Doing this review made me realize a couple significant things. First off, it represents the 15th Blu ray player I have reviewed which means I am either sick/crazy or just have to much time on my hands. The other (which is huge) is the total MSRP is over $10,000 with the players involved. Of course do the DVD-A1 makes up almost half of that. In the grand scheme of things I realize both probably mean nothing but I thought they were worth noting. Especially since most publications usually do not have this much fire power on hand when they do their reviews. I would like to personally thank Robert of VE and the many AVS members who appreciate my efforts. Part II (The Comparison/Super Shootout) is for you. Let's get started with the DVD-A1.
So what does a MSRP of $4500 buy you? Besides a hernia repair if you don't use your legs when lifting quite a bit. This "Blu ray player" almost weighs 42 pounds! This is more than the Denon 4310CI receiver below it (pic 2). I seriously doubt anyone can find fault with me calling it a tank or battleship. If there was ever an argument against build Q advantages don't bring it up with the DVD-A1. It is built solid for a reason.
Let's jump into the Features, Pic & Soud Q. The last couple Denon units I have reviewed (3800 and 2500) have had plenty of picture adjustments. Same with the DVD-A1. You get DNR (reduces noise in the entire picture which is useful for SD dvds), Contrast, Brightness, ENHANCER (strengthens the contours of the picture- you have 0 to 11 and I will say it really does help emphasize the picture without hurting it), Gamma Correction (this time this adjustment gives you a cool graph that allows you to tweak it perfectly), Sharpness Mid (which is only for analog outputs), Sharpness High (this adjustment is works over HDMI), Hue, White Level, Black Level, Chroma Level, H position and V positions (these allow you to move the picture left/right or top/bottom). I was able to dial in a very impressive image. I took plenty of screenshots and will post them even though I know they don't do the DVD-A1 justice. Since I just got the 4310CI Denon receiver (wanted to pair it with the DVD-A1) I was interested in trying the Denon Link 4th mode. I have been very impressed with the sound I am getting in my theater. I actually have a few sample SACDs and was impressed. I don't usually listen to CDs in my theater but they sounded very clear. The concert Blu rays I watched were also excellent using the 4th over HDMI connection. Speaking of HDMI the DVD-A1 has Dual outs. If you are sending one to your TV and the other to your AMP it is optimal to set them to Independent. TIP> if you are going to Bitstream hit the MODE button and change it to BD HD Audio Out. I spent awhile playing around with the different settings. Analog sounds amazing as expected. I am glad the 4310CI can add the PLIIz Height sound to it as well. I won't go into that here but all I will say is my theater has never sounded more alive during a movie. Accurate placed sound can really make a difference. Especially during a chase scene (Friday the 13th 2009). My last pic shows them walking in the woods. The amount of detail is astounding. The HDMI 1 I set to Deep Color and the Color Space to YCbCr. And yes I as using 1080p/24. Even the SD dvds looked great. I put in some of the less than average titles and they were tolerable. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t but the DVD-A1 comes pretty close. It is the best SD dvd player I have seen. The DVD-A1 has passed all tests. Of course the most important one is REAL time viewing. It handled everything easily. The opening scene in The Dark Knight (pic 4) looked perfect. Not a hint of artifact, moire' or distortion.
Other... The remote (pic 3) is very nice. It lights up (very bright) a nice blue. I did not have any sluggish issues with it. I had to go in slow motion, pause, FF and RW a lot to get my screenshots. I will say it is very heavy. It is also nicely laid out. More important buttons are Picture Adjust, Display, MODE, and of course HDMI mode and resolution. There is also a cool Disc Layer button option that lets you select whether you play the Multi, Stereo (2 channel of HD layer) and or the CD layer. TIP> be careful not to hit the Source button unless you have a SD card in. This will completely the stop the movie and make you have to start over.
Load Times... I will say if you change the Power On mode to "quick" you will be able to get the movie inside the DVD-A1 within 2 seconds. That does make a difference since a lot of time when you power on the other players you have to wait a little while before you can put a disc in. This quick start allows you to get the movie in and do "other" things while it is loading. Other meaning popcorn and or drinks. Loading movies seems about on par with the latest gen of players. It does move a little faster if you have it connected. Speaking of connected it did a firmware update this morning. It only took one try so I feel lucky in that regard. The 4310CI was a challenge to get updated over the Ethernet connection but it did. Anyway, the DVD-A1 is not as fast as my JVC, Oppo or PS3 but in the end it is the pic Q and sound Q that matters most. How will it stack up against the 09FD, 3800, S5000ES and others? I am doing that now so give me a little more time to post my final Overall 0 to 100 rating scale.
Blu ray discs... So far it has played every title I have put in it except one. You guess it. The T2 Skynet disc will load and go to the start up menu. It then will play with only the sound. I consider that not a deal breaker since other players won't even load the title. Other than that it has loaded and played over 150 titles (yes, I spent a lot of time testing).
Conclusion... I will end this Review since I really want to get to my comparison report. I will say that the Denon faithful have a winner on their hands. Besides the beautiful cosmetic finish this player plays! And before the Oppo-gang starts throwing stones I would like to warn them against embarrassing themselves. If you had the chance to get either or straight up for free I am pretty sure 98% would take the DVD-A1. This Denon Flagship is going to be tough to beat in terms of overall pic and sound Q. And I am pretty sure it won't be beat in terms of build Q. The BIG question has to be is it worth the extra coin? Will I keep it as my starter over my 09FD? I will post my views on that and more in Part 2.