Arcam DV88 Vs Denon 2800II Side by Side review, My thoughts.

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by Phil Hinton, Mar 28, 2003.

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  1. Phil Hinton

    Phil Hinton
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    I have borrowed a Denon 2800II and an Arcam DV88 DVD players for home demo in the search for my next player.
    I have of course had time to play around at lengh with both and use the same material through the same equipment to get a good example of what both are good and bad at. This is in no way a scientific experiment and the results and conclusions are those based on my equipment and opinions. I am looking for a big jump in picture performance, and a player that is also musical with CD playback. The tests were done side by side for both DVD and Audio, but for the purpose of this report, i will include both seperate tests in one paragragh for each player;

    The HC set up is as follows;
    Tag AV32R Processor
    Rotel 1075 Amplifier (5ch THX)
    M&K 750THX LCR
    M&K SS55 Tripoles
    Velodyne CHT15 Subwoofer
    Barco Data 800 CRT
    Iscan Pro
    Da-lite Fixed screen 7.5ft 16:9
    Chord Digital interconnects
    Ixos Speaker cables.

    Test discs were:
    DVD:
    Seven R1 SE
    SW:AOTC R1
    Lilu And Stich R2
    Peter Kays Pheonix Nights R2

    Music CD:
    Michael Jackson History
    Manics: Greatest Hits
    Chillout Cinema HDCD
    Sting & Police:Greatest Hits

    Cinema Room:
    14ft x 13ft with various positioned absorbers and furnishings.

    The Player I am Replacing is a Pioneer 444. This is a sub £200 player which is good value for money but should pale into insignificance with the Demo Players. The Arcam and Denon are Demo players from 7oaks and have the latest firmware installed and are connected to the iscan via s-video (dont have component cable) and to the tag by coaxial Chord digital interconnect(£75) for use with the 192 dacs. I have not connected them via analogue.


    Arcam DV88
    First of all is the Arcam, this is just a plain DV88 not the plus version.
    I let the barco warm up for two hours and checked the convergence before the test.
    First was AOTC R1. First thing i noticed was the sound quality. It was a big leap ahead of the pioneer and opened up the sound stage by quite some margin. There was plenty of fine details in the sound which was dynamic and smooth. The picture quality however was a little disapointing in comparison. Using Chapter 4 where the Jedi have a meeting with the chancellor there are good tests for the Iscans 3:2 pulldown with slow pans and good close ups of faces for detail. The player managed the pans very well, but it was in the fine details that let it down. The image was very soft looking and even made me check the PJ in case i had a problem. There was no problem, it was the player which was struggling to give any fine detail that i am used to. The colours were good, with no visable signs of any bleed or chroma. I then tried to play the R2 Peter Kay disc, and the Arcam refused point blank to do this, i also tried to play Lilu and Stich on R2, again the player refused to load the disc up, most frustrating. I then checked other R2 discs and not one of them would load.
    Next I tried the R1 Seven Special edition disc. Again the audio was brilliant with dts this time. Yet again there was a distinct lack of detail in the picture. This was very frustrating, the picture was certainly not that of a high end player. I was so convinced it might be a fault with the PJ i hooked it up to my 32" W/S Toshiba, but to no avail, a distinct lack of image detail. Dont get me wrong the picture is good, but not that good, and certainly not any better then the pioneer i was replacing.
    So onto using it as a CD player through the Tag in Direct+Sub mode. WOW now this is a very detailed music performer. MJ's Billie Jean just kicked ass big style, with bags of mid range snap and high end details, and the bass was controlled, yet deep and fast. I tried the other discs and was actually really enjoying the sound so much i listened again and again.

