Denon DVD-2910, review

December 13, 2004

2910I titled this post “review” but I still have some lingering questions about the 2910 I was unable to resolve during my time with the unit, which was admittedly way way to short, but I felt that what I was able to discern was worth sharing here. The DVD-2910 is Denon’s ‘entry level’ Universal Disc Player, if you can call $649.00 entry level, but it is the first SACD capable player in Denon’s current lineup, however this is hardly a budget player, as the 2910 has a host of features normally only found on flagship players.

Some of those features include a DCDI by Faroudja , scaling to 720p and 1080i, adjustable chroma delay, variable black level 0 and 7.5 ire, passes below-black, just to name some of the video feature’s. Audio goodies include DVD-audio and SACD playback, burr-brown 24-bit, 192-khz dacs, and bass management.

So as the feature-set indicates this player is a tweakers dream and to some extent explains how my only having the player for an evening was way to short of a time, but I did find it very impressive, my own setup failings notwithstanding. Immediately after un-boxing the player I noticed it felt much more substantial than my 1910, it felt in weight and size like a ‘real’ DVD player, almost reminiscent of the older Pioneer Elite equipment, stout and weighty.


For the purposes of my testing I started off with SACD, after having recently tried SACD for the first time and being under whelmed I was anxious to hear ‘Denon’s’ interpretation of the high resolution audio format and hopefully give me a reason to get excited.

SACD Playback:
All right so this is what all the hubbub over SACD is all about, immediately after the first few bars of ‘The Golden Age’ (Beck Sea Change) began playing I knew this was going to be a different story than the Samsung HD941, the acoustic guitar strings sounded much warmer and had a presence that was on par or better than my Rega CD player, and rhythmically much easier to follow along with. The 2910 provided a nice sense of ambience, I actually got a feel for how close Beck was to the microphone, something I don’t remember hearing in previous listening. One overwhelming tribute to how good the SACD playback was, is that I just listened to the song in its entirety, I felt no desire to skip ahead.

I really liked the fact that almost all of the audio functions on the 2910 can be accessed and visually confirmed from the front panel display, no need to fire up the monitor to see what SACD function you’ve selected. I’ve always thought it was ludicrous to have to view function changes for simple audio adjustment on a television, after all if TV was what you’re after you wouldn’t have popped in a CD. Overall I really enjoyed the SACD playback through the DVD-2910 and it made me desirous for one of my own, that is until I looked up what’s available on SACD, but that’s whole other story…

Video Performance:
I have to say I really like the fact both DVI and HDMI are supported on the 2910, after all it is a ‘universal’ player, as many displays have DVI inputs currently just as many if not more will have HDMI in the future, and this just adds to the 2910’s inherent value. For my testing I connected the digital coaxial out to my Marantz SR-7500 and the DVI video output to my Screenplay 4805. With connections made I was ready to go. One other welcome difference between the 2910 and 1910 is the ability to switch outputs and resolutions from the remote. I found this to be a very useful feature for testing’s sake, although admittedly not as useful once you’ve decided on what works best for you. Speaking of the remote, it was a little more substantial than my 1910 remote but yet again no back-light. Going through the menu system, I was getting much quicker response than with my DVD player, the OSD was quick and I didn’t once experience that dreaded “oh damn I selected the wrong thing”.

Once I was satisfied with my setup selections, I started out with Hollow Man (Superbit) I really need to get out of this disc routine, but hey it works for me. This is where I ran into my one and only real problem with the 2910 (although I’m quite sure there’s a remedy) it was color saturation, or lack of, I was getting the correct hues and palettes but the saturation was just a little weak. I noticed it in almost every clip I played however that the motion seemed smoother, just more fluid, but I was really trying to figure out what was up with this color issue.

