Denon DVD-1600 DVD-Audio Player Reviewed

Denon DVD-1600 DVD-Audio Player Reviewed

There are many people who like to enjoy good audio AND good video. For them, a product like Denon's DVD-1600 is perfect. It marries together the excellent picture quality of DVD with the high-resolution surround sound of the DVD-Audio format.

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It used to be an audiophile was an audiophile, a videophile was a videophile, and the twain shall never meet. In fact, a real audiophile never mixed his video system with his audio system. Things are changing in the post-CD world, and with the advent of a high resolution multi-channel DVD based audio format in the form of DVD-Audio, the combination home theater and music system is becoming well established.

Additional Resources
Read more Denon DVD-Audio and SACD player reviews here.
Read audiophile source component reviews here including SACD and DVD-Audio players, turntables, DACs, CD transports and more.

This is the target market that Denon seems to have in mind with the new DVD-1600, the least expensive of their new line of progressive scan DVD players. The 1600 has an MSRP of $549.00, and a street price of below $500.00. It comes only
in black, and plays DVD video, DVD-Audio, DVD-R VCD, redbook CD, and has Dolby Digital, DTS, and DVD-Audio decoders on board. Interestingly enough, even though the player says that it cannot play DVD+R and DVD+RW discs (see the review of Philips DVDR985), they played just fine.

Unique Features - Denon started out with the video section of the Panasonic RP56 (MSRP $300.00), already established as one of the better low-cost progressive scan players, and upgraded it with a significantly better audio section by adding DVD-Audio. This is accomplished via new Burr Brown 24 bit/192 kHz DACs (digital to audio converters). The 1600 retains the excellent Faroudja RI2200 de-interlacing chip with DCDi (which reduces jagged edges on diagonal lines). There is a 3 MB buffer to minimize layer change delays. The cosmetics of the player have also been upgraded. The classic Denon look with black metal faceplate has been added, and it looks very elegant and pleasing. The remote is also black and, although not back-lit, is fairly well laid out with the player controls on top, and an open/close button for the disc drawer. The front panel of the Denon DVD-1600 has an LED display below the disc tray, a headphone jack with level control to the left along with the power switch, and player controls on the right. There is also a progressive scan switch on the front that allows you to immediately switch from progressive to interlaced modes, which is extremely useful for those with televisions that automatically lock into full mode when fed a progressive scan input. The back of the player has composite, S-Video, and component video outs, as well as 6-channel analog outputs for DVD-Audio and the onboard Dolby Digital and DTS decoders. Surprisingly, the digital audio out to the processor is Toslink, and not coaxial as most other players in this price range. This probably does not have any serious consequences on performance, as Toslink works very well, but coaxial cables are more rugged, and have become the defacto standard on better DVD players. Setup menus are very clear, and easy to use. The onscreen menu uses pictographic icons, and therefore is a bit more cryptic, but overall it works very well.

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This player does very nicely in the video department. De-interlacing is excellent from the Faroudja chip, with almost no motion artifacts. There is some mild ringing at times, but nothing irritating. Picture quality is good, with good sharpness, and after calibration colors were excellent. Ultimately, there was a bit more grain and less smoothness than my reference Kenwood 5700, but overall, the 1600 acquits itself quite well in the video department. There is no significant evidence of the chroma bug, the MPEG decoder problem that is found in some players that causes smearing of reds. One great way to look for the chroma bug is to watch a vintage James Bond movie with M's red phone. At the beginning of Moonraker, there is a fairly close-up shot of M's phone. On a player with the chroma bug, the phone is a smeared, fuzzy mess, but on the 1600 it was sharp and detailed.

The 1600 responds very smoothly and quickly to remote inputs. One of the features I liked best was the audio during fast forward or reverse search. The audio stays on fairly clearly during the first fast forward speed, and it's a bit like speed reading, as you can speed up tedious sections (perfect for boring movies or passages). I was able to use this feature to successfully speed up a boring, but necessary, instructional DVD.

Installation/Setup - With the intended dual mission of the 1600 in mind, I then moved on to the audio section. I plugged it into the analog bypass 6-channel inputs on my Sunfire processor, which is hooked up to a Class CAV-150 6-channel amp, and B&W Nautilus 804 front speakers. I was pleasantly surprised by the 1600's performance on CDs. Many low to moderately priced DVD players do not do very well at all playing CDs, and have a lean, limpid sound. The 1600 is definitely not of this ilk, but instead has a clean, smooth, and full bodied sound. Imaging and soundstage were quite good, and the 1600 did not have the two-dimensionality that plagues many low-cost CD players. In fact, it managed to put in quite a good showing against the DACs on the Sunfire processor when used as a CD transport. When I moved on to DVD-Audio, I was also fairly impressed. Once again, the sound was clean and smooth, bass and midrange were very good,
but the soundstage was not quite as open and airy as my reference Kenwood Sovereign DV-5700. Then again, the 1600 is half the money, and it does acquit itself quite well.

Final Take - The Denon does an excellent job as a dual-purpose machine. Even if you split the costs and bought a $250.00 DVD player, another $250.00 would not buy you a CD player that would perform as well as the 1600. The DVD-Audio is quite good for this price range, and is more than acceptable even with a good, revealing system. The video performance is very good in this price class, and the Faroudja de-interlacing is a must for someone looking for an artifact-free picture. The clean, expensive looking cosmetics are an excellent bonus, and the progressive scan switch on the front panel is just plain smart. Denon is definitely on the right track with this player for the discriminating home theater audio/videophile with a moderate budget.

Suggested Retail Price
$549.00

Additional Resources
• Read more Denon DVD-Audio and SACD player reviews here.
• Read audiophile source component reviews here including SACD and DVD-Audio players, turntables, DACs, CD transports and more.

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