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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:04 pm 
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After the Sony NS500 (which had no functional bass management for SACD), the Pioneer DV-45 (which would get grumpy from time to time and lock up on discs no other player had a problem with), and the Samsung HD841 (two examples of which had faulty component video connections, one DOA -- the back connectors are so chintzy that you can easily push them almost all the way into the chassis), I decided to stop screwing around and see if spending more dough would actually result in a functional DVD player.

So I dropped $630 (retail $730) on this thing. (You can get it for under $600 from unauthorized outlets, though Denon is militant about not honoring warranties for grey-market purchases.) Definitely not cheap for a DVD player (though Denon also sells a $3500 monster, the DVD-5910, and Music Direct would love to sell you a $13,000 Esoteric). In the age of $20 Cyberhomes, what does this machine have to offer?

This box features *both* DVI and HDMI ports for connection to a HDCP-compatible digital TV, and will upconvert to 720p or 1080i. Sadly, my HDTV only has a component connection, so I'm unable to use this capability. Not a big loss, since in my experience upconverts are marginally better than 480p, if at all.

One hassle with previous players has been matching brightness levels among different components. My DirecTV receiver's picture is significantly dimmer than any DVD player I've had, so setting the TV to where the satellite looks good results in a bright, washed out DVD image. Fortunately, the TV offers different settings presets, but it was still something that had to be changed all the time. The Denon solves this problem as it has a myriad of picture controls itself -- including brightness, contrast, color, tint, and an insanely complex gamma correction option -- which can be stored into five presets. So I can adjust the TV to the satellite, adjust the DVD player to the TV, and life is simpler. Progress!

So far, I haven't found any issues with DVD playback. The picture looks fine, and everything seems to work as you'd expect. The player includes an 8MB buffer, so layer changes are nearly seamless. (I haven't noticed one yet.) It seems to read CD-Rs, DVD-Rs and DVD+Rs without incident, though I would hope that wouldn't be a problem in 2005.

The real reason I got this deck, though, was to try to get manageable SACD/DVD-A playback. In the past, my experience has ranged from complete failure (the Sony) to mere aggravation (the Samsung, which could be made to work with both formats, but only with signficant monkeying around with channel levels and having different bass management setups for different formats).

The Denon just plain works. A source of pain in the past was the fact that SACDs and DVD-As do not have the 10dB subwoofer channel boost that DD and DTS do. Therefore, to make a system calibrated to sound good with 5.1 movies work with SACD or DVD-A, a lot of compromises were needed. The Denon includes a simple menu option to add 10dB to the sub channel. Problem solved. For the first time ever, I can set all the channel levels to zero in both the player and receiver, dial in the sub volume, and all sources sound correct.

Unlike other non-Sony players I've used, switching between SACD playback modes is a simple one-button process here.

Redbook playback is excellent, with notably better quality than the DACs in my Integra receiver. The biggest difference is the stereo soundstage, which seems pinched and collapsed with the Integra. (I'd preferred the Integra DACs to those in the Samsung, FWIW.)

Finally, the Denon has an HDCD decoder, the first player I've ever had with this feature. Unfortunately, it can't be easily turned off, so I haven't done a good A/B test to see if it really makes a difference or not. HDCD discs I've tried sound nice, but I don't know if HDCD can be credited.

Gripes? Other than the price, response to commands is often poky. Don't try to skip ahead by mashing the "skip" button -- you'll end up helplessly watching the player march through the tracks instead of allowing you to advance the counter to your desired track then catching up with you. Also, for $600 I'd expect a back-lit remote, but I guess Denon figures most everyone is using universal remotes these days.

It won't play DivX, though it does apparently convert PAL. (I haven't tried it.) There's region-free firmware hacks out there, though I'm not sure I want to risk that with this player. I can pull out the crippled Samsung and watch other regions (and DivX, for that matter) over S-video for the moment.

