CES: Affordable Universal Players from Denon and Pioneer

CES: More universal players at widely varying price points were introduced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, holding yet more promise to make the DVD-Audio/SACD format war a non-issue for consumers (and strengthen the survival prospects of both formats in the process).

At the upper end are the boutique players from Goldmund, Linn, Lexicon, McCormack Audio, Zenith and others (see related stories at the foot of this page).

Sparking great excitement among more budget-conscious enthusiasts was Denon’s DVD-2900, which leverages the company’s well-regarded DVD-3800 platform in a $999 chassis. The DVD-2900 is Denon’s first universal player, incorporating Sony’s second-generation decoder chip with native DSD bass management in addition to DVD-Audio playback. No digital output is provided for either format – a bit surprising, considering the company’s investment in developing its own proprietary DenonLink interface – but high quality analog output was reportedly a design priority (the static display precluded auditioning). On the video side, the player sports the latest Silicon Image 504 de-interlacing chip and a re-engineered MPEG decoder that Denon claims has eliminated the ‘chroma bug’ for good. If you want one of these players, move when you get the chance – the first shipment due this spring is already pre-sold.

Pioneer Electronics brought a ray of sunshine for the budget conscious with its DV-563A progressive scan player, which plays both DVD-Audio and SACD stereo and multi-channel discs – for a projected price of $279! There’s no such thing as a free lunch, of course – the player achieves this economy and flexibility by internally converting SACD’s native DSD bitstream to PCM. SACD purists will gasp, gnash, and wail, but the player nevertheless offers an opportunity for even casual consumers to enjoy their favorite software titles without having to worry about format compatibility.