Denon 2900: Questions, comments

Anybody running a 2900 and have questions, comments, observations that they would like to share ? I bought one of these to run while my Philips SACD 1000 is down for repair. I'd like to compare notes with those that own / have owned or are just interested in this unit. Sean

Hey Sean, I have been looking at the 2900 as well. Here are a couple of review links of the 2900, one from audioholics and another from Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, hope they answer some of your questions. Like you I would prefer the observations and conclusions of AudiogoN-ers.

I had the SACD 1000 for a while and later sold it (not sure that was a good thing to do!!??!!), would love to hear your comparison between that and the 2900 for SACD. Would also be interested in the differences between the SACD and DVD-A capabilities of the 2900 if you have checked that out.

Read the review in the new Absolute Sound along with a few other models. The Yamaha looks like a good deal and got a pretty good review.
A couple of more review links from Bill Gaw at Enjoy the for those interested. here and here.

Bob: The sonics of the SACD 1000 and the Denon are very different from on another. Whereas the Philips was definitely very warm, soft and full bodied, the Denon is measurably more open and forward while also having better harmonic structure and air. Whereas the Philips seemed to open up gradually, the change was not drastic. I had to do quite a bit of experimentation with the SACD 1000 to get it to where i wanted it sonically. For the record, i preferred Magnan III interconnects and a Chris VH Flavour II power cord on this unit when all was said and done. Those are the support components that i found to work most suitably with the sonics and components that i wanted out of this specific system.

As to the Denon, it seems like it is very slow to "break in" but is going through a bigger change than the Philips did as it settled. I have spent far more time with the Denon in terms of playing specific discs on repeat mode than i had to with the Philips. The sound of the Denon is still measurably more forward but has both leveled and smoothed out over time. Depending on the flavour of one's system / personal preferences, the forwardness of this player may be hard to deal with. Bare in mind that i'm still using the stock power cord and have not experimented in this area at all.

I've tried a few different interconnects and ended up using some inexpensive cables that i've found to work pretty well in some specific installations. The cables themselves measure pretty well in terms of electrical characteristics desirable for an interconnect, so they aren't "trick cables" in terms of severely rolling off any specific frequencies. They are of a coaxial design with an extra shield ( foil ) using inexpensive gold plated connectors. I've included a few links to some comments made about these cables on Agon from an end user. There are a few others here that have tried these cables and had similar results, replacing highly rated cables costing hundreds of dollars with them. As i've stated before, it's not so much what you spend or what brand name is on it, but how well it performs within your system. I am NOT a "brand name snob" or "cable snob" so much as i am a "synergy snob". If it works good and makes the music more enjoyable, who cares what it cost or who made it. These cables are doing the job, so that's what i'm using. If i find something better, i'll use it. Even if it costs LESS money : )

Rw: I read that review and came away with the feeling that the reviewer didn't adequately break the unit in. There is no mention in ANY of these reviews as to how long these units were used / listened to, how they were broken in, if other support components were changed to better suit each DUT ( Device Under Test ), etc.. The 2900 that i have has NO problem reproducing deep bass. That is, if it is there. If anything, i would say that the reviewer himself is not very skilled in communicating his thoughts and / or is not a good listener and / or did not take the necessary steps to truly evaluate what this player is capable of. Just because the presentation is forward does not mean that the extremes are rolled off as communicated in this review. I had typed out a response to TAS with similar comments in it, but quite honestly, i don't have much faith in Robert Harley. This is true even though i found him to be a very pleasant person to talk to.

As a side note, i think that both of these players have very specific sonic signatures in stock form. One would have to try them within the confines of their system to see if they would blend with their other components and personal preferences. This is especially true if you aren't good at or willing to tinker with support components like interconnects and ac cords. Sean

cable comment #1

cable comment #2

cable comment #3
Sean, thanks for the comparison. Appreciate your insight and thoughtful response. Will contact you about cables if I end up needing more for that &*$%@& 6-channel analog connection. Hopefully they will get a universal digital interface worked out soon, probably NOT something the cable manufacturers are looking forward to!

Thanks again,
I replaced an elcheapo Pioneer DV45A with the Denon 2900. I notice improved SACD audio quality, but not anything dramatic for DVD-A and CD. I leave the subtle audio evaluations (with various interconnects, etc.) to others.

