Denon DVD-3910 vs CD-only Player


I have to replace my CD player, and I'm wondering how these options stack up. With the advent of the 3930, prices have dropped accordingly for the 3910 so it's now available at around $800. So, how would the 3910 stack up against a dedicated CD player in the kilobuck price range (Rotel, Quad, Rega, etc) on CD performance? I'm interested in opinions on the unmodded performance of the 3910 here?

Thanks,
Lou
lhf63
I can let you know next week. I received my 3910 yesterday. My CD player is an Arcam FMJ CD23T. My guess is that they'll be too close to tell any difference, but we'll see.
A dedicated stock CD player in the $1000 range will outperform the Denon 3910's CD playback. Makes sense, right? The manufacturer of the CD player can allocate all the production dollars to maximizing CD playback, while the Denon's production dollars go into CD, SACD, DVD-A, DVD, video...
I have a Denon 3910 and I use it for CD, SACD, and DVD playback. I really enjoy it. I ended up going with the Underwood "Ultimate" modification and it sure sounds wonderful to me... I did change to Pearl cryo-tubes. The rest of my system is Vienna Acoustic Mahler speakers, Mcintosh MX-119 processor and Mc-402 amp.
>> A dedicated stock CD player in the $1000 range will outperform the Denon 3910's CD playback. Makes sense, right? <<

You'd like to think so, but the fact of the matter is that the 3910 is available on Agon for $600-700 right now. Now, take that $600 3910 and mod it and you'd have to spend >$3,000 to do better. I'd buy the 3910 in a heartbeat - the sound quality is terrific and the video quality is *stellar*. Add in the fact that Denon products are built exceptionally well and it's a no-brainer. Buy the 3910 and BE HAPPY!
...the fact of the matter is that the 3910 is available on Agon for $600-700 right now. Now, take that $600 3910 and mod it and you'd have to spend >$3,000 to do better.
Rlwainwright (System | Threads | Answers)

True.

However, the author's question is specifically limited to stock players (as indicated by the last sentence in the post), and in that scope a dedicated $1000 CD player like a Rega Apollo or a used Audio Aero Prima will outperform a stock Denon 3910, IMO.

How will a stock CD player be better? Primarily, in a quieter, less grainy, and therefore more resolving presentation due to a superior power supply design (which by the way is the primary area that would be addressed by a modification of the Denon).
Tvad wrote:

> However, the author's question is specifically limited to
> stock players (as indicated by the last sentence in the
> post), and in that scope a dedicated $1000 CD player like
> a Rega Apollo or a used Audio Aero Prima will outperform
> a stock Denon 3910, IMO.

Correct. I'm looking for a CDP in the under-$1000 range, but I'm also considering going the DVD route, if there's a player that's still decent on redbook CD. If someone has a suggestion for something other than the 3910 that might fit that bill, I'm happy to hear about it.

Mike1000 mentioned the Underwood "Ultimate" mod, and I don't doubt at all that it makes for a wonderful sounding CDP. I imagine the mod doesn't do anything but improve the video performance as well. But it's a $3000 mod, which is way out of the price range in which I'm playing. That's why I asked about the performance of the 3910 as a stock unit.

> How will a stock CD player be better? Primarily, in a
> quieter, less grainy, and therefore more resolving
> presentation due to a superior power supply design (which
> by the way is the primary area that would be addressed by
> a modification of the Denon).

If I can follow up on this, these sound like important, but not earth-shattering, differences. In other words, it sounds like the 3910 is a decent player to begin with, just one that can be bettered on its redbook playback at its cost point by a dedicated CDP. The rest of the system isn't a super-high resolution setup anyway (Audio Research SP-6A preamp, Quicksilver KT88 amps, Thiel CS1.2 speakers), so maybe the Denon would work OK there.

Thanks to all who have responded, and I certainly would like to hear from Bob_reynolds when he's had a chance to hear the 3910 in his system.

Lou
If I can follow up on this, these sound like important, but not earth-shattering, differences.
These differences make ALL the difference if you're looking for resolving, high-end CD playback that aspires to reproduce the sound of real music in your room.