Ok if it was color we needed for this player then ‘Moulin Rouge’ had it in spades, and sure enough I felt I was getting better color reproduction, but still not what I was really expecting. This is the point I realized I might be overlooking some obvious differences between this player and mine, the 2910 has a host of user adjustable video preferences, one in particular I realized might have fixed the malady, but unfortunately only after I’d returned the unit, this setting was the adjustable ‘Chroma Level’ which adjusts the color density, I’m reasonably sure this would have cured what I was seeing, oh well hopefully I get another shot with a 2910 in the future.

I wanted to keep the ball rolling regardless of this little snag, so with that I popped in ‘Kill Bill Vol.1’ and skipped up to the House of Blue Leaves scene and started watching, I noticed detail in background scenery I’d never really noticed before, this and the motion smoothness were the two biggest attributes of the 2910 for me. The background detail I was noticing was obviously always there, I’d watched this scene several times but just never noticed it, specifically it was decoration and artwork behind the bar I was noticing, it was a nice surprise and made me wonder if there were other scenes in my DVD collection that were worth viewing again.

Sure enough I found other DVD’s in my collection that had some surprises in store, I grabbed an old stand-by ‘Gladiator’ and skipped forward to some of the coliseum scenes. Hey don’t get me wrong, I knew there were people in the upper decks of the arena, I just never noticed they were moving, granted some of the upper level ‘actors’ are likely just CGI fill-in’s, but I noticed they seemed to have independent movement from one another. This was likely due to the 2910’s DCDI and overall lower video noise, that allowed smaller details to peak out, at least by comparison to my 1910.

With ‘Star Wars a New Hope’ I noticed yet another ‘unusual’ attribute of the 2910, that is the ability to be both brighter and darker at the same time than my current Denon DVD-1910. I was a little taken aback with this but that’s exactly what I was seeing, better black level and brightness at the same time, I can only attribute this to better Chroma & Luminance separation but whatever it was I liked it. Another interesting thing I observed with the 2910 was it’s ability to render hard sharp crisp lines when need be, yet in the same frame render the smoothness of human skin with equal believability, particularly in the scene where Leia is ‘loading R2’ with her message. The 2910 was chock full of these little surprises.

With that color intensity issue still bugging me I recalibrated using a THX optimizer and gave it another shot, this time with something I was extremely familiar with and had some vivid colors, I grabbed my ‘Fifth Element’ Superbit and gave it a whirl, ok this was getting even more confusing. Now I started seeing colors that were more intense than I’d noticed before, while others in the same scene were muted, was I losing it? I suppose not but I was really wondering what this could be attributed to, I was running out of time with the player and wanted to get in one last scene, so I skipped forward to the Diva scene and wow, I was definitely seeing more detail in the Diva’s costume almost to the point of picking apart how it was likely made. For one last shot at getting the right color ‘punch’ I switched over to component video, and yeah there it was, not quite as much impact as I was thinking it should be, but surely more in line with a player of this caliber.

2910_rear

Summary:
I really wish I had a little more time to spend with the 2910 as I’m relatively sure I could have worked out the one kink I found with it (color on the DVI output), after all most of my observations were made with nothing but the most cursory calibration, and the 2910 had many image settings I never even got around to investigating. So in closing don’t take my technical glitch here as nothing more than that, a glitch on my part, it’s highly unlikely what I was seeing here couldn’t be adjusted away, and if the other positive attributes were any example, this player is likely hard to beat anywhere near it’s price range, given the superb SACD playback and many video settings.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under DVD Player Reviews, Reviews


Comments

  • jadamsnyc

    I have heard the upconverters don’t perform as well on a CRT HDTV. Is that true? I am thinking of buying the new sony 30 inch xbr hdtv with an HDMI input. Is it worth buying an upconverter dvd or should i just stay with a high end progressive scan?

  • jadamsnyc

    I have heard the upconverters don’t perform as well on a CRT HDTV. Is that true? I am thinking of buying the new sony 30 inch xbr hdtv with an HDMI input. Is it worth buying an upconverter dvd or should i just stay with a high end progressive scan?