My experience A/B testing Denon/Marantz - and blind testing the employee - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 21 Old 09-11-2019, 09:55 PM - Thread Starter
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My experience A/B testing Denon/Marantz - and blind testing the employee

Spent an hour at Magnolia A/B testing Denon x4500h vs Marantz SR6013 (the 7000 series wasn't available). 2.0 setup for music and movies, lots of comparisons on varying content.

Sometimes, I could tell the difference. The Marantz sounded a bit fuller at time, and a bit deeper/bassier (warmer?). The Denon at times sounded slightly hollower, with more pronounced upper range notes... but I suspect this wasn't actually any increase in detail, rather, a lack of some low end that made it sound slightly "brighter".

However, I feel that I am overstating this. I'd say, most of the time I could NOT tell the difference. Sometimes I preferred the Denon. Sometimes the Marantz. Some content it did seem like there was a noticeable difference (though hard to discern a "winner", more just a difference). Other time it sounded nearly identical to me.

The EMPLOYEE throughout would comment during the A/B test about the Marantz having more clarity and detail in the mids, and a slightly superior sound. I asked him to explain more and he would share how the vocals were easier to discern here or there, or that the sound was just stronger on the Marantz.

After another 20 minutes of testing, I was getting tired of it. I couldn't really tell any meaningful difference. I called the employee back in and said "ok, stand over there. I am going to blind test you." Since he was talking about the clear differences he could hear.

When you tap the button to switch receivers, there is a 1 second "blip" as it changes channels, so it cues you into the change. Except, you can also tap the same receiver again - making no switch - but still trigger the momentary "blip". So that's what I did.

He listened to the Marantz, nodded. Then I switched to the Marantz. "This one. Marantz. Sounds better, fuller." Ok, listen again. I switched - to the Marantz again. "This one is Denon. It sounds weaker." Switched to Marantz. "Yup, defintiely fuller."

I continued this experiment for a while on different content. I tried it on Denon, switching to Denon-Denon-Denon. Similar results. I did legitamate tests. Denon-Marantz-Denon.

50% of the time he selected Denon as being the superior, saying it was Marantz, 50% of the time he selected the Marantz correctly. Sometimes he criticized the Marantz and praised the Denon. And Vice Versa.

As I clued him into my tricks he seemed surprised, perhaps slightly embarrassed, and concluded "well... yeah... I mean I guess they are really close, it's really subtle."

//////////////

First - no disrespect to anyone who can legit hear the difference, I know you are out there. I am, full disclosure, not an audiophile. But I am a quasi-OCD, detail-oriented perfectionist with an engineer brain that appreciates quality.

Second - I couldn't hear these systems PROPERLY calibrated, nor on my Klipsch RP speakers. These were on martin logan and B&W speakers. And I couldn't A/B the 4000 against the 7000.

These are all notable and perhaps important nuances.

TBH because the prices are so close I'm still torn between the Marantz 6000, 7000, Denon 4000. But after listening, I do see what people mean when they say "flip a coin".

Bottom line - even when I could tell a meaningful difference, I didn't always have a clear preference. I guess I'd lean towards Marantz only because there were a handful of times where it perhaps felt slliigghhtttllyyy warmer/fuller and Klipsch are brighter... but I mean... does it really matter?

TL;DR - blind test store employees who tell you they can hear a difference in gear to find the truth
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post #2 of 21 Old 09-11-2019, 10:03 PM
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So the Marantz is physically warmer. The HDAM chip is the culprit for this. Denon does not use this chip.

But a determining factor should be features and video quality.

Supposedly the video is better on the Denon. I cannot confirm this, just something I read through many comparisons.

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #3 of 21 Old 09-11-2019, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by filmguy123 View Post
Bottom line - even when I could tell a meaningful difference, I didn't always have a clear preference. I guess I'd lean towards Marantz only because there were a handful of times where it perhaps felt slliigghhtttllyyy warmer/fuller and Klipsch are brighter... but I mean... does it really matter?

