Denon DVD-A1UDCI Listening Tests and Viewing Evaluation
After I got the DVD-A1UDCI fully calibrated for my system, I was eager to be rewarded with state of the art picture and sound. Knowing this player was coming to me for review, prompted me to stock up on some of the latest Blu-ray offerings. I was eager to see and hear the full potential my system had to offer and based on my initial impressions of this player, I was confident it would show me.
Blu-ray: Star Trek Original Motion Picture Collection
Since I never owned the original Star Trek movies, I warped to Amazon and picked up the Blu-ray set for the first six movies. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much from these movies since they are both old and low budget. I figured the transfers would be pretty lame but since I adore the stories so much it was a good excuse to go Blu-ray.
Boy was I mistaken. The video and sound quality of these movies ranges from very good to top notch. With the DVD-A1UDCI at the helm I was rediscovering these movies as if they were new.
I managed to capture a few screenshots of the brilliant transfers played back on a state of the art blu-ray machine.
Scenes from Star Trek III - the Enterprise faces off with a Klingon BOP
Scenes from Star Trek I – Starfleet academy (left) and Star Trek V - Enterprise meets God? (right)
Seeing the original NCC-1701 Enterprise in 1080p never looked so good. How they butchered this beautiful design in the new high budgeted reality TV meets 90210 movie seemed almost criminal to me in comparison. The depth of the color and sharpness of the imagery in these remastered classic Trek movies captivated my attention. Remastered in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD is no gimmick. The dynamics of the movie were excellent, especially when bearing through the willful destruction of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek III – the Search for Spock. The DVD-A1UDCI was conveying all of the subtle nuances these remastered films had to offer. During the space station scene in Star Trek I – the Motion Picture when they were witnessing the destruction of three Klingon D7 battlecruisers by the hands of V'GER, it was amazing to hear the communication channels of the floating astronauts all around me. Star Trek fans and audiophiles/videophiles unite, these are a great series of movies to add to your Blu-ray collection.
This disc is a treasure for Dave Matthews fans. Imagine him and Tim Reynolds as an acoustic duo in one of the greatest concert venues in the USA. The video and audio quality on this disc is masterful. The DVD-A1UDCI brought out all of the detail in picture and sound you would expect from a flagship player. The color and detail was simply wonderful. You got a great sense of size of the stage and acoustical presence of the venue. “Bartender” showed off the power of Dave Matthews voice as he filled the venue and you could hear him all around you. I did my best to switch on/off D.Link to determine if there was an audible difference. During my sighted tests, I swore that D.link sounded better in that it had more focus and clarity. However, when I got my wife to do the switching, I was unable to statistically prove with a confidence level any higher than 60% that I actually preferred D.link. Realizing the switch time was roughly (3-4 seconds), it’s very hard to determine sonic differences of such minute detail. I could clearly hear the “cha cha” sounds Dave Matthews was whispering in the microphone on “Stay or Leave” in the Audioholics Theater reference system which actually caught me off guard as I never really noticed this on the Audioholics Family room system despite I’ve listened to this disc a good half dozen times. “Crash into Me” had me so mesmerized that I felt like I was at Radio City Music Hall basking in the musical bliss.
I captured a screen shot of Dave Matthews belting out the tunes so you could see the wonderous video quality, but if you want to hear it, you’re gonna have to get this disc and a Blu-ray player.
I ran a gamut of Blu-ray discs I rented from Netflix as well as the sampler discs Dolby is kind enough to send us from time to time. The most notable is on the Dolby demo disc “Sound of High Definition II”. Track #10 “100 sq.ft” from Benny Rietveld really demonstrated just how good this format is, especially when played back on quality reference gear. I don’t know who the singer is on this song, but her voice is simply breath taken and she’s also not unpleasant on the eyes. This is the type of pop/jazz music I wish would make it to mainstream. From the snap of the snare drums to the explosive guitar solo, there seemed to be no limitation to the dynamic range of this recording. The DVD-A1UDCI happily pushed my system to its limits and helped me appreciate just how far those limits were. I tried to close my eyes to better enjoy the music, but the vivid color and detail I was seeing in the instruments had me hooked. I sensed the dormant videophile in me blossom. With endorphins flowing through my body, and bass thumping, I was truly engaged in that “better than being there” experience I love discovering when reviewing the very best equipment in the industry.