In other words, it sounds like the 3910 is a decent player to begin with, just one that can be bettered on its redbook playback at its cost point by a dedicated CDP. The rest of the system isn't a super-high resolution setup anyway (Audio Research SP-6A preamp, Quicksilver KT88 amps, Thiel CS1.2 speakers), so maybe the Denon would work OK there.

Your definition of decent may or may not correspond with mine, or others', but it's no matter. To me, it sounds as though you're looking for something that will provide pleasant music and need not meet the definition of high-end audio. If this is the case, and if the Denon meets other requirements such as video and multi-channel playback, then the Denon 3910 is an excellent choice. If high-end CD playback is the primary purpose, then you can do better in a dedicated CD player, IMO.

As you mention, the resolution of any digital player will be less or more apparent depending on the resolving power of the rest of the components in the system. Even here, your experience and satisfaction will likely differ from the experience of others, and what others report will be more valuable if you have heard the components that comprise their systems.
I hope you don't mind me going slightly off course here; another contender in the DVD players for playing CD's is Arcam.
Lhf63 - I have been doing some very similar stuff lately.

I recently picked up a nice TV (panasonic plasma) and as such, have been interested in a quality DVD player to go with it. I have a Jolida 100 CD player, which is widely regarded as a "contender" in the ~$kilobuck CD players. It's a really good sounding player.

I have been experimenting with universal players. If I can consolidate all my digital into one player, that would be ideal.

I started with an Onkyo SP1000.
http://www.onkyousa.com/model.cfm?m=DV-SP1000&p=i&class=DVD

This player easily has the best build quality of any universal cheaper than the $5 or $6k Esoterics. It is build like a tank, and does all the formats.

When I got it, I did plenty of A-B testing compared to my Jolida. The Onkyo definitely sounds better than the Jolida IMO. It really doesn't give anything up, and has a more "open" midrange. The music is a couple steps more transparent - sounds more like music, less like digital.

However - it had a problem with SACD. There was some strange background noise.
http://db.audioasylum.com/cgi/m.mpl?forum=hirez&n=230106&highlight=onkyo+sp1000&r=&session=

So - I returned the player. When I returned it, I found out that I "accidentally" bought a refurb player. Yes, it was my fault, but the vendor had the "refurb" thing pretty discreetly on the page, so...

I then bought the Marantz9600. About the same price as the Onkyo, but with much worse build quality. Flimsy transport. The interfaces for DVD were not as good as the Onkyo, and the remote was much more cheaply made. But of course the important thing, the Jolida sounded better to me on CD than the Marantz. The Marantz had an artificial sounding bloom on some of the upper mid-bass notes which I found distracting, and the midrange had a somewhat "hard" effect.

So - back went the marantz.

I bought the Onkyo again from another vendor (not a refurb this time!) and the issue with SACD is gone, and I love the player!

So - there you go. Good luck. I haven't tried the Denon, but I'm a bit put off by the build quality.
Lou, as Unsound says, Arcam has a good reputation of good audio production from their DVD players. But, I don't think you can find one with the features of the Denon 3910 for its current selling price, e.g., HDCD decoding.

I have the unit unboxed, but just haven't taken the time to get it connected. I'll let you know in the next couple of days. If you like, drop me an email as a reminder.
I should have written that I really enjoyed the stock 3910 and the video is fantastic. The mod that I did does not change the video and I only did it on a whim..

Bottom line for me is that I had a Denon 2900, and upgraded to the 3910 and it was a great decision. I bought it new in the box off of Audiogon for $750.
Hi Lou,

Well I installed the 3910 in place of my Pioneer DV444. The first thing I noticed is that the sheet metal is heavier than the Pioneer, but lighter than my Arcam FMJ CD 23T or Bryston preamp & amps. The 3910 is also quite a bit deeper than either the Pioneer or Arcam. Basically, it's more the size of a power amp than a CD or DVD player.

