DVD-2900 Player Overview and Setup
For quite some time
now we had been criticizing the hardware implementation limitations of
DVD-A/SACD players based on their lack of bass management and digital delay
Soon after, a few manufacturers began releasing universal players to handle, or less mildly put, mishandle both formats. In addition to these players not offering bass management and digital delay compensation for both formats, they converted DSD to PCM resulting in less than pristine SACD playback. Denon was a bit late to the game in offering a universal player, but for good reasons. As with all of their current products, I suspect they wanted to do it right rather than half way. With that, they unleashed the almighty DVD-2900 Universal DVD player which, because it did so many things correctly, caused about 80% of the content in my previously mentioned articles to go obsolete.
Thanks to Denon, for about $1000 you can now get a superbly crafted progressive scan DVD player than handles video as well as it does CD, DVD Audio and SACD. Only a few years ago this was neither commonplace, nor was it even achievable. Now that's progress!
I quickly realized after unboxing the DVD-2900 that I was dealing with a quality piece of hardware. This player was perhaps the most solidly constructed unit I ever had the pleasure of reviewing. Its presence actually embarrassed my much smaller and lighter, but not much less expensive, reference DVD-A player. I soon displaced my reference player off my rack with a little remorse which soon transformed into anticipation of the DVD-2900's potential.
With a feature set this impressive, the DVD-2900 will surely satisfy the most demanding audiophile and videophile alike whose objective is to own a top notch DVD player that handles the latest DVD Audio and SACD formats with equal favor.
Configuring the Denon DVD-2900 was about as intuitive as can be for such a sophisticated machine. However, one of my navigational pet peeves was experienced while operating the DVD-2900. The On Screen Display (ODS) did not allow the user to back out to a previous menu. On more than one occasion, I have scrolled through about a half dozen menu levels only to realize that I went one too far with no recourse except for subsequently having to exit the menu set-up screens and start all over again. I noted this same problem with the Denon AVR-5803 receiver and can only hope Denon improves on this to satisfy nitpickers like myself.
Unfortunately the DVD-2900 did not remember setup or last chapters viewed of DVD's or CD's when power cycled, or when the DVD/CD was removed and then reinserted. One player in this price range that does is the Sony DVP-NS999ES. The Sony actually stored the information and was able to restart the DVD or CD where it was left off even if the disc had been removed! Furthermore, the Sony retained all of the settings (ie. video and audio), so the next time the DVD was placed in the player, it defaulted to those settings. This is also true if other DVD's and/or CD's were played in between returning to the original DVD. Although the Sony player did not allow the user to enter player set-up menus when a DVD was playing. The Denon DVD-2900 did however, which proved quite useful when tweaking settings on the fly and observing their immediate impact on the source material. Note that a majority of DVD players require a full stop of the DVD prior to accessing the player setup menus.
The remote control included with the DVD-2900 is better than the typical Panasonic OEM found on Denon's lower models. Though I do prefer having a joystick like interface rather four arrow pads and an enter button. I find a joystick to be easier to navigate and less cumbersome in operation.
It was a pleasantly surprised that the DVD-2900 provided the option of setting channel trims and delay compensation (including the subwoofer) for DVD-A. Many receivers, let alone some exotic processors don't offer this level of flexibility with subwoofer set-up. Unfortunately the digital delay compensation did not apply to SACD. To my knowledge Sony holds rein of that option, and at the time of writing this review, I am only aware of one player currently shipping (the Sony DSP-NS999ES) which offers this while also preserving multi-channel SACD as a DSD format. This didn't affect me too much as all of my SACD discs are two-channel recordings.
Using the internal test tones of the DVD-2900, I was unable to achieve an accurate level balance with my 5.1 speaker set-up. I found the test tone generator outputted too much low frequency energy emphasizing the bass content of my left front speaker and subsequently yielding an inaccurate reading on my SPL meter. I set all channel trims of the DVD-2900 to the "0dB" position and the subwoofer channel trim to "-6dB". The reason for this is that I have found that most DVD players subwoofer output produces higher distortion (due to digital domain clipping) when maxed out. By setting the sub level to -6dB, this allows for more overhead and usually eliminates the likelihood of clipping or distortion. The user can simply add the gain back via the receiver/processor if need be. I then used the Avia disc test tone to calibrate the player. Note that DVD-2900 was now properly calibrated for DD/DTS playback, but not for DVD-A/SACD due to the inherent subwoofer level differences between the formats (10-15dB). Denon has a "Set-Up Tips" technical paper that discusses this very issue and I recommend reading it.
I ultimately used the Denon's AVR-5803 +15dB boost setting via the external multi channel audio inputs to get me where I needed to be and tweaked the final level by ear with several DVD-A discs to ensure proper bass balance or at least proper to my listening preferences.
According to the DVD-2900 Users Manual, the "Filter Off" feature defaults all channels to full range and boosts the subwoofer level 5dB for DD/DTS and 15dB for DVD-A/SACD sources. After comparing the two settings and compensating for subwoofer level differences, I ultimately preferred the "Filter Off" setting in my configuration. I just could not achieve proper system bass performance in my set-up in the "Filter On" position. In the "Filter On" position I was able to achieve decent low end bass response in my set-up but had difficulty with the mid-bass performance causing many DVD-A discs to sound thin. Switching back to the "Filter Off" position resulted in a more uniform and satisfying blend of system bass performance. Since all of the speakers in my reference system are full range capable, this did not present a significant problem. I recommend experimenting with both settings to determine what works best for your speaker configuration and listening preferences.
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