Click on photo above to see larger version.
● DCDi by
Faroudja FLI-2310 Decoding Engine
● New ESS Vibrato "Chroma Bug Free" MPEG/DVD-Audio Decoder
● Sony CXD-2753 Second Generation DSD Decoder
● Dual 12 bit D/A Video Converters
● Burr-Brown 24-bit, 192-kHz PCM/DSD 1790 Audio DACs
● Digital Bass Management for DVD-A and SACD
● Digital Time Alignment for DVD-A and SACD
● Outputs: DVI-D-HDCP, Coaxial Digital, Toslink Optical
Digital, Firewire Digital, Denon Link Digital, 5.1
● Size: 5.5" H x 17.1" W x 17" D
● Weight: 27.7 Pounds
● MSRP: $2,000 USA
DVD players have come a long way since their inception.
It amazes me how consumer electronics companies can always find new ways to spin off
existing products. I don't know how many times I have bought a player
thinking, “That's it, I finally have the one that will last me!” only to find
out that they have developed some new feature that is a must-have next year.
was DTS, then it was progressive scan, then it was motion adaptive progressive
scan with no chroma bug, then it was DVD-Audio (DVD-A) and so on and so on. Now we
have progressive scan and scaling, plus digital video outputs and SACD
Knowing what I do now, I still see room for further innovations
that could creep along, keeping the market afloat for us hardcore enthusiasts.
Denon's newest player, the DVD-5900, puts most of the features available
today into a pretty hefty package and manages to subdue my constant itch for
an upgrade. This player packs just about every punch DVD has to offer and
performs most of them quite admirably. Characterizing itself as the “Flagship”
of Denon's universal player line, the 5900 has the features and build you
would expect to be just that . . . a flagship product. We performed the
DVD Benchmark tests on the 5900 a while back, and the present report
will provide some additional findings.
The 5900 is cosmetically a standout player, and you should expect this in a
$2,000 component. The chassis is a bit of a fusion between the
DVD-2900/2800 series and the DVD-9000. At about 27 pounds in weight, it has
definite heft, but it isn't quite the tank the DVD-9000 was (close to 50
pounds!!) The front panel is the same machined aluminum face with the
oversized buttons. The DVD tray itself is more characteristic of the DVD-9000
with a very slow opening but very robust feel.
What you won't find on this new unit though is the same old dials found on
previous models. Instead, we get a multi-function button and dial combo. By
cycling this button, the user is given controls for SACD setup, Pure Direct
Modes, and DVI output settings (i.e., 480p, 720p, or 1080i).
For SACD, one can choose what output you want the player to default to.
Selections are multi-channel, stereo, and CD layer. For anyone who has
experience with universal players, this is a great feature that is sorely
missed on many of the models out there now. Most of the players I have had experience with require
the user to go into the player's setup menu to select which track he wants to
go to. This is a pain for those “audiophile” purists who don't want any video
in their setup but still want the ability to select which output is used for
comparison. All things considered, my preference would be to have an audio
button on the remote that could toggle between the options, but this is the
next best thing.
Also included for SACD is the choice of a high pass filter set at either 50
or 100 kHz. This is to filter off the high frequency noise that is one of the
characteristics of SACD which may cause problems with some amplifiers.
For Pure Direct modes, Denon has simplified the setup, so one can select from
Video Off, Digital Off, or both, as well as Normal (disengaged). I ran into a
fault though with the Pure Direct Modes. According to their manual, the “All
Off” setting should also disable the front display, similar to their previous
models. Unfortunately this isn't the case, and the only way to actually turn
off the display is via the remote's “dimmer” selection. This feature is geared
more for the purists out there who don't want any tainting of the audio
signal from circuits that are not being used, but switching between on and off didn't reveal any audible difference
The DVI setup is also very straightforward. The user selects from three
digital output resolutions: 480p, 720p, and 1080i, or can set the DVI to off. Be
aware though, when the DVI port is activated, the analog component video outputs are
disabled. You can also set the black level to video or computer standards.
This was a feature that was missed on the popular Bravo D1 and Samsung
On the back panel, one will find a nice set of options for hookup.
The hottest feature would have to be the premiere addition to the Denon lineup
of a DVI (Digital Video Interface) which allows a pure digital video signal to
be output from the player, bypassing the entire analog stage. The output is
HDCP compliant so make sure your monitor or projector is if you are planning
on buying this player for that feature. The 5900 will automatically shut off
the DVI output if the display it is connected to isn't HDCP compliant.