Were you being tested blind when you heard meaningful differences?

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post #4 of 21 Old 09-11-2019, 10:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Were you being tested blind when you heard meaningful differences?
I'm not sure I'd call any of the differences I heard in any scenario "meaningful" despite my comment there - I guess what I meant by meaningful would be better phrased in that I would call them "noticeable". As in, I noticed something sounded a little bit different. I did a combination of blind and non-blind and my "hit/miss" was about the same with no clear winner.

But to your question - YES - On *some* content, I am positive the Marantz sounded a little deeper/warmer even when I was blind.

But that was maybe 25% of the content and in that, only certain parts. And to be clear, I don't think that necessarily equates to "better" - just different. I wouldn't really say I had a strong preference. There was ONE song, in ONE part, where in the switch I thought the Denon sounded more hollow and I prefered the Marantz when blind. But I couldn't really replicate that at any other time.

If this description sounds... incoherent... that's exactly the point, lol. My ears aren't good enough to pick it out. I bet some people's are, but this specific employees were most certainly not - despite his very strong confidence that the marantz was "better" (yet he called the denon "clearly better" multiple times, and the marantz "weak" multiple times... lol).
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post #5 of 21 Old 09-11-2019, 10:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Supposedly the video is better on the Denon. I cannot confirm this, just something I read through many comparisons.
I read a stray comment on this somewhere and couldn't find more. I'd love more info on this if you or anyone have any links, resources, or impressions!
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post #6 of 21 Old 09-11-2019, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by filmguy123 View Post
I read a stray comment on this somewhere and couldn't find more. I'd love more info on this if you or anyone have any links, resources, or impressions!

https://www.zkelectronics.com/compar...tz-sr6013/usa/

Quick search found this.

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #7 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 12:02 AM - Thread Starter
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What were you seeing on that page as pertains to better video processing? I've read through that one a few times but didn't see any mention or indication of "better video processing" on the Denon. Perhaps I don't know what I am looking for specifically.
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post #8 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 12:03 AM
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Originally Posted by filmguy123 View Post
What were you seeing on that page as pertains to better video processing? I've read through that one a few times but didn't see any mention or indication of "better video processing" on the Denon. Perhaps I don't know what I am looking for specifically.

Sorry, that link didn’t pertain to my comment above, it was just a good informative link.

Leave it at 8 ohms and call it a day :)
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post #9 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 12:06 AM - Thread Starter
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While I couldn't hear much of a difference, I didn't hear it properly calibrated and with the klipsch speakers I'll have. So there's that.

Basically torn between a refurb marantz 7012 and brand new denon x4500 for right around the same price - and listening didn't help.
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post #10 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 12:27 AM
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While I couldn't hear much of a difference, I didn't hear it properly calibrated and with the klipsch speakers I'll have. So there's that.

Basically torn between a refurb marantz 7012 and brand new denon x4500 for right around the same price - and listening didn't help.
In the long term you would discern minor differences, but movies will obscure that. Music is more telling but even then if you're not listening to a lot of acoustic music it may not matter. Things that might make more of a difference is how the back panel is laid out, do you have enough inputs for any future uses. Does the remote drive you crazy. Think of it like buying a car.
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post #11 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 02:41 AM
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I'm not sure I'd call any of the differences I heard in any scenario "meaningful" despite my comment there - I guess what I meant by meaningful would be better phrased in that I would call them "noticeable". As in, I noticed something sounded a little bit different. I did a combination of blind and non-blind and my "hit/miss" was about the same with no clear winner.

But to your question - YES - On *some* content, I am positive the Marantz sounded a little deeper/warmer even when I was blind.

But that was maybe 25% of the content and in that, only certain parts. And to be clear, I don't think that necessarily equates to "better" - just different. I wouldn't really say I had a strong preference. There was ONE song, in ONE part, where in the switch I thought the Denon sounded more hollow and I prefered the Marantz when blind. But I couldn't really replicate that at any other time.