I often use this disc as a two-channel reference for both its audiophile quality and excellent musical content. I wanted to determine if there was a benefit in using the analog outputs of the DVD-A1UDCI. I placed the player in “high gain” mode since the preamp gain of the AVP-A1UDCI is a bit low and I wanted to better match it to the digital outputs. I disabled Audyssey and bass management to ensure an unadulterated DSD transfer and engaged the DVD-A1UDCI Blu-ray player and AVP-A1UDCI processor in “pure direct mode”.
The percussions in track #1 “What a Shame” sounded incredibly lifelike while the brushes had an airy aura to them. This is what high end is all about. I subjectively felt the analog outputs of the DVD-A1UDCI offered a slightly warmer and less analytical presentation but switch times were painfully long since the AVP-A1UDCI takes around 5 seconds to engage audio once you toggle digital inputs. It was quicker to switch from digital to analog but that also biased me into knowing which input I was listening to. Let me state it another way. Both analog and digital outputs of this player sounded absolutely phenomenal. For me to gauge which input sounded better with such a long lapse in time between switching inputs would be like trying to detect the sound of a gnat farting in Carnegie Hall. I was going on pure emotion here as I felt moved regardless of what output I was using on the DVD-A1UDCI since they all sounded fantastic.
I picked up this SACD at the high end area of CEDIA a few years back after hearing it demoed at one of the exhibits. It’s tranquil Brazilian instrumental music that is recorded incredibly well and demonstrates how well your system can reveal the subtle details in recordings. The acoustic guitar in track #1 “Agreste” sounded so realistic that all you had to do was close your eyes to convince yourself it was a live unamplified performance. The shakers coming from the right speaker just popped at you. I again felt as if the analog outputs of the DVD-A1UDCI sounded a bit warmer than digital yet both sounded phenomenal. Track #6 “Kenya” demonstrated the incredibly low noise floor the DVD-A1UDCI had in order to reproduce such detail of the most delicate instruments and subtle ambient sounds in the recording. This recording is truly a sonic delight.
Comparing the sonic differences between the digital and analog outputs on the DVD-A1UDCI proved to be quite challenging more so than when I did the same comparison on my Oppo BDP-83. I clearly preferred the digital outputs of the Oppo player despite it also sounded very good in analog as well. The differences with the Denon however were much more subtle. At times I preferred the more analytical sound I was hearing for dynamic music with a lot of high energy content via the digital outputs while with acoustical music, I preferred the subjectively warmer and more intimate feel sound of the analog outputs. For two-channel SACD aficionados, I can’t give you any solid recommendation other than hook up both connections and try them for yourself.
I made duplicate copies of this CD so I could directly compare the sonic differences between the Denon DVD-A1UDCI and Oppo BDP-83. This comparison seems kind of silly considering the Oppo player sells for 1/9th the cost of the Denon but it speaks volumes for just how good the Oppo player really is. Most of the time the sonic differences between CD players reveals itself in the high frequencies which is why this CD is an excellent choice to help flesh them out. Carefully listening to the shakers in Track #1 “Uptown East” revealed some significant sonic difference between the Denon and Oppo analog outputs. While the Oppo sounded excellent, the Denon simply sounded cleaner, more detailed and more lively. The bass was also a bit tighter on the Denon as well. Track #4 “Summers End” demonstrated the better stereo separation of the Denon player and the plucking of Chieli Minuccii’s guitar. Switching both players to HDMI made these sonic differences evaporate since the AVP-A1UDCI was doing the D/A conversion. I could listen to this entire CD on other player (digital or analog) and be completely satisfied with the performance. This is a testament to how far digital technology has evolved since the introduction of CD nearly 27 years ago.
As good as the Denon DVD-A1UDCI Universal Blu-ray player is, I can only conditionally recommend for two scenarios:
1. you simply want the very best reference Blu-ray player on the market regardless of price
2. you want to compliment your Denon separates package (AVP-A1UDCI and POA-A1UDCI)
For most consumers the Oppo BDP-83 will serve their functions just as well as the much more expensive Denon player just like a Corvette Z06 would serve a sports car enthusiast as well as a Ferrari 458 Italia. But for the most discerning audiophile/videophile that simply wants the best, you would be hard pressed to do better than this player unless of course you’re ready to pony up an extra $1500 for the Marantz UD9004 which is a clone of the Denon player but with a beefier power supply and copper coated chassis. Though, the Marantz player lacks the allegedly “low jitter” D.link connection so if you’ve already got the Denon separates rig, it makes little sense to go this route at all.
