|Denon DVD-2900 Universal Disc Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Monday, 01 March 2004|
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CDs, SACDs and DVD-Audio Tracks Starting with CDs, I fired up Sly and The Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher” (Epic) to hear a nicely dynamic sound, considering the modest price of the Denon receiver and Gallo Acoustic speakers being used. The imaging was solid and the sound was better than I expected. In playing with the Pure Direct button on the front of the DVD 2900, I couldn’t really hear any difference in Mode 1 vs. Mode 2 vs. off, so I left the feature off.
On “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” from The Beatles Rubber Soul (Capitol/Apple Records), the Pure Direct feature was more noticeable. I opted for Mode 2, which made the instrumentation sound incrementally clearer in the left and right speakers. Overall, the imaging remained strong and the soundstage was surprisingly wide, considering how close together I was forced to place the three front Gallo speakers.
The DVD 2900 transitions easily to SACD. Literally, drop the disc in and it defaults to the surround mode. There is a very thoughtful button on the front of the machine that allows you to switch from multi-channel to stereo to CD layer on the SACD without the use of a video source.
On “Breathe” from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon (Capitol), you can hear an exciting surround sound mix that uses all of the available speakers to create an all-encompassing sound experience. At higher levels, you could hear some brightness in the top end, which is not evident on more expensive players and on far more expensive systems. “Money” sounded more liquid and three-dimensional at higher levels. The cash register sound effects ping-ponged from speaker to speaker at high levels, but did not sound as thin as some of the effects sounded on “Breathe” when auditioning the DVD 2900 vs. other SACD players like my Sony. “Time” is one of the most difficult tests of a player, because it needs to be able to hold up to the potentially shrill clocks without sounding overly aggressive. The DVD 2900 did a passable job, but some levels of brightness could still be heard even into the song in ways that couldn’t be heard from my Sony SACD player.
I liked the way the bass sounded on “Ten Inch Record” from Aerosmith’s Toys In The Attic (Columbia) on SACD. The low end was in fact low and nicely round-sounding. The mix of the record was fun and more neutral-sounding than Dark Side when listening on the DVD 2900. On “Walk This Way,” you can hear a very real Les Paul sound from guitarist Joe Perry that is alive, open and resolved. I was really impressed with the level of details I could hear, especially on the surround mix, on this recently remixed-for-surround rock ‘n’ roll classic.
Moving to DVD-Audio, the DVD 2900 also defaults to surround MLP mode. If you want to change the settings or access the added values, you can do so via the onscreen menus.
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” from the recently released Pet Sounds from The Beach Boys (Capitol) glistened with resolution you might not expect from a 1965 recording remixed for surround sound. I have been listening to the disc on my Meridian 800 DVD-Audio player (about $19,000) and found the DVD 2900 keeps up nicely with the performance I heard on the Meridian. While the highs were not as resolved as on the Meridian, they did sound musical and non-threatening. The vocal harmonies wrapped around the listener and created a surrounding experience that was warm and engaging as you might expect from a high end DVD-Audio player. I wasn’t really expecting it from a $999 player, but I was sure happy to find such fantastic audio results.
The DVD 2900 did a great job with Al Green’s Greatest Hits (Hi Records – EMI) on DVD-Audio when compared to other DVD-Audio players I have heard. The DVD 2900 was able to reproduce the sultry soul feel of this classic 1970s recording on tracks like “Still In Love With You.” The guitar tone is ultra-mellow and the organ is even more muted. When the chorus comes in, the organ roars to life, yet all of the vocal and instrumental details remain present and resolved. “Love and Happiness” might be the best the DVD 2900 sounded, with the guitar having a three-dimensional sound, as well as an energetic bite that I liked, juxtaposed with the mellow musical accompaniment.
I have paid a lot of attention to the DVD 2900 as a music playback component, but I don’t want to confuse the fact that it is a better DVD-Video transport than it is a DVD-Audio or SACD transport. I was blown away by how good a picture this $999 player could make going component out of the DVD 2900 directly into my Sony KV34XBR910 HDTV WEGA set. In “Zoolander” (Paramount Home Entertainment), when Derrick is taken to the “day spa” by Mugatu’s henchmen (and henchwomen), he is ultimately seated in a space age chair so that he can be brainwashed by Little Cletus (Will Farrell’s Mugatu character in disguise). The colors in the room are soft and gorgeous shades of blue, yet when the shot pans to Zoolander, you can see the edgy details of his tragically hip five o’clock shadow. When Little Cletus starts his speech, he is carrying a gigantic lollipop, which is vividly colored. You can at times see sharp detail in terms of each color on the candy.
One of the big problems I have in my big system, which features a 100-inch screen using a Madrigal Imaging D-ILA projector, is the ability to reproduce dark scenes from DVD. “The Sopranos” is the most troublesome source material I play, so I wanted to see how the DVD 2900 could do on my CRT HDTV set. While the TV technology is a big help, the DVD 2900 and its internal Silicon Graphics video processor did a commendable job of trying to resolve the contrast issues during the “Guy Goes To See A Shrink” episode. Tony meets up with his estranged associate, Pussy, after he has disappeared for a number of weeks. In the basement, the lighting is dim but you can see more of the details within the shadows than I could see on other systems. A certain level of graininess is noticeable in the picture. This could be because of the way the show is shot on film, but it was not as present on my larger video system, so I think the blame more likely lies with the video playback system.