Click on photo above to see larger version.
For the analog video side, there are two sets of each kind of output:
S-Video, composite video, and component video. For component video, you can select from
RCA connections or gold plated BNC connections which are definitely preferred
due to their locking style connection.
For digital audio, there are the standard coaxial RCA and Toslink digital outputs, but you also get two 1394 outputs and the
third generation Denon Link for compliant Denon receivers (at this
time the Denon AVR-5800 and 5803 are the only compliant receivers with Denon
Link). These new digital outputs allow you to use a compatible receiver or
processing for all the DSP and analog conversion of both film soundtracks and
high resolution DVD-Audio (in the case of the Denon Link) and both DVD-Audio
and SACD via the 1394 connection.
A word of caution though, the 1394 outputs of this player feature two separate
output formats. One is a proprietary Denon clocking system that is only
compatible with future Denon products yet to be announced. The other is an
open standard and conforms to A&M protocol. As of the time of this review, the
1394 (iLink) output is not compatible with the receivers offering this feature
today. Denon has told me that a firmware update should be available early this
year that will remedy this problem.
The Denon Link is also proprietary as mentioned before, but in order to get
the full benefit for AVR-5803 owners, one must send their 5803 in to have it
updated to the most recent Denon Link revision. Only then can you listen to
copy-protected DVD-Audio. This link, like the 1394 output, will also pass CD
playback, Dolby Digital soundtracks, and DTS soundtracks. Denon has
stated that the ability to pass SACD via its Denon Link is going to be
available very shortly.
For analog audio, there are eight RCA output connections. These can be
used for all audio applications, including SACD, DVD Audio, DTS, and
Dolby Digital. There are also two separate stereo outputs for the front left
and right channels. This is very convenient for those who have a multi zone setup
in their household.
You will find an RS-232 input for linking the player to a control system
in the house and a system link that can be incorporated with other Denon
My only complaint as far as connections goes is the space allocated between
each of the analog audio outputs. The DVD-9000 allowed plenty of room between
connectors, and the connections felt a bit beefier. This allowed for a lockdown type connector to easily be applied without having to worry about getting
your fingers in there to get them off again.
The Achilles heel of this player though is probably its navigation. I have had
lots of experience with Denon's players, and their high end offerings have set
a level of excellence when it comes to speed of navigation and functionality.
However, the 5900 suffers from exceedingly slow navigation. This can
be extremely frustrating when using menus. Most of the time selections can
take as much as five seconds to process, when previous players like the
DVD-2900 are almost instantaneous. Thankfully the layer change is seamless
though, a feature the 2900 became popular for.
The other downside is the remote control. This is pretty much the same remote
found with the DVD-2900 and Marantz 8400. It is not backlit, although most of
the buttons are laid out well. I really wish they would have included buttons
that control the DVI settings and SACD playback modes though.
Video Processing and Performance
For internal processing, the core of this unit is ESS technologies new Vibrato
II chip. This is a decent solution but could have been a step better. While
the 5900 did pass our core tests associated with the MPEG decoder, this chip
is considered pretty low end as far as MPEG decoders are concerned. Hopefully
future Denon high end players will feature better decoders such as the new
offerings from Sigma Designs. There are some good things associated with the ESS chip though, including a total lack of chroma issues or subtitle synching
to the progressive flags.
For deinterlacing and scaling duties, Denon chose Faroudja's newest chip,
the FLI-2310. This is the first time Denon has equipped one of their high end
players with a Faroudja chip. Denon still prefers the Silicon Image chip
with its superior film deinterlacing and full chroma sampling, but since
Silicon Image doesn't offering scaling, a feature that is in high demand now,
they opted for the Faroudja.
is known for its excellent deinterlacing, especially for video content. This
chip was originally intended for fixed panel displays and digital projectors,
but was easily incorporated into this player. Unlike the recent Samsung
player, the Faroudja solution is in place for both the analog component out
as well as DVI. But the scaling feature is only available via the DVI output.
Resolutions of 480p, 720p, and 1080i are supported for displays with HDCP
compliant DVI connections. 480p is supported for analog connections.
The units have been
shipped with the FLI2310's noise reduction feature turned on and all the way
up. This causes artifacts due to the chip enhancing MPEG artifacts on most
DVDs. The artifacts are quite noticeable on some test patterns but rarely show
up on movie software. The fix for this is quite easy though and I informed Denon of the issue. Hopefully we will see a solution soon.