    Denon 2800 MKII

    So how did the Denon fair? I have read the various threads regarding problems with this player, but craig at 7oaks said he had not found any problems with this demo player.
    Picture quality was outstanding, a huge step up from the Arcam. The levels of fine detail in faces during close ups was there to see. Even panning shots of wide scenes had details neither the Pioneer or Arcam could resolve. The sound was also very good, with a little more bottom end than the arcam, which was tight and fast. The player managed to play all the test discs, and i was very very impressed with its detailed image. I did notice a few quirks though. The lip sync was out very slightly now and again, and on seven there was a little picture noise and some very slight pixelation. So it certainly beat the Arcam for picture quality, but the quirks were a little annoying. This player is also a little noisey during chapter scan and loading.
    So how did it fair as a CD player. Very well really, not as good as the Arcam in fine detail pieces, and it certainly is a bassier player, but rounded at the top end without being raspy.

    Conclusion

    So what was the overall opinion i based on these players?

    First the Arcam was very disapointing at video replay and i wouldn't buy this machine for its picture performance. Playing Cd was brilliant however, and i loved to sit and listen to its audio capabilities for a few hours.
    The Denon was a real star in the Picture stakes with coupious amounts of fine detail on show, and a very filmic look. However the lip sync problem was annoying, as well as pixelation during dark scenes.
    As a Cd player it was very good, just not qite up to the Arcam standard here.

    So which one will I buy?

    I am afraid i need now to look at other models, both players had their plus points, but neither were outstanding and the little quirks are the only reason Denon are not getting a sale. Overall the Denon was the best all round player, but the lip synce and pixelation let it down, i just couldn't live with them, which is a shame as the picture is just sublime.

    So I am still looking for a replacement player and will let you know what i try next. I might look at the Oykyo THX player and the Rotel, and maybe even the 3800 from Denon......any thoughts?
     
  2. Daneel

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    Nice detailed review. Thanks for the effort.
     
  3. ReTrO

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    Gotta be worth going the DV88+ a go at some point.

    Best to borrow some component cables as well, you're going to need them when you do buy a player Phil.

    Have fun!:clap: :smashin:
     
  4. groundy

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    Nice comparison but I have to say I found the opposite to be true with my own system :confused:.

    I pitted the Arcam up against a Pioneer DV717 (old I know) and a Sony 735 (again old) - the Arcam beat them all hands down in the picture quality stakes. My system is in no way similar to yours and I made my judgements upon a 32" Loewe Aconda, via RGB on the Pioneer and Component on the Sony and Arcam (all interlaced).

    The much bigger image area on which you were testing will have shown up the strengths and weaknesses to a greater extent so this may explain the difference of opinion. It may also be that the Arcam S-video is not up to par. I have never tried the S-Video output but I will say that I found the Component output of the Arcam to deliver incredibly detailed images with a depth and vibrancy unmatched by any other player I've tried.

    The picture quality was the deciding factor in my purchase and I felt the Arcam to be well worth it on this alone. I use a seperates system for CD replay.

    My DV88 has never refused to play any discs, right through a range of software versions.

    If I had reached the same conclusions as you Phil, I too would have been very dissappointed at such a poor performance.

    Other players worth an audition would be the new Marantz DV8300 (£1400 RRP), the Pioneer 757Ai, the Denon 3800 and offcourse the DV88+ ;).
     
  5. Spligsey

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    I've tended to find, that:

    A)...Pioneer players have 'added sharpness on top'
    B)...Denon players have 'added colour on top'
    C)...Arcam players have a more natural image (no added ingrediants)..

    Moving from a Pioneer to an Arcam for instance, it doesn't surprise me that you see the Arcam appearing softer in comparison.

    I used to own a Pioneer DV-737 & Had a Denon 3800 on loan for about 6 weeks.....

    I've only seen the DV88 (properly) when it first got released, so not upto scratch on it's firmware updates etc.)

    Adzman
     
  6. dts_boy

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    pretty much agree with what you have said about the 2 machines. i went from the dv88 to an Onkyo 939 and found the Onkyo to be light years ahead, this was on my 36" toshiba tv. although, the only down side i could find with the Onkyo was the fact that it wouldn't do rce2 discs, although i think there is a new firmware availible now. anyway, enough of my onkyo plug, i sometimes wich i didn't get rid of it when my dv27 crashes:mad:
     
  7. gringottsdirect

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    Interesting post, thanks.
     
