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My Denon DVD 2900 review [long]


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#1 of 154 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 06 2003 - 10:38 PM

Hi guys,
I've received this player yesterday from "soundpros",it came double boxed and no damage to it,so far so good.
Once I opened it I inspected to make sure everything looks good physically,it does.
Fit and finish is a typical for the Denon line that is currently being manufactured,it is considerably bulkier,and heavier,then my previous player by Panasonic,and probably most others out there.The tray has an intentional delay from the point you press "open",and slides with slower motion too.A nice touch.
The buttons have good feel on to it not that cheap plastic feel you get with most others[though below this price class].After I made sure it powers up,I went ahead to wire it to the rest of the system.
The TV Sony Wega K36FV-1 36" direct view,via component.
Outlaw 950 pre-pro,via 6ch analog,+coaxial,and optical digital inputs
Amps by Parasound HC1201 monoblocks [8]
Polk Audio,LSI-9 speakers for front and surround
Polk LSI-c center channel
2 custom build subs,dual shiva[12" sonotube,and a Blueprint Bp 1503 with dual 15" passive radiators,driven by a Crown CE-1000 amp[1000w in bridged mode]

Ok, I will spend more time with the audio evaluation,since this was the main reason I bought this player,and Stacy Spears also reviews this on the Secrets website,and I feel that he's far more qualified to do a video review then me,though I spend a few words on it too.

Setting it up.
Everything happens via on screen menus,which is very easy to do.Many of the factory defaults were what I wanted to set also,so only a few items need it to be changed.
You can download the manual on Denon's website to see all the items for yourselves.
I set all speakers to small,and entered the speaker distance,just as I did with with the Outlaw preamp,the exception is that in the metric system Denon allows me to adjust by 0.1 M[10cm]as oppose to 0.3M[30 cm @1ft],so it's more precise,also the surround speaker distance can be independently entered,and there is a provision for the sub as well,all which is missing or incomplete on the Outlaw.
Next I did a calibration of sound.
I used the internal test tones.I found our now familiar "culprit" the sub channel was about 10db lower,and it was already at the max setting of 0db.
Unfortunately I can't raise the volume on the preamp because it would throw out the balance, on everything comes in els were[other than the 6ch input],so instead of "panic",I simply played some familiar DVD-A disc to see if the bass would lack.
It DID NOT! It sounded just right,as a matter of fact it sounded better then with all speaker large,and using the Outlaw's analog filter on the 6ch input.
So far so good,so I started with DVD-a disk's.
Before I proceed to it's sonics, I encountered a bit of convenience problem that others being mentioning regarding DVD-A,that I was fortunate enough not be exposed,because of my previous Pana DVD-A player.
The ability to change the group settings without turning your tv on,also since I favor MC this shouldn't be a big issue,but I still had to "press play" several times just to get going.So if any of you know a "shortcut" please post it.
Now, the first disc I played was the soundtrack of A.I. from John Williams.
Sound improved considerably with this player compared to my old one.The sound stage on the MC tracks seemed more stable,and focused,and instruments sounded more real,in an acoustic sense,bass was "tremendous" at times without being overblown.
Next up was Vivaldi's Four Season on the Naxos label,also in MC.
The solo violin,was just awesome here,on my previous player it sounded a bit "shrill",and a bit "veiled",all that is gone now,and the noted sound stage improvement,was apparent here as well.No doubt that is due in part of the finally applied correct time alignment settings.
I've purchased a few SACDs so I can finally listen to that format for the first time.
First up was Pink Floyd's DSOTM in MC as well.
This is where my enthusiasm dropped a bit.The mix and the sonics are both less then stellar IMO on this disc.
On the first track David Gilmore's voice sounded like it was recorded with a badly compressed MP-3 it had a digital "ring" to it.The placement of his guitar was all over the place and was "screaming" at me at times.On the "Great Gig in the Sky" things got out of control too,when Clair Torry started to raise her voice the piano started to sound from the surrounds more forcefully,and becoming very distracting.
Dick Perry's sax on "us and them" sounded "weird" unfocused and "wavering".
Comparing the stereo layer to the original cd I thought that the individual instruments sounded better but not some of the vocals,also the sound stage on the SACD seemed pushed forward,which I didn't like.
Next up was Diana Krall's "When I look into your eyes" in Stereo,and MC.
Wow!Finally I was enjoying SACD and it was a clear cut above the CD.Both the MC and 2ch sounded great,I had some issues with the MC mix particularly with Diana's piano "jumping around",but that was minor compared to the goods here.
While my CD is excellent on all accounts the SACD managed to edge it out that includes the sound stage.
Next up was "Friday Night In San Francisco" from Al Di Meola,Paco De Lucia,and John Mc Laughlin.I also had this on cd,an old Columbia pressing.No contest SACD by a big margin.If you not familiar with these guys,all I have to say that they're among the very best guitar players I should say masters of the world.This album is simply their finest effort to date,and it was recorded live.
Acoustic guitars are among the more difficult instruments to reproduce by digital media IMO.This SACD is really stepping up to the challenge here.The guitars are finally sounding like ones here,all the "steely" thinness is gone,so one can focus on the performance which as I said is fantastic.I highly recommend this disc.
Next was Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto with Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos,and the Berlin Philharmonic Orch.conducted by James Levine.
While I have this magnificent piece with other performers,I never heard this particular one before.
This concerto is considered the hardest to play by many but Volodos sails through with ease and finesse,his instrument is simply "sings" as it should for this piece,the orchestra is equally good as well,and the recording is simply outstanding in every way.Even in stereo it sounds spacious yet tight.
The piano "wanders" a bit but it probably due to the venue's acoustics.Great performance great sound.All in all I was very pleased with SACD and the Denon's performance.

