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Denon DBP-2012UD Review

Pros

  • Luxurious build quality
  • Top-drawer pictures and sound
  • DLNA networking, 3D and YouTube

Cons

  • No Wi-Fi support
  • Expensive
  • Limited web content

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £649.00
  • 3D support
  • DLNA 1.5 certification
  • YouTube video streaming (with firmware update)
  • Universal disc support, including DVD-Audio and SACD
  • Solid construction and high-grade AV circuitry
  • Anchor Bay ABT2015 chipset for DVD upscaling

Loads of affordable mass-market Blu-ray players pass through our doors but every now and again we get a more ‘heavyweight’ HD spinner, aimed at buyers with bigger budgets – and Denon’s DBP-2012UD is one such machine.

It’s a subject of much debate as to whether it’s worth splashing out on a high-end player when cheaper models do the same job – often with more features – but there are definitely benefits, not least when it comes to audio playback and build quality.


Denon DBP-2012UD
And in terms of the latter, the 3D-ready DBP-2012UD is certainly impressive. It comes from the same stock as Denon’s much-revered DBP-4010UD and DVD-A1UD, which means a dual-layer top cover, separate audio and video circuits and Direct Mechanical Ground Construction – all of which is designed to suppress unwanted vibration that can have a negative effect on picture and sound performance. There’s even a rubbery coating on the surface of the disc tray mechanism, again intended to make operation as smooth as possible – instead of rattling forward, it glides out quietly, always a sign of good deck design.

This all translates into a beautifully made, ultra-robust piece of kit, garnished with chunky buttons on the fascia and a bright, informative display panel. But it’s far from utilitarian, boasting an elegant design with a slightly curved top edge and a minimal fascia. It’s certainly bulky but that’s par for the course with high-end players like these. It’s available in black or silver.
Denon DBP-2012UD


On the rear you get an impressive line-up of sockets, which includes a set of 7.1 analogue audio outputs and a separate set of analogue stereo outputs, plus component, composite and coaxial digital audio outputs. There are also remote control input and outputs and a RS-232 port, which will help when integrating the deck into a custom installation setup.

HDMI-wise you get a single v1.4 output, which makes those 3D pictures possible, but the lack of a second audio-only output won’t be helpful if you want to watch 3D with HD audio but your AV receiver lacks v1.4 inputs. You can send hi-res audio separately through the 7.1-channel analogue outputs but that’s not as convenient as using HDMI cables.

An Ethernet port provides a wired network connection, while the USB port on the front provides a way of playing digital media from storage devices.

Although high-end decks can sometimes be dull, featureless affairs – justifying it with a focus on performance over ‘gimmicks’ – that doesn’t apply to the DBP-2012UD. It’s equipped with many of the latest tricks currently en vogue in the Blu-ray world.

Not only is it primed for 3D playback, but it can also stream videos from YouTube (after a firmware update that wasn’t available at the time of writing) and stream media over your home network thanks to the deck’s DLNA certification. This networking functionality isn’t a patch on the latest players from Samsung, LG or Panasonic, for example, but it’s better than previous Denon decks. On the downside there’s no built-in Wi-Fi or support with a USB dongle, so you’ll need to use the more cumbersome Ethernet port and LAN cable.

The USB port in the front allows you to play DivX HD, MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, JPEG, MPEG-1/2/4 and WMV and you can also stream these over a network, but the lack of MKV support may be a turn off for some users.

The key feature as far as audio enthusiasts are concerned is the DBP-2012UD’s universal disc support, which includes DVD-Audio and SACD. This, combined with the USB port and network streaming, means you can play your music and movies all from one source, whether they’re on disc, PC or digital device, which is a real bonus.


Denon DBP-2012UD
What’s more, the deck’s high-quality internal circuitry is a feature in itself. There’s a 297MHz/12-bit video DAC, 192kHz/32-bit audio DACs for all channels and Anchor Bay’s highly-regarded ABT2015 chipset for DVD upscaling. The deck will decode DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby True HD, as well as feeding them in bitstream form from the HDMI output.

Denon hasn’t gone to town on its operating system in the same way as Samsung or Sony, but there’s a reassuring simplicity and responsiveness about the deck’s displays that makes it a breeze to operate.

The Home menu sports a row of four options – Media Player, YouTube, Setup and Quit. The setup menu is comprehensive yet easy to follow, while the DLNA menus (accessed via the Media Player option) make it easy to find your content.

To tweak the picture – as AV enthusiasts are wont to do – you need to enter a separate, dedicated menu. Here, you can alter the levels of contrast, brightness, gamma, sharpness and hue, as well as fine tune the levels of white and black and apply 3D, block and mosquito noise reduction. There are five memory presets to store your tweaks.

The remote is terrific, using capital-letter labels and a generally intuitive structure that allows you to navigate round menus without looking at it.

The DBP-2012UD is fairly speedy when loading discs, taking 52 seconds to start playing Terminator Salvation and 41 to load Spider-Man 3. Getting it under a minute is always respectable, yet that’s still a longer wait than some people would like.

Still, you can console yourself with the fact that the deck’s picture quality is seriously good. 2D Blu-ray discs like Children of Men look fabulous, bursting with detail across the screen without so much as a pixel out of place.

During the opening scenes of Children of Men, showing shots of a bustling Oxford Street, the Denon reproduces the gritty textures of the shop fronts and vehicles in the background with pin-sharp clarity, plus you can make out fibres on Theo’s shabby clothes and the stubble on his jaded face. But the deck’s respectful picture circuitry leaves nuances like the film’s deliberate grain well alone, giving you a faithful and gorgeously cinematic representation of what’s on the disc.

Denon DBP-2012UD

The wow-factor continues with amazing colour reproduction – natural, smooth and subtle, as well as bright and bold when called for – and profound blacks. It’s an all-round top-drawer picture, backed up by a near flawless run-through of our Silicon Optix HQV disc.

All of this pays dividends when you throw a 3D disc into the tray. The image is sharp, vibrant and wonderfully immersive, with the Denon outputting those left and right-eye 1080p images without any glitches.

Where the DBP-2012UD has a real advantage over its cheaper counterparts is in audio playback. That’s immediately clear when you spin any SACD, which sounds intricately detailed, warm and well-balanced. Switch to CD playback through the stereo outs and the top-end clarity and overall punch is delightful to hear.

Verdict

It may not be as cutting-edge as the latest Samsung, Panasonic and Sony decks, but the Denon DBP-2012UD’s feature list is a cut above previous Denon Blu-ray players and many similarly-priced high-end players. The presence of YouTube, 3D support, universal disc support and DLNA are good to see.

But such hi-tech trickery isn’t really why you buy a player like this. Of greater interest to AV enthusiasts is its sensational build quality, eye-popping pictures and smooth audio playback, which may not completely justify that high-price tag but certainly shouldn’t leave anyone feeling disappointed.

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 9
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Value 7

Features

3D Ready Yes
BD Player Profile Yes
1080/24p Playback Yes

A/V Ports

HDMI Yes
Component Yes
Composite Yes
S-Video Yes
Digital Audio Out Yes
Charging/Computer Connection Yes
Ethernet Yes
WiFi No
Analogue Audio Out Yes

USB Playback

MP3 Yes
JPEG Yes
DivX / DivX HD Yes
MKV No

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