Denon DVD-A1UDCI Configuration and Setup
The Denon DVD-A1UDCI is NOT an easy player to setup properly. Let me repeat this. It’s not easy to set this player up. The user manual is terrible just like most Denon manuals tend to be. I have collected my setup notes and hope you find them useful when dialing in the basic operation of this player. After you make all of your connections (ie. HDMI, D.link, etc), follow this configuration procedure and you will be on your way towards Blu-ray nirvana.
Step 1: Go to the “Other Setup” menu option
Make sure you have an Ethernet cable connected and no disc inserted in the player. Select “Firmware Update” to download the latest firmware for this player. There have been 3 firmware updates since this player was released to market and I highly recommend getting the latest before operating this player. I didn’t and found operational issues when doing my testing which all disappeared after the firmware update.
Step 2: Go to the “Video Setup” menu option
This is where you set the aspect ratio for your display as well as resolution and scaling options for component video. I use “Wide(16:9) instead of “16:9 Squeeze” so the image completely fills the screen on 4:3 material.
Step 3: Go to the HDMI Setup menu option
This menu option affects the function of this player on many levels both audio and video. Personally, I feel Denon should have kept the Audio stuff in the main “Audio setup” menu, as I found myself having to go back and forth between the “HDMI” and “Audio” menus to get this player’s audio settings properly configured. If you are a D.Link user (fellow AVR-5308CI and AVP-A1HDCI users), skip down to Step 5).
Although the manual does a terrible job of explaining this, you CANNOT get the player to do any decoding via the analog outputs unless you set it properly. To configure the audio output for HDMI, select the “Audio Setup” submenu in the HDMI menu. This menu can only be accessed if you disable D.Link first.
Setting HDMI Audio Output
- Auto – outputs bitstream signal decoded by the A/V receiver/processor. This is the setting you’ll likely want to use if you have an HDMI 1.3 receiver/processor.
- Multi LPCM BM On – decodes the audio signal, applies bass management and sends to the A/V receiver / processor as multi channel PCM.
- Multi LPCM BM Off – decodes the audio signal, sends it as multi channel PCM where the A/V receiver/processor applies bass management.
- 2 CH – downmixes signal to two-channel audio
- Mute – disables audio via the HDMI output and allows the player to do all of the audio decoding and bass management sending it out to the 7.1 analog outputs. Choose this option if only using the analog outputs of this player to have it doing all of your multi channel decoding.
In this menu, you also assign Deep Color, Color Space, HDMI control (power options to sync with your display), and HDMI resolution for your display of the two HDMI outputs. You can independently set all of these options for each HDMI output except resolution.
Editorial Note About HDMI YCbCr vs RGB
When setting up HDMI, you must consider the following selection of HDMI YCbCr or HDMI RGB. In most cases, the former is the appropriate one to use with the latter being utilized mostly for computer type displays. It really depends on how the color space conversion of your display is done so I suggest trying both settings and if you don’t see a notable difference, use the YCbCr setting.
Don’t forget to enable SACD if you plan on passing it out via the HDMI cable to your A/V receiver/processor.
When you’re done here, exit out of the Setup menu and hit the “HDMI Res” button towards the top of the remote. I set mine to “Auto”. Be warned if you set the resolution to “1080p24” then you may experience a very unnatural movement in the picture when playing back source material other than 24fps.
Step 4: Go to the “Audio Setup” menu option
There isn’t as much to do here as you would think since most of the critical audio settings of this player are located in the HDMI setup menu as I previously stated. If you are using the analog outputs of the player exclusively, here is where you setup your bass management, speaker levels and delay settings. You also configure audio mixing options for Blu-ray and compression. Set compression to “off”. This is a high resolution player, don’t limit your dynamic range!
If you’re using the balanced analog outputs of this player for high end two-channel playback, the DVD-A1UDCI allows you to invert output polarity of the channels and adjust gain as well.
Step 5: Set Mode
If you think you’re done with setting the audio options of this player so you can sit down and wonder in the sonic marvels of Dolby TrueHD and DTSHD, you are mistaken. There is one more critical step here which I think is ridiculous but Denon cannot be faulted as it’s apparently a Blu-ray standard. Unless you hit the “Mode” button and select “HD Audio Output”, your A/V receiver/processor will NOT be able to decode TrueHD and DTS HD audio tracks on Blu-ray discs. The default setting is “Mix Audio Output” which includes secondary audio options for Blu-ray. To heck with that, this is a high end Blu-ray player. Make sure you’re decoding audio at the best possible resolution.