I managed to watch some DVDs a well,but I found differences among them a lot less "obvious" then with audio components.
Let's just say that our eyes are far more "objective" then our ears are.
Still there was one obvious difference I found was the lack of "moire" on fine details on objects like a tweed blazer,or a brick covering on a house shot from a distance.
Those were painfully evident with my previous players,not at all with the Denon,I played the new Hunt For Red October,and found that most of the problems I complained about[in a different thread] was reduced considerably.I also watched Patriot Games,and Basic Instinct Director's cut both over a decade old films,and I couldn't find anything objectionable.
I also didn't notice the layer changes at all,the player has a memory buffer which takes care of that.
I was using the digital outs for the sound,and I didn't notice any difference,nor I did expect to with DD and DTS.

The remote is ok but I already programmed my Pronto,so I didn't use it much.The transport keys are glowing in the dark,and it's arranged thoughtfully.All in all this a fine player and finally it does BM correctly and extensively,those who been waiting on such player I know I was, this is it. I highly recommend it!
If you guys have questions fire it away.

#2 of 154 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 06 2003 - 10:55 PM

oh yeah I forgott, the bass manegment works on 2ch as well on any media including cd's.I only used the 6ch output though, not the dedicated 2 ch outputs.I really don't see any reason to utilize those if you use the 6 ch output.

#3 of 154 KeithH

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Posted May 06 2003 - 11:04 PM

Lewis, thanks for the review. Sounds like a winner!
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#4 of 154 Sach

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Posted May 07 2003 - 03:05 AM

Lewis

Have you been on the avsforum.com - several people are having problems with BM with 2900. THere are a couple of threads where a lot of complaints can be seen with respect to BM.

#5 of 154 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 07 2003 - 04:19 AM

Yes, I just posted there too.
This is a fairly complicated matter,and it seems many don't understand it.The player is functioning as advertised,my recomendation stands.

#6 of 154 Edward J M

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Posted May 07 2003 - 05:10 AM

Not that I'm expecting it, but I gotta ask anyway, seeing as I'm trading in my 2800 II and picking up my own 2900 as soon as it arrives locally:

The Chroma Bug is totally absent, right?

Regards,

Ed
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#7 of 154 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 07 2003 - 07:03 AM

I've seen no evidence of it on Toy Story,but I would get the definite answer from Stacey Spears on Secrets when he gets his review up.

#8 of 154 Kevin C Brown

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Posted May 07 2003 - 08:14 AM

Sach (and others)- What's the jist of the BM comments on AVS?

Lewis- my trick for getting the sub output to match the mains from the player, is to set the sub at the max, and then *decrease* the mains until they all match. Did you use the subs internal tones (if present), or the Chesky Ultimate DVD-A disc (for example)?
If it's not worth waiting until the last minute to do, then it's not worth doing.

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#9 of 154 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 07 2003 - 08:19 AM

I used S&V.
There is no need to decrease the mains as they are fine as is.If I would do that I would have overbearing bass.

#10 of 154 RAF

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Posted May 07 2003 - 08:55 AM

Lewis,

Life on the bleeding edge is a blast, eh? Been there. Done that.

Posted Image

As a fellow 950 owner (as you know I was Beta Tester #1) I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of my 2900 since it appears to be a perfect match for the single set of 5.1 analog inputs on the 950 and my DVD-A + SACD Multi-channel "desires." Your running commentary has been very enjoyable to read. Well stated.

A couple of clarifications, if you will. I started reading some of the comments (and misconceptions in some cases) regarding Bass Management (BM) that has caused some panic to set in in threads at some other cyber-venues. It was good to see that it appears that an Outlaw 950 and the 2900 is a good match. Ironically, what was once considered a "flaw" in the 950 (treatment of Analog 5.1 input BM) is now a "desirable feature" based on the behavior of the 2900. Maybe Outlaw will be selling a lot of 950s or ICBMs to those interested in the Denon 2900!

Posted Image

To clarify a point or two: I believe you stated that you switch off the BM 5.1 analog switch on the back of your 950 and everything sounds fine in all modes without any need to ride shotgun on the SW output. I also assume that on the DENON 2900 I should use the SMALL speaker setting and SubWoofer ON to achieve all this (my satellites are M&K 150's - all optimized for 80Hz crossover).

