|Denon DVD-3910 Universal Disc Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2005|
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My audio/video system has changed dramatically over past couple years. A while back, my rack consisted of a CD player, SACD player, DVD player, VHS deck, preamplifier, surround sound processor and several power amplifiers. Of course, then there were the miles of cable it took to hook the endless string of components together. Not to mention the remotes. But that was then, and this is now. Today’s modern audio/video enthusiast has options, like receivers and universal disc players, which over the years have made huge strides in quality and performance, leaving a lot of the “traditional” solutions in the dust.
Enter Denon’s 3910 single-disc, DVD-A/SACD Progressive Scan Universal Disc player, a source component that literally plays everything. One player, multiple formats: what could be better? I have been on the lookout for a good universal player for several months, because I’ve just had it with maintaining multiple players. Luckily Denon, as well as other manufacturers, has stepped up to the plate by creating (the once mythical) universal disc player. Out of the box, the Denon 3910 is large by anyone’s standards for a CD/DVD player. It measures 17 inches wide by five inches high, 13 inches deep and tips the scales at a little over 17 pounds. It’s attractive aluminum casing comes in black or silver and is available in either finish for a retail price of $1,499.00.
My review sample sported a black façade, which is still my preference for any audio equipment that finds its way into my rack. The front panel has the usual array of buttons and controls: power, eject, play, stop, track skip, pause, forward, reverse, HDMI/DVI select, a video mode shuttle dial, SACD select and a Denon staple, Pure Direct Select. The 3910 also has quite a comprehensive LCD screen that is large enough to be read from a few feet away and is also defeatable, so you don’t have to deal with any electronic glow while watching a movie.
Moving on to the rear of the 3910, you’re treated to enough connection options to keep even Sybil happy. Starting from the top, there is a 5.1-channel set of RCA outputs flanked by a pair of traditional gold-plated two-channel outputs. The 3910 also features two IEEE 1394 digital audio outputs, as well as Denon’s own iLink interface which, when used, drastically cuts down the number of cables running to your receiver. The 3910 also has both optical and coaxial outputs rounding out its audio selection. Moving on to the video side of things, the 3910 comes equipped with both HDMI and DVI outputs. HDMI and DVI are capable of passing a pure digital signal to your video display, provided it too has HDMI or a DVI input. It should also be noted that HDMI can pass both audio and video through a single cable, whereas DVI cannot. Lastly, on the topic of HDMI and DVI, the 3910’s up-sampling capabilities (480p, 720p and 1080i) can only be utilized through either of the digital video outs. On the analog side of things, there is a single component video out, as well as a standard composite and S-video out. For your custom installation needs, the 3910 has a RS-232C port for third-party controllers, as well as remote I/O ports and a detachable power cord.
In the performance category, the 3910 reads more like a state of the art receiver than a disc spinner. Starting off, the 3910 will play CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-A, DVD-R, DVD-RW, SACD, Kodak Picture CD, HDCD, Windows Media and MP3-encoded discs. Denon makes no promises when it comes to DualDisc playback, due to the format’s somewhat inconsistent playability. Also, the 3910 will not play VCDs, which has risen as a quasi-format seemingly for movie pirating purposes. Personally, I don’t fault Denon for this, nor do I think it changes its “universal” status. It’s not Denon’s problem if after more than 20 years of compact disc, some idiot from on high decides to throw the standard out the window. As for VCD, no, you don’t need to see the final installment of “Star Wars” on your computer before it hits theaters. The solution is to pony up the 12 bucks and buy a ticket. The 3910 features both Dolby Digital and DTS decoding capabilities, as well as HDCD. As for video, the 3910 features Faroudja’s DCDi processing, which works hand in hand with its progressive scan to ensure the clearest, sharpest picture, devoid of typical digital video artifacts and “jaggies.” Along with DCDi, the 3910 offers 3:2 pull-down detection, as well as NSV, or Noise Shaped Video Precision Video, for reducing noise levels in the video frequencies.
Lastly, there’s the remote. Well, it’s a remote, all right – a large, awkward and impossible to use in the dark remote. Sure, it has backlighting, but it only illuminates the basic functions like play and stop. With the lights up, it truly gives you control over all of the 3910’s numerous functions, but I like to work in dim (or no) light when doing reviews or watching movies.
I connected the 3910 to the Denon 4806 THX Ultra2 7.1 receiver (review forthcoming) via its component, DVI, iLink and IEEE 1394 outputs. I did utilize all of the 3910’s connection options. However, I made my choices based primarily on ease of operation. For the video portion of this review, the duties fell to my trusty Panasonic PT-500U HD-LCD projector with my ever-ready Definitive Technology ProCinema 80 system taking care of the audio duties.
The 3910, like any good component, requires a few adjustments before maximum playback quality can be enjoyed. With what has to be one of the simplest onscreen displays I’ve ever seen, I was able to navigate and calibrate the 3910 with little to no need for the manual. This is not to say that the manual isn’t valuable: it is, and is very well written to boot, but if you’ve set up a DVD player before, you shouldn’t have a problem with the 3910. With the help of the iLink and IEEE 1394 connections (both of which are supplied with the 3910), I was up and running in less than 30 minutes.