If you don’t like to see horizontal black bars on your 2.35:1 Blu-ray discs, you can select “Vertical Stretch” in this menu as well. From an installers perspective it’s a very good feature that gives their customer a warm fuzzy feeling that their screen has a full image all of the time and they aren’t wasting wall space. Just don’t forget to disable it on 16:9 movies, else people will look a bit taller and thinner than they should.
Step 6: Setting D.Link (for AVR-5308CI, AVP-A1HDCI and DL4 enabled Denon products)
Getting D.Link 4th to function properly was no small task and the user manuals were of little help. It took me calling Denon tech support and a couple of emails to get that 3rd blue light to come on the front panel of the DVD-A1UDCI letting me know Denon’s doing the clocking for Blu-ray.
Following this D.Link setup procedure exactly, had my system working properly in no time:
- Enable HDMI control on both the AVP-A1HDCI and DVD-A1UDCI.
- Turn Denon Link off on the DVD-A1UDCI. (This has to be off to change settings for HDMI.)
- Set HDMI Audio to auto on the DVD-A1UDCI
- Turn Denon Link 4th on in the DVD-A1UDCI
- Set HDMI Mode to HDMI Dual (Auto) on the DVD-A1UDCI
- Assign Denon Link to the appropriate source on the AVP-A1HDCI
- Set the Input Mode to Auto on the AVP-A1HDCI
Step 7: Advanced Video Set-Up
Denon’s infamous “Picture Adjust” hot button on the remote appears so inconspicuous but has the ability to change the picture so drastically on your player. You’d almost think Denon would have hidden this function in a video menu of the player Setup, but they didn’t. Hitting this button brings you to a menu enabling you to adjust contrast, brightness, sharpness, hue, and gamma correction and engage picture enhancement and noise reduction features. This is particularly useful when connecting multiple sources to a display on a common video input.
Picture Adjustment Menu 0 or +7.5 IRE
After playing with few Blu-ray machines (this one and most recently the Oppo BDP-83), I’ve learned that 0/+7.5IRE has no affect on HDMI output anymore. I did some digging and found that 7.5 IRE is defined only for 480i video signal in US TV broadcasting standard (SMPTE 170M) and not available for HD. The DVD-A1UDCI complies to this recent standard, so unless you are outputting 480i analog video, the player will be locked into a 0IRE setting. If you’ve got a player that allows you to change this setting on anything other than 480i analog outputs, then it doesn’t follow this standard. This is not a big deal, but it was interesting to note how much I had to change the settings on my projector to get proper black levels compared to my Denon DVD-5910CI Universal DVD player.
Editorial Note on IRE
The digital video implementation for HDMI output is defined in CEA-861D. It further refers digital value encoding to ITU-R BT.601-5 and ITU-R BT.709-5 for SD and HD video respectively. “For the coding shall be 8-bit coding (scale of 0 to 255). R, G, B and Y signals shall have 200 quantization levels with the black level corresponding to level 16 and the peak white level corresponding to level 235. The signal level may occasionally move beyond level 235.” We also see signal level below 16 often encoded in DVD and BD contents.
The IRE level is an analog idea. CEA-861D also provides recommendations for converting digital to analog and aligning the IRE level: “It is recommended that for RGB or Y, the black level (i.e, sync level and blanking level) should be aligned with the video portion of the signal at digital levels 16 and the white level at digital level 235, such that the full range of the digital to analog converted signal is the same as the actual video. This means that zero analog level (0.0 IRE) should be associated with digital level 16. Digital levels 1 – 15 (undershoot region) and level 235 – 254 (overshoot region) are recommended to be passed through the digital to analog converter; however, full range of the analog signal should be aligned with 16-235 since it is expected that essential video is in the 16-235 range.”
Base on the above, its safe to assume 0 IRE for black reference (digital 16) is recommended by the CEA-861D standard.
DNR (Dynamic Noise Reduction) – recommended setting +2. When using video clips from HQV and Spears/Munsil, I found a +2 setting was sufficient enough to reduce noise without dulling the image.
