Packing 3D punch

Adrian Justins is impressed by Denon’s debut 3D BD player, despite his misgivings about its sonic and handling limitations

Denon’s first 3D deck looks like it could be a decent proposition for anyone with a cutting-edge 3D-capable AVR to take care of the sonic side of things.

The step-up £750 DBP-2012UD (due on sale soon) has multi-channel outputs and superior construction, whilst the aging (and expensive) DBP-4010UD and flagship DVD-A1UD both lack networking and 3D fun and games.

Beyond 3D, the DBP-1611UD story has several intriguing chapters, including hi-res SACD/DVD-A playback, DLNA networking and direct access to Internet features such as YouTube.

I couldn’t observe the results of Denon dipping its toe in the murky waters of internet video on my review sample, as the company had yet to activate the feature, but either way it probably won’t rank that highly on the shopping lists of most AV enthusiasts out there; it probably makes more sense to pair the Denon with a ‘Smart’ TV for web functions.

The deck itself is typical Denon: well-built, nicely laid out fascia, clear display window, all wrapped up in that rather dour, albeit durable black metal casing. Under the hood is a newly designed centre-drive mechanism with a separated unit structure and vibration-suppressing construction. The electronic circuits have been mounted in separate blocks to eliminate noise or interference. Unsurprisingly, purity of signal is paramount.

No country for old links

The connections roster is a little bit on the light side with no real surprises given the price – this is not Denon Link country – except arguably the omission of a optical digital audio output. With 1GB of built-in memory for enjoying BD Live functions, there’s no necessity for a rear USB socket, but there is one around the front for memory expansion or for reading multimedia files.

The remote is a ‘glo-key’ affair that makes it easier to see the keys in the dark, unless you’re wearing tinted 3D specs, of course... Setting up the deck is child’s play. With HDMI and Ethernet cables connected, you’re set to go, as the DBP-1611UD automatically configures itself. Upscaling of all discs is automatic, but if judder does occur, a dedicated HDMI mode button on the remote control lets you opt out of 1080p24 delivery.

The DBP-1611UD won’t win any prizes for the design of its menu system. Aesthetically, it’s light years behind those in current circulation from the likes of Sony, Samsung and LG, but worse are some of the illogical navigation steps you sometimes have to take.

There’s a home screen, but annoyingly, disc playback is excluded from this. The screen just has buttons for the Media Player, YouTube, Setup, and bizarrely, a Quit button.

At least the deck made light work of connecting to my Twonky server, but I did tie myself up in knots when trying to move around the media player. It’s irritating when a media player can’t indicate which files on a server are incompatible without making you try and play them – MKV files in this case – but it sucks more than a thirsty lamb when you can’t move back through the folders and are forced to come back in via the home screen.

However, I can happily report a high degree of success playing a selection of AVCHD, AVI, MP4 (useful for YouTube downloads), MPEG-1 and broadcast MPEG-2 files with just one of a couple of DivX HD clips given short shrift.

Bit of a player

But Blu-ray and DVD playback are where the DBP-1611UD has to earn its corn and in both respects this is an exceptional deck. The Spears and Munsil HD test disc shows how accurate the colour fidelity is, how smooth images move and how exceptional detail is even in the most gloomy of scenes.

Boot up time is on the sluggish side but the process of engaging 3D is quick and easy. Pop a 3D platter in the disc tray and a prompt appears asking if you want to watch in 2D or 3D.

Watching on our resident Philips 46PFL9705H, I was mightily impressed by the virtual absence of any crosstalk while watching the Monsters Vs Aliens disc, especially the scene on the Golden Gate bridge which can sometimes look like two bridges when some players and screen combine. The image is as crisp and dynamic as I’ve ever seen it and it is a definite match for the 2D version, which is unencumbered by crosstalk contamination.

Come fly with Denon

But the best advert for this deck is how well it can play the 3D Avatar Blu-ray disc. The scene when Sully comes out of stasis is quite incredible as you come to truly appreciate the depth of the hanger. Butterflies in the N’avi jungle catch the eye where previously they blended in to the background.

Overall, if you can live with the imperfections of its operating system, Denon’s DBP-1611UD certainly delivers the goods where it truly matters in an AV context – in the Blu-ray department.


HCC VERDICT

Denon DBP-1611UD
Price:
£450 Approx

Highs: Exceptional image clarity – especially 3D; easy to set up; decent file streaming compatibility
Lows: Ugly menu system; clumsy navigation of media player; dull design

Picture: 5/5
Sound: 4/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications

3D: yes
Upscaling: yes to 1080p
Multiregion: no Region B BD/R2 DVD
HDMI: yes 1x v1.4
Multichannel analogue: no stereo only
Digital audio: yes coaxial
SACD/DVD-A: yes/yes
Dolby True HD/DTS HD decoding: yes/yes
Dolby True HD/DTS HD bitstream: yes/yes
Profile 2.0: yes
Dimensions: 434(w) x 107(h) x 319(d)mm
Weight: 4.2kg
Features: Deep colour/x.v.Colour support; DLNA media streaming; 1x USB; Ethernet; 1GB internal memory for BD-Live; 3-D digital noise reduction; HDMI source direct mode; DivX HD, AVCHD, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, WMV, WMVAP, JPEG, MP3, WMA, AAC, and WAV file playback