However, I must comment on the purely functional aspects: loading discs and the like. In this regard the Pioneer was much better. Sometimes the Denon will not load a disc until I recycle it. The Pioneer had a nice feature: if you turned its power off while the disc drawer was open it would close the drawer before shutting down. The Denon takes much longer to load a disc. Little things, but I winder why, at more than twice the price, Denon couldn't get it right like Pioneer.
The Denon 2900 is vibration and power cord sensitive. The sound will change pretty much all over the map depending on the power cord - from terrible to quite good, which is possibly a reason why reviews have been so variable. Its cd performance isn't up to its (2-ch) sacd and dvd-a, both of which are considerably better than on my previous Pioneer 47a. I don't find it forward; rather, it is fairly neutral with a full bottom. When optimized for ac/vibration, the things lacking sonically compared to more expensive players are absolute clarity, edge definition, refinement and chromatic/dynamic detail. What more can you expect from a $900 player? The Denon does very well with ambience and space, and it sounds as though its snr measures well. Consider modding.
Bob: I'm not trying to sell cables as i'm not in the audio business. I provided those links for two reasons. One is to show that not everything has to cost a lot of money to work well. The other was to provide some background on the "no-names" that i was using from someone else's perspective.

El: I have to agree with you in general. That is, why can one player / model do some things SO much better than the competition ? As a side note, if you think that the Denon is slow, you don't want to try using a newer Philips machine. The Philips units don't even play DVD-A ( not as many different discs to recognize ) and on top of that, they are so sloooooow to change tracks, etc... As far as recognizing that there is a disc there, i've not had a problem with that. Put a disc in, wait a few seconds and then it's ready to go. No need for resetting, etc...

As to your comments about the sonics of the 2900, this unit seems to really need a lot of playing time on it. With all digital gear that i get, i simply install a disc ( i have some specifics i use for this ) and let it play on repeat "forever". Some players seem to settle in after about 72 hours whereas others ( like the Denon ) need hundreds of hours. On top of this, as you change modes, you change filter circuitry. What i'm getting at is that each mode of playback needs to be broken in individually.

For those that are worried about leaving a unit on repeat and / or the extra wear and tear, units that i've done this with seem to last as long or longer than units that were not broken in this way by others. I also leave my units powered up 24/7 though, so there is less thermal cycling and in-rush current surges to deal with. Yes, my SACD 1000 did "croak", but it was powered up for about 11 months non-stop. Many SACD 1000's didn't make it past a few weeks or even a couple of months before faulty circuitry gave out. Either i was lucky or my break-in / constant power routine helped a little.

Flex: Thanks for the info. I have not spent much time on SACD's with this unit. I don't have any DVD-A's, so you can guess where i'm at in this respect. Your comments about sonics are quite encouraging. As such, i probably need some more time on my unit and further attention to cabling. I'm certain that a power cord swap will help things out too.

Out of curiosity, what have you ended up finding to work well with your unit in the confines of your system in terms of footers, power cords, interconnects, etc ??? For sake of clarity, what type of rack do you have your player in ? The reason that i ask is that each rack has different factors to take into consideration i.e. isolation, coupling, rigidity, etc... "Ben" might find good luck with some specific products, but "Jerry" might have a very different rack. As such, one should not assume that what works in one system will work in another due to all of the variables. In case you're wondering, i am a firm believer that racks do contribute their sonic signature to the system.

My 2900 is in my HT system, which is housed in a 10 shelf Sanus rack. While far from ideal, it was inexpensive and utilitarian, especially so since i could purchase the parts wholesale : ) As such, the shelves are part of the support structure, which i really don't like, but at this point in time, that's what i've got to use. I haven't tinkered with any type of footer underneath this unit, so i'm more than open to suggestions taking into account the type of rack that i'm currently using.

As far as your comments about "modding" the unit go, i definitely have that in mind for this unit. I hesitated to do so with my SACD 1000 after so many people had problems with them. That is, i didn't want to void the warranty doing mods and then have the unit take a dive. I've got more confidence in the 2900, even though i know that they had some initial problems with these units too. For the record, i've seen "refurbed" 2900's on the market, but i was told by a friend of mine that is a dealer to stay away from these. According to him, the folks that refurb these for Denon do a less than stellar job. This is not to mention that many of the places selling these are NOT authorized Denon dealers and you don't get ANY warranty with them. Sean
sean...The Denon disc loading issue comes up when you switch from one type of disc to another (CD, SACD, DVDA, or DVDV. It does not always happen, and I am not sure exactly what situation gets the machine confused. Cycling the drawer always seems to solve the problem.

Regarding cables and racks, a few comments on what has worked in my system.

I dislike cones, bearings, elastomers and the like because of the inevitable sonic signatures, so I haven't put time into these and can't offer advice. The Denon does well on my recently acquired Grand Prix Monaco rack, which of course wasn't bought for the Denon. The GP btw is the quietest and least signature-prone rack I've had experience with. Previous to the GP, the best support was a Neuance alpha shelf, and for an affordable solution, I'd be tempted to try a newer Neuance replacement shelf with your existing rack. It doesn't need cones and should be evenhanded over a wide bandwidth, particularly if the bass is tighter and deeper than on the alpha.

