Review: Denon DVD 2900 Surround Pre

Category: Preamps

The Denon DVD 2900 was one of those benchmarks in the field of universal digital players, that could damn near handle any digital medium thrown at it. And it wasn't long after that several upgrade companies started offering mods for it.

This review will deal with it as a CD player only. I am not into SACD or DVD or using it in a home theater environment. Actually SACD and DVD Music Discs are a mute point now as neither format ever took hold and Redbook remains to this day.

A friend of mine was visiting various pawn shops and came across this unit and called me and wanted to know if I had interest in it. Sure - why not? Price was absurdly very low. It was in good condition and it worked. Back in the day lavish praise was heaped upon this unit from Denon and I remember hearing one in a Audio Salon and was impressed with it. But at $999.00 I thought it was over priced. I was not that big a fan of universal players, but this one changed my mind at the time. But still that price of near a $1,000.00 plus another $60.00 bucks in sales tax just didn't float my boat.

So here it is 2015 and the unit is now 11 years of age. Would it show the same prowess as it did years ago. Certainly it would be overshadowed by my Audio Analogue dedicated CDP. And it is overshadowed by the Audio Analogue CDP, but not near as wide a margin I had thought and if the Audio Analogue had not been here, I would have deemed a solid musical performer I could live with nicely. The last Denon digital player to come through here was the Denon DCD 1560 dedicated CD player. Which I used for many years prior to getting the Audio Analogue CDP. It is nice to know that the Denon DVD 2900 uses the Burr-Brown 24 bit 192kHz audio D/A converter and is isolated from the video section. Has the Pure Direct mode that cancels the video portion and lets you hear the CD without and potential hash from the video section. This is a hefty unit coming in at 18 pounds. Cabinent build is what you would expect from Denon at that point in time and expertly finished. Satin black face with gold lettering. Display is a flouriscent type in a light blue hue, typical Denon display at the time. Easy to read from across the room.

Listed Below Are Some Of the CD's Used For Evaluation:

Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
On Every Street - Dire Straits (Warner Brothers 26680-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)
Private Investigations Best Of Dire Straits (HDCD) - Dire Straits (Warner Bros 49891-2)
Straight Up - Bob James Trio (Warner Bros 945956-2)
Bill Charlap - I'm Old Fashioned - Venus Records VHCD 78189
Land Of Giants - McCoy Tyner (Telarc 83576)
New York Reunion - McCoy Tyner (Chesky 5173324)
Gladiator Motion Picture Soundtrack(Decca 2894670942)
Copland - Appalachian Spring (Telarc CD 80078)
Frederick Fennell - Holst Suites (Telarc 80038)
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Telarc 80041)
John Williams - American Journey (Sony 89364)
Bizet - Carmen (Telarc 80048)
Live At Sweet Basil - McCoy Tyner Trio (Evidence ECD 22106-2)
Paul Desmond & The Modern Jazz Quartet - Red Baron JK57337
Jimmy Smith - The Unpredictable - Verve 8230308-2
Dexter Gordon - Our Man In Paris - Blue Note 7 46394 2
Mike Garson - Jazz Hat - Reference Recording RR 114
Bill Evans - Live In 1975 Switzerland - Gambit 69232
Bud Powell - Essen Jazz Festival - 1201Music-1QGN9
Cannonball Adderley - Know What I Mean - Riverside OJCCD105
New York Trio - Always - Venus Records - VHCD 78026
Bill Evans - Ronnie Scotts 1980 - Gambit 69242
Tommy Flanagan - Over C,s - Prestige - OJCCD 1033-2
Ahmad Jamal - Chicago Revisited - Telarc CD 83327
Bill Charlap New York Trio - Things We Did Last Summer - Venus Records TKCV 35525
Modern Jazz Quartet - Dedicated to Connie - Atantic Records - LC 0121

Obligatory Specifications:

Audio Output Specs:

2 Channel FL and FR

Frequency Response:

(1) DVD Linear PCM - 2Hz to 22kHz (48 kHz sampling rate)
2Hz to 44kHz (96 kHz sampling rate)
2Hz to 88kHz (192 kHz sampling rate)

(2) Super Audio CD 2Hz to 100 kHz

(3) CD 2Hz to 20 kHz

(4) S/N Ratio: 118 dB

(5) THD: 0.0009%

(6) Dynamic Range: 110 dB

Dimensions: 17" wide by 13.5" depth by 5" height

Weight: 17.6 pounds

Power: 120V 60Hz

Current Audio System:

