Need your thoughts on Denon 3910 vs McCormack UDP1

I'm a 2 channel fan who has just expanded to 5.1 with all McCormack electronics, with which I am very pleased. I just bought the 3910 over the UDP1 because of probable better video, more connection and adjustment flexibilty, and lower price.

Early impressions of the 3910 sound quality leaves me unexcited. It just sounds generaly mid-fi, when compared even to my 6 year old Classe CDP.5 which kills it for musicality.

So my options are either trade it back within a week for a UDP, which everyone that has heard it seems to rave about, and accept the no DVI/HDMI, less controls etc. Or eventually send the 3910 in to one of the major mod places, which everyone seems to rave about, and hope it sounds as good as a UDP.

My main frustration is that it seems I have to make this crucial decision without any possible way to actually compare the sound of a UDP to a modified Denon - what would you do?
I would go with the UDP-1. In the event that you dont like it, a non-modified product is almost ALWAYS easier to sell than a modified unit.

I have heard the UDP-1 and I share the sentiments of the following review; it can compete with the best redbook players at ANY price!
I'd increase my budget and go with the Esoteric DV 50S ($6,000 but you can find a deal on a used one for around $4,900). Handily beats the UDP-1 in redbook and has great dvd playback (on the level of the better Arcam players) including DVI output.

A cheaper option would be to either check out the Arcam DV 29 which is a great redbook player, has unbelieveable video, DVD-A and DVI outputs. No SACD. Or, Marantz has a brand new universal called the DV 9500 (replacement for the 8400) which considerably improves on the redbook performance of the 8400 (which was good to begin with) and better video. Retails new for $2,000.

Good luck!
I will put my modded 3910 against the mcCormack for redbook anytime, anyday, anywhere.
Get both. Use the Denon for movies and the McCormack for music. I do wish someone would do a comparison of a modified Denon to a McCormack.
Go whith the best sound and best picture quality bar none universal under 4k... the Onkyo sp 1000.

Vanns had these for 1464.00(2000.00 U.S.list) and sold there entire stock in a couple of days.
This player sells for 5k or more U.S in the orient,UK, and Europe.
This player is superior to the Denon 5900/3910 for video and has that toe tapping musicality thing going for it also.
With my new clock, and power supply, along with upgraded capacitors ect, ect my video, and audio is just AWESOME.

Exemplar 3910/not denon no more
Avguru, on what type of system did you A/B the UDP and Esoteric?

I just recently A/B both at a local retailer and came away with the opposite impression. In particular, the bass of the UDP was much more refined with better pitch definition. The Esoteric seemed bloated in comparison. Admittedly, this was on a system with $20k speakers. When we listened on smaller speakers, it was fairly even, imo, but I understand a few preferred the Esoteric.

In terms of the original question, I think it depends on many factors.

1. If you're a videophile, DVI inputs could be important, so the Denon would be the choice. For most though, component inputs are impressive enough.
2. Mods are a great way to get reference level performance for less $$$, but the key is choosing the right modder.
3. I suspect the UDP will be open to mods too by Steve McCormack one day, so that may be a consideration if you're looking long-term.
4. If you don't want to rely on reviews or the internet to make your decision (probably a smart thing). Find a dealer to let you demo a UDP and, if you like it over your stock 3910, buy it. Mods take a leap of faith that you may or may not want to take.
Labtec: I'm about to spring for the UDP 1. I like that it's supposed to have an analog-like sound for redbook, but is it robust as well? With regards to the bass, I'm hoping it's similar to the Marantz SA14v.2, which not only had thunderous, defined bass; but also incredible imaging of that bass--percussion sounded as if in its own space in the room. I'm all ears if you've heard both.

The Esoteric was designed to sound better in balanced mode so you HAVE TO LISTEN TO IT BALANCED to hear it at it best. All the reviews that have been done (as well as the owners manual) explicity state this. The Electrocompaniet EMC 1UP and the Ayre CX-7 also sound better in balanced mode and the owners manuals for those respective units point that out. Its amazing to me how many people use this player or demo it with cheap pre/pro's or receivers that don't have balanced inputs.

Secondly, you have to experiement with the different filter settings on the unit. You can considerably tighten the bass by using the middle filter (FIR). Again, the Esoteric owners manual states the bass will tighten with the use of this filter.

I did find the UDP-1 bass to be tight and well defined but at the expense of bass slam and impact. Bass slam is also important with drums as you can better hear the impact of floor tom toms, kettle drums and other orchestral instruments.

Many audiophiles eschew bass slam because they don't want to hear a lot of bass in their music. They mistakenly associate it with rap or hard driving bass lines that can overpower the music when the truth is deep,tight bass with impact benefits the whole sonic soundscape. Bass and drums are the anchor for most types of music including jazz, blues R&B and country.

AB the two units again and let me know your impressions.

Avguru: I find it interesting that you mention the Marantz 8400 as one in a group that you prefer--I found the bass to be OK in this unit, but *lacking* in the very bass slam and impact you find lacking in the UDP1. Granted the Marantz is a less expensive player, but surely the UDP1 is better than the Marantz 8400 when it comes to the bass aspects? Are you a salesman who has been able to do good side-by-side comparisons of all these units?
Can anyone comment on the DVD playback of the UDP1?
Wow -I'm so glad to see the action pick up on this and related thread next door!
Avguru - DV50's cost, non-universal, "best w/ balanced" all rule it out.
Ears - I just might see if I can readily find the Onkyo for home audition. But if there aren't major mod options, I am very skeptical it could compete with UDP or Exemplar on redbook, and that is the issue that is most driving my decision.
labtec - thanks for such solid advice. I'm leaning to just getting the UDP, but I'm trying to think carefully about the Exemplar angle BEFORE I listen to the UDP crush the stock 3910, fall in love, and end the investigation.