The first thing I played is track one from Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," which is an HDCD disc. My initial impression was: "this sounds good." It's better sounding than the Pioneer and my Cambridge D500SE CD player (neither of which decode HDCD). I listened for a few mintues and then played the same disc in the Arcam. The Arcam sounds a little warmer, the 3910 a little drier, the Arcam a little more detailed.

I then started up Diana Krall's "Live In Paris" concert DVD and listend through the first 3 or 4 tracks. No complaints at all. John Clayton's bass was very present.

A feature of the 3910 that I absolutely love is the backlit remote. My vision in the dark isn't what it used to be and I really appreciate being able to differentiate between the pause and stop buttons.

I'm leaving the 3910 powered up, but not playing, over night and I'll listen again in the morning.
Bob_reynolds:
> The first thing I played is track one from Joni Mitchell's
> "Both Sides Now," which is an HDCD disc. My initial
> impression was: "this sounds good." It's better sounding
> than the Pioneer and my Cambridge D500SE CD player
> (neither of which decode HDCD). I listened for a few
> mintues and then played the same disc in the Arcam. The
> Arcam sounds a little warmer, the 3910 a little drier,
> the Arcam a little more detailed.

Thanks for the comments, and thanks to all who have contributed here. I'm still thinking over whether to maintain my 2-channel system or whether one system *has* to do both music and movies. I've given a lot of thought to both the Rotel 1072 and the Rega Apollo. The Rotel I can audition; the Rega I can't (at least apparently -- still waiting to see if Sound Org will get back in touch with me). The Arcam FMJ is above the price range -- anyone familiar with the Arcam Diva products?

Also, HDCD and SACD are irrelevant for me -- all my stuff is redbook currently, and I don't expect to buy much in either HDCD or SACD anytime soon.

Thanks again,
Lou
Bob, the Arcam's do decode HDCD.
Lhft63, you may be surprised at how much HDCD, you already have. Don't confuse HDCD with SACD or DVD Audio. HDCD is completely compatible with red book. There are well over 6000 HDCD titles. Many of which are not even labled as such. I can tell you, I really enjoy having the full benefit of HDCD decoding.
Unsound, yes my Arcam FMJ decodes HDCD. What I said was that neither the Pioneer DVD player not the Cambridge CD player do -- so I was really comparing apples to oranges.

I agree with you completely about HDCD, though I'm not sure if it's the level boost we are detecting. I've not done a level matched comparison.
Lou, I can say without any hesitation that I could easily live with the 3910 as my only source component. At its current pricing (I paid $725 from onecall.com), it's an amazing value.
Bob_reynolds:
> Lou, I can say without any hesitation that I could easily
> live with the 3910 as my only source component. At its
> current pricing (I paid $725 from onecall.com), it's an
> amazing value.

Thanks for the feedback, Bob. I think I'll wait and see where the prices go post-Christmas (and also how the finances look) and decide from there.

Lou
Bob,
Are you using the Digital out on the Denon 3910?
Thanks,
Lee
No question about it you have to have dedicated CD player. I don't care what anyone else says. Denon makes a very good DVD player. I own the 3900 and it cannot stand up to a dedicated cd player. Even a modestly priced CD player will sound better. This is a sad and disturbing trend of people doing this. Just because it can play CD's doesn't mean it should.
Hello all
Just wanted to chime in on this, i just recieved my dvd-3910 today, and I must say...WOW. The build quailty is good, & the number of connectivity options is mind-boggling. If music is your main concern, then buy a dedicated cd player, the denon's audio is good at best. The biggest factor for me was the all-in-one solution. In my mid-fi system (Denon AVR-3805, JM Labs Cobalt sub, James Grand Symphonic 10's) the decision was a no-brainer. I am AMAZED at how much better the dvd-audio sounds over the Denon link vs. the analog cables! Alot of people say that the dac's in the 3910 are better than the ones in the avr-3805, which is correct, but there is a major improvement over the analogs. IMO. these are now going for about $600 which is what I paid, you factor in a mod, and voila.. a VERY good universal.