Using an assortment of tests from Silicon Optix HQV and HD HQV, as well as Spears / Munsil Blu-ray, we complied a test procedure to test the video prowess of the DVD-A1UDCI. Unless otherwise noticed, all tests were conducted with the DVD-A1UDCI set to 1080p via the HDMI output.
HQV Bench Tests (DVD)
HQV testing is useful in determining the quality of a systems deinterlacer for standard definition program material. I also use it to help determine the proper level of picture enhancements I need to use on the player under test to get the best possible combination of noise reduction and picture details using the Picture Detail test, I found the best combination of DNR (+2) and Enhancer (+4) in my system.
|Pass / Fail|
|Motion adaptive Noise Reduction||10||10||Pass|
|Cadence 2:2 Video||5||5||Pass|
|Cadence 2:2:2:4 DV Cam||5||5||Pass|
|Cadence 2:3:3:2 DV Cam||5||5||Pass|
|Cadence 3:2:3:2:2 Vari-speed||5||5||Pass|
|Cadence 5:5 Animation||5||5||Pass|
|Cadence 6:4 Animation||5||5||Pass|
|Cadence 8:7 animation||5||5||Pass|
|Cadence 24fps film||5||5||Pass|
Comments on HQV Testing
The Denon DVD-A1UDCI received a perfect score (130/130) on HQV testing via the HDMI outputs but testing component video resulted in a slightly different story. Jaggies #2 marginally passed with 3 points, and the first 3 cadences (2:2, 2:2:2:4, 2:3:3:2, respectively) failed yielded a total score of 113. Apparently the ABT1030 processor used for component video outputs is no match for the Realta processor Denon uses for its HDMI outputs in this regard.
HQV HD (Blu-ray)
|Test||Max Points||Results||Pass / Fail|
|BluRay Noise Reduction||25||25||Pass|
|Film Resolution Loss Test||25||25||Pass|
|Film Resolution Loss Test - Stadium||10||10||Pass|
Comments on HQV HD Testing
The DVD-A1UDCI passed with flying colors (no pun intended) via the HDMI outputs. I found a setting of +2 for DNR was sufficient for greatly reducing noise. I tested the component video outputs at 720p resolution and the player still received a perfect score which was a bit surprising to me since it failed Jaggies #2 for standard definition.
Spears & Munsil (Blu-ray)
This disc is invaluable for properly optimizing picture black level, color, and detail. It’s also quite useful in gauging deinterlacing performance and overall quality of a display or source device. All of the images are in 1080p which makes for quite a spectacular display once you’ve calibrated your system properly.
I checked the DVD-A1UDCI for pixel cropping but found none at all to be reported. Using the pluge patterns I was able to pass blacker than black on my display and with some fine tune adjusting using the Dynamic high and low patterns, I was able to set white and black level to near perfection on my display.
The DVD-A1UDCI did fine on all the cadences for the Racecar clip but it had some problems on some of the cadences for the wedge tests as indicated below.
|Test||Pass / Fail|
|Cadence 2:3:2:3 (PF-T)||Pass|
|Cadence 3:2:3:2:2||Fail *|
|Cadence difficult edits||Pass|
Comments on Spears/Munsil Testing
I was surprised to see the DVD-A1UDCI fail some of these cadence tests but it did pass the most critical ones that deal with real video transfers used for DVD/Blu-ray and TV shows (ie. 24p, 5:5; respectively). In comparison, the Oppo BDP-83 passed all of these cadence tests but it failed the 2:2:2:4 cadence test on HQV.
During the Cadence 3:2:3:2:2 test, it caused the DVD-A1UDCI to lock up. Power cycling the player resulted in the captured screenshot. It wasn’t until I unplugged the player and plugged it back in that it would be restored to normal working condition. It was then I proceeded to check for new firmware which I happily found and it eliminated this operational anomaly.
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Recent Forum Posts:
jomark911, post: 644162
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!
gliz, post: 638121
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.