The Denon DVD-1800BD is Denon’s newest and least expensive Blu-ray player. For the $599 MSRP you get a Bonus View (profile 1.1) compliant player with HDMI 1.3a and component video outputs, bit-streaming (not decoding) of all the latest lossless surround formats, a front panel SD card memory slot for the playback of MP3 and JPG files, and full Divx and Windows Mediaâ„¢ Audio playback support. Unlike Denon’s higher priced offerings, what you do not get with the 1800BD are the letters â€œCIâ€ in the naming scheme. The â€œCIâ€ denotes Denon’s â€œCustom Integrationâ€ line, which is targeted at high-end custom installers and home theater aficionados looking for a larger slew of integration options, such as RS-232 control capabilities. Also lacking is a set of 5.1/7.1 analog outputs, so the 1800BD is geared strictly towards consumers with one of the latest HDMI 1.3 equipped receivers/pre-processors with built in lossless audio decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
- Design: Blu-ray Player
- Supported Formats: BD-video, BD-RE (version 2.1), BD-R, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RW, CD-DA, CD-RW, CD-R, Kodak Picture CD, and DTS CDs, MP3, Windows Mediaâ„¢, JPEG, DivX
- Supported Audio: Bitstream Capability for Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-HD, DTS-HD Master Audio, LPCM.
- Supported Video Resolutions via HDMI: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p60, 1080p24
- Dimensions: 3.25″ H x 17.2″ W x14.1″ D
- Weight: 9 Pounds
- MSRP: $599 USA
The unit weighs in at 9 pounds, which puts it in the average weight category for BD players in the $600 price range. This unit did not feel insubstantial by any means, but it also didn’t have that â€œbuilt like a tankâ€ feel that I like my equipment to have. Aesthetically, the plastic face panel of the 1800BD is only average looking. The drive tray is pushed to the left side of the face and a relatively small display screen occupies the right hand side. In general, I’d say the Denon 1800BD looks a little bland and is not quite as upscale as Denon’s 2500BTCI and 3800BDCI models.
The 1800BD’s disc tray is made from rather flimsy plastic that had a lot of flex and the mechanism was also fairly noisy, making a low level grinding noise every time I opened and closed the tray. The quality of the tray is a real shame, as the rest of the unit seemed to be very well built.
The back panel of the unit is pretty sparsely populated, though more robust than Denon’s 2500BTCI transport , which only has a single HDMI port on its back panel. For video outputs the 1800BD has composite, component, and HDMI 1.3a outputs. Audio outputs are limited to 2-channel RCA, coaxial digital (for non-HDMI equipped gear), and HDMI 1.3a. As mentioned earlier, there are no 5.1/7.1 analog outputs, so in order to take advantage of the newer lossless audio tracks you must have an HDMI equipped device capable of decoding Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, or LPCM. Denon was kind enough to include a detachable power cord, which has become a bit of a rarity, even in $1000+ A/V gear. Internally, there are Burr-Brown DACS for the two channel audio output and a newer revision of the Panasonic Uniphier all in one chipset solution that handles the processing, scaling, and HDMI-based tasks.
The 1800’s remote control was very easy to use, and included separate buttons for commonly used commands like angle, audio, Pure Direct, mode, and display as well as the more often used navigation and menu buttons. I also appreciated the discrete on and off buttons. It makes programming macros infinitely easier if you have a more powerful universal remote. The remote is not backlit but it does have glow-in-the-dark buttons that will provide some usability in the dark, provided that you expose the remote to bright light to â€œchargeâ€ the self-luminous material. The remote is not a universal remote, so there are no facilities to control any device other than the 1800BD. It also appears that the remote is quite a bit larger than it needs to be, as there are almost two inches of â€œdead spaceâ€ at the bottom of the remote where there are no buttons. I didn’t have any issues with the range of the supplied remote, and found it to work fairly well even at relatively extreme angles.
The Denon does not break any new ground in regards to its feature set. The unit is merely â€œBonus Viewâ€ (profile 1.1) compliant, not â€œLive Viewâ€ (profile 2.0) compliant and it does not have the LAN jack or memory to support a firmware upgrade to â€œLive View.â€ There are no capabilities for Netflix or Pandora video streaming either. However, Denon has done very well in the disc compatibility arena. The unit supports BD-video, BD-RE (version 2.1), BD-R, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RW, CD-DA, CD-RW, CD-R, Kodak Picture CD, and DTS CDs. The 1800 also supports MP3, Windows Mediaâ„¢, and JPEG on either CD/DVD or via the front panel SD card reader slot. DivX media is supported on either CD or DVD only. HDMI CEC control is included to assist in controlling other CEC equipped devices.
