Audio-licious HD

With its lofty price tag, Denon's DBP-2012UD will have to do a lot to lure Danny Philips away from the budget end of the Blu-ray market – and YouTube access isn’t what he had in mind

The DBP-2012UD is built like Vin Diesel and boasts high-grade internal electronics that aim to deliver superior performance to the masses. The £750 price tag is as hefty as the player itself, but will be viewed as peace of mind for any AV enthusiast looking for a machine to satisfy their videophile aspirations.

Apart from the headline 3D capability, this is also a universal player, which means it spins Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio, too. A USB port and DLNA 1.5 support also boost the deck’s multimedia cred.

The machine shares the same structural DNA as Denon’s reference-class DBP-4010UD, which has Direct Mechanical Ground Construction to suppress vibration. Plus the luxurious build extends to the chunky buttons on the fascia and the smoothly gliding disc-tray mechanism.

Around the back, it’s disappointing to find a single HDMI v1.4 port, which means owners of the DBP-2012UD with older AVRs will need to employ the 7.1 analogue outputs to enjoy HD audio and 3D pictures simultaneously. Elsewhere on that back panel you’ll find a separate set of analogue stereo outputs for pure audio playback, component and composite video ports and a coaxial digital audio output. The deck will also slot beautifully into a custom install setup with RS232 and remote control input/output.

Stable net link

An Ethernet port is your only gateway to you home network, as there’s no built-in wi-fi or facility for adding it via a USB dongle. For £750, you might expect that option.

Once plumbed in, though, I had no trouble streaming any of the supported formats during my test. You can also play them from external devices via the front USB port, or from discs. There’s no MKV support, though.

Onscreen presentation is simple but effective. The Home menu sports just four icons – Media Player, YouTube (greyed out on my sample, as it is a firmware update), Setup and Quit. Choose Setup and you’re greeted by a pleasant GUI with a bright colour palette and a straightforward structure.

The cursor responds quickly to any command, making for a hassle-free user experience. The remote is co-operative too – each button is emblazoned with its function in shouty capital letters and logical placement of the frequently-used menu and playback controls lets you navigate intuitively.

The set-up menu covers most bases, including straightforward network setup, rudimentary bass management settings for the multichannel analogue outs, HDMI settings (colour space/Deep Colour) and a couple of basic 3D options, although for the heavyweight picture adjustments you need to enter a separate menu.

This is where the DBP-2012UD shows its true videophile colours, boasting a list of tweaks that stretches far beyond your average budget player. You can adjust the contrast, brightness, gamma, sharpness and hue, as well as individual white, black and setup levels and 3D, block and mosquito noise reduction. Your settings can be stored in five memory presets, which will be useful if you want to calibrate it for different viewing conditions.

Loading times are in line with most other players on the market – our Tech Labs found it took 43 seconds to load its test disc after hitting the Close button. However, the DBP-2012 does take a while to wake up.

Maestro at work

Picture performance is excellent. The Denon relishes the challenges posed by Inception, expertly eking out the detail in the movie’s global scenery as well as making those jaw-dropping CG shots of folding buildings and exploding shop fronts look staggeringly sharp.

There’s also depth and definition to the Denon’s pictures that any self-respecting movie fan will revel in. Blacks are as solid as they come, colours are richly saturated, yet realistic, while edges are clean as a whistle. Add to this a subtlety of touch that allows delicate shading, textures and shadow detail to remain visible. These qualities also help produce dazzling 3D images, which are smooth and sharp without any major blurring or crosstalk issues. It’s a slight shame, however, that you can’t tweak the depth of the image like the latest Panasonic and Samsung decks.

Play about with the picture settings and you can easily fine tune the picture to work in harmony with your display and room conditions. Where you will notice an improvement over the more affordable mass market machines is in audio quality. Rigged up to my sound system using the isolated analogue stereo outputs and with the Pure Direct mode engaged, the DBP-2012UD delivers silky music playback with beautifully crisp high frequencies, robust bottom end and a tight midrange. Everything from U2’s chugging stadium rock anthems to intimate jazz pieces is handled with the sort of care and attention more closely associated with dedicated CD players – particularly when it comes to vocals.

Listen to DVD-A or SACD via the HDMI port and it’s spine-tingle central, too. Roxy Music’s Avalon and Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On (both SACD) sound utterly seductive thanks to the finesse with which the Denon orchestrates the haunting surround sound info.

Fuss-free and filmic

The DBP-2012UD hits a home run on both picture and sound performance and, with its luxurious build quality, you’re certainly getting a lot of player for your money. Yes, its feature list isn’t in the same league as players costing much less (and the lack of wi-fi support is a pain), but the kind of people who value audio prowess and tank-like build might not be that fussed about accessing Flickr.


HCC VERDICT

Denon DBP-2012UD
Price:
£750 Approx

Highs: : Picture, sound and build quality; DLNA-certified
Lows: No wi-fi; single HDMI port; no support for MKV files; no provision for wi-fi

Performance: 5/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications

3D: yes
Upscaling: yes to 1080p with Anchor Bay chip
Multiregion: no Region B BD/R2 DVD
HDMI: yes 1 x v1.4
Component: yes
Multichannel analogue: yes 7.1 phono
Digital audio: yes 1 x coaxial
SACD/DVD-A: yes/yes
Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD decoding: yes/yes
Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD bitstream: yes/yes
Profile 2.0: yes with 1GB internal memory
Dimensions: 434(w) x 107(h) x 319(d)mm
Weight: 5.2kg
Features: USB port; DLNA 1.5; DivX HD, MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, JPEG, MPEG-1/2/4, WMV9 playback from network or USB; AVCHD playback from DVD; YouTube access (firmware update); Anchor Bay ABT2015 chip; video equaliser; Deep Colour; x.v.Colour; 192kHz/32-bit audio DACs; MLP decoding; Pure Direct mode; Bass management; RS-232