Review: Denon DP-47F Turntable

Category: Analog

For those of us who came of age in the 1980s, Denon’s DP-47F turntable is the stuff of dreams—at least, its looks are. The gorgeous rosewood finish, substantial build quality and creamy-smooth automatic operation are seductive to those of us who were weaned on the big, stainless steel integrated amplifiers and tape decks from Sansui, Kenwood, Rotel and Pioneer.

Though I’ve long since outgrown such gear, I was updating my system a few years ago and I wandered into a small hi-fi store at the Jersey shore to buy some cables. While the owner attended to another customer, I wandered into the back room and found a beautiful DP-47 occupying the position of pride on top of a Salamander rack.

I would’ve been perfectly happy to give my Dual CS-505 a re-job (new belt, lube, Ringmat, etc.) and go on listening to vinyl once in a blue moon—even though my collection was fairly large. But one listen to a 1980s (digital!) Telarc recording of Carmina Burana on the Denon and I was hooked again. Of course, the Denon DL-160 cartridge was a big part of the fun, but more on that later.

At $650, the Denon seemed a little steep. I originally ordered the NAD 533, but changed my order and took home the Denon. I skimped on the cartridge and went with a Grado Green instead, since I’d spent more than I wanted to on the table. The Grado, once broken in, exhibited very pleasant playback characteristics—a nice sweet midrange, deep though uncontrolled bass and decent soundstaging.

I started buying some of the Classic Records Shaded Dog reissues, and they were wonderful to listen to. So were my old favorites. But one thing the direct drive Denon failed to do was to forgive garage sale records of their sins—namely, ticks and pops. Even machine-cleaned records were crackly, and every last tick was brought straight to the front of the music. I tried changing cartridges. Over the years, I used a Denon DL-160, an Audio-Technica 440ML, and Audio-Technica OC-7 and a Benz Micro MC20E. The moving coils only exacerbated the Denon’s tendency to bring surface noise to the forefront; the 440ML was more relaxed.

About six months before I sold the Denon, I ordered an Audioquest SorboGel record mat which helped to blacken backgrounds and reduce surface noise. But the prospect of looking at that ugly blue gob (through which you can see the Denon’s unpolished platter) was too much to bear, so I removed it.

Since then, I’ve had a Linn Axis/Basik and Music Hall MMF-2.1. I finally settled on a Rega P2 as my new reference, with the lively, fast Denon DL-160 cartridge I like so much. (See my review of the Rega P2 for more on the cartridge.)

I guess it’s not worth going into detail about the Denon’s sound since its direct-drive nature makes it a mid-fi table, at best. But I will say this: for someone who’s got 100 or so records laying around that he/she will want to play on and off, the Denon is probably a great choice in its price range if sound quality is second to simplicity. It looks beautiful, it’s easy to operate, and there’s no belt to replace. Best of all, setup is a snap. Unlike the fiddly Music Hall MMF-2.1, the Denon is easy to get running—set the platter on the spindle, slide on the silky counterweight, mount your choice of cartridge (not included), balance the tonearm and use the slick electronic control to dial in servo-applied tracking force. That’s it. Cartridge installation is a snap, since the headshell is removable. (No protractor is included, however, so you’ll have to buy one.)

All in all, I had the Denon for roughly two years. You could probably do a lot worse. For above-average quality, tons of features and easy setup, this is a nice table with good (if not hi-fi) sound quality and great looks (if this is your cup of tea).

Associated gear
Rega P2 turntable
Denon DL-160 cartridge
Rotel RC-980 preamplifier with MM/MC phono stage
Rotel RA-970 amplifier
Rotel RQ-970BX phono stage
Sony SCD-CE775 SACD player
Phillips AM/FM tuner
Realistic laserdisc player
RCA DVD player
Apex Digital 27” TV
Polk RT25i bookshelf loudspeakers
Polk PSW350 subwoofer
Paradigm speaker stands
Audioquest CV-6 speaker cable
Straightwyre Harmony II subwoofer cable
Audioquest Jade/Monster 250 interconnects
Monster Power HTS 2500 Power Center
Record Doctor II record cleaning machine/Disc Doctor record brushes
StudioTech HF series racks
Audioquest MC cartridge demagnetizer

Similar products
NAD 533
Rega P2 2000
Linn Axis/Basik LVX
Dual CS-505
Music Hall MMF-2.1
Rotel RP-900
I still own a Denon DP-51F turntable, which I purchased in 1983. I switched over mostly to CDs some years ago. I upgraded my 1983 stereo system about a year ago, except for the cd player which I bought later and the turntable which I still have. My new system includes a tube amp, tube preamp, and tube phono preamp. Since I have a large record collection, and have read heard the wonders of vinyl, now that I have recharged my resources somewhat I will soon upgrade the turntable. Back to tubes and vinyl in the 21st century. I'm glad that I am finally outgrowing the Denon, although it served me well for many years, and still works perfectly.
Enjoyed your article. Hey, quick question. I have the DP-51F turntable. I have recently experienced that my tone arm will just "give up" while playing a record and drag back to the rest position. It doesnt lift but "drags across the record" as if it has lost some pressure or force that controls placing and lifting the tone arm on the vinyl. My sense is that their is some leak of a vacuum pressure or control inside the table that is causing this. Have you had this problem or heard about it. Advice would be appreciated. I dont know if Denon would still repair this.
I'm not sure whether the automatic Denons use a damping fluid system for tonearm raising/lowering, a mechanical system or a hydraulic scheme. Check out and you may be able to find a service manual for the DP-51. I let go of my DP-47F a few years ago mainly because I was concerned about future reliability -- it's the only turnuable I've owned that I would be uncomfortable servicing myself. Even though it was only discontinued a year or two ago, parts availability is already becoming spotty.

In any event, I'm sure the DP-51 is worth hanging onto. Check out my article in the current issue (#19) of Positive Feedback Online ( on turntable restoration. I list a number of repair sources at the end of the article. One of them should be able to repair your Denon. If it were me, I'd gladly sink $100-$300 into a repair and overhaul. You could likely count on another decade of trouble-free enjoyment after a good service. Besides, you'd be hard pressed to find a table of similar quality in today's market for anywhere near that price, making a repair bill seem like a good investment in my opinion.

Good luck and happy listening!
I bought a Denon direct drive table in 1980 and I don't recall the model number. It was next to the top of the line, I think. Despite it being direct drive, when I compared it to my new AR ES-1 in 1987 - which I've always LOVED - the Denon was not as outclassed as I had expected. Anyway, do any of you know what might be the model number of the turntable I got - it's something that I'd like to remember.