Fire up the RCD-N8 and it launches a Quick Setup mode, including language selection and network setup, which is much less cumbersome and long-winded than some music systems. Entering a password is easy with the alphanumeric buttons on the remote and WPS setup makes the process even easier.
Wi-Fi performance is also helped by the addition of a ‘Diversity’ antenna where the left and right side antennae create a circle-like radiation pattern, improving directivity.
Added to this is Wi-Fi Multi Media, which prioritises audio data so it’s not competing with other devices on the same wireless network. That reduces the likelihood of music cutting out intermittently.
The OLED display makes day-to-day operation a breeze. It’s crisp and bright, using large lettering to impart info like track names, radio stations and so forth. Information scrolls across the display and little icons tell you what source is playing.
It also makes life easy when making adjustments in the setup menu. The options scroll vertically, offering a choice of General, Network and Quick Setup options, and there’s a logical sequence to each menu. Pressing the left and right keys moves you through the options, although the lack of a ‘back’ button is occasionally annoying.
The remote is a long, slender affair, also styled in gloss black or white. It’s covered from top to bottom in nicely-sized and clearly-labelled rubber buttons, while the important controls are thoughtfully placed and coloured differently to distinguish them. A cluster of buttons at the top let you jump straight to your desired input, rather than having to toggle through them all.
A good effort then, but if you prefer something more cutting-edge then the N8 can be controlled using your iOS or Android device running the Denon Remote App - another new feature.
The RCD-N8’s sound quality is superb. Rigged up to a pair of Teufel Theater 3 speakers, its sound is remarkably refined, but not clinically so – it’s also warm and punchy, with satisfying depth in the low frequencies without making the overall sound muddy or overpowering. That’s quite a skill.
This pleasing sonic balance is delivered within an open and spacious stereo image, where individual instruments and vocals are nicely organised and given room to breathe.
The warm jazz-fusion of Carl Hudson’s Zoology For Martians is rendered with expert skill – drums have the requisite snap and punch, synth lines are crystal clear and Rhodes chords ooze from the speakers with spine-tingling richness. And if its agile, rhythmic live basslines doesn’t move you from your seat, you might want to check your pulse.
But the Denon really kills it with its stunning high-frequency reproduction. Hi-hats and percussion sound light and airy but not thin, and it lays bare little nuances like the smack of a singer’s lips or the twang of guitar strings. Details like these make music sound real, not synthetic and compressed like cheap docks and Bluetooth speakers.
It’s obviously at its best when playing a hi-res WAV or FLAC file, but sling a CD in the tray or play 192kbps MP3s from an iPod and the Denon CEOL RCD-N8 makes it sound as polished as possible. Even low-bitrate internet radio scrubs up nicely.
If you’re after an all-in-one music system that delivers a more mature and refined sound than most cheaper docks and Bluetooth speakers on the market, then the Denon CEOL RCD-N8 is definitely worth the investment.
Its lengthy feature list (including built-in Wi-Fi, AirPlay and web music streaming), classy build, superb sound quality and slick operating system are all impressive.
However, some buyers would no doubt expect speakers to be included at this price, perhaps even Bluetooth and DAB radio too. Indeed, Panasonic’s SC-PMX7 throws in speakers, Bluetooth and DAB for similar money.
But with such irresistible sonics and that undeniable sense of quality Denon brings to all its products, somehow the RCD-N8 still feels like great value despite others offering more for the money.
The Denon CEOL RCD-N8 greatly improves upon its predecessor, the Deon CEOL RCD-N7, with a bulked-up feature list and even better sound performance. Music sounds punchy and polished, while its network talents and operating system are impressive. Only the lack of Bluetooth and speakers as standard could scupper the deal.