Whether it was playing test patterns or movie DVDs, the Denon DVD-2900 delivered consistently superb images to my 30-inch widescreen Princeton HDTV monitor via its progressive-scan component-video output, and its S-video performance wasn't too shabby, either. Even with really challenging material, like the plethora of dark, shadowy scenes in The Recruit, the player provided stunningly accurate color, rock-steady images even in shots with camera motion, and deeply detailed textures in dark picture areas.
Chapter 3 opens with James (Colin Farrell) working at his Macintosh computer in a pool of light within a dim room. The background is all muted, ochre-toned shadows, yet picking out fine elements - like the vertical rails of a radiator - was easy, and all these appeared solid and three-dimensional as the camera panned around. No complaints here.
The audio news was equally good. Auditioned through my preamp/processor's six-channel analog input, the sound of the best multichannel SACDs and DVD-Audio discs was as good as it gets. Material like the accumulating blizzard of dobro and mandolin attacks and high-hat ticks that begins "We Hide & Seek" from Alison Krauss and Union Station's Live maintained consistently impressive detail and textural finesse. The presentation of "air" and space, and the integrity of low-level elements like the "tails" of decaying notes, were simply outstanding.
Operationally, I had few quibbles. The DVD-2900 works like most other players, and its onscreen menus and remote control are about as easy to use. I didn't care much, though, for its CD fast-search modes (up to 8x). DVD-Video search can go up to 64x in both directions, and it was smooth and stable, but with CDs you get half-second bursts of sound followed by a pause while the player skips ahead.
But that's my only gripe, and it's a small price to pay for such stellar audio and video performance. These days, a thousand bucks is a lot of coin for a DVD player - I saw a no-name one in a Sunday flyer for $39 last week. But even today, few players do so much, so right, making $1,000 for Denon's DVD-2900 a bargain.
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