  8. russraff

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    Nice rundown. I will be looking for a better player about June/July, so these thoughts are very useful. Especially the Arcam's picture quality.

    I heard that the Arcam player had a few problems playing certain discs. At the time I was going to get a top flight DVD player, and the Arcam was on the list. I was put off by reports of its "unstable" character. I must admit, though, that the latest firmware reportedly solved these problems. Of course, why these problems should be there in the first place is still a valid point.
    I haven't heard/seen the Denon, but if there are visible problems with the player, then I wouldn't get that one either. There are similar levels of problems regarding the 3800, I believe.

    If I may add some suggestions that I have seen myself?
    The Toshiba SD900 (the older one) had simply the BEST picture quality that I have seen, ever. Its built like a tank, looks great and I haven't heard any persistent problems with this player. It even sounds good (through an A1SE) as a CD player!
    The only other player, at this level, that I have any experience of the Pioneer 757i. Not as good as the Tosh, picture wise, but has more bells and whistles. As a CD player the Pioneer seemed to be better than the Tosh, but there was some time between auditions, so I could be wrong. Both players ars considerably better in all respects than my current player and I am certainly considering getting one of the above.

    Russell
     
  9. John Dawson

    John Dawson
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    Ref the DV88 not playing any of your R2 discs - could somebody er... have set it to Region One?

    I also believe that whilst an s-video comparison is justified, you do owe it to yourself to do a proper comparison with component video. It is just nonsense to use anything less with a Barco 800 projector. The luma frequency response on a DV88 is basically flat - if another player has a peaked response it will apparently show more detail. It is really important when comparing video to calibrate each player with the system in use with a test disc like "Video Essentials". Otherwise it is like comparing two amplifiers without equalising the levels by adjusting the volume controls first. In any case a PS upgrade is available for any DV88 (and there are some bargains to be had on the old DV88P which has this fitted as standard) and the 88 Plus supports PS as delivered. Both of these eliminate the need for the I-Scan and the extra A/D and D/A video conversions it introduces into the signal path.

    I hope these comments help you in your search for the ideal player for your system.

    Sincerely,

    John Dawson (Arcam)
     
  10. dogastus

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    Thanks for a great review, Phil. Like someone else said, I would definately recommend making a component connection. Providing you use short leads, you should be able to get away with just using cheap audio leads, you ought to get better results compared with svideo. It's also important if you intend to use component in the final installation as players do vary in quality between their different outputs.

    Do you have the AVIA disk? It is sometimes useful to get a less subjective assessment by looking at some of the test patterns, especially things like resolution, chroma/luma delay etc. I know the final judgement should be on 'real' images but test patterns make it easier to compare one player against another.

    I shall be interested in seeing what you think of any other players you test.

    Nigel.
     
  11. juboy

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    Interesting thread, nice work THX 1138.

    I very recently moved from my Toshiba sd510e to the Denon 2800 MKII and, considering the vast difference in cost of the two machines, was a little surprised that the Denon doesn't really produce a picture of noticeably better quality although it is worth the investment for the far superior disc navigation, crisper sound quality and the reduced layer change times.

    I only ever watch R1 discs in progressive scan mode on a 36" CRT display, so maybe that's why the difference in PQ is negligible?
     
  12. Garincha

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    Phil,
    Denon DVD-2900 (even multiplayer) is due to be out soon.
    No other player offers so much options for the money.

    I would wait until it's out and compare it then to Arcam and ev. something else.

    It will have same prog.scan section as DVD-A1 and a loads of functions.

    I am considering it seriously as my second player.
     
  13. Garincha

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    price will be around 800-900 pounds !!!
     
  14. martintyler

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    Never had a problem with any discs on my (very early) DV88. Had the sound drop out issues - see other thread, but never failed to produce a very good image.

    Does seem a bit of a waste going to the trouble of a two player home demo and then using s-video, especially with a Barco as the display.
     
  15. Phil Hinton

    Phil Hinton
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    Thanks for the comments guys, yes I will re run the test after i borrow a componant lead for picture, and find out what the problem is with the Arcam not playing discs in R2.

