Denon, a world leader in consumer electronics, has recently released three high-end Blu-ray players. The DVD-2500BTCI is the middle model in that line. The Denon DVD-2500BTCI is a Blu-ray transport, so it outputs only digital signals over HDMI and you need to have a receiver or AV preamp that can accept bitstream or LPCM to use it. Priced at $899, the DVD-2500BTCI is designed to be the premier silver disc spinner in a modern high-end home theater.
The DVD-2500 BTCI offers 10-bit video processing for scaling of standard DVDs up to 1080p and will output both bitstream and LPCM for all the new audio codecs, as well as all the legacy ones like Dolby Digital and DTS. It will play CDs, Kodak picture and Fuji Color CDs, WMA and MP3 CDs, DVDs and, of course, Blu-rays. The player is large at just over 17 inches wide, five-and-a-half inches tall and almost 15-and-a-half inches deep, weighing 20 pounds.
Denon put a lot of work into multiple sections of the unit to keep interference down and maximize performance, thus adding to the weight. The front of the unit has the new smooth Denon look, which I have grown to like much more than the etched lines of their prior gear. The smooth arcing of the face from top to bottom is graceful. The front of the player is pretty simple. A power button is on the lower left, with the display and disc tray centrally located, and the transport keys and resolution setting to the right. The rear is even simpler. Being a transport, the only output is a single HDMI 1.3a connector in the top middle, with a two-prong IEC power adaptor on the right. For control, IR controllers are offered as well as an RS 232 port are under the power plug.
Connecting the Denon DVD-2500BTCI to my system couldn't have been easier, thanks entirely to HDMI. I knew this player was on its way, so I had already prepared rack space for it. When it arrived, I simply unboxed it and slid it into the rack. I connected the HDMI output to the Krell Evolution 707 AV preamp, plugged it in and I was up and running in minutes. Straight out of the box, the Denon DVD-2500BTCI recognized the Krell Evolution 707 as taking LPCM and it passed all audio that way. When I swapped it into my bedroom with the Marantz SR8002 receiver, it immediately recognized it as taking bitstream and delivered that to the receiver. I was really happy to see this, as early adopters of Blu-ray have been fighting to make things work, while the Denon simply did it.
The set-up menu is pretty straightforward. I set my TV's resolution and how I wanted the audio to be output. You can also select parental safeguards, auto power off, screen saver options and, of course, control slide shows, among other features. I set the resolution to 1080p/60 Hz and the HDMI output to normal and was off and running. I was ready to watch some Blu-rays with totally uncompressed audio in my reference rig in less than ten minutes.
I watched the new Batman film The Dark Knight (Warner Home Video) first. Historically, I find the Batman series to be tough to reproduce. They are filmed in dark and often gloomy areas, and while this film is clearly brighter than the prior ones, there are plenty of dark scenes and the Denon did a great job of reproducing the subtle differences in black levels while also handling the high contrasts of other scenes. The uncompressed Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was amazing. The soundstage was huge and taller than I remember hearing with other films. Tiny details were ever apparent, whereas with Dolby Digital or DTS, they could be lost. The bass of explosions was unbelievable. Once you hear these new codecs, even on a simple receiver-based system, you will be awed, but to have them on my reference rig made them seem legendary. Every detail, from the drop of a foot to the explosion of the hospital, was more detailed and distinct than I have ever heard on Dolby Digital or DTS.
I kept to the action genre with Hancock (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and, again, Dolby TrueHD blew me away. The sound was incredibly open and dynamic, with great depth of bass on the many scenes of damage that occured in the start of the film, while the voices stayed clear. The video was incredible, handling the fast motion perfectly, while the colors stayed rich and vibrant, even in high-contrast scenes. Flesh tones were accurate and edge detail was some of the best I have seen, even from Blu-ray.
My wife and stepdaughter brought home the DVD version of The House Bunny (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), so I decided to see how the Denon scaled standard-definition DVDs. While the image was not as good as the Blu-rays I watched, it was scaled exceptionally well, even slightly exceeding Denon's 5910CI, which I often use for watching DVDs. The film is full of bright colors and sharp contrasts that the Denon DVD-2500BTCI handled with ease. Skin tones were true and grasses perfectly green. While the soundtrack was only Dolby Digital, it was well done, albeit a bit of a letdown after listening to uncompressed audio. However, this is no fault of the player, but rather the fault of the format. Had they had the Blu-ray disc of this film, I suspect I would have been saying something different here.
I cued up John Lee Hooker's Shake Holler & Run (Delta) to see how the Denon did as a compact disc transport. This isn't the best-recorded album by any means, but the music is legendary for the genre and for John Lee Hooker fans. From the opening track of "Baby, You Ain't No Good" to the more upbeat "Jump Me (One More Time)," the rawness of the guitar was true to life and Hooker's voice was excellent. I've had the pleasure of seeing and even drinking with John Lee Hooker and this transport and album brought me back to those days of yore when I was younger and wilder. Isn't that what music is all about?
I had to torture-test this transport, as it wasn't the fastest Blu-ray player I have, so I decided to see how quickly it could cue up Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), which is a notoriously slow-loading disc for Blu-ray players. After powering on, the player took 30 seconds to open the disc tray and another minute to load and start the disc. This isn't the best out there, but I could live with it. I would like it to be faster, and hopefully Denon will implement firmware updates that do this, but for now, it is far superior to some of the first-generation players' 30-minutes-plus load times of this disc. Once the disc was loaded, it played flawlessly and had some of the best contrast I have ever seen on Blu-ray.
I had to test the DTS HD master audio track of one of my reference Blu-rays, X-Men: The Last Stand (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and I was very happy with what I saw and heard. The detail and colors were spot-on, while the uncompressed audio was far superior to the standard DTS I had previously used from this disc, offering a wider soundstage with improved detail, both from very dynamic scenes and quieter ones.
I rent many discs from Netflix. Unfortunately, others don't take as good as care of them as they should. I had two rented discs cause me problems on the Denon. Both The X-Files: I Want to Believe (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray and The Kite Runner (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) on SD DVD locked up. I was able to get back to the main menu on the SD DVD, but on the Blu-ray, I had to manually eject the disc and start over. I could not see any major damage on the SD disc, but the Blu-ray of X-Files had a large divot in it.
The Denon DVD 2500BTCI is larger than most Blu-ray players, so it will take up a bit more space. This is only a transport, which audio purists like me are fond of, but if you need more than an HDMI 1.3a digital output, this is definitely not the player for you. Load times are not the fastest on the DVD-2500BTCI, but aren't intolerably long as in early-generation players, hopefully firmware updates can improve this.
The Denon DVD-2500BTCI is not a profile 2.0 player. It lacks internal and mountable memory or an Ethernet port, so if you must have the downloadable add-ons for your entertainment, look elsewhere. In my time with the Denon, I had some rental discs lock up the player, especially Blu-rays with damage. This isn't so much a fault of the player as the disc, but I have to mention it.
The Denon DVD2500BTCI Blu-ray transport is a solidly-built Blu-ray transport that offers topnotch audio and video performance. It lacks profile 2.0 status and has relatively slow load times. In this day and age, after all this time, I would like them to be faster. I for one would rarely, if ever, use the Profile 2.0 features of Blu-ray players, but if you are the type of person who will, this transport won't do it for you.
What this transport does offer is incredible audio and video reproduction and the ability to automatically recognize whatever digital input your receiver or AV preamp needs and deliver the audio with great detail and finesse. If you are the type looking for the best performance and have the necessary associated equipment to use a Blu-ray transport, this is one of the best out there. It will reward your patience for the less than stellar load times with incredible performance at a price that won't kill you.