The Faroudja chip is also clipping five pixels from the right side of the
image. This is an inherent issue with the chip and cannot be remedied. While
we shoot for no pixel cropping, this isn't really hindering the image too
As for D/A processing, Denon is using two separate Analog
Devices ADV-7310 video DACs. There is one for progressive processing and a
totally separate one for interlaced processing. Again this is reminiscent of
the Krell DVD Standard. This DAC features noise shaping video for a very crisp
and detailed image.
Aside from all that, the video output on this player is nothing short of
phenomenal. For quite sometime now we at Secrets have regarded the Panasonic
RP-82 and Denon DVD-1600 to be about as good as it gets in terms of video
quality. The 5900 surpasses that standard. Remember that both of the previously
mentioned players have excellent internal components including Faroudja
deinterlacing and Panasonic's excellent MPEG decoder. But the 5900 surpasses
these with a better analog stage that produces a crisper image with excellent
depth and clarity. This is similar to what we found with Krell's excellent
analog stage. Denon has pretty much combined the best of both worlds
with this unit and rivals anything I have seen to date.
Of course the DVI output is the preferred delivery system as it bypasses any
analog conversion. This cuts down on artifacts around edges of objects. While
the 5900 has an excellent analog stage, you will still see some very minor
artifacts on some test patterns that you won't see using DVI. But the DVI
output on this player does have some issues too. Most of the user setup features
are not enabled for DVI, including aspect ratio control. This is odd given the
Faroudja chip offers these features, and many consumers look for aspect ratio
The DVI output is also triggered by the HDCP compliance of a display, meaning
that if you have the DVI connection hooked up and switch inputs on some
displays, that signal goes away. You then have to turn the DVI connection back
on via the front panel of the player to use it again. This is a bit of an
inconvenience. Most players I have seen with DVI don't need this and allow you
to use the DVI connection with non-copy protected DVDs as well, such as AVIA;
the 5900 does not.
One of the many nice features of the 5900 is its user memory settings. You can
customize the image settings for up to five different memories. Options
include the normal brightness, contrast, sharpness and color settings, but
also include various noise reduction settings, chroma delay, cross color
suppressor settings, and gamma controls! The player also offers horizontal and
vertical positioning adjustments for those whose displays lack this feature.
These features combined offer an unprecedented amount of flexibility in setup.
Another feature lacking on some of Denon's previous offerings is the ability
to stop a movie and turn off the player, then return later and pick up where
you left off. Fortunately, the 5900 offers this. By pressing stop, the player
stays at the spot you stopped at, regardless of whether you turn the player
off or not. You can completely stop the disc and erase the marker by
pressing Stop twice.
Like most players, the 5900 does have some minor inconveniences but overall
offers a gorgeous image regardless of what video output you use. For a bit
more information on the video performance of this unit, see our original
DVD Benchmark report.
Audio Processing and Performance
Now as most of you know by now, Universal Players are still a bit rare. And
even more rare is a player that offers the best of both worlds with stunning
picture quality and an excellent audio stage. There have been a few offerings
that have come close, but usually slip in one department or another.
Some of the key things we have been missing up until now are flexible bass
management for both SACD and DVD-A, time alignment for SACD, and a digital
high resolution interface.
The 5900 has all of these capabilities. It not only features full digital bass
management for all sources, it gives you the option of several different
crossover points from 40 Hz - 120 Hz in 20 Hz steps. The crossover point
affects all channels though and applies to any speaker set to “Small”. This is also one
of the only players that offer full time alignment for both DVD-A and SACD
sources. The only caveat is that SACD is decoded after first converting it to PCM
(most Universal Players do this). However, I didn't notice any hit in terms of conversion during all
my listening sessions. And quite frankly, the importance of time alignment
with multi-channel sources is far too important to be ignored.
