Denon DVD-2900 Universal DVD/SACD Player

Photos by Tony Cordoza My old man told me I'd get nowhere trying to be all things to all people, but Denon appears to have done pretty well by flouting this adage with its new DVD-2900. (I always knew Dad was full of it.) It plays optical discs in just about every current video or audio flavor. With very few exceptions, if it's round, shiny, and just under 5 inches across, the DVD-2900 will play it (see the compatibility table below).

The DVD-2900 features lots of appealing technology, including a state-of-the-art digital signal processing (DSP) and surround decoding engine as well as 192-kHz/ 24-bit Burr-Brown digital-to-analog converters (DACs) for all channels. On the video side, there's a de-interlacing processor - to convert the interlaced images from a DVD to progressive-scan output - and separate 12-bit video DACs, which is claimed to improve image quality.

The attractively laid-out black front panel has all the standard controls (with Denon's hard-to-read gold labeling), and there are the usual back-panel facilities. The only connectors at all out of the ordinary are a second pair of front left/right analog outputs, presumably so you can feed a headphone amp or a separate system for stereo listening, and an RS-232 serial port for interfacing with a custom control system.

FAST FACTS

KEY FEATURES • Plays most disc and file formats • User-selectable, full-resolution bass management for all formats • 192-kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converters for all six output channels

OUTPUTS component video (switchable interlaced/progressive-scan), composite/S-video; optical and coaxial digital audio, six-channel analog audio (dual front L/R channels); RS-232 serial port; minijack Denon-remote in/out

DIMENSIONS 17 1/8 inches wide, 5 1/4 inches high, 13 inches deep

WEIGHT 17 5/8 pounds

PRICE $999

MANUFACTURER Denon Electronics, Dept. S&V, 19 Chapin Rd., Pine Brook, NJ 07058; www.usa.denon.com; 973-396-0810

The setup menus are logically arranged and go as deep as on any DVD player I've used. For most folks, the factory defaults will be just fine, but if you want to get down into the fine points of DVD video and audio, the DVD-2900 lets you. For example, you can select from two different sync modes to optimize still-frame display and from two different progressive-scan 2:3 pulldown detectors (level or bit-flag). There's lots more like that, but again, you don't have to go there unless you want to.

The Denon provides no fewer than five picture presets in addition to the fixed, factory-default STD setting, letting you store preferences for color, hue, brightness, and contrast. There's also a somewhat unusual gamma-correction option that allows you to monkey with brightness. Lots of DVD players offer some degree of image control today, but the Denon's video tweaks are unusually detailed.

One of the most interesting of the DVD-2900's setup options is its all-modes digital bass management. You set speaker sizes in the usual way, and unless you specify "large" speakers all around, the player redirects low-frequency content from the five main channels to the subwoofer output, as you would want if your main speakers weren't capable of reproducing deep bass. This worked as advertised, not only for Dolby Digital and DTS - same as in other multichannel DVD players - but also for DVD-Audio, multichannel SACDs, and two-channel SACDs and CDs.

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