If this description sounds... incoherent... that's exactly the point, lol. My ears aren't good enough to pick it out. I bet some people's are, but this specific employees were most certainly not - despite his very strong confidence that the marantz was "better" (yet he called the denon "clearly better" multiple times, and the marantz "weak" multiple times... lol).
Absolutely loved your initial post, specially the part about bling testing the audio store employee, made me laugh
I´m in the "quasi-OCD" perfectionist club as well, sometimes I spend a stupid amount of time deciding between components for my HC (and PC) and the Denon vs Marantz dilema came up when I bought my new receiver as well. There is nothing like the personal empirical experience to me. After a ton of research, I arrived exactly at the same conclusion as you did. There is a difference, but it´s subtle at best. I´ve got Wharfedale speakers (neutral-warmish) so I went with a Denon X6400H because being a tad brighter could be a better fit. I´ve hardly tried to justify the "upgrade" to the Marantz SR8012 but the sound difference between the two doesn´t seem to justify a 1K $ price increase, specially since I´m not running a 100K $ speaker system (I´m perfectly aware of the internal difference in some components, there´s an Audioholics video on that). Also I don´t want a warmer sound with my speakers. And because I´ve got a separate stereo setup for music, HDAM is not really so appealing to me. The only upgrade I´d go for is the X8500H.

But I´m digressing. Bottom line is that for the vast majority of people/budgets, the differences (at least at my speaker price range) in real life content between D/M are smaller than what some comments let you believe. Same goes for cables, etc. I´m not a skeptic, I truly believe that some people with perfect hearing coupled with a high-end system are perfectly able to distinguish notable differences in sound. But only a small percentage of people are blessed with that kind of hearing/money, so for the 95% of users blind testing should be a MUST to prove really how big those alleged differences are in real life. I´m always surprised about how seldom this is done, since it´s perfectly known the huge impact of perception biases on our mind. So next time I go to my Hi-Fi store, I will definitely ask the salesman to proof his statements on a blind testing the same way you did!
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post #12 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 03:38 AM
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i may be wrong, but aren’t the 4500 and 6013 sister units?
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we need rew on our phones for portable evals. is that a mic in your pocket? ofc, gonna go listen to some new gear at hifi shop. should be easy to do.

back in the day, mid 80's for me, denon was considered warm.

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post #14 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 04:04 AM
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i may be wrong, but aren’t the 4500 and 6013 sister units?
x4500h <==> sr7013
x3500h <==> sr6013
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post #15 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 09:19 AM
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But to your question - YES - On *some* content, I am positive the Marantz sounded a little deeper/warmer even when I was blind.

You may be positive, but I seriously doubt you'd do any better than the that employee.
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post #16 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
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You may be positive, but I seriously doubt you'd do any better than the that employee.
Yes, that is exactly my point. I wouldn't - and when testing myself, didn't!

Simply affirming that in all that time, I believe there is probably something there to what I read online... however it's so minute that I can't tell with any consistency or reliability, and even when I could hear some sort of a difference, I wouldn't classify it in terms of better/worse. In fact... a couple times when I *thought* I could hear the difference, I actually preferred the Denon.
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post #17 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 07:50 PM
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x4500h <==> sr7013
x3500h <==> sr6013
This isn't intended as a contradiction, but the X3500H is strictly a 7.2 receiver. The SR6013 is 9.2, but processes 11 channels and can be expanded to use that with an external stereo amp.

The 3500 is the lowest-end model in the Denon line with Audyssey XT32. The same is true for the 6013.

I wonder why the Denon and Marantz lines aren't more nearly parallel? (The SR5013 seems more like the 3500, but the SR5013 doesn't come with XT32.)
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post #18 of 21 Old 09-12-2019, 09:37 PM
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This isn't intended as a contradiction, but the X3500H is strictly a 7.2 receiver. The SR6013 is 9.2, but processes 11 channels and can be expanded to use that with an external stereo amp.