Is it worth the money? It actually works well where previous $199-$499 players didn't, and offers more flexibility in setup than anything I've ever used, so at some level yes. Obviously, if you don't care about hi-res playback there are cheaper options that will probably work just as well (and work with DivX, which isn't a high priority for me), but this is the first player I've used that successfully fulfills the role of a "universal player" without compromise.

Ryan

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 9:03 am 
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A quick addendum: I've tried 1 (one) DualDisc (the Ben Folds) on this player and the CD side would load, but playback was full of skips, stutters and glitches.

At this point, the CD side of a DualDisc *working* surprises me more than a failure. What a stupid format.

Ryan

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 9:10 am 
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Rspaight wrote:
A quick addendum: I've tried 1 (one) DualDisc (the Ben Folds) on this player and the CD side would load, but playback was full of skips, stutters and glitches.

At this point, the CD side of a DualDisc *working* surprises me more than a failure. What a stupid format.

Ryan


Well, not a stupid idea, but a stupid implementation. If there was no way to get it to work properly, we should've just stuck with CD+DVD (although of course it would manage to cost more than Dualdisc, despite Dualdisc's presumably-higher production cost. More discs=more expensive....The very idea that the new Kate Bush album--which has surprisingly few songs given its running time--costs more than the remaster of Hounds of Love because it's two discs is absolutely absurd).

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 10:42 am 
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Quote:
Well, not a stupid idea, but a stupid implementation.


Right. The concept was fine, but the actual thing is a disaster.

CD+DVD, like the REM reissues, is a much better way, though the prices on the REM packages are ridiculous. How Rhino can sell the 2-CD Elvis Costello reissues at $15 each and the REM "DoubleDisc" sets for $25 is beyond me.

I've also heard that the labels don't like CD+DVD because they think people will give away one of the discs to a friend. (Which, come to think of it, is probably why the REMs cost twice as much as a normal reissue.)

Ryan

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 2:36 pm 
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If the 2910 does bass management and time alignment consistently and correctly for all formats, it's definitely a winner. Congrats. HDCD decoding is nice perk too.

I went through a couple of 'universal' players until I finally bit the bullet and
went with a setup that allows ilink-connection for digitally passing all formats from my player (a Yamaha) to the AVR (a Pioneer). Now the AVR does all the processing, consistently, and also does room correction, which is my new religion ;>

A USB input also makes connecting my laptop a breeze...I'm finding that to be perhaps the most valuable perk, since all my music EXCEPT multichannel stuff, is now archived as flac files on a hard drive.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 3:09 pm 
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Quote:
If the 2910 does bass management and time alignment consistently and correctly for all formats, it's definitely a winner.


I have not yet been converted to the Church of Time Alignment, so I haven't messed with that (and never have before). My understanding is that the 2910 does it for everything but SACD. (I think you've got to go up to the 3910 to get SACD time alignment.) I'm thrilled to get decent bass management, though.

That USB connection sounds like a great thing to have. I've used an M-Audio Transit to connect USB->Toslink and got very good results.

I saw an AVR recently with a USB port *and* an iPod dock connector jack on the front panel. What a world.

Ryan

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 5:27 pm 
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Rspaight wrote:
Quote:
If the 2910 does bass management and time alignment consistently and correctly for all formats, it's definitely a winner.


I have not yet been converted to the Church of Time Alignment, so I haven't messed with that (and never have before). My understanding is that the 2910 does it for everything but SACD. (I think you've got to go up to the 3910 to get SACD time alignment.) I'm thrilled to get decent bass management, though.



If you're doing mainly 2-channel (+ sub) listening, time aligment is not that big an issue -- it's not too hard to position 2 speakers equidistant from the listener. It's much more an issue with surround systems.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 6:19 pm 
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krabapple wrote:
If you're doing mainly 2-channel (+ sub) listening, time aligment is not that big an issue -- it's not too hard to position 2 speakers equidistant from the listener. It's much more an issue with surround systems.