On interconnects, my experience may parallel some of yours. Of the half dozen ic's I've tried, the Denon became unlistenable with cables known for forwardness or brightness, including a pair of Nordost Quattro Fil, and silver ic's with some residual silver brightness (e.g older Pure Notes). These were less problematic with my solid state cd front end cabled identically, so the Denon exacerbates the brightness. Interconnects that I've had good results with on the other hand are non-bright silvers (especially Empirical pc-holophonics) and MIT (copper,expensive) that provide neutrality, speed, detail, good staging, etc

Power cords may be system-dependent, but I've had a couple of dozen of them available during the Denon's residence and they all show the colorations they are known for. I agree with what I take to be the implied conclusions in Bill Gaw's review that numerous well-known pc's seemingly aimed at tubed systems sound variously thick and heavy, dark, slow, rolled off, fat, bright, whatever, with the Denon. Again, it responded best to neutral, quick, and detailed sound, and that correlated with low inductance, low capacitance, and generally unshielded cords. IMS, it shows a particular affinity for an MIT Oracle3 power cord; it also works with Pure Note and Empirical. It works particularly well with open airy sound (Pure Note Sigma, probably TG Audio) but the Sigma lacks bass IMS and is far from uncolored. For the record, my system is solid state and revealing, and the front end power cords plug into a Sound Application line stage plc.

A number of companies are working on mods for the 2900 - Exemplar Audio, Underwood, and Ric Schultz that I know of. Warranties are a lost cause after a year anyway, and things are evolving in the high rez business, so you may be trying something else a few years from now.
Flex: Thanks for your input.

As far as your rack goes, i wish i had that rack for this system as i'm using something that is much lower on the totem pole. Having said that, i have to wonder how one of Ken's Neuance shelves would work as a replacement to the stock shelves on the GP. Have you ever tried this or any other shelves ?

I do have one of Ken's older Neaunce shelves, so maybe i'll try throwing that under the Denon and use it as a "platform" over the stock shelf. I can't substitute the Neuance permanently due to the differences in design.

As far as power cords go, i've got quite a few variations over here along with at least one that you mentioned as working pretty well. I'll have to give that a go and see where it takes me.

As far as modifying goes, i'll probably end up doing this myself. I do want to wait a bit though as i've heard / read of problems on some of these units and want to make sure that this one is okay before "gutting" it. I haven't quite had it a month yet, so it's still relatively fresh even though it has hundreds of hours on it. I did the same thing with my Philips and i'm glad that i did. It finally "crapped out" after about 10 months of use. If i would have modified it right away, i would have voided the two year warranty, which i obviously need right now. Hopefully, the Denon will be a little more reliable : ) Sean
The GP shelves are supported on weight-graded dampers and cut out to fit the vertical supports, so switching to something like the Neuance shelf is not a routine thing. Also the GP has deeper and tighter bass than the older Neuance shelves did, so that replacement may be a step backwards. More importantly, there is a signficant design difference in these shelves. Ken Lyons' old shelves were intended to sit on points, definitely not dampers, and to avoid horizontal motion, while Alvin Lloyd's shelves are mounted to allow free (damped) movement in the horizontal plane. If I were to try other shelving, I think I'd be inclined to use the GP F1 carbon fiber composites ($$$). The GP is very good as is, so it's pointless worrying about the acrylic shelves unless you're just out to explore. Also, every footer or cone I've checked on the GP degrades the sound.

The older Neuance shelves need upturned cones underneath them if you're going to just throw it on top of your rack shelf, and that will always add the cone signature (equally true with the dh cones that Ken Lyon likes). His new shelf does not need cones, and I believe is built to sit directly on your shelf.

I know a couple of analog designers doing their own overhauls on the Denon too. At this price point, it's tempting. The worst that happens if you void the warranty is that you pay for repairs.
One further comment on the 2900. Playing it through high resolution amplification stages and speakers, I notice at times a quite low level continuous noise which may be transport motor noise. This would not be unexpected considering the inexpensive loaders used in this kind of mass market player, and if so, is probably characteristic of other inexpensive players.
I have a 2900, and I have 2 complaints. 1. When the drawer closes it makes a shuddering sound as though it is laboring to close. Small point, but why does this happen? 2. When I put a new disc in to be played, the first 2 - 3 seconds of music are missed! The audio comes up in the 3rd or 4th second of play. In order for me to hear the very beginning of the first track to be played, I have to let the track begin, then hit the "skip back" button so the track begins again. At that point I get the beginning of the track. Is my unit defective? Does anyone know where I can get good repair done? Thanks for any info.
Flex: Thanks for your continued input. It would appear that many of our observations run parallel to each other.

Oldpet: From what you've said here, i would think that your unit is not operating properly. You might want to return the unit to where you purchased it to for a warranty claim ( if still in warranty and purchased new ) or try the Denon website to see who is an authorized repair facility. I would almost be tempted to contact a modifier about repairing / upgrading the unit at the same time if out of warranty, but i would also be very careful as to who you have do this. Some "modifiers" are "parts swappers" and wouldn't be able to repair the unit. In effect, you could end up with a modified unit that still suffers from this and / or potentially other problems. Sean