One item I must give Denon serious kudos for is the inclusion of multiple video adjustment options, including Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Gamma Correction, Color, Black Level (component output only), and Noise Reduction (component output only). With so many of today’s consumers taking advantage of the video switching capabilities of their new receivers and pre-processors, the ability to tailor the output of a source device can be a very useful feature. As most receivers lack the ability to adjust the multiple incoming video sources before outputting them to the display device over a single HDMI or component video output, the user winds up having to calibrate their display for only one of their sources, with the rest being forced to make do with less than perfect calibration.
The 1800BD also allows the user to select either YPbPr or RGB for HDMI output, with two separate output options for RGB; 16-235 or â€œEnhancedâ€ 0-246. Depending upon your display, this may help you get a better rendition of black and white. Most users will be able to leave all of these settings at their default levels, but for the more advanced â€œtweakerâ€ it may help eek out a slightly better image. The 1800 supports 24fps output on 1080P sources provided that the source was recorded at 24fps, otherwise 60fps is output. HDMI â€œDeep Colorâ€ is also supported as long as the display can handle it, though there is still no Deep Color source material available.
Audio capabilities are pretty robust for those of you with HDMI equipped receivers/pre-processors. Since the 1800 does not include a 5.1/7.1 analog output, only consumers with newer surround processors with built in Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding can take full advantage of the Next Gen lossless soundtracks. This is done in the menu by setting the 1800BD to â€œHD Audio Outputâ€ which selects the bitstream format. If you wish to hear the built-in menu sound effects or a secondary audio stream from â€œBonus Viewâ€ content on BD, you set the 1800BD to â€œMix Audio Outputâ€ in the audio portion of the menu system. Doing this prevents listening of TrueHD or DTS-Master soundtracks at their true resolution though so you’ll want to switch back if you are intending on listening with maximum capability.
The1800BD lacks internal decoding for TrueHD and DTS-Master Audio however, you could have the player output everything as LPCM to get around this limitation. If your processor is a little bit older (HDMI 1.1 or higher), the Denon can transpose TrueHD or DTS-HD to LPCM, provided that your receiver/processor can handle a high bit-rate LPCM stream. Otherwise, the Denon can be set to output the lower bit-rate â€œcoreâ€ streams via the player’s coaxial digital audio output. If you wish to do this, don’t forget to set the â€œHDMI Audio Outâ€ setting in the menu to â€œMuteâ€ and then change the â€œDigital Outâ€ setting to â€œBitstreamâ€ in order to activate the Co-axial digital output.
If all of this sounds a bit confusing, it is. Denon’s instructions don’t make clarifying this much easier, as the explanations for the three different audio output settings are found strewn across the manual in multiple locations. It took quite a bit of reading, re-reading, and trial and error to figure out exactly how all of this worked. As I had the 1800 hooked up to the Marantz SR6003, I simply set the BD Audio mode to â€œHD Audio Outputâ€ and the HDMI Audio Out to â€œHDMI Multi,â€ which bitstreamed all audio formats at their native resolution and let the Marantz handle the decoding.
Setup of the Denon was fairly simple. The on-screen menus were clear and easy to navigate. Once I had the unit in my rack and connected to the Marantz SR6003 receiver, setup took less than 5 minutes. Operationally, the 1800BD was very solid, and I experienced no significant quirks during the month or so that I had the player in my system. It took the player about 19 seconds to open the disc tray from a powered down state and about 35 seconds from power up to display the first â€œDenonâ€ splash screen. Disney’s Cars on Blu-ray took about 50 seconds to reach the first menus, which is not too bad. Surprisingly, the 1800 was a bit slower on all of these benchmarks then my Samsung BD-UP5000, which is an older design and a dual-format player (HD-DVD and Blu-ray) to boot. Once discs were loaded, the Denon proved to be very responsive to remote commands, which cannot be said of many other Blu-ray players.
I experienced no disc compatibility problems with the 1800BD, but Denon has just released a firmware update that you can download from their website, put it on a CD, and place the CD in the player to bring it up to date so that it will play the latest Blu-ray movies that have changed their copyright protection encoding (there seems to be a new copyright code about every 4 months).Personally, I feel that the constant firmware updating that has been required on most players is a real pain and is ill-fitting for a consumer electronics format searching for mass-market adoption.
While I had the 1800 in my system, I ran through my full battery of Blu-ray test discs, including Cars, The Dark Knight, Transformers, and the last few episodes of Mad Men. In general, picture quality was very good with all material. Black and white levels appeared spot on and colors were reproduced accurately. The only real chink in the 1800’s armor was found when running film material (native 24 fps) into my Fujitsu plasma at 1080i. The relatively poor interlacing/de-interlacing performance of the 1800 was fairly obvious, manifesting itself with a touch of the â€œjaggiesâ€ here and there. This also hurt the overall sharpness on a lot of source material, especially compared to my HQV Reon equipped Samsung player. These problems were even more noticeable on standard DVD material, like the Coliseum flyover sequence in Gladiator.