Why would a DVD player need to do that? Wouldn't that be in the hands of the receiver?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 6:23 pm 
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lukpac wrote:
krabapple wrote:
If you're doing mainly 2-channel (+ sub) listening, time aligment is not that big an issue -- it's not too hard to position 2 speakers equidistant from the listener. It's much more an issue with surround systems.


Why would a DVD player need to do that? Wouldn't that be in the hands of the receiver?


Most of the time, only the player is capable of making adjustments to the 5.1 stream of SACDs and DVD-As (since they're passed through the 5.1 analog connection on the receiver), unless you've got a spiffy digital link setup like Krab's.

For DTS and DD, though, the receiver should be capable of doing it.

Ryan

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 6:38 pm 
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Rspaight wrote:
Most of the time, only the player is capable of making adjustments to the 5.1 stream of SACDs and DVD-As (since they're passed through the 5.1 analog connection on the receiver), unless you've got a spiffy digital link setup like Krab's.

For DTS and DD, though, the receiver should be capable of doing it.


Ahh. I guess I don't know if my Yamaha handles the analog inputs or not.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 10:15 pm 
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I am kicking myself for not waiting for the 2910 to come out. I purchased a 2900 when they were clearing them last year not knowing the new unit featured HDCD decoding.

Congrats on your purchase - sounds like a winner

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 11:12 pm 
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krabapple wrote:
I went through a couple of 'universal' players until I finally bit the bullet and
went with a setup that allows ilink-connection for digitally passing all formats from my player (a Yamaha) to the AVR (a Pioneer). Now the AVR does all the processing, consistently, and also does room correction, which is my new religion ;>

A USB input also makes connecting my laptop a breeze...I'm finding that to be perhaps the most valuable perk, since all my music EXCEPT multichannel stuff, is now archived as flac files on a hard drive.


Which model is this? Do all of the higher end Yamahas now feature USB? I'd find a USB input on the player to be quite useful. Is it just an input or does it also output a signal as well?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 8:56 am 
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Ahh. I guess I don't know if my Yamaha handles the analog inputs or not.


Some receivers can manipulate the 5.1 analog ins in various ways, though it's not exactly common. Mine can do EQ, but not bass management, level or delay.

Ryan

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 1:25 pm 
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lukpac wrote:
krabapple wrote:
If you're doing mainly 2-channel (+ sub) listening, time aligment is not that big an issue -- it's not too hard to position 2 speakers equidistant from the listener. It's much more an issue with surround systems.


Why would a DVD player need to do that? Wouldn't that be in the hands of the receiver?


For digital input, sure, but few receivers do such processing on the 6-channel analog inputs, which is what most people have to use for DVD-A and SACD.

Also, for whatever reason (e.g., DAC preference, lack of decoders int he receiver), some people might prefer to do the surround processing for Dolby Digital and DTS in there player, too, and output via 6-channel analog.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2005 1:30 pm 
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Crummy Old Label Avatar wrote:
krabapple wrote:
I went through a couple of 'universal' players until I finally bit the bullet and
went with a setup that allows ilink-connection for digitally passing all formats from my player (a Yamaha) to the AVR (a Pioneer). Now the AVR does all the processing, consistently, and also does room correction, which is my new religion ;>

A USB input also makes connecting my laptop a breeze...I'm finding that to be perhaps the most valuable perk, since all my music EXCEPT multichannel stuff, is now archived as flac files on a hard drive.


Which model is this? Do all of the higher end Yamahas now feature USB? I'd find a USB input on the player to be quite useful. Is it just an input or does it also output a signal as well?


I think you misunderstood me; the AVR has a USB input, which I use to connect to a *laptop* (itself USB'd to an external hard drive). The Yamaha uni-player does not have USB output, but does have ilink output, which I connect to the AVRs ilink input.

The AVR is a Pioneer 74txvi. Some earlier Pioneer models -- e.g the 56txi -- also have USB and ilink inputs. The uni-player is the Yamaha S2500 .

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