Underwood Mod to Denon 5900

Has anyone heard the Underwood modification to the Denon 5900?
I've also just been reviewing their mods. Haven't spoken with anyone there and e-mail responses have been limited. Sounds fantastic but expensive. I've also been looking into Dan Wright of ModWright for similar improvements. I've spoken on the phone with him and Dan seems very personable and accomodating. Also willing to taylor the mods to my requests. Let me know if you have any concrete dealings with Underwood.

I had the complete mod done on a 5900 that I purchased from them at the same time. Cost was appox 4K. I am using the unit with a Krell 7.1 processor along with a SimTitan 7 channel amp. This has been the best improvement that I have made to my system that I notice everytime I play my system. I would put the difference almost as much as upgrading my speakers from Dynaudio 3.3 to the new C-4's. I did not hear this much difference from upgrading my processor or my amp. My old dvd player was a Denon 4800 changer which I still am using for the 5 disc capability but if I want to get serious the 5900 is the choice. Wally at Underwoods treated me fair and right he also did what he said. Unusal sometimes today? Go for the complete mod including clock if you can afford it. Not a review or ad hype for a Dealer it is just that I am completely satisfied.

Yes, I have it and am really impressed. IMO, It easily competes with any player in its price range. In particular, the redbook performance is astonishing. I find the bass extension and low end to be better than most players. The dynamics and sound staging are excellent with lots of detail. The highs are crisp and clean without being bright. The noise floor is very low. Imaging is accurate. I have preferred the Underwood Denon on redbook to several other more expensive players I've had in my system, i.e. Audio Aero Capitole MKII, Burmester 001, Sim Audio Moon Eclipse, and Cary 306/200. I'm not as impressed with the component video perfomance although I have not taken advantage of the activated DVI. I'm sure that will throw it over the top! I love its performance with DTS surround sound 5.1 recording. Obviously, that means movie soundtracks are top notch! Its the best I've heard. SACD is very good depending on the recording (!). I have not tried the DVD-A. I have also not taken advantage of the SACD surround aspects.

I would conclude that if you are looking for an excellent all around universal player with an emphasis on redbook 2- channel audio, this is the one to get and price wise, compared to the Linn, the Esoteric and the Goldmund, its a steal!
Brundal, Haven't spoken to Underwood yet; thought I'd wait for some feedback on the product first. As you can see from the other posts, sounds very positive.

Dogguy, Thanks for the splendid review. I just ordered a Cary 8 processor, hence the hunt for a universal transport.

Twopippis, Great to hear that it does such a good job on redbook CDs as I have a large collection and i'm about a 75% stereo/25% video user. I'm a little surprised about the video preformance, as that was touted as a strength.
Does anyone else have a comment on the video aspect?

Does anyone have any concerns about a 90 day warranty on a 3+K product?
My video comparison is slightly jaded in that my reference has always been the Camelot Roundtable MKII which retails for $5k. Its video performance is hard to beat and often wins shootouts. However, the redbook on the Camelot is greatly lacking IMO so it really becomes a DVD only player. As I said, Underwood told me up front that the only upgrade affecting component video would be the power supply. They put their money into upgrading the DVI aspect of the video which I have not utilized.
Their is alot of talk on the Denon 2900 mod performed by
Exemplar Audio.Go to digital forum and look for the title:
Denon 2900 Mods
Thanks for the Exemplar Audio ref, Gts87.
I'm still concerned about the 90 day warranty.

Has anyone heard the McCormack universal player?
Does anyone have first hand experience with the Modwright mods to this player or the 2900? Dan seems to think that a modded 2900 is a better end product than a modded 999ES, which is what I was initially considering.

FWIW, I have committed to the 5900 (instead of 2900 or Sony), and I have one on its way to ModWright for the Signature Truth Tube, MCH, Bybee, and perhaps some other mods. I'll be sure to share my results when it arrives, but as I am having it sent directly to Dan, I will not have an opportunity to compare stock to modded.

Tombowlus, have you received the modded 5900 yet? I am very interested in going this route and would be interested in your opinion.
No, I don't have it yet. Dan currently has four 5900's in his shop (one of them being mine), and he is working out some additional customization mods for the 5900. They sound very promising, though, and I will be sure to report back once it comes in. The downside to my situation is that, as I had the unit sent directly to Dan, I will not be able to provide any "before and after" type of commentary.

Thanks - Please keep us posted.

The UDP -1 from McCormack is the best sounding unit for CD that I have heard. I can not rate it for DVD/DVDA/SACD. Though my ears say it does these formats VERY well, I bought it because CD is still my most played format. For this, it betters my Levinson #36, with Sonic frontiers transport.
I received my modded 5900 today, and I must say that Dan does a tidy job! The external power supply (PS 9.0) for the analog tube section and "umbilical" cord are extremely sharp. I'm putting a few hours on it here at work and hope to have it in my system tonight.

