DVD-2900 Viewing, Listening Tests and Conclusion
I ran a quick resolution check via the Avia test patterns on the Sony KP-51WS500 HDTV found in our Reference System to determine if the DVD-2900 had better de-interlacing technology than the de-interlacing found in the TV itself.
Using the DVD-2900 in Progressive Scan "Mode#1" I observed no jitter or loss in resolution to the limits of the format. The image was sharp, stable and noise free.
Comparatively my Sony HDTV de-interlacer was no match. Gone was the stable image to the resolution limits, with the added bonus of video noise in the bottom right resolution circle which indicates video degradation.
It's a no brainer that when coupling a fine progressive scan DVD player, such as the DVD-2900 to a RPTV, bypassing the RPTV de-interlacing circuitry in favor of the DVD player is the way to go.
Measurements can be rendered useless if one doesn't appreciate what impact they have on the actual performance of the product. With that I spent a great deal of time actually viewing movies to ensure that the measurements I made were indicative to actual real world product performance.
It's difficult for me not to reference one of my favorite concert DVDs, Eric Clapton One More Car, One More Driver, in my evaluations of audio/video gear just because it sounds and looks great, and is enjoyable to view and listen to. The second track "Reptile" had stunning video performance, especially when viewed on the DVD-2900. I must have watched/listened to this track dozens of times, but until viewing it on the DVD-2900, I never noticed the almost 3-D like appearance of the smoke (from the dry ice, not instruments on fire) emanating around the stage, especially during the keyboard solos. The color balance was so naturally and realistically conveyed that it really immersed me more into the concert since I was equally enthralled with the video and audio presentation.
Monsters, Inc was another example where the Denon DVD-2900 video performance shined. I was clearly able to distinguish the yellowish liver spots on the monster Mikey where on lesser quality players would have been masked or non-existent. On the downside, I did notice the DVD-2900 was unable to reduce artifacts as well as some other players in its price range. This was subtle but apparent on a properly calibrated display in background scenes of Monsters, Inc and LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring.
Unfortunately when I got to Star Trek Nemesis and Star Wars Episode II, my DVD-2900 review sample choked. It was unable to get past the set-up menus on these discs for some odd reason, yet my reference player had no troubles. I contacted Denon tech support about this and it baffled them as well, especially since my review sample seemed ok with every other disc I threw at it. I suspect it could have been one of those first production gremlin bugs, or possibly a mis-aligned assembly caused by shipping. In any event, they promptly sent me another review sample and it had no troubles with these discs or any others I threw at it.
With my new player installed and properly configured (thankfully I wrote down all of my settings from the prior player), I continued with my evaluation. Star Trek Nemesis was perhaps not the best test disc due to its meager video transfer, but I just love watching the battle sequences over and over again. The DVD-2900 delivered superb picture dynamics with very good contrast with eye pleasing color balance making my experience of viewing these battle scenes the most enjoyable to date. Star Wars Episode II was even more impressive thanks to its inherently better video transfer. It seemed apparent to me that the better the video source I feed the DVD-2900, the more obvious its rewards were and its ability to shine above merely average players.
Ok aside from the players' ability to deliver exhilarating video performance, audio buffs like myself are really more concerned with the audio side of the equation. The $64,000 question is, can a universal player truly deliver excellent SACD playback? To put it mildly, previous generation universal players from other vendors mishandled SACD by converting it to PCM. Our subjective listening tests revealed the resultant fidelity of these machines for SACD playback was less than inspiring as we discovered that $300 SACD machines outperformed these universal players by a fairly wide margin. We were pleased to audibly confirm this was definitely not the case with the DVD-2900. The DVD-2900 even included two programmable "Pure Direct" modes which are capable of bypassing all video circuitry and the digital audio output.
These two discs have recently become my most frequently listened to high-resolution software because of musical content and playback fidelity. Patricia Barbers Nightclub is second to none in my listening experience with SACD. If you really want jaw dropping audio fidelity, get this disc!
I configured the DVD-2900 to shut off all video circuitry as well as the SPDIF output and stored the setting as "Pure Direct Mode 1". I began my evaluation of the DVD-2900's SACD playback with Track #3 Yesterdays from the Patricia Barber Nightclub SACD. It starts out soft and mellow and soon explodes to a complex and well orchestrated jazz ballads unfamiliar to the typical self-proclaimed jazz listener who's only exposure to this classification of music is the "Smooth Jazz" crap spoon fed to the public on FM radio. When listening to this track on the Denon DVD-2900 player I was presented with about the largest soundstage and presence in a recording that I have ever heard. In fact, I felt the DVD-2900 compared favorably to my Audience modded Sony SCD-CE775. On the fly DBT testing was not practical between the two players since their output levels were quite different and would involve constant volume level compensation when switching between units. I subjectively felt the DVD-2900 had a smoother, more balanced tonality with more authoritative bass output. Never did the playback sound spitty in character on the DVD-2900 as I recalled when listening to lesser universal players. In fact, I felt the DVD-2900 had a very neutral and revealing sound character. While listening to the entire Patricia Barber SACD, not once did I feel like I was hearing limitations due to mediocre player performance. Instead, I was rewarded with the quality of the recording in all of its glory. Moving on to other SACD's in my collection from Gloria Estefan and Grover Washington Jr, I was equally impressed with the playback. Alas I found a universal player that had no compromises for critical two-channel SACD playback!
Moving on to high-resolution multi-channel, I focused on the fabulously recorded DVD-A disc from Graham Nash Songs for Survivors . I am quite familiar with how this disc sounded on my former Panasonic DVD-RP91k reference player. I use the word "former" because after a few short DVD-A listening sessions on the DVD-2900, I realized it was time for an upgrade. For the first time I heard subtle nuances and details I hadn't imagined existed on the recording. The playback was extremely smooth without sounding sterile while bass extension and definition was most impressive. My Panasonic player was by no means a slouch, but in comparison, the DVD-2900 simply raised the bar on fidelity for high resolution formats. What is even more amazing is that for a meager $200 higher retail price, the DVD-2900 outguns my older Panasonic in terms of both audio and video and throws in a phenomenal SACD engine as a bonus. It just goes to show you how technology advances can result in better value to the consumer. The Denon DVD-2900 is perhaps one of the finest examples of this.
The DVD-2900 is truly an impressive player. It proves that high fidelity SACD and DVD-A playback is both achievable and practical in a single box solution. It is also one of the first players to offer digital delay compensation and bass management via its analog outputs. In addition, the DVD-2900 has provision for subwoofer delay while many of today's costly high-end processors still lack this feature. I was very pleased overall with the DVD-2900's video playback performance. I felt it had excellent black level contrast and color balance while also displaying a very impressive picture via its interlaced and de-interlaced outputs. I was mildly disappointed that minor artifacting was more noticeable than on other players in this price category. However, it took a keen eye, appropriate disc, well-calibrated display and an almost anal-retentive compulsion to expose such problems for it to be evident. The DVD-2900 caters to the audiophile and videophile alike and should please even the most critical home theater aficionados. This player is a major step in the right direction and serves as a benchmark for other hardware vendors to follow. The reasons for hardware vendors not to be making DVD players universal at this price point, and somewhat lower, are going. going. gone!
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
|Standard Definition Video Performance|
|High Definition Audio Performance|
|Analogue Audio Performance|
|Ergonomics & Usability|
|Ease of Setup|