Denon DRA-325R Stereo Receiver
As can be seen from the specification the DRA-325R is quite compact considering its facilities, although quite heavy. The thought given to panel layout and general ergonomics makes it an easy unit to set up. Once this is done daily usage could not be simpler and it certainly makes an ideal centre-piece, readily accessible to anyone in a family, no matter how alienated they may feel towards anything remotely technical.
At the upper left of the panel is a fluorescent display which is purely concerned with the tuner section and mainly used when choosing and memorizing radio transmission frequencies to be allotted to the eight selector buttons, each of which has three options, giving 24 choices of programmes from either FM or MW AM bands. Once these are set it serves as a reminder of which programme one has selected and also its stereo or mono condition. Below it are the Power on/off switch (normally left on, as a stand-by mode can be selected by remote control), a headphones socket and switches for two pairs of loudspeakers, the latter associated with a group of eight terminals with 4mm socket centres at the rear of the unit. The bottom section of the panel is completed by four variable control knobs, Bass, Treble, Balance and Loudness, the first three centre detented; a minor criticism here concerns their legends which can be read only if you bend down. Immediately above them and angled so that they fall easily 10 the finger are the eight station selector buttons with a larger Shift button to their right. As with a typewriter this selects alternative actions, in this case 16 additional choices; its resting state is indicated on the display. Next above is a thin line of secondary buttons used for station setting or manual tuning, and above them a row of major selector buttons for the various sources: Tape (monitor), Aux/Video, Tuner, CD and Phono; each of them has a tiny red LED showing which is active and the last one to have been selected, either direct or remotely, remains lit as a reminder when the unit is put in the stand-by condition by the Power button on the handset. The last remaining panel control is the most obvious, the large Volume knob on the right side and this can also be motor driven remotely by "<" and ">" Volume buttons.
Internally, the left one-third is occupied by the power transformer and the multi-vaned radiating end of a heat-pipe transferring and dissipating the heat produced by the four power output transistors and a couple of regulators. These are centrally mounted on a heavy aluminium extrusion attached to the major large printed circuit board which occupies the remaining area and accommodates most of the electronic components. That this board does not appear to be unduly cramped is due to the small size of modern components, which only have to feed relatively low current devices, and to the internal complexity of those devices which now take in areas of the circuit which once required a clutch of individual discrete parts. There are a few other smaller boards, for example behind the display and control buttons; all are linked by colour-coded cable forms plugged into multipinned connectors on the main board. A two-metre twin core mains lead issues from the rear panel which, in addition to the loudspeaker terminals already mentioned, has a group of phono sockets for the other audio inputs, a reverse coaxial FM aerial connector (now the IEC standard), two terminals for the AM loop aerial which clips at any angle into the socket provided, a ground terminal for an LP turntable and a small socket for remote control of the cassette recorder.
Access to the main printed circuit board is via a detachable bottom plate in the sheet steel casework and there are four decorative drum feet in the modern idiom, although they only rest on penny-size rubber rings. The front panel is the usual black anodized aluminium extrusion, with clear and unfussy writing in white print. The metalwork is of good standard, assembled throughout with self-tapping screws, resulting in an adequately rigid construction and only marred from the serviceman's point of view by some razor-sharp internal edges.
On test this unit showed what a lot of performance one can obtain these days for such a relatively small outlay. I have checked tuners which alone cost as much as this and offered little more. Here we have in addition a very respectable 40 Watts per channel power amplifier, a simple but adequate control unit as well and the whole thing subject to a reliable remote control. Measurements made agreed closely with the specification in almost all respects, exceeding them in some not unimportant facets such as power at clipping which reached 52 Watts (both channels into 8 Ohms). It was also possible to produce this power into 4 Ohms but with signs of distress and the specification quite clearly refers only to 8 Ohm loads. A note on the backplate below the loudspeaker terminals suggests that if two pairs are connected then they should be of 12-16 Ohms impedance; unfortunately I cannot recall any current models which are! Other minor oddities were overlaps in tone control characteristics; for example lifting the treble certainly did that but also lowered the remainder of the spectrum by about 0.5dB and a drop of 3.8dB in either wanted channel when the balance control was swung hard over the other way.
Listening tests were made using all sources and I started off with a pair of loudspeakers costing nearly four times the price of this receiver and found it to produce a very satisfactory result. Perhaps a trace of grain and some faint disturbance of clarity compared with much more costly equipment but not enough to call for any black marks. Reverting to the sort of £100-£150 per pair loudspeakers much more likely to be its partners in life produced an entirely acceptable result and there was plenty of volume available for the occasional party night. Both FM and AM radio performance were all one could expect and there is a certain amount of automation built in which cuts out interstation noise in the search mode and orders a reversion to mono on weak stereo transmissions. This DRA-325R proved to be a very happy choice in this price bracket as the centre-piece of a versatile system.