Denon PMA-255UK Amplifier
Amplifiers don't come much more straightforward looking than this. The front panel is home to a volume control, bass and treble controls, a source direct switch, a balance control and an input select rotary for the five inputs, all of which are at line sensitivity, and one of which is a tape circuit. The price, just £140. Boring, huh?
Happily, the inside story is rather more interesting than this implies. The PMA-255UK is one of two new models, the other being the PMA-355UK, a higher spec model that tips the scales at £230. The two effectively replace the long running and popular PMA-250SE and PMA-350SE. Denon lays claim to having authored the whole 'UK Design' concept in 1985 with a model called the PMA-707, though there will be others who might take issue with this, notably perhaps Rotel. But this is not really the issue here. The 2000/55 project (as it is described) is intended to refresh the earlier range, and extend its lifespan with improvements and voicing appropriate for local market conditions, and unlike many other UK-optimised designs, this one is actually built in Europe. The PMA-255UK in particular uses the chassis and fascia of the 250SE, but the internals are 'bigger, beefier and all new'. Although modestly rated at 30 watts/channel, typical power output is said to be in excess of 45 watts into 8 ohms, and there are claims of superior bass power and drive, and an improved load tolerance compared to its predecessor.
Design highlights include short signal paths, audiophile grade ELNA reservoir capacitors custom made for Denon, new bipolar output devices, plus mute and short circuit protection by relay. In addition there are other high spec capacitors and resistors, and a carefully contrived earthing topology. There's nothing special about external build quality, which employs a standard combination of a bent steel chassis and a plastic fascia, but finish and detailing are typically strong.
'This amplifier gives a big sound, but it's clinical,' wrote one. He also concluded that it was 'tonally consistent, full bodied and capable of a solid drive'. Listener number two concluded that the Marianne Faithful track was 'well handled, with good low frequency resolution', another describing the same recording as 'lacking soul'. He also felt that the Denon lacked the 'weight and solidity of some of the other models that allowed them to hang togethe'.
In the Tracy Chapman track, the Denon was described as sounding 'a bit etched in places', while another called attention to 'a forward presentation and some colouration', and a 'thin midband'. This thinness was also identified in the piano recording by a strong sense of presence at both ends of the keyboard and what was described as a 'hole in the middle'. The Marianne Faithful recording was 'quite powerful, but lacking in light and shade'. These findings were confirmed in the hands-on testing. This is a sharp - perhaps too sharp - and articulate all -rounder, with a surprisingly heavy power output.
While plenty of criticisms could be made, this remains an impressive amplifier for such a low price. It may be a little emphatic and edgy at times, but it's certainly not short of detail and precision. You can pay more and get a lot less. Best Buy.