The 3500 is the lowest-end model in the Denon line with Audyssey XT32. The same is true for the 6013.

I wonder why the Denon and Marantz lines aren't more nearly parallel? (The SR5013 seems more like the 3500, but the SR5013 doesn't come with XT32.)
Has anyone proven that the Marantz is indeed a "warm" sounding line? Anyone actually confirmed this by doing an AB test? Or is it just a theory?

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So the Marantz is physically warmer. The HDAM chip is the culprit for this. Denon does not use this chip.

But a determining factor should be features and video quality.

Supposedly the video is better on the Denon. I cannot confirm this, just something I read through many comparisons.
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Has anyone proven that the Marantz is indeed a "warm" sounding line? Anyone actually confirmed this by doing an AB test? Or is it just a theory?
In my blind test of what ended up being an Onkyo NR686 and a Marantz 6013 in their respective direct modes, meaning the only real difference was the HDAM/power sections, there was zero change in sound from one to the other; receivers were level-matched and playing content I know well through speakers I know well and I had no idea what receivers the salesman had chosen until after we were done testing. The Onkyo was *maybe* a bit richer in the mids at times and the Marantz *maybe* a bit fuller down low at times, which is of course opposite to conventional opinion of these brands, but it was so minute it was likely in my head.
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post #20 of 21 Old 09-13-2019, 07:13 AM
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Short term A/B testing isn't all that useful except for extremely large differences. The difference between two very different speakers for example: In short term A/B testing you can use this to discern the obvious differences in tonal "flavor": "This one has a lot more bass. The other way is kind of harsh and has very little bass." That kind of thing.

But for anything that's subtle longer term testing is the only way to go. Mike Moffat describes this phenomenon quite well here:

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/schi...#post_11921090

Some audio "differences" really are non-existent. Some are subtle. Some are obvious. For those middle differences, the subtle ones, you need a bit more time for your ear/brain to run its pattern matching magic to figure out what's going on. After all, this is what you will do with your audio equipment: You will listen to it long term with stuff you want to hear. Not switch back and forth trying to actively discern differences.

Also remember that your brain will automatically prefer anything that is louder or easier to discern. Speakers with elevated mids in the vocal intelligibility band will stand out to you in quick testing. But they might sound harsh and unnatural long term. Listening for enjoyment generally isn't an analytical process. It's more about absorbing the experience.

Coming to terms with some of these things took me a very, very long time. I have a degree in Electrical Engineering. My goal, at one time, was to design audio equipment as a day job. I approached audio with a very analytical perspective for many years. It's taken me almost 30 years to realize that I was missing the most important part: Enjoying what I am listening to! Specs, measurements, magazines, forums, etc should have no bearing on your enjoyment of what you hear. Only what your ear and brain tell you matter in your enjoyment of musical reproduction.

Brian.
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post #21 of 21 Old 09-13-2019, 08:25 AM
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While I couldn't hear much of a difference, I didn't hear it properly calibrated and with the klipsch speakers I'll have. So there's that.

Basically torn between a refurb marantz 7012 and brand new denon x4500 for right around the same price - and listening didn't help.
I went through similar hair pulling in 2015 when I finally decided to buy a Denon 6200 from Magnolia (BB).

Here were my thoughts at the time:
- I did not want a refurb because of paranoia about some potential defect, especially a sporadic defect.
- I wanted a model manufactured in Japan because I believe in Japanese quality. I used to work in Japan and I have a deep respect for the Japanese quality mindset. Otherwise, I would have purchased the Denon 4200.
- I wanted to buy from a local dealer in case I had any issues to allow for easy returns. I worked with a sales guy at Magnolia to get very competitive (vs online/over the phone) pricing on the Denon, speakers, sub, and speaker wire.

If I were purchasing a new Denon avr today, I would buy the Denon 6500 since it's made in Japan.

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