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A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

 

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DENON DVM-3700, £1000

Contact Denon (01753) 888447

 

By our reckoning this is the third DVD autochanger launched in the UK so far, and it is clear that that it won’t be the last, indeed even Sony have got in on the act. The DVM-3700 has a five-disc turntable deck mechanism, which allows DVDs (CDs and any other compatible disc for that matter) to be changed whilst one is playing. Much of the rest of the machine appears to be based on its acclaimed stablemate, the DVM-5000. Both models are built around a number of tried and tested components sourced from Panasonic combined with Denon's own proprietary processing circuitry, a super clean power supply and heavy-duty, vibration absorbing chassis design.

 

Audio CD performance has clearly been a major consideration in the design of this machine. The deck uses Panasonic’s holographic lens system, optimised for both DVD and CD replay; digital to analogue processing is taken care of by Denon’s AL24 system which reduces quantisation errors and distortion -- originally developed for high end cassette deck and MiniDisc applications -- and it has a built-in HDCD (high definition compatible digital) decoder, to get the most out of specially encoded audio CDs.

 

In spite of the autochanger deck mechanism the 3700 is no larger than most other DVD players. Denon has decided to play down the cosmetics and ended up with a rather plain, almost dull-looking black box. On screen displays and the operating system are all old friends, similar if not identical to those used on a lot of other players using Panasonic chip-sets. The feature list is also fairly familiar territory; the main points of interest are four picture presets (normal, soft, fine & cinema), 2-mode ‘virtual’ surround sound, user-set brightness, contrast, hue and sharpness, four monitor settings (direct view TV, CRT or LCD projector and back projection TV) plus switchable NTSC or PAL 60 output. The only really unusual feature is a component (Cr,Cb,Y) video output. However, this is of questionable use to us in the UK since it favours NTSC coded discs and only a tiny handful of home cinema TVs and video projectors have the necessary input socketry. The 3700 is devoid of SCART sockets, which isn’t necessarily a problem but it does mean that there’s no RGB output, which arguably would have been a lot more useful.

 

Picture performance is good, possibly not the best we’ve seen on a machine in this somewhat elevated price bracket but you would have to look quite hard to spot the differences. The video output is very clean and it coped well with our troublesome test discs with no significant texturing or artefacts. Colours are sharp and natural looking, in fact the only area where we felt it could have been a bit better was in the dynamic range, despite a good deal of fiddling with price presets and adjustments some detail is lost in shadows and dark scenes. Trick play operation generally good and there’s a useful set of options but the operating system and remote handset controls make speed and direction changes more cumbersome that it needs to be. Worst-case layer change was around a quarter of a second, which we count as reasonable. The deck mechanism is fairly quiet during normal operation but disc changing is a bit clunky.

 

It sounds good too. Background noise levels are low, Dolby Surround on the mixed stereo outputs is crisp with plenty of detail and bass effects come across really well. The bitstream output is very clean, providing high-end decoders with plenty to get their teeth into. Although the 3700 has a slightly simpler power supply – compared with the 5000 – there hasn’t been any significant impact on audio performance or any noticeable increase in jitter; CDs have a warm open sound, revealing hidden details and subtleties, putting it well into the high-end hi-fi ballpark.

 

Autochangers tend to have a slightly down-market image but Denon proves most convincingly they have a place in serious home cinema and hi-fi, besides which it’s a genuine convenience feature, popular at parties and a big bonus for the terminally lazy. If you’re looking for a way to reduce the box count in your system, without sacrificing performance, it has to be worth considering, even at that price!

 

BOX COPY 1 – REMOTE VIEWING

This horrible little button box is not the sort of thing we expect to find bundled with a classy DVD player costing the thick end of a grand! It’s badly laid out, the buttons are too small, close together and poorly labelled; quite honestly it looks like the sort of thing you’d get with a budget mini system

 

THE HARD FACTS

 

DENON DVM-3700    

 

OUTPUTS

SCART             none

S-Video             1

RGB out                        no

Optical digital            yes

Coaxial digital            yes

5.1 decoder                   no

 

EXTRA FEATURES 20/30

Region 2 PAL/NTSC, DTS compatible, component video output, 5-disc autochanger, 5-scene marker, VSS virtual surround sound, 3-mode picture control, picture adjustments (contrast, colour, brightness, hue, sharpness), monitor output selector (TV, CRT/LCD projector, projection TV), NTSC replay, HDCD decoder, Karaoke voice-cut, headphone socket,

           

GOOD POINTS

Solid video performance, great CD sound and the autochanger is a couch potatoes dream come true

 

BAD POINTS

Clanky deck mechanism when changing discs and the remote is truly nasty

 

Ease of use            4

Picture  5

Sound               5

Features            5

Overall  4

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

Price                 £1000

SCART none

S-Video 1

Digital out            coaxial, optical

Decoder            none

 

Good Points

Solid video performance, great CD sound and the autochanger is a couch potatoes dream come true

 

Bad points

Clanky deck mechanism when changing discs and the remote is truly nasty

 

Rating

4

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Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2903

 

 


 

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