Once I've had a chance to break it in, I will reply with my thoughts & observations.
Tombowlus, good to hear you've received your 5900. You've been patiently waiting a long time. We're all eager to read about your listening impressions. I wasn't aware the 5900 mod an an external power supply. Do you know if this applies to Dan's 2900 mod as well? Refresh my memory, did you ever consider the Denon 2900? What made you decide on the 5900 for the Modwright mod?
I initially contacted Dan about modding a Sony NS999ES, but after talking for him a while, I mentioned that I had also considered the 2900, but was a bit put off by the negative reviews (including several of which that reached the conclusion that the 2200 sounded better). He said that he agreed that the Sony unit was superior in stock form, but then added that after similar modifications, the 2900 was superior to the 999ES. That got me thinking about Denon (again). As I read up on the features offered by both the 2900 and the 5900, I found that the 2900 did not offer some of the things that I wanted (HDCD, for example), and the 5900 added some features (DVI, digital audio outs, etc.). Dan admitted that the 2900 and 5900 are much closer sounding after equal mods than before, but still, I liked what the 5900 offers (somewhat superior chassis, too), and I got a very good price on it.

As soon as I got it, I hooked it up and started burning it in here at the office. Before taking it home, I did compare it briefly to my Arcam FMJ CD23T (on CD's only, of course). All in all, the 5900 and the CD23T were pretty close (which is impressive, IMHO, as the CD23T is a respectable CD player, and the Denon was not remotely broken in). Using three different CD's (Rusted Root, Diana Krall, and Cry of Love), I had remarkably different results from disk to disk. On Rusted Root, the 5900 had more separation of instruments, but the Arcam had more natural and present vocals, and more thump to the kick. On Diana Krall's voice, the Denon was more natural sounding, there was more detail to the brush work on the snare, and the overall sound was deeper and thicker. The Arcam, though, presented more detailed and articulate upright bass. On Cry of Love, the Denon had brighter snare & cymbals, and was not as full as the Arcam, which on this disk sounded more full, musical, and balanced than the modded Denon. Keep in mind, that this is right out of the box, with no break-in at all.

After inserting it into my system last night, I was absolutely floored at how much better CD's sounded using the multi-channel bypass inputs from the 5900, as compared to using the digital output and letting my pre/pro do the D/A work. Keep in mind, my pre/pro (Rotel RSP-1066) is currently my weak link at home (soon to be replaced by either Theatermaster 8800 Pro or HTS 7.1), but still, in the past I have found the Rotel's handling of digital outputs to be fairly good for its price range. I had fully expected the 5900's DAC to be superior to the Rotel's, but the sound that I had coming out of Dan's tubed outputs was vastly superior (not even remotely close) to the sound that I got when using the Rotel's DSP. As I have mentioned in other threads, I did not try out the 5900 before I had Dan mod it, so I am not in a position to say what it sounded like before and after mods. Sorry. I'm sure that is what many of you would have liked to have heard about. But, for a variety of reasons, it worked out best for me to have it sent directly to Dan.

I do believe that the 2900 with the Universal Truth Modifications also uses the PS 9.0 external power supply (which is very handsomely finished, and resembles the front plate of the 5900).

FWIW, I had Dan do the Universal Truth Tube Mod (2 ch.), the MCH Signature Mod, put Slipstream Bybees on 5 channels (all but sub), and I upgraded the "umbilical" for the PS 9.0 to cryo'd Reference Silver (which Dan highly recommended).

I will report back as the unit breaks in and I play with it more.

Thanks for the report Tom, and for explaining some of the significant differences betweeen the 2900 and 5900. I did some more research and found that the Modwright 2900 Universal Truth mod has its power supply on-board.

I think it might be helpful for others to know that Slipstream Bybees can be utilized via Bybee RCA Magic Bullets placed on the outputs of a CD player (or any other RCA output or input). I mention this only because I've tried the Magic Bullets, and find they are beneficial in some cases, and not beneficial in others...often related to which interconnects are being used. The RCA Magic Bullets provide a non-permanent method of using Bybee filters in contrast with the permanent, soldered-in Bybee Sliptreams.
At one point, the power supply for the 5900 was going to be enclosed in the chassis also, so you may want to check with Dan to be sure about the 2900. I thought I recalled him telling me that it was also external, now.

Good point about the Bybee Magic Bullets. I was not aware of them.
The 2900 is internal, the 5900 is exrenal, and I am driving myself NUTZ, I have the Exemplar(non siltech) at my home, I left my APL SACD 1000 in trade for a week, and I am also talking with Dan about doing mods on my stock 2900(which sucks)...this audiophile stuff drives me crazy.....Glad to hear you like your 5900, cause if I have Dan mod a unit for me, I just learned, from you that it plays HDCD also, and I would like all formats.


What do you think about the exemplar?
I have to tell you folks, my Underwood modded 5900 is really starting to sound incredible! I still am trying to get my head around just how to use every feature of the 5900, but in two-channel, I am very impressed with the detail, the presence, and the enhanced reality of the sonic images I am hearing. Dan's tubed output stage sounds like something special to me, although it is the first tubed-output digital source that I have used.
Hi Tobowlus,

How is your experience with the Modwright mods to 5900?

Never mind. I got a out of date cached page from Google and missed your response.