#16 of 104 OFFLINE   Phil*K


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Posted January 28 2003 - 09:18 PM


I also listen to the AVR-525 and felt that the sound quaility in my opinion was about the same. Yes I know how to set them up, its not exactly rocket science, and no other receiver caused the same problem, which included two Yamahas, 3 Onkyos and the Denon. Yes I could have gotten a bad receiver considering it died in a week. But, I'm not the only person who feels this way. Gary Raskin did a review compairing the V1200 a(~5490), Onkyo 797, and the 520. He felt the same way about the AVR-520. ie, two bright compaired to the v1200 or the 797 in music. I quess we have similar ears. If fact he wound not recomment the 520.

I paid 920 for my 3803 at Tweeters, with the extra features, I'll take that deal. I think the HK had plenty of power and featues. The 525 retals for 1000, the Denon 1200. Even if you can get a 8000 for 1500 its retail point was 2300. So the 525 and the 3803 are at similar price points. Plus the 8000 has the hiss. As far as the amp section of the AVR-520 and others there have been many threads as to the problems they have had. One of the other thing that bothers me is the number of Open box 520 you find at CC. There are a least 2-3 and every store I have been too.

With the Denon you also get 16 Burr brown dac, two per channel and every analog input has Burr brown adc. In purt dirrect mode the number of Dacs increase to 4 per channel. Plus the up conversion to component at a 100Mhz bandwith, which actually could be over kill but I'll take it. The only thing it lack is a RS-232 port which I would have like to have.

AS far as music, my system has never sounded better, but I thouht the 797 was close. I really wanted to like the HK, but everyone ears are different Maybe My speaker are just better suited to the Denon. I dont know. Either way I was a little strong with the comments and to anyone who love there HK I'm happy for them.

BTW, the Yamaha have been becomming more neutral for the last few years. and all things being equal I'd take the 5803 over the 8000 any day of the week. But thats my opinion. And maybe a misinformed on considering I've never heard an 8000

Cheers and sorry if I offended you


#17 of 104 OFFLINE   DonJ


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Posted January 28 2003 - 10:42 PM

Now that I have Logic7 I cringe at the thought of having to use DPLII or DTS Neo6, yuk.

You are the only person or reviewer I have ever heard say that HK's are bright, and the 3803's are having plenty of problems right now.

I would go for the HK they are and have always been one of the most musical in there price range, and in that range you can't beat'em. Denon has always sounded timid and weak dynamicly to me (until you get to there 4800 and 5800 range).
Denon AVR 3802 review
HK 5500 (520 US) Review
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#18 of 104 OFFLINE   jeff_coil


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Posted January 29 2003 - 12:49 AM

the 3803's are having plenty of problems right now.

Plenty of problems? Like what? I am a 3803 owner and love it. I was close to buying the 8000 and boy am I glad I didn't after reading all of serious problems with that box (HK's flagship) and not just talking about the Jan 02 hiss. No really I would be interested in plentiful problems of the 3803 could you post some links, just like to know what people are seeing so I can keep an eye out... As far as the HK sound I do like it as well for music and they do have great amp section and was looking forward to the Logic 7 and triple BM. However after my research I just thought the build quality/reliability could potentially be an issue.

I'd take the 5803 over the 8000 any day of the week

Phil agreed but that really isn't apple to apples IMO it would be better compared to the 4802Posted Image


#19 of 104 OFFLINE   BrianWoerndle


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Posted January 29 2003 - 04:58 AM

It depends. The Denon has more inputs and features. I also believe that it has better DACs with the Burr Browns and Hammerhead SHARC. But I think that the H/K has a slight (slight being a key word) edge in amps. So, If you don't need the inputs and have a very good CD player, get the H/K. But I chose the Denon for the overall features and DACs. I have all 7 S-Video inputs filled, so I was willing to take a slight hit in the amps for the versitality of the Denon.
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#20 of 104 OFFLINE   Bryan_Tams



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Posted January 29 2003 - 05:11 AM

I had an issue when researching between the Denon and the HK. I went to audition the 3803 at a local Hi Fi shop and it broke during the audition and after a system reboot, the sales rep said this is what we call in the industry as broke - I didn't like that omen, so I ended up with the HK (little cheaper cost at the time as well). Very happy so far.