Denon DBP-4010UDCI Blu-ray Player Review 
Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players
Written by Thomas Spurlin   
Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The realm of the reference Blu-ray player can be a fickle one nowadays, where a home theater enthusiast is asked to take an even larger leap of faith above the rest of the pack for incremental improvements.  However, it’s these nudges upwards in quality that create an even more satisfying experience, which is the climate where Denon’s Reference DBP-4010UDCI Universal Blu-ray player makes its entrance.  For a $2,000 list price, you’re going to get a rather impressive-performing audiovisual Blu-ray device; however, the price tags also comes with a few hindrances that’ll squelch a good bit of HD-ready eagerness, namely some time-lagged quirks under the hood and some aesthetic grievances that shouldn’t be experienced with such a esteemed piece of equipment.  Still, the precision once up and roaring is exceptional, boasting the advanced-performing quality with Anchor Bay Technology’s VRS video processor and dual 32-bit DDSC-HD bass processors that you’d expect from the high-end company.  It stands behind its “universal” claim to handle just about any disc thrown in the machine, rendering itself into a sluggish yet stellar device.  

Out of the Box:

Denon’s line of receivers have always been rather large and heavy, something that the aurally-proficient company has carried over into their flagship Blu-ray player.  However, they’ve also got a vein of attractiveness that almost justifies the bulk.  The DBP-4010UDCI towers at 5 and a half inches tall and clocks in at roughly 23 pounds, easily making it one of the tallest and heaviest players around.  It’s obviously constructed with the mind that it’ll be paired with other Denon products in an adjustable rack, seeing as how the height could be problematic in almost any space designated in a media center for a Blu-ray/DVD deck.  It’s sporting the classy brushed aesthetic that’s become the norm for Denon’s electronics as of late, as well as being overwhelming solid with its construction – weighty, sure, but certainly constructed to last for quite a long time.  Denon have also included an Ethernet cable, heavy duty composite / stereo cables (one white-red stereo, one composite video), a thick PC-style power cable, a rather large remote (more on that later), and a dense owner’s manual in both English and French.

Denon Front Disc Tray

Along with being eye-catching at the front, the interface at the front of Denon’s player is also pleasingly streamlined.  At the lower left is a standard power button that glows a dim green when powered on, as well as manual toggles for Disc Layer, Pure Direct, and HDMI Resolution.  Indicator lights hover above those for Clock Control, Denon Link, and Advanced AL24 (essentially standing for Advanced Analog 24 for improved 24-bit PCM output), while the standard array of Elect, Stop, Fast Forward, Pause, and Source buttons are available on the right-hand side.  At the center lies the Display, which contains indicators for HD Resolution Audio being active, Super Audio CD, DVD/CD, Blu-ray discs and SD Memory Card usage.  When the disc tray is ejected, you’ll notice a “gripping” rubbery material that holds the disc in place as it makes its way into the machine.  It’s an attentive earmark that lowers the concern of scuffed discs, as well as adding satisfying, sturdy rigidity to the flexibility of the tray.
 
Denon’s consideration for inputs in their receivers can be clearly seen in the satisfying array of inputs on the rear of the DBP-4010UDCI.  As to be expected, an HDMI port can be found alongside Digital Out in both Toslink/Optical and coaxial varieties, as well as two Ethernet style ports – one for actual Ethernet usage, and the other for usage with the Denon Link functionality.  Lower-grade video resolution outputs are also available, in Component and S-Video/Composite out jacks.  Also included, however, are a dense handful of analog jacks, one series for 7.1 audio out and the other for separate 2-channel stereo functionality.  And, pleasantly, IR remote control and RS-232C jacks have been made available for usage with universal remotes.  For the purposes of the bulk of this review, a 1.3b HDMI cable was sent to Onkyo’s bitstream-capable TX-SR605 and then routed to LG’s 55LH40 LCD. 

Denon Left Front Side

Remote:

Denon has made it pretty clear that they had the usage of their DBP-4010UDCI with universal remotes in mind, because their RC-1140 remote device is an unpleasant clunker.  Its size rivals the likes of Motorola’s cable box remote, measuring at 9 inches in length and nearly an inch and a half thick at its deepest.  Though the bulk of Denon’s remote adds to the awkwardness, the weight and curvature doesn’t help; when in-hand, it’s simply uncomfortable to try and flip through the array of buttons.  The layout is pretty standard, with Resolution/HDMI mode toggles near the top with the two Power On and Power Off buttons (yep, two separate buttons) , with the circular spindle at the center for directional / setup navigation and standard program progression (Play, Pause, FF/RW) buttons nearing the bottom.  Of note, there’s also a Dimmer button to lower visibility of the player’s LED display, a Picture Adjust button to select the “picture mode” elected for usage with the player, and a Disc Layer button to toggle between layers on SACD and such.  Note that a backlight has not been included on this remote, but the buttons are made with brightly luminescent glow-in-the-dark material.  

