'Indeed, it's nothing short of magnificent' were the closing words to my review of Denon's luscious DVD-5000. Without question, it is one of the most pleasurable-to-use DVD spinners I've ever fondled. So spare me the whining when I state that its £1599 price tag seems somehow too little to pay for such luxury. But we live in the UK, where people are so accustomed to being ripped off that we no longer recognise bargains when we see them. So what would you think of a 'poor man's DVD-5000'?
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Denon's new beauty is the DVD-2500, at £499.99 less than a third of the cost of the '5000. That's still considered a large wedge by those who know that the US entry level is under £200 or that wise shoppers here can acquire bottom-end Region 2 machinery for £250 in clear-out sales, but the DVD-2500 is aimed at users who want more than the minimum; £500 is a fair price for
Denon used the truly 'high-end' DVD-5000 as the reference for its more humble effort, particularly in terms of componentry. Inside, the audio circuit board has been specially treated to reduce vibration and improve heat dissipation. The DVD-2500's audio and power supply sections are blessed with better-than-standard electrolytic and film capacitors which 'have passed a stringent selection process to ensure superior sound'. And superior sound is the only reason why anyone shopping for a DVD player chooses to step up to a higher price point; the video performance of even today's cheapest players is very good indeed, so it's not an area which needs much help.
While the '2500 is nowhere near as swanky as the '5000, it does sport a rigid metal front panel to help reduce chassis resonance, and its control buttons suffer little play. (Amusingly, one of the reasons the '5000 screams 'luxury' is its gold finish; gold is an option on the '2500.) Compare the Denon to some of its featherweight rivals and you'll see that it offers more substantial heft than the budget median. The solid fascia, the pleasing-to-operate controls and reasonably rugged construction - you have to conclude that this player exudes a level of quality quite evidently above the stamped-out norm.
In contrast to run-of-the-mill swill, this a DVD player good enough to replace a CD player in a serious system - not just serve as an A/V add-on. And that is as it should be because, as with all DVD players, it plays movie DVDs, 24-bit/96kHz stereo audio DVDs (but without separate 24-bit/96kHz digital output) and audio CDs. [See sidebar.] Like every DVD player on sale even in this benighted region, the '2500 handles Dolby Digital and provides MPEG II and PCM data streams, plus DTS processing.
Physically, it seems like a less well-endowed '5000, obviously lacking precisely the 'feel' which makes using the dearer machine seem like one is operating a Leica instead of a Nikon. Its disc orifice is centrally-mounted above the display, with the transport controls grouped to the right. And, before I forget, this Denon is one of fastest-acting DVD players I've used so far, navigating around the discs with the kind of speed I'd thought was not available from DVD. To the left, beside the on/standby button, is a headphone socket and volume control as per the '5000 - not much use if you happen to be involved in a surround-sound session, but it's a considerate gesture on the part of Denon to allow private listening for stereo sources.
A facility for those craving surround when they only have a stereo system is Virtual Surround Sound (VSS). It only works with Dolby Digital sources, and it purports to provide a 3-D effect. As one who loathes all forms of surrogate atmospherics, I won't comment other than to say that anyone considering any DVD player without investing in five channels' worth of amplification and speakers shouldn't bother. Would you buy a stereo amp if you only had one speaker? But VSS is there if you need it.
Based on a Panasonic drive, the Denon uses Advanced Digital Servo technology for laser pickup control to improve data retrieval and overall performance. In all other respects, the Denon is a standard, facility-laden player, the nature of the DVD beast requiring a graphical user interface to control the myriad properties, accessible through the comprehensive hand-held remote and visible through an on-screen display. The litany includes picture ratio adjustment, subtitles, repeat and memory functions, a cinema voice mode to raise 'the volume of the dialogue to enhance centre-channel clarity' and other assorted tasks. Also on the video side, the Denon employs a 24MHz 10-bit Video D/A Converter while supplying S-Video, two SCARTS (one with RGB) and two coaxial video output. For sound there are two pairs of analogue audio outputs and optical and coaxial digital outputs. Quite clearly, the Denon is ready straight-out-of-the-box to feed any array of sockets with which it might be faced.
I inserted the Denon into the Lexicon MC-1 processor/pre-amp via Kimber cables, using S-video for the visuals and TOSlink for the digital audio. The SCART connectors are fine, but only the S-video or coax work with the Lexicon (and I prefer S-video to SCART), so S-video it was. The Lexicon fed a 29in Panasonic direct view TV and Acurus and Marantz multi-channel power amps driving three Apogee LCRs and two Apogee Ribbon Monitors.
Once you get over the loss of the '5000's sybaritic luxury, you can imagine the '2500 stealing a sale or two away from its dearer sibling for those who might regard the '5000 as a gilded lily in the '2500's wake, or those who genuinely cannot stretch to £1500. And I'll be the first to admit that it's hard
Its sound is deliciously solid, with lower registers so well-defined that you'll wonder who 'voiced' it: the audio guys or the film freaks? It obviously loves a touch of the Arnies, but, for crediting the former, I started with some R&B. The opening track on Terry Evans'
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