- Review Price: £179.00
When it comes to DVD players, not many brands command as much respect as Denon. The company has been responsible for some of the most remarkable high-end decks ever seen, revered by home cinephiles for their reference-standard picture quality and cutting-edge features. But its more affordable midrange players aren’t bad either, given that much of the company’s high-end technology filters down to lower price points.
The DVD-1940 is one of two players in the company’s latest ‘budget’ line-up, sitting just above the entry-level DVD-1740. It’s Denon’s most affordable universal DVD player to date, and comes equipped with a feature list that reads like a home cinema glossary, plus an array of impressive-sounding electronics that we hope translates into impressive-looking pictures.
Aesthetically, Denon’s DVD decks haven’t changed a great deal down the years, but there’s no need when they look this classy. Some might call its design boxy or basic, but we call it refined – our review sample boasts a smart silver finish with a brushed aluminium front panel (it’s also available in black) and with its chunky dimensions, the DVD-1940 is a plus-size model and proud of it. This no nonsense styling is what sets it apart from cheaper players that rely on superficial embellishments or a slimline profile to catch your attention. That said, it would have been nice to see a USB port on the front given that even the cheapest decks seem to offer one these days.
Among the buttons on the fascia are HDMI resolution control and Pure Direct, which switches off the video circuitry for interference-free audio playback. Around the back you’ll find a healthy array of sockets, including HDMI, composite, S-video, component and RGB SCART outputs. These are joined by stereo and 5.1-channel analogue outputs.
Like most Denon DVD players, the DVD-1940 is packed with features. It’s a universal DVD player, which means it spins DVD, CD, DVD-Audio and SACDs, but it also supports a wide range of compressed media formats, including MP3, WMA, JPEG and all versions of DivX, including Video On Demand content.
The deck can output video from the HDMI port in resolutions of 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576p and 480p, and boasts on-board Dolby Digital and DTS decoding (like DVD-A and SACD material, the decoded sound is output from the 5.1-channel outputs).
Nestling inside is a Faroudja FLi2301 DCDi chipset, which provides a film mode, 3:2 pulldown detection and progressive scan from the component outputs. It’s joined by discrete interlaced and progressive 216MHz/12-bit video DACs and 192kHz/24-bit Burr Brown audio DACs.
There are plenty of video and audio tweaks that let you fine tune the picture before it reaches your display. You can alter colour, contrast, gamma and brightness – the levels of which can be saved in five image mode memories – and there’s a selection of bass management settings for the HDMI or 5.1-channel audio outputs. Also on board is an HDMI Black Enhancer.
The player is exceptionally easy to use, boasting logical menus and onscreen displays peppered with cute, colourful icons and large text. The remote is also thoughtfully laid out, with nicely sized and well separated buttons that keep it from feeling cluttered. Thanks to the unit’s size, the front panel controls are given room to breathe, making it easy to access the key functions without delving into the setup menu.
Although pictures lack the pin-sharp refinement of high-end Denon decks like the DVD-3930 or 2930, the image quality is still superb. We loaded up the ”X-Men” disc, and when viewed through the HDMI output at 1080p the player delivers slick, assured pictures throughout. The built-in picture adjustments prove to be a valuable inclusion – we achieved some terrific results after a quick fiddle with the settings.
The most impressive aspect is how clean and well-defined the image is, with no obvious block noise or upscaling artefacts on display. It also ensures smooth, judder-free motion at all times, which helps when watching a particularly action-packed movie.
The deck’s detail reproduction is wonderfully sharp, displaying tiny objects and subtle textures like facial stubble or grass with pin-point precision. OK, so it’s no match for hi-def, but as DVD pictures go these are some of the best we’ve seen at this price.
Also impressive is the faithful reproduction of strongly saturated colour, which makes bright outdoor scenes look dazzling and lends Mystique’s skin an utterly convincing shade of bright blue. It also does a great job with human skin tones. This top-notch colour performance is backed up by cracking black level and contrast, which makes it possible to spot gentle shadow detail during dark scenes.
These magnificent pictures are complimented by outstanding sound quality with multi-channel and stereo material. Using the 5.1-channel outputs and built-in decoder, ”X-Men’s” rousing DTS soundtrack is feisty, direct and well-balanced, sounding a lot more dynamic than the Dolby Digital version. Effects are guided effortlessly around the soundstage and the well-separated centre channel information allows dialogue to cut through noisy scenes like a hot knife through butter.
The DVD-1940 also makes an excellent music player. Just for old time’s sake, we let it rip with Nirvana’s ”Nevermind” through the analogue stereo outputs and were staggered by the sheer force and clarity with which it conveys those classic guitar riffs and crashing drums. Its SACD and DVD-Audio performance is similarly stunning, making discs like Roxy Music’s ”Avalon” on SACD sound sharp and dynamic.
We don’t really have a bad word to say about the DVD-1940. It’s packed with features, offers kick-ass performance and its build quality is a cut above most budget players. If we’re being picky, cheaper universal players like the Pioneer DV-600V add a USB port for less money, but judged on its own merit, the DVD-1940 is a sensational DVD player that earns our wholehearted recommendation.
Score in detail