Published On: January 11, 2009

Denon DVD-2500 DVD-Video Player Reviewed

Published On: January 11, 2009

Denon DVD-2500 DVD-Video Player Reviewed

Sort of a "poor man's DVD-5000" the DVD-2500 delivers all the performance of its larger sibling, with deliciously solid lower registers and a well-balanced harmonic texture that fits easily into a variety of systems, the DVD-2500 ranks as a great value in the Denon Line.

denon_dvd2500_review.gif'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'?

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.

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 machine which rises above base-level dross.

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 being influenced by the '5000's feel and finish; again, you don't dump Leica for Nikon. But physical interaction aside, there's nothing about the '2500 to suggest that you're enjoying anything less than the '5000.

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' (AudioQuest via JVC XRCD) provides both a heavily textured voice and bass lines which - while powerful - possess much subtlety. While the Tjoeb Marantz CD-38 blessed it with slightly more warmth and the back-in-use Vimak exhibited more detail, the Denon provided greater overall consistency and coherence: no lumps nor artificial thwack. One is led less toward analytical dissection than with the Vimak, while one hears more lower level info than through the Marantz. But this is as it should be: the Vimak acts like a surgical tool and the Tjoeb a funky audiophile hot-rod. The Denon rests in-between, so it's easier to match to a wide variety of systems.

Read more on Page 2

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What also emerged is a trait which will endear it to music lovers and cineastes: this machine works wonders with voice. Even without using anything to enhance centre-channel dialogue (I set the Lexicon on 'neutral'), voices possessed a pleasant clarity without any added sibilance. With pure music, the worth is obvious: all manner of voices - from Eva Cassidy to Louis Prima - were more lifelike, if less touchy-feely-cuddly than through the Tjoeb.

When it came to video viewing, the benefit of this super-natural midband was greater intelligibility, especially important to a Yank watching . But the overriding sensation - beyond deep bass, clear midband and smooth treble aside - was one of scale coupled to its surround sound coherence. In other words, the Denon sounded big when it needed to, especially during massive set pieces ranging from symphonic bombast to audience applause to, uh, explosions, all the while preserving an absolutely seamless 360 degree soundfield. What does that have to do with music? Just try a few DTS music-only CDs...

DTS is important because it's one of the selling points made for the '2500 by Denon. Alas, there's only one DTS DVD which will play legally in Region 2 machines, a sad dose of prog-rock excess from King Crimson. But, heh-heh, as we've learned to our continual delight, there are discs which seem to ignore the number-in-the-globe printed on their boxes, so I was able to assess the DVD-2500's DTS capabilities without having to suffer more Fripp than is advisable. (No, I won't help the pro-regional-coding scum by identifying these discs. Let those vile assholes do their own dirty work.)

Believe me: It is with no sense of sadism that I tell you the '2500 excelled with DTS discs, sounding simply marvellous. I only wish that DTS was common currency, because it showed just how fine a device the '2500 really is, for its DTS playback borders on the dazzling. But this isn't Region 1, so the format's presence on the UK DVD-2500 is more a source of frustration than benefit. Ditto for every other DTS-ready Region 2 player...unless you look to DTS audio CDs.

Vince Gill, the Eagles, Clapton. Macca, Boyz II Men - if you need proof that multi-channel applies to music-only material as viably as it does to movies, I beg that you audition this player with a DTS CD as well as your fave DVD. And even if you aren't concerned with surround sound, just wallow in the tonal rather than spatial coherence, the speed, the precision evident throughout. Which leads us to a couple more doses of paradox:

1) The Denon's biggest selling point, its most convincing argument of its worth is, for me, its stunning DTS playback, a format with little support;
2) Its all-too-clever display, which shows an icon to indicate the number of channels, works correctly with DTS DVDs, but shows DTS CDs as two-channel.

So it's another great machine from Denon, one to cherish. But I could do without the message at switch-on: "Welcome to DVD World". When it comes to Region 2, it should read something more Dantean.

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