Spare No Expense

Denon is certainly pushing the envelope—in terms of both performance and price—with its new flagship line that includes a surround pre/pro, 10-channel power amp, and universal disc player. UAV reviewed the pre/pro and power amp here, but we haven't yet taken a critical look at the DVD-A1UDCI player.

Even without that critical examination, the player seems to have everything—I wouldn't be surprised if there's a small kitchen sink in there somewhere. Perhaps most important, the DVD-A1UDCI is the world's first truly universal player, capable of handling all current disc formats, including Blu-ray (Profile 2.0 with a firmware update), DVD, CD, DVD-Audio, and SACD. It can output each format's native bitstream via HDMI or the proprietary Denon Link, or it can decode any audio to PCM with full bass management.

The innards of this beast feature the highly regarded Silicon Optix HQV Realta video-processing chipset, which is more expensive and programmable than the more common Reon VX. In addition to deinterlacing and scaling, the processor offers a vertical-stretch feature, which lets you put an anamorphic lens on any projector, even those without their own vertical stretch, to fill a 2.35:1 screen with images from movies of that aspect ratio.

The price tag is likely to induce sticker shock—$4500! That's an order of magnitude more than most Blu-ray players these days, but then again, they can't play DVD-A or SACD. (The upcoming Oppo BDP-83 will also play all disc formats, and it's list price is a far more reasonable $600.) Some of that expense pays for the Denon's tank-like build quality that is said to virtually eliminate vibrations and greatly reduce operational noise.

I really enjoy listening to DVD-A and SACD, so I've always wanted a player that can handle them as well as Blu-ray, DVD, and CD. And I've always loved the sound of Denon gear. But $4500? That's a down payment on a new car. And with the Oppo about to be introduced, I wonder how many of these players Denon will realistically be able to sell. Not many, I'd wager.

On the other hand, the DVD-A1UDCI is clearly a statement product—what can be done if money is no object. And it is designed to mate perfectly with the AVP-A1HDCI pre/pro and POA-A1HDCI power amp, each of which lists for $7500, bringing the grand total for all three to nearly $20,000. And I must say that the performance of the pre/pro and power amp does, in fact, transcend most other products of their kind. So if you want the very best that money can buy—and you have a bank account to match—this trio could be just the ticket.