HE 2002: Denon DVD-9000, AVR-5803 and DVD-2800 Mk.II

HE 2002: It’s not all plane sailing for the Denon DVD-9000 and AVR-5803 combination, one of the few component pairings able to transfer DVD-Audio content digitally over a proprietary interface.

At $3,500, the DVD-9000 is Denon’s flagship DVD player, it boasts 14-bit 108MHz Video D/A converters and no less than eight 24-bit 192kHz audio D/A converters, two in each of L/R channels and one in the center, surround and LFE channels. The DVD-9000 was designed to output high resolution content digitally to the AVR-5803 receiver, within which lies appropriate processing, digital to analogue converters and all the amplification needed for a fully-fledged ‘audiophile’ system. There are few alternatives, the most prominent being Meridian’s 800 Series combination, which at circa $40,000 (depending on configuration) is in another league price wise.

The Denon pairing faces one major problem however, at least in its current form. According to Denon, the pairing was ready to ship, unhampered by copy protection issues… that was until Denon’s video division got their hands on the DVD-9000. This was because, as I discovered last night, while the DVD-Audio audio disc content is not region protected or even copy protected, the video portion of discs is. This is just one more hurdle the DVD camp have to overcome when juggling between the DVD-Audio format, the music DVD, albeit with some video content, and the DVD-Video format (the most common) that can contain both music and video. While it is true that if you have a DVD-Audio player, depending on the type, the chances are you won’t even be able access the DVD-Video layer of most discs, apparently this is not enough to allay fears of unlawful duplication.

Luckily for potential Denon owners the company has managed to deal with the issue of copy-protected discs, albeit in a roundabout way. At the moment the DVD-9000 won’t transfer an encoded data stream over Denon’s proprietary link, so for protected discs the DVD-9000 automatically switches to its analogue outputs and triggers a similar reaction from the AVR-5803, which selects its own 5.1 analog input array. Denon are hoping the end user won’t really be able to tell the difference, which remains to be seen. It might not be the ultimate solution, but looking on the bright side there are some great discs on the market that are not copy protected, they hail from companies like Chesky Records and AIX Records, and there are more on the way.

Fewer problems are encountered by the DVD-3800, which is the next DVD-Audio player in the Denon line priced at $1,199. It uses single Burr-Brown 24-bit 96kHz audio D/A converters on each channel and 12-bit 108MHz video D/A converters but doesn’t have the proprietary digital link to the AVR-5803.

In other news, Denon also announced the $849 DVD-2800 Mk.II. This is actually an improved version of the DVD-2800, a player that was brought to market last year. The machine was the subject of some poor reviews and bad press, which in my opinion was unfortunate, especially as I had the good fortune of having an example of the unit for an extended period of time. I found the original DVD-2800 to be not only one of the most sophisticated units of its time, but also one of the best. Market forces cannot be easily overcome however, hence the Mk.II version.

A step up from the old DVD-2800, it has all the same abilities as the older version with one notable upgrade. Its older brother had 10-bit 54MHz video DACs, the best on the market at the time, whereas the new model uses the same video DACs found in the DVD-3800. Denon made the change because they were having problems manufacturing and getting the older DACs and decided rather than discontinue the unit, it would be more sensible to upgrade it and market it as a DVD-3800 without DVD-Audio capabilities. A word to the wise however, Denon is making similar midline changes to those that got them into hot water with the DVD-5000. Anyone buying a new DVD-2800 should be careful they don’t get old stock.

Lastly, Denon have also started shipping the DVD-1600 priced at $549; it boasts has Faroudja digital de-interlacing algorithms instead of the more expensive model’s Silicon Image Pure Progressive de-interlacing.

In short, Denon is doing its best to stay on top of the market, and while the industry and press sometimes hinder them, they are doing a fairly good job. The changes in the DVD-2800 Mk.II and the DVD-9000/AVR-5803 combination are good examples of a company making the best of bad situations and producing commendable products for the consumer market.

Smile! Denon representatives at HE 2002Smile! Denon representatives at HE 2002