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DVD-5900 Configuration and User Interface

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Bass Management Anomaly for Multi-Channel SACD or Format Incompatibility?

Over the past couple of months I have been playing all multi-channel SACD's with the DVD-5900's bass management enabled (PCM conversion) with no ill operational or audible effects in my testing. However, the inconvenience of toggling DLink on/off in both the player and receiver was becoming rather tedious; especially since toggling the DLink reset all speaker settings. I opted to leave the player configured in DLink "2nd Generation" to test its ability to automatically pass analog multi-channel SACD to the receivers external analog inputs.

DVD-5900 Player Configuration

AVR-5803 Receiver Configuration

Speaker Sizes: Large, Sub Crossover: 100Hz (doesn't matter since once engaged in DLink, bass management is defeated)

Configured per Denon's latest Audio Set-Up Tips .

Channel Levels: All 0dB, except Sub Level +10dB

Note: EXT-1 Analog Mode Bass Boost +15dB

Link engaged after speaker sizes, channel trims, delay times set since these data banks reset to default if DLink toggle on/off as I indicated in the DLink anomaly.

Digital Input: DLink, default to EXT-1 with no Digital signal.

Playing back multi-channel SACD with the hardware configured as tabulated, and with the following conditions revealed some situations that were not very ideal during playback on one particular multi channel SACD from Norah Jones.

With DLink engaged, I now allegedly have +10dB sub boost from player, and +15dB sub boost from Receiver, = 25dB boost! When I engaged the SACD disc at reasonable listening levels (75dB SPL at listening position), the subwoofer amps did not even trigger on. Until I turned the sub channel trim to max setting +12dB, there is not enough gain to even trip my subs on in "automatic" mode. When they finally activated, they were extremely low despite the (10+15+12 = 37dB) gain boost! As a side note, using this configuration now messed up my channel trim settings when DLink was engaged for DVD-A/ DD /DTS since there was only one global channel trim setting for each external input regardless of source type. I am not convinced the +10dB sub boost in the DVD-5900 was being retained when I engaged Dlink on since it didn't seem to audibly improve my anemic subwoofer output problem in this application.

The most bizarre output I achieved from my subs via the DVD-5900 in multi-channel SACD was with DLink turned off, Source Direct On, and Bass Boost +10dB on the player. The subwoofers were now producing extremely LOUD full range signal with little bass. I am not sure what exactly I was hearing here (or what channels for that matter) since Norah Jones was blasting out through my subwoofers as clear as day. I can only speculate that the Norah Jones SACD was recorded for six full range channels and not a typical 5.1 playback system. One of the problems with DVD-A/SACD is the potential format incompatibilities it can have with a home theater system. The sixth channel for DVD-A/SACD is NOT designated as a dedicated subwoofer/LFE channel, and is more commonly known as an overhead channel intended for an ambient raised (usually center channel) speaker. This format makes little sense in a home theater system traditionally configured for five discrete channels and a dedicated subwoofer. Many recording engineers realize this and mix these high resolution discs for a 5.1 configured system. However, there are exceptions such as the Toy Matinee DVD-A disc and perhaps the Norah Jones multi-channel SACD. Unfortunately I did not have any other multi channel SACD's on hand to verify, however according to Denon's Product Manager Jeff Talmadge , he did not notice this problem on Keb Mo's multi-channel SACD indicating it could be software dependent based on the mix itself. At this point I would conclude this is a software problem that thankfully the DVD player and/or receiver can resolve with proper bass management.

Tech Note: Our recommendation for multi-channel SACD playback are as follows:

  • Step 1: Write down your speaker level and delay times stored in the player.

  • Step 2: Disable DLink during multi-channel SACD playback.

  • Step 3: Restore your levels in the player.

  • Step 4: Set all speaker to "Small" to enable bass management.

Alternatively, you may opt to leave the player as is and configure the AVR-5803's (or equivalent) EXT inputs to "DSP" to enable the receivers bass management and digital delay compensation as documented in Denon's previously mentioned Audio Set-Up Tips.

Both methods involve DSD-PCM conversion, however my method keeps everything in the digital domain for processing while Denon's method involves two additional conversion stages (A/D -> D/A). Note that despite the argument often debated on audio forums about DSD->PCM conversion hindering audio performance, I heard no such limitations in my listening tests. I wasn't even aware that the DVD-5900 was converting DSD to PCM for bass management until I took a look at the block diagrams and schematics of the player after requesting it from Denon. I noted good results with Denon's recommendation for utilizing the receivers' internal bass management, and in the long run, it was a simpler and more convenient solution than my prior four step procedure. However, if you perceive loss of resolution from the added conversion stages, you may wish use my recommendation. I will likely revisit these issues when I obtain more multi channel SACD's. This is yet another reason why I long for the day of standards resolution to allow for DVD-A and SACD passage in the digital domain through an approved transmission media such as Firewire, HDMI, or manufacturers proprietary solutions. In closing on this topic, I urge the user to apply the proper bass management in their set-up if for nothing but to avoid situations when the DVD-A/SACD discs are mixed for six full range channels in a 5.1 home theater world.

Player Interface

I found configuring the DVD-5900 to be less desirable than the DVD-2900. I was displeased at the fact that DVI configuration and enabling "Pure Direct" modes could only be done at the player. Some of the menu settings such as 0/7.5IRE were not intuitive to get to in the user menus, nor were they well documented in the user manual (which initially lead us to believe the player was plagued with a contrast bug when in fact it wasn't.) It was also interesting to note that engaging in "Pure Direct" mode did not disable the front panel display, typical with other Denon products featuring this option. While this may have no audible impact on fidelity, from a psychological standpoint, I would have preferred all Denon products operated in the same manner. There is something settling to know that all unnecessary circuits and displays are disabled when pursing the best possible playback performance. Again, this is more of a minor complaint then an actual operational or performance deterrent.

Slow Menu Navigation Anomaly

Compared to the Denon DVD-2900 and other players previously reviewed, the DVD-5900 exhibited slower than average chapter changing. Navigating through a DVD became almost painfully slow and often unbearably annoying especially when trying to quickly jump to different tracks in DVD concert videos. We reported this finding to Denon during our First Look back in October of 2003, and they claim to have a fix for this due out in the next firmware update. This update should also address other noted issues within this review.

 

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