Amplifier - Emotiva UPA 200 - 125WRMS per side into 8 ohms/ 200WRMS into 4 ohms
PreAmplifier - Emotiva USP-1
Turntable - RS Lab 400
Digital - Denon 2900 DVD/CD Player
Cartridge - Ortofon 2M Red
Speakers - Alon Model 1
Interconnects - Discovery & Emotiva
Speaker Wire - Alon Bi-Wire Black Orpheus

Set the Denon DVD 2900 into they system and powered on and inserted a CD into it. It takes about eight seconds to figure out what format is in the tray. Pressed play and low and behold it works. First impressions were anything but stellar, but by day three it really came into its own and threw a big wide signature, transparency was very good, though not the absolute word in that. The Audio Analogue CDP had transparency exceeding the Denon. Channel separation was astounding and its abilty to pick out fine brush work on drums and cymbals was every bit as equal to the Audio Analogue CDP. Bill Evans and Bill Charlap piano work was spot on and cannot fault the Denon in being able to reproduce the many harmonics of the piano. String Bass by Ron Carter is a solid experience on the Denon and equal to the Audio Analogue CDP. But the biggest surprise was listening to the Modern Jazz Quartet on the 2900. Here we have two of the most difficult instruments for any analog or digital player to reproduce. We all know the challenges of the piano, but when you add the vibraphone and they are both playing in the same group here is where things can fall apart. The sound reproduction due to the many frequency cycles of the vibraphone. The DVD 2900 played the Modern Jazz Quartet with solid authority, that was and remains an impressive listening experience. On music such as Fleetwood Mac,Dire Straits,Eric Clapton,Santana and like material it is more than a capable player, nothing to really fault. To be candid for a 11 year old unit I was not expecting this kind of performance, nor was I expecting the Denon to give the Audio Analogue CDP a run for its money so to speak. Yep I'm impressed for what it is. On the front panel there is a Super Audio CD Set Up. Using this button the machine goes through Multi, Stereo and CD. Haven't used the Multi section, but have tried the Stereo and CD and engaged these settings and have not been able to discern any differences same holds true for the Pure Direct Mode, cannot hear any differences there as well. It does play CD-R and CD-RW discs without issue.

The dedicated Denon RC 934 remote, will get into the many program features and set this up for two channel use and disable the video section. Perhaps this will lift another veil to the Denon. Have to wait and see on that.

Now the question is can a 72 year old jaded audiophile find listening enjoyment in a 11 year old Denon DVD/CD player? Let me put it this way if the Audio Analogue CDP had not been here, then the Denon would have been a very welcome addition. Gotta tell ya the price of this used unit from a Pawn Shop I am totally embarresed to tell you the out the door price and if it gives up the ghost dollar wise no big loss. I have always shunned Universal players, but this has me rethinking what a Universal player can do in the 2 channel realm. As far as operation goes the Denon has the feel of a high end product. The tray is silent in its operation opens and closes with ease, no clunking or erratic movement, no slamming open or closing, in the same vein of the workings of a delicate instrument. The push button controls have that luxury feel and touch to them, not often found at any price point. The operation exudes a confidence to the user, that one is truly using a product that justify its place in ones system, without making excuses for its place. While clearly the Denon prowess was in its video capability of its day. Denon did not forget the dedicated 2 Channel maven and equipped it very well for CD playback.

I was going to move onward with the Audio Analogue Maestro CDP. But a few visits to the Audio Salons, there is just not a lot available in dedicated CD players these days. Looked at the Marantz 5005 CDP, the Yamaha CDS 700 CDP and the SimAudio Moon NEO 260D and the McIntosh units. Of those the SimAudio Moon was the best of the bunch, but at $2K not in the budget. Stand alone single tray CDP are becoming less common these days. If you have a large CD collection such as I do and looking to upgrade on a budget then the Marantz 5005 CDP to my ears is the best out there in the price/performance category.

Or get lucky and find the Denon DVD 2900 or one of its siblings such as the 2910 or 2930CI or 3910. Saving cash is a good thing in this weak economy. The robust build and performance of this unit should have one set for a very long time.

Similar products
Marantz, Cambridge, Oppo, Yamaha, Onkyo,etc
Had a similar positive experience with a Denon DVD-2930ci.
Bought it brand new warrantied on a Black Friday closeout sale for $169.99. It retailed for $849.00. I was going to use it for SACD and DVD-V and DVD-A as I had a Jolida JD-100A for Redbook CD. After extensive comparisons I felt the Denon was on par with the Jolida for Redbook CD playback and played the other formats as well so I sold the Jolida and never looked back. In my system the Denon sounded better than Arcam Diva 82T and Cambridge Audio 640C CD Players. With the current prices you can pick one of these Denons up for I think you would have to spend a lot more to better one of these.