I will have about 1 more week before I have to decide to keep or return the 3910; so far I've simply concluded that the stock unit's redbook and SACD performance is unacceptable for what I'm aiming for.

What I really need is ANYBODY w/ MODDED DENON IN DENVER AREA?? - Come over and help me settle this!
Bbeezley, I think there are only two Exemplar 3910 done thus far. You are welcome to come to College Station soon to hear mine.
My problem with the UDP-1 is with the video secion. If it had HDMI outputs I would buy in a heartbeat. Component doesnt do it for the new digital TVs. I emailed them and they said that they had no plans to come out with an HDMI player anytime soon. I may get my 3910 modded but there are so many modders and no real comparisons of all these mods to figure out which one is the best.
Abrahavt - sounds like you've gone through the same thoughts. My Mccormack dealer says they pointed out to the company long before release that people would be disappointed would be with no dvi/hdmi to no avail. I just bought a HDMI cable to try with the 3910 today - maybe if I can't see any improvement that will help me justify the UDP.

Tbg - I'm sure I would find a comparison to a modified 2900 series helpful too
711smilin could you please report on some more specifics about the sound of the Exemplar - ie: what are its strong suits, any specific character to distinguish or describe its sound in your system?

What if you mod the UDP-1 for an SDI output (like from JVB) and run it through an iScan HD? Then you could output DVI or HDMI and have scaling too. It would add to the cost quite a bit of course.
Bbeezly, The stong suits to me are the resolution, dynamics, extension, sounstage, imaging, PRAT, just a rightness to the music. The detail of the instruments is incredible, the airiness of strings, the sound of the piano, the tone of horns, the wack of the drums, the decay of the cymbals. On redbook, i have yet to hear a player I like better. The damn thing draws me into the music, more than the other players I have had in my system, and, seems to be better than thos I have listened to in high end stores. ie: meitner(sterile to me) dcs/elgar stack.
I've gone and ordered the UDP so will have a week with both to decide which to send back. Dbld - what is JVB? Anywhere you have read about doing the type of mod you re referring to?
Bbeezley - JVB Digital is a place that can mod DVD players to add an SDI output for use with an outboard de-interlacer and/or scaler.

I have never done this myself, but I have read about it a lot in the avs forum. It could cost any where from about $450 to $800 fot the mod, then you have to get an outboard Scaler/deinterlacer to process the video, and pass it to your display.

The nice thing about the iScan is that the new model has an SDI optional input, an HDMI output, and also a digital coax input that will time sync the audio with the video. Keep in mind that it takes time for the video to get processed, so the audio might need to be delayed so you don't hear things before you see them.
I'm completing audition of UDP-1 still frustrated that I can't listen to an Exemplar or other modded Denon. Background: I found the stock 3910 (compared to my Classe CDP .5 on redbook) detailed but uninvolving and lifeless.

Enter the UDP-1 5 days ago. Compared to the Classe, the McCormack has blacker background, better separation and resolution, and sl. clearer top-end. They have a similar lovely ease and lack of harshness or "digitis". While I would have to say that by any objective measure the UDP is certainly a "better" player, I was surprised that it didn't seem to get me any more emotionally involved or connected with the music than the Classe.

I would attribute this to the fact that my own system and brain synergies were already well matched with the Classe. It has left me, surprisingly, unlikely to keep the UDP. I was hoping that it would give me more tears-welling, toe-tapping emotion, but since it doesn't, I think I will keep using the Classe for redbook for now, and keep the stock 3910 for MC/HT, and continue to explore the possibility of modding the Denon.

On the video side, I compared the 3910 both HDMI and component out to the UDP-1's component only, with double copies of Two Towers to allow rapid side-by-side, and could see no benefit to the 3910 despite its superior spec sheet.

But I still somehow have to find a modded Denon to hear (Denver area) before I can see plunking down that kind of dough on the unknown.
Bbeezley: would you say the McCormack has a more 'robust' presentation than maybe the Rega Planet or Sony Xa777ES in redbook? How's the bass response, esp. mid-bass bloom? (How does it handle Cellos, French horns, Trombones, etc.)
And where did the other McCormack thread go???)
Re: Denver area Exemplar-modded Denon 2900

Check out the forum of the "Denver Audio Mafia" on One of the guys there has an Exemplar-modded Denon 2900. Good luck - hope you're able to finally hear this player.
jdaniel - Yes I would say the McCormack is more robust, more "meat-on-the-bones" than the Xa777ES. I haven't heard the Planet in my system (but I might soon - good friend has one). I'm very sensitive to wanting bass that maintains articulation, and the bass of the UDP-1 is a perfect balance of being rich enough to satisfy with no bloat. so why am I returning it - because the same is true of my Classe CDP. My comparisons wre done mainly with female vocals, acoustic blues, and small jazz ensemble. Sorry no horns to comment on : )

Jsala - thanks for the Denver area tip! I had not been aware of that group/site.
My late thoughts: The McCormack has served me well for SACD and I think it still is a winner today. Funny thing, I have an old Sony ES, not a top of line one, but just a bit over the “Best Buy” quality; nevertheless, this output optical to my ARC DAC 3, the little player, as transport blows away the McCormack when ran direct to my ACR pre-amp! Now the McCormack ran with a good coax does hedge out the old Sony, but not by much.
Again the quality is subjective, while the ARC DAC 3 is very dynamic, the McCormack with two channel SACD has a more laid back sound and many might prefer it for soft jazz.

I have two Denon AV, the 3801 and 4802, which is one of the best Denon made in a receiver, amplifier wise, other than their top 5800 models