Setup:

Diving underneath the hood of the Denon DBP-4010UDCI with their gracefully-flowing GUI offers a fine array of tailoring options to both visual and sound elements.  HDMI Setup allows for adjustments to DeepColor (On/Off), Audio signal translation (LPCM, 2CH, Mute), SACD Audio Out (On/Off), HDMI Control, changing between Max Resolution and Panel Resolution, I/P direct conversion of 24fps, and a toggle for RGB Normal/Enhanced and YCbCr Color Space.  Under TV Setup, we can tailor the Aspect Ratio of the television (16x9 Squeeze/WIDE, 4x3 Pan and Scan/Letterbox)), the Component output’s resolution (480i/p, 720p, 1080i), Progressive Mode and TV Active Area.  Mostly, these are straightforward adjustments that were optimized for the purposes of this review – maximum resolution, Deep Color enabled, etc.

A larger amount of video tailoring is available when a disc is already in the player.  Pressing the Picture Adjust button at the bottom of the remote opens up a rotary selector – ranging from Standard to Memory 1-5.  Under each one, the user can make a few changes involving Horizontal & Vertical Position, DNR (noise reduction), Contrast, Brightness, Gamma Correction (which involves a 0 – 255 adjustment grid). Hue, White Level, Black Level, Chroma Level, and Setup Level .  Sharpness can also be adjusted here, notated by the “Enhancer” function, Medium Range Sharpness, High-Range Sharpness, which allow for slight tailoring in all categories – and can result in edge enhancement with each.  

Denon Left Rear Panel

For the Audio portion, a wider cluster of options are available for adjustment, depending on your needs.  Along with adjusting the Compression (Low, Middle, High), the Digital Out Selection (Bitstream, PCM, PCM Downsampling), Downmixing (Lt/Rt, Stereo), and the Source Direct option which involves adjusting the SACD kHz output, we’ve also got two analog adjustment functions: 7.1 Audio Out and Subwoofer Mode.  Initially, with this unit, there were a few handshake issues regarding sound being sent to the receiver.  Adjusting the HDMI settings alleviated the issue; when the disc is in the player, pressing the HDMI Resolution button brings up a menu to toggle the output, which seems problematic underneath anything but Source Direct.  Playing standard-definition DVDs at 1080p24 or other options caused a few handshake issues regarding sound.

Aside from that, we’ve also got a setup function for Denon Link to click together like-minded products, the Pure Direct adjustment field with enables / disables devices for play if you’d rather have the screen off while listening to music, and a full roster of Ratings levels for Blu-ray, DVD, Rating Country Code, and adjustment of password.  For Network Settings, we can adjust DHCP, Proxy, IP Address and MAC Address , if the network isn’t instantly logged into the player upon connection.  Rounding things out, we’ve got a Display Setup that allows for adjustment for Temporary Display, Captions, ScreenSaver, Wallpaper, Still Mode, and Slide Show Time, as well as the Other Setup for general options – BD Data Utility (SD Card functionality is included) Firmware Update, Information, Power Settings, and so on and so forth. 

Denon Right Rear Panel

Performance:

Tossing in Spears and Munsil’s Hand Forged Video disc to test the quality proved to be an exceedingly pleasing affair.  Out of the gate, the unit was exceptionally proficient in black level contrast, detail levels, and most impressively with adaptive deinterlacing (for those keeping score, note the rectangular “weave” pattern).  No clipping could be seen across the spectrum, rendering the test images in a very robust and impressive fashion – on par, at the very least, with other higher-end models.  This quality carried over into screenings of movies on Blu-ray, as well as with DVD upscaling, which both offer wholly satisfying and fluid projections of the material by putting the Anchor Bay Tech’s VRS processor to use.  In short, the “reference” in this player’s tagline is justified with regards to quality.  However, it’s in the egregious load times that the player doesn’t satisfy.  Booting up a disc in a powerful Blu-ray player should be relatively quick, yet the time it takes from disc insert to the material / top menu oftentimes clocked at nearly a minute.   No matter if we’re talking about initial boot or handling JAVA-based material, it’ll get the user to the destination – but it’ll be a lengthy wait.

Blu-ray:


A large chunk of the reservation generated over boot times will be justified once a Blu-ray disc has fully loaded in Denon’s DBP-4010UDCI.  In short, the level of detail, grace of motion within the 24fps movement, and the robust correctness of color saturation are superb, sprinting forward with some of the better high-end models out there right now.  Furthermore, the player’s capacity to bitstream high-resolution audio is also magnificent, showcasing the company’s level of aural proficiency to sublime degrees as it both thunders forward with action-based films and coasts along with discreet audio levels for more delicate sound designs.