The time alignment settings are quite simple, allowing you to choose from feet
or meters for your adjustments, and each individual speaker is individually
including the subwoofer. One of the complaints I have always had with players
that offer time alignment is that they tend to address speakers in pairs, so,
for example, the surrounds could only be adjusted as a pair rather than one
at a time. While that
is OK for some people, I have been in too many home theaters to know that this is just
not always the case, and most people want separate settings for each individual
Next up is the speaker level adjustments, which again are on a speaker by
speaker basis. One of the biggest complaints of Denon owners has been
addressed with the 5900, i.e., setting the subwoofer level. Units prior to the 5900
had the subwoofer output attenuated by as much as 15 dB, which made setup of
the player a bit tough. This player has a 10 dB attenuation toggle that solves
For those wishing to bypass all this processing, there is also a source direct
mode. This takes all of the crossovers and time alignment out of play. This
mode also turns off the digital outputs of the player though, including the
Denon Link and iLink.
Another great feature of this player is the Bass Enhancer mode. This feature
uses the active crossover point when playing back CDs and sends the low passed
information to the subwoofer. This means that you don't have to use the
digital output and your processor's functions to listen to a CD with proper
bass management. I found this feature invaluable as I loved the sound of the
5900 and preferred it to my already outstanding Anthem processor, if only by a
Some other new features incorporated are HDCD and SRS True Surround
processing. HDCD is an encoding method developed by Pacific Microsonics, and
now owned by Microsoft, which allows for
true 20-bit performance yet is fully compatible with the 16-bit CD standard.
SRS allows you to simulate surround sound using two speakers for those without
a surround sound setup. Although it sounds pretty good, of course it
doesn't match the performance of even a simple surround setup.
I had lots of time with this unit and really put it through its
paces with music. I listened to a lot of CDs, DVD-As and SACDs. It is very rare for a player to do all
formats so well, but you get no tradeoffs here.
This player reminded me a lot of its big brother, the DVD-9000. The depth and
articulation of sound are phenomenal. One could easily look to this as a staple
piece in a music only system. In fact the only players that edge it out,
performance wise, that I've heard personally, are the Krell DVD Standard with
CDs and the Meridian series with DVD-Audio. But these players start out at
over three times the cost or more, and the differences weren't enough to weigh
in at those costs.
Film soundtracks were also spectacular using the internal DD and DTS decoders.
But I rarely used them. the reason being that DVD-A levels are recorded slightly
different then film soundtracks. Therefore, I set up my internal channel levels
using the Chesky DVD-A sampler that has high resolution test tones
specifically for DVD-A. These levels turn out different from levels found on
DVD test discs such as Digital Video Essentials or Dolby's test discs. So I
use my Anthem processor for film soundtracks.
If you go this same route, make sure you set up your player's internal levels
AFTER you do your processor/receiver levels. Most processors and receivers
apply their channel levels universally to all inputs, including the
multi-channel ones. So if you do the player setup first, then your processor
you may have altered your player's settings.
Now I realize that there is a small niche in the audio world that demands the
absolute best in terms of performance. They make their decisions about the
pieces they buy by looking at the critical stages of the player including the
audio DACs, OP Amps, clocks, and other staple pieces of the analog stage. The
DVD-5900 has some great internal components, but also shares some weak ones.
The D/A converters are custom built Burr Brown PCM 1790 DACs
that handle both PCM and DSD signals in their native format. These are
considered by most audiophiles to be one of the best DACs available on the
market today. The 5900 also uses separate power supplies for its video and
audio sections, unlike its little brother, the DVD-2900. This virtually
eliminates the chance of crosstalk between the video and audio circuitry.
While most 5900 owners will be overjoyed with its
sonic prowess, some audiophiles know that key upgrades to this player will
bring that level even higher, mainly in the analog circuitry and OP Amp areas.
I am personally overjoyed with this player's performance stock, but am a bit
curious just how much better it could sound. There are a few aftermarket
dealers offering modifications to the analog stage of this player for those
looking for the ultimate refined audio stage. These mods are quite expensive
and can bring the price of the unit up as much as double for modding just two
or three channels.
I am arranging to get a unit from two separate companies, Underwood Hi-Fi and
Wright Mods, so that I can compare and report on what kind of difference one
may hear going this route. But again I stress that this is already a sonic
delight regardless of format and modifying a player will also result in a
forfeit of warranty.
While not a perfect player, the Denon DVD-5900 is the most all inclusive player I
have had the privilege of using to date. It is by far the best
Universal Player I have tested and the new reference in this category. The video
performance is second to none, and the audio performance is the best I've
heard in this price range, rivaling players that cost significantly more. Denon is making huge strides in the price performance category, and I can't
wait to see where they go next. The DVD-5900 gets my highest recommendation
regardless of what you are looking for in a player.
- Kris Deering -
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