Is that what you do? Obviously, once I have all the equipment here I can get the answer for myself but inquisitive minds want to know.

Keep fighting the good fight. Remember, you can't usually win these "battles" since some people only will listen if they hear what they want to hear (no pun intended). Thanks for the early adopter information.

Posted Image Posted Image
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#11 of 154 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 07 2003 - 09:15 AM

Quote:
To clarify a point or two: I believe you stated that you switch off the BM 5.1 analog switch on the back of your 950 and everything sounds fine in all modes without any need to ride shotgun on the SW output. I also assume that on the DENON 2900 I should use the SMALL speaker setting and SubWoofer ON to achieve all this (my satellites are M&K 150's - all optimized for 80Hz crossover).

Yes that is correct.
Don't forgett the big plus of the digital Time Alignment,that can be aplied even if you elect to use the BM on the 950.There is also a "bass enhancer" for 2 ch, switch that on too.

#12 of 154 Dalton

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Posted May 07 2003 - 09:34 AM

Lewis,
Thanks for the thorough review. I have a question about SACD. I picked up my 2900 yesterday and when i set everything up and put my first SACD in I got a loud "thump" through my speakers right off the bat. Then during playback i would get popping and hissing noises. I find this most troubling because DVD-A works perfectly. I was wondering if you or anyone else would have any idea as to why this is happening. Every other audio feature on the 2900 works fine. My only issue is the SACD. I have tried 5 discs (a couple were brand new) and they all do the same thing. I know it's not the discs because i played 3 of them flawlessly on my Philips 962SA. I am starting to believe something is wrong with the DSD decoder in my 2900.Posted Image Any suggestions would be appreciated. I am extremely happy with every other audio feature on this unit aside from my SACD problems.

Thanks,
Dalton

P.S.
I have tried all the different speaker settings +filter on and off and still get the problem with SACD.

#13 of 154 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 07 2003 - 10:14 AM

I certainly don't have any loud pops or the likes.
My gues is that it's defective,I would exchange it.

#14 of 154 Dalton

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Posted May 07 2003 - 12:09 PM

Thanks for the reply Lewis. I called Tweeter tonight and they are getting more on Friday so i am going to exchange it then. I brought it over my friends house and hooked it up to his Outlaw 950/750 combo(i wanted to completely rule out my HK AVR8000/B&K amp combo) and the same problem with SACD occured on his system also. Must be a defective DSD decoder. Look forward to finally hearing the SACD side of the unit!

#15 of 154 Dalton

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Posted May 07 2003 - 12:18 PM

Quote:
oh yeah I forgott, the bass manegment works on 2ch as well on any media including cd's.I only used the 6ch output though, not the dedicated 2 ch outputs.I really don't see any reason to utilize those if you use the 6 ch output.


I just wanted to add that i completely agree with Lewis on this. The BM worked fine on the multi channel input. Don't spend more money on cables for the dedicated 2ch outs (IMO at least).

Take Care,
Dalton

#16 of 154 Kevin C Brown

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Posted May 07 2003 - 12:43 PM

Lewis- It wouldn't be "overbearing" bass, it would be "underwhelming" bass. Posted Image DD/DTS automatically give you a 10 dB boost of the LFE signal. DVD-A and SACD do not. So you'd be 10 db too low with DVD-A & SACD. That's what I did even before I got the Chesky Ultimate DVD-A test disc. When I used Avia, I balanced everything out of the uni-player' analog outputs as-is, *then* I added 10 dB to the sub level. In the end, I had -1 to +1 for all the speakers in the pre/pro and - 5dB for the sub, but in the player, I had +5 dB for the sub, but also -1 to +1 for all of the speakers. Obviously, your ears have to be the final judge...
If it's not worth waiting until the last minute to do, then it's not worth doing.

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#17 of 154 John Geelan

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Posted May 07 2003 - 01:19 PM

Does the Denon 2900 do zoom and does it have "time elapsed" when playing a DVD?
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#18 of 154 Dalton

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Posted May 07 2003 - 01:42 PM

Quote:
Does the Denon 2900 do zoom and does it have "time elapsed" when playing a DVD?

John,
Yes the 2900 has a zoom feature (2x and 4x) and it also displays time elapsed. It can also display time remaining if you want.

#19 of 154 Lewis Besze

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Posted May 07 2003 - 01:57 PM

Kevin, you're wrong on this,music doesn't require the 10db boost by the decoder,so it's not 10db too low.
Also the test tones that meant for DD/DTS has already has a "compensation" calculated in, that's why you calibrate to the same level and not 10db higher,in other words the calibrated level from those test disc should work for the all outputs and decoding from the player.I just played several cds through the Outlaw's 6 ch inout then switched to the cd digital input the bass was the same!
It's pretty amazing how one can "project" an equipment's performance,without having one.

#20 of 154 Haris Ellahi

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Posted May 07 2003 - 06:14 PM

I am debating between the Denon DVD-2900 and the Philips DVD963SA. Which one do you think I should get?





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