Enhancer – emphasizes the contour or sharpness of the image. I found I had to boost this to around +6 on my display to get clear resolution enhancement.
Sharpness (medium/high range) – use the “medium” range setting to adjust sharpness of analog video and the “high” range setting for HDMI video. I varied the control up and down and didn’t find it to make much of a difference which was a bit puzzling to me.
The DVD-A1UDCI also allows you to adjust contrast, brightness, black level and white level which seems a bit redundant since contrast is synonymous with white level and brightness is synonymous with black level. I guess Denon just wanted to be geeky and give you multiple ways to skin a potato. The DVD-A1UDCI offers gamma correction and the ability to adjust picture vertical and horizontal positioning to fine tune your image position and minimize pixel cropping.
Step 8: Miscellaneous Setup
After you have all the important stuff setup on the DVD-A1UDCI, its time to customize its operation for your personal use.
Go to “Other” menu option
Denon gets a thumbs up for being green friendly. They included an “Auto Power Mode” that can be set so the player goes into standby mode if it’s inactive for more than 30 minutes. There are several “Power Savings” options that can be set to reduce idle power consumption at a penalty of longer power up times and sacrificing RS-232C and/or HDMI control. I mostly used “Quick Start Mode” during the review process which consumes the most idle power but offers the quickest load times which are important when flipping through discs for review. You should experiment with what works best in your setup and consider using one of the lower power settings if you don’t mind waiting a bit longer to load up a disc and hit play.
Denon takes functionality of “Pure Direct” to a whole new level with this product. There are two independent user presets that can be configured to enable/disable digital audio outputs, video, and front panel display. With “Pure Direct” engaged and using the analog outputs, I actually did see a measurable improvement so purists will definitely want to keep this in their pocket.
In operation, the DVD-A1UDCI is one smooth operator though it’s not as speedy at loading or removing discs as the rabbit Oppo BDP-83. Where the Oppo powers up and has you playing a disc in just under 30 seconds, the Denon does the same at around 45 seconds (in quick start mode). This is much better than some of the older Blu-ray and HD DVD players we’ve tested that could take several minutes or longer.
With HDMI control engaged, as soon as I hit the eject button on the DVD-A1UDCI to insert a disc, it had my AVP-A1UDCI processor switching to the right input. Very cool. The DVD-A1UDCI ejects a disc in just a few seconds which again is very good and better than some of the other players we’ve tested.
Every now and then the DVD-A1UDCI player would go Windows Vista on me in that it would lock up after I’d insert a blu-ray disc and wouldn’t power down no matter how many times I’d hit the power button. Instead, it would show a disc loading on my display and I’d get a green flashing power light that only after waiting a couple of minutes or unplugging the player and plugging it back in would resolve. Aside from these occasional psychotic episodes, the player operated just fine.
I integrated the DVD-A1UDCI into my Middle Atlantic Rack in the Audioholics Showcase Home theater reference system where the matching Denon AVP-A1HDCI preamp/processor and POA-A1HDCI 10 channel amplifier reside. It was quite an impressive site to see all these of these components in the same rack and I’d imagine this would be a Denon lover’s wet dream. The speaker system consisted of a 7.1 RBH Sound Signature T-30LSE speaker system with dual Velodyne DD-15 subwoofers. The entire system is power protected by dual APC S20 power conditioners and SBATTS. I connected the components up with Impact Acoustics Sonicwave HDMI cables, Bluejeans 1694 Coax cables and 10AWG speaker cables and the Denon supplied Ethernet cable for the D.link connection. Denon happens to sell an “audiophile” Ethernet cable with an asking price of several hundred dollars. Don’t waste your money on that hyperbola unless of course they coat it with kosher chicken fat blessed by a Rabbi.
Guys clearly the player is in a leaque of it's own , regarding either video or audio performance.
But specifically audio through balanced outs is phenomenal.
I totally agree! This players performance is superb! This is the best PQ and sound I've yet experienced from a Blu-ray player. And the fully balanced analog section is indeed phenomenal!
I've had my A1UDCI for 3 months now, and it puts a smile on my face every time I use it. It's an awesome machine!
is a player like this really that much better than say the new Oppo?
I doubt it; probably some specs are better but I really doubt you would actually see differences. My, oh my - 4500$ for a blu ray player? That must be the "lottery winner edition". For me it doesn't make sense.