December 03, 2008
| by Rebecca Day
If you’re looking for the kitchen sink in audio and video playback, Denon has you covered. The company’s new DVD-A1UDCi does it all, spinning Blu-ray Discs, standard-def DVDs, CDs—even SACDs (Super Audio CDs) and DVD Audio discs. Save your dimes, though. The “be-all, end-all” superdisc player rings in at $3,800. If you hook it up the way Denon thinks you should—to the AVP-A1HDCi preamp ($7,500) and POA-A1HDCI ($7,500) 10-channel power amp—you’ll be in the high-rent district at just under twenty grand.
So what makes a Blu-ray player worth $3,800 when you can buy one at Wal-Mart for $169? A laundry list of features that puts the DVD-A1UDCI in a league of its own. Denon bills it as the first Blu-ray audio/video player - a “total entertainment source component” - but its decoding, interconnectivity and balanced audio transmission capability are what send it to the head of the class.
“If enthusiast customers have libraries of discs—and you can still buy Blu-ray discs today in Europe, Asia and the U.S.—we want to give them a playback device that’s second to none,” says Jeff Talmadge, Denon’s director of product development and systems integration.
The player features Denon Link 4th Edition technology which packs jitter-cutting technology called Denon Flow Control that takes over the master clock when used with upcoming Link 4-capable Denon receivers. “HDMI is a great connector in many ways, but it still suffers from the kinds of jitter problems we had back in the 80s when CDs came out,” Talmadge says. “That’s why we had separate D/A converters that offered reduced jitter and better clocking.”
Haven’t noticed jitter when listening to CDs on a Blu-ray player? Don’t strain yourself. “You hear it in the transparency,” Talmadge says. Add 32-bit processing (up from 24-bit) and the golden-eared will notice not only more transparency but smoothness, envelopment and detail. “We pull every detail out of that signal,” Talmadge says. “Things get lost and that’s why we have entry level and why we have higher level.”
Denon Link is the only digitally balanced connection available. It was introduced by Denon when SACD and DVD Audio became available as a way to deliver less noise and jitter when connecting a Denon source component to a receiver. (If you don’t have a Denon Link 4 receiver you’re out of luck but upgrades will be available next year for existing high-end Denon receivers). Denon Link 4 can pass through all the decoding via the supplied Cat 5 cable except for the HD versions and they toss in an HDMI cable for those data-rich Dolby and dts formats.
You get your money’s worth on the decoding side. Talmadge says the DVD-A1UDCI is the only disc player that can decode every type of Dolby or DTS format ever made—internally. For audiophiles, there’s a separate analog section with two-channel balanced outputs. For high-end components with balanced XLR analog inputs, the section offers a fully balanced source-to-speaker system that’s separate from the player’s other analog section.
On the video side, the DVD-A1UDCI is less revolutionary but still robust. The player incorporates the 10-bit Silicon Optix Realta chipset found in high-end Denon DVD players along with Denon Pixel Image Correction for improved image correction on both standard-def and Blu-ray discs.
And finally, the DVD-A1UDCI meets BD-Live specs with an Ethernet connector and SD card slot for storing downloaded BD-Live data so you won’t be shortchanged on the interactive side. When you’re not listening to Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible on SACD, you’ve got the tools to text friends when watching the Blu-ray of Cinderella. A BD-Live firmware upgrade will download to players soon after the February launch.
Denon will use the player’s Ethernet port for various upgrades as they come available. “The black box will become, hopefully, as updateable as a PC,” Talmadge says. “That way, if an improvement comes out customers don’t have to get a CD or DVD from us. If some enhancement comes to BD-Live that’s not in the spec now because Blu-ray isn’t done yet, as long as it doesn’t require hardware, we can most likely add it,” he says.
Denon is also looking at future upgrades that involve control and remote access.