First up in Denon’s reference Blu-ray player is Universal’s AVC presentation of Wanted, a robust 2.35:1-framed powerhouse of a Blu-ray.  It sports a candy-coated colorful and richly-detailed image, exhibiting brash saturation amid instances of controlled palette usage while a broad level of motion fills the film from start to finish.  Denon’s player grasps every ounce of motion and bold color usage with aware, accurate fluency, rendering an image that retains natural 35mm film grain and a blistering level of detail throughout.  The light shade of Angelina Jolie’s skin during the shootout in the convenience store parallels well against many of the brash colors, while textures in bricks and density of architecture during panning shots around James McAvoy early in the picture are highly satisfying.   The DTS HD Master Audio is equally as lively as the image, coming out of the gate with wildly explosive sound elements that mostly swing around gunshots, and Denon’s player retains the fluctuating highs and lows with exceptional, controlled breadth.  

Next up comes Criterion’s presentation of Revanche, a 1.78:1-framed, AVC-encoded film that sports mostly cold yet highly-textured cinematography and delicate sound design.  The level of quality in which Denon’s player rendered this piece of work is brilliant, containing delicate gradation of color against stone walls and the angular nature of interior shots to enthralling degrees.  Though mostly an array of slate blues, grays, and a few greens, it does dive into navy blues and some deeper shades of pinkish-reds within the brothel sequences in the picture – and the level of contrast and color pop there impresses in the DBP-4010UDCI.  Revanche showcases little more than dialogue paired against a very thinly-stretched amount of surround/ambient effects, and Criterion’s DTS HD Master Audio rendering is cradled with sublime delicateness in Denon’s player. Striking.

Denon RemoteRounding things out, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber on Fleet Street was given a spin.  The 1.78:1 cinematography is, like many of Tim Burton’s works, starkly contrasted and very, very dark, which also exercises the player’s ability to let muted color slip through a largely black-and-white VC-1 image.  It looks spectacular here, rendering robust white levels and pleasingly deep blacks amid both the exterior and interior bleakness.  The slight green shades in wallpaper and the gentle maroon on Helena Bonham-Carter’s bodice really shine through the image,  all while the graceful film grain drapes is retained extremely well.  The Dolby True HD track present streams beautifully through the Denon, rendering pitch-perfect vocals and very delicate, sumptuous musical cues that retain the film’s macabre elegance.  It’s a gorgeous Blu-ray made bolstered to great lengths in this reference Blu-ray player.

Denon’s DBP-4010UDCI is, as to be expected, a Region A-locked Blu-ray player, as tested by a copy of Fox’s Region B-locked The Fountain – which loaded to the region notification screen, as per normal.  It does, however, play PAL-encoded special features, tested by popping in Tartan’s copy of I’m a Cyborg and loading up the making-of featurette.  It’s also a BD-LIVE / BD-JAVA functional Profile 2.0 unit, as tested with a copy of Universal’s Blu-ray of The Bourne Identity – which booted up the Picture-in-Picture elements just fine.  Just remember: to access the audio, you must switch over the audio to PCM in the HDMI menu, as the player can’t handle bitstreaming audio and streaming the supplemental soundtrack. As an added note, Criterion’s simple menu presentation for Revanche glided along peacefully as well, shifting the menu blocks back and forth without a hitch.

DVD:

The Anchor Bay VRS technology underneath the hood of Denon’s DBP-4010UDCI also does a stellar job at upscaling standard-definition DVDs, rendering images that are just a few (expected) steps shy of HD quality.  A comparison was done head-to-head between Disney’s presentations of The Nightmare Before Christmas, both on Blu-ray and on DVD, and the quality difference really stands as a testament to the internal scaler.  The DVD rendered clean lines, a fine range of motion, and depth of contrast that matched well against the Blu-ray’s stellar tangibility, all while providing pleasing presentations of legacy audio tracks – both Dolby Digital and standard DTS – that stood up to their high-resolution counterparts.  

Sony’s standard-definition DVD of Zombieland was also given a spin in Denon’s reference Blu-ray player, and the quality impresses once again.  Black levels are pleasing and flesh tones are quite vibrant, lining out detail in a fashion that’s highly cinematic in properties for a standard-definition source.  As a final test, Grosse Pointe Blank’s non-anamorphic disc works out the player’s ability to handle zooming on a display.  Sadly, Denon’s player does not come with an internal zoom for non-16x9 content, so the quality’s largely up to the display doing the blow-up.  Bear in mind that this “universal” player does NOT play other region’s discs, as tested by a Region 3 copy of Memories of Murder, yet it does handle region-free PAL-encoded discs, as tested by Tartan UK’s copy of A Bittersweet Life.  