The Denon also seemed to be a bit slower to lock onto different film cadences than my HQV Reon equipped Samsung or the AVM II processor in my Fujitsu plasma. If your display can handle 1080P at 24 fps, I would definitely recommend using that setting with this player. If you only have a 720p/1080i television as I do, the 1800 may not be the best fit for you, unless you are feeding into a processor that can properly handle de-interlacing tasks.
While I wasn’t blown away by the video performance of the 1800, I have absolutely no complaints with the Denon’s audio quality. All of the high resolution soundtracks bitstreamed via HDMI to the Marantz SR6003 sounded excellent. The intro sequence to Cars (LPCM) was outstanding, with phenomenal contrast between the quiet â€œmeditativeâ€ monologue of Lightning McQueen and the interspaced (and much louder) race scenes. The bank robbery scene at the beginning of The Dark Knight is another favorite test of mine, with the deep bass impacts of the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack helping to set the very ominous mood of the movie right from the start.
The 1800 reproduced the first scene of the movie perfectly, with fantastic bass. When the bank manager takes matters into his own hands and starts firing at the robbers with a pump-action shotgun, I just had to smile, as the blasts sounded so incredibly realistic. In fact, I greatly preferred the audio quality of the 1800 to my reference Samsung player, as the 1800 offered a noticeably smoother sound. I know that many people firmly believe that â€œbits are bitsâ€ when it comes to digital audio, and that all components should sound the same, but via HDMI, my reference Samsung is actually a bit thin and harsh sounding compared to the 1800. This was particularly evident with stereo playback.
The Denon sounded noticeably better with CDs via HDMI than my Samsung, again offering a much more balanced sound. Detail retrieval was excellent, without edging towards the bright or harsh side of things. I also spent a bit of time using the 1800 with its Burr-Brown powered two-channel stereo outputs and was pleasantly surprised by its sound quality as an analog two-channel device. If your Blu-ray player will spend a lot of time spinning CDs, the 1800 could be a very good choice.
One problem that I must mention is that one of our other reviewers did experience a significant issue when attempting to send audio via HDMI from the 1800 to his Onkyo TX-SR875 receiver. Despite making every possible change to the audio settings on the 1800, he just couldn’t get any sound to his 875. Considering that this happened with two separate samples of the 1800, it looks like there is some sort of HDMI compatibility problem between the 1800 and the Onkyo 875 receiver. Thus far, I haven’t heard of any other Onkyo/Integra units experiencing problems with the 1800.
On the Bench
Standard DVD Video Processing Performance
The 1800 features Panasonic’s Uniphier chipset solution which has seen several revisions since its release. Standard DVD performance doesn’t seem to be a priority for Panasonic’s engineers though because players that use the Uniphier solution still exhibit trouble with poorly encoded DVD material.
The 1800 was unable to lock onto our high detail 3-2 cadence wedge patterns. Similarly the player also couldn’t correctly decode 2-2 material and so both video and film material that is encoded poorly will lose substantial detail and combing artifacts will be visible. On the upside, the player did pass the syncing subtitles to frames test and the Super Speedway high detail test. The 1800BD is a motion adaptive player that applies diagonal filtering.
When we ran the 1800 through our CUE tests, it passed the 3-2 chroma tests but failed on the 2-2 CUE test as well as the more difficult ICP CUE test.
Core Video Performance
Measurements of the 1800 were taken at 1080i with the Tektronix Oscilloscope from the component video outputs. The player showed no problems with Y/C delay, passed the blacker than black pluge test, and did not crop any pixels on our pixel cropping test. The white level was measured spot on at 100 IRE. The frequency response shows a gradual declining slope into the highest frequencies which translates into a slight lack of sharpness in fine detail. All of these results represent above average performance in Secret’s core video performance tests.
HD Video Performance
The 1800 performed fairly well on our set of HD performance tests. The player does do correct 1080i/p conversion so the limited amount of Blu-ray material that is encoded in 1080i will appear without loss of detail. The player also passed both our diagonal filtering test and our high resolution pixel cropping test. This shows that it can enhance scenes with diagonal edges and movement and produces an image without truncating any of the edges. I have only seen a couple players with really good digital noise reduction and the 1800BD fell a bit short of passing the test.
The 1800BD had a layer change that clocked in at right around a second which gives it a passing score for the test and overall had good responsiveness.
With so many quality Blu-ray players making their way to market right now, Denon is in a tough spot with the DVD-1800BD. There are competing units that offer equivalent if not outright better video performance, 5.1/7.1 analog outputs, built-in decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-Master Audio, BD-Live (profile 2.0) interactivity, and even Netflix video streaming for less than the Denon’s $599 price point. However, the Denon does offer excellent sound quality for both two-channel and multi-channel sources and has the advanced video setup options that may be required by some users.