|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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Audio enthusiasts struggle to understand why every DVD player can’t always play every kind of disc. The answer is complicated and often has to do with nothing more than the raw cost of the universal drives. It is expensive, especially for a high-end audio/video company, to buy a transport from an OEM manufacturer and make it into a player that can play all of the new formats. Some of the early players that can play both DVD-Audio and SACD skimp on bass management for SACD and/or convert DSD (the technology that makes SACD sound its best) into PCM, which is the technology that is most associated with DVD and even CD. For an audio enthusiast, these compromises are wholly unacceptable, which presents a difficult challenge. In order to do DVD-Audio and SACD correctly, audiophiles needed separate players, as well as a receiver or a preamp with two sets of six-channel analog inputs. Up until recently, that was a whole other costly problem.
Enter the Denon DVD 2900. Powered by the vast engineering team at Denon, this $999 player successfully plays both of the new audio formats with their own dedicated audio sections. The 2900 also includes a Silicon Image video processor for 480p “progressive” output and Burr Brown 24-bit audio DACs. This kind of laundry list of internal parts is what you might expect to hear from an ultra-high-end player, so at $999, this player becomes an even more interesting option, even for music and movie enthusiasts who have other, much more expensive components.
Other features on the DVD 2900 include full digital bass management for DVD-Audio, featuring Analog Devices’ Melody 32-bit processor and 80Hz crossover with 12dB high and 24dB low pass slopes, as well as full digital bass management for SACD, and 80Hz crossover with 6/12dB slopes on all channels. The DVD 2900 plays every disc format I can think of, including audio/video CDs; DVD-Audio/Video, Super Audio CD, DVD+/-R/RW(conditional), Audio CD-R, Audio CD-RW and MP3 CD-R/RW (128 or higher kbps work best). The pure direct modes defeat “unneeded” portions of the player for the ultimate in audio performance. RS-232C and remote in/out ports are included, so you can control the DVD 2900 by a sophisticated remote control system. There is also a Glo-Key remote control, which is useful for darkened rooms and nighttime use.
The Denon 2900, unlike its digitally connected big brother, the DVD 5900, still connects via an analog six-channel connection, so you need three pairs of good interconnects, a good digital audio cable as well as a component video cable. While the player cost about a grand, you should expect to invest at least another $200 to $300 for cables in order to get the most from the player. If you are going for the ultimate in performance from all of the new formats, you need to use exactly the same interconnect for all six of the analog connections. One connection that is often and mistakenly overlooked is the video connection. The video processor in the DVD 2900 is excellent and, by using a poor video cable, you are giving away a healthy percentage of your video performance right between your DVD player and video monitor or receiver. I recommend considering using a very high-quality component cable despite the investment cost. I used Transparent’s entry-level component cable, which costs about $350. I used Ultralink interconnects for the analog and digital audio connections which sell for less than the video cable.
You might want to use the menus of the DVD 2900 to assign the size of speakers you have. I am used to setting everything to full-range in my reference theater system. In the case of the 2900, which was primarily in my bedroom, I needed to make sure that it was set up for small speakers across the front as well as in the rear. I did the same in my matching Denon AVR 3803 AV receiver, which also has bass management. These set-up tweaks keep my system from getting blasted with low-frequency information in speakers that might not be able to handle it. My grapefruit-sized Gallo A’Divas fit wonderfully in my bedroom theater, but they can’t rock 20 Hz at full volume like you might expect to hear on a dynamic DVD-Audio or SACD disc. Within seconds, I was able to make the DVD 2900 aware of my situation and the bass was diverted to the Gallo sub. The difference in sophistication with the bass management of this player vs. my older Sony SCD-ES555 SACD changer was impressive. Granted, the Sony is now a year or two older than the newer Denon, but the way you can set up the bass management on the Denon was greatly improved.