Media Playback, SACD and CD:


Along with the capacity for Blu-ray and DVD discs, Denon’s DBP-4010UDCI also handles the lion’s share of music discs and external media – from DVD-Audio and SACD to MP3 files via SD Memory card – with prowess both with HDMI and analog jacks in use.  Bear in mind that this player doesn’t have a USB port, so all file playing will have to be done via disc or through the SD port.  The player supports a broad range of music files, from AAC and WMA to standard MP3, which all loaded up fine and great flowing through the player.  Playing music taps into an interface that’s a bit on the clunky side, but it still works just fine.  JPEGs can also be accessed via SD Memory Cards and via disc media, a la Fuji and Kodak.  
A copy of 2L – The Nordic Sound was spun to test the capacity of Super Audio CD, both multichannel and 2-channel, CD, and DTS HD Master Audio / PCM high-resolution audio.

Haydn: String Quartet In D (Track 15) became the reference point (as did the Crux Fidelis and Gjeilo: North Country II samples), and each of the formats sounded splendid through Denon’s player.  On the remote, at the bottom, a “Disc Layer” button allows for the user to toggle through the layers on a SACD, as well as electing for either multichannel or 2-channel audio on the specific SACD layer.  The toggle worked impeccably, though the unit itself takes a while to boot up the separate layers (much in the way it takes a while to load up Blu-ray discs).

 

Track 15, the string quartet piece, tests a nice breadth of sound pitches, from flickering highs to very graceful middle-lows with the deeper notes, and they’re immensely satisfying on this unit.  Naturally, the LFE and surround channels are deactivated during musical tracks where they’re not viable.  On the flipside of things, the DTS Master Audio and PCM Tracks of the same samples also sounded wonderful, offering robust multichannel varietals of the tracks to sublime degrees.  Copies of Sigur Ros’ “( )” and “Von” albums also barreled through the player, hitting very controlled, mindful lows and razor-sharp high points.  It’s certainly an impressive audio device, even if the GUI is a shade on the bland side and the load times are wishy-washy.

Pros: Outstanding Audiovisual Quality, Versatile, Runs Cool, Quiet, Adjustable, Built To Last

Denon’s DBP-4010UDCI touts the words “universal” and “reference” along with its product description, and it earns the accolades.  It boasts slack-jawed astounding quality with Blu-ray discs, both with visual and astounding audio presentation, as well as handling upscaled standard-definition DVDs to robust degrees.  Along with that, Denon’s flagship player also becomes versatile when you’re popping in Super Audio CDs, standard CDs, high-resolution music presentations, and a slew of other shiny-surfaced discs, presenting musical quality to an impressive degree for a mostly BD-centric unit.  It’s thus transformed into a highly multifaceted piece of equipment, sizing it up more as the cornerstone for a media center instead of as a separate deck – especially with the level of adjustability it offers with visual and aural tailoring. Moreover, Denon’s player operates at a tolerably cool temperature, as well as staying fairly quiet aside from a few initial boot-up gears whirring with entry of a disc.  Finally, bear in mind that buying this bulky unit ensures that you’re purchasing a player that’s going to be alive for quite some time, as the construction quality is absolutely top-shelf.  

Denon Front View

Cons: Price, Bulky, Load Times, HDMI Handshake Troubles, No USB Port

One thing that’ll cause a bit of trepidation with Denon’s heavy, large player is the price tag, sitting right at $2,000.  The level of quality when the player is running smoothly can really impress at times, but whether it’s worth the step above the other highly-proficient “universal” players, such as Oppo’s BDP-83, is highly suspect.  That’s where the load time issues might come in as a deciding factor, and they’re plentiful with the DBP-4010UDCI; it oftentimes leaves the user waiting, and waiting, for a disc to load, both at initial boot and with actual access to the BD-Java applications.  However, the load times also become problematic with DVDs and other media, rendering the unit as one that’s basically slow.  On top of that, it also has some HDMI handshake issues regarding sound whenever the source is mildly tinkered with, an issue that was aided by the Denon tech support crew but still present with the unit.  And, though a SD card port is available on the player, the lack of a USB port – a more commonplace digital storage medium in-use today – is an added yet middling concern.  

Final Thoughts:

The Denon DBP-4010UDCI is an outstanding player when considering its prowess in audiovisual quality, boasting great imagery and superb sound as an HDMI / analog “universal” flagship player.  However, the required investment into the player makes it difficult to overlook the poor load times, bulky size, and manageable yet present communication issues – especially when other units on the market are just as versatile at nearly the same quality, but at a fraction of the cost.  Denon’s quality is certainly here in this player, even if there are a few issues that steer it away from receiving a more confident seal of approval. 





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