    John Thanks for the reply, as you will understand my initial views were very disapointing even for me,as i hold Arcams kit in very high regard, hopefully i will get a better idea of the player once i sort these small issues out.

    BTW folks i did forget to say i did use test patterns to set each player and also checked the convergence of the PJ before each round of testing.
    The trouble with the Barco is that it does not have componant inputs, only 5 bnc with sync on green this is why i use the Iscan, but this will accept a componant signal which can then be fed to the PJ.(i think)
     
  16. Nic Rhodes

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    Personally I find the 88+ a huge jump both on sound and vision in comparison with the 88. It may be what you are after, I am HUGELY impressed with it and how ARCAM have designed it.:clap:
     
  17. Phil Hinton

    Phil Hinton
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    I'm getting a Componant cable on loan to hook these up to the iscan, so will update my thoughts then.
     
  18. ricdiggle

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    Phil, the Arcam has a horrid S-vid output IMHO. I had a 2800 Mk1 for a short time before I got my DV88. The picture is different but just as good via component.

    One other thing to note:
    You didn't mention how you had the Arcam hooked up for CD replay but if you can, try it using a digital output to the Tag rather than analogue. The improvements are massive. Don't get me wrong, the Arcam's DACs are very good but the tag's are way better.

    Richard
     
  19. Phil Hinton

    Phil Hinton
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    Both Players were hooked up for audio with a Chord Digital interconnect for the Tags Dacs (192khz).

    Just recieved some componant leads, but wont be able to do any tests until Monday Night because of work.
     
  20. sounddog

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    Erm ... just to be deliberately confrontational ... but what will the Denon DVD-2900 do that the Pioneer 757ai not do? (I guess PAL prog-scan but there's supposed to be a PAL Prog-Scan firmware update for the 757 on its way).

    Vikki
     
  21. Nic Rhodes

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    All the Denon usuals, chroma bug drop outs etc.....just look to the number of post on the 2800 / 3800 players :devil: Let's hope they get this one right before we start promoting it. The Arcam and Pioneer are here now and people can see what they are getting. They are both proving popular.
     
  22. sounddog

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    Though the Arcam also has the chroma bug ... not sure about the Pioneer ... not that most people actually notice it ...

    Vikki
     
  23. vonhosen

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    I thought Denon were providing Chroma Bug free 3800 & A1 now . Is that not the case ? :confused:

    Pioneer & Arcam both have Chroma Bug.
     
  24. juboy

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    And Arcam are using the same Zoran Vaddis V chip as in the Toshiba 510/520 (both about 75% less to buy than the Arcam)... so plenty of problems and chroma bug issues, just like the Toshibas :(
     
  25. sounddog

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    Ahhh ... but a MPEG-2 decoding chipset does not a (good or otherwise) DVD player make ...

    And hands up those people who (without specifically looking) notice the Chroma Bug especially without a front projection screen.

    Vikki
     
  26. juboy

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    True, but if that MPEG-2 decoding chipset is known to have the chroma bug problem, it ain't gonna get better just because you change the badge and charge more...
     
  27. Bish

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    Vikki

    If you dont ask you'll never learn...so

    I have an 88+ connected up to my Panny W5 and i have to say i have never ever noticed the "Chroma Bug"...??....noticed it, i dont even know what it is....can you catch it from the toilet seat??

    Can you shed some light on this please?
     
  28. nathan_silly

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  29. sounddog

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  30. Branxx

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    THX1138,

    Thank you for excellent post. For me it was a particularly interested reading as I do not use stand-alone CD/DVD players and ‘am always on the watch to see if I am missing on a good product.

    I heard a lot in the past about the audio qualities of DV88 and your test confirms previous assertions. However, it was your comparison between the two player’s sound qualities for AC3/DTS that caught my eyes. For Denon 2800 MKII you said: “The sound was also very good, with a little more bottom end than the Arcam, which was tight and fast.”

    Considering that both of these sound formats are compressed and transmitted in packages, I would suspect that neither of the players would interfere with the data stream before being sent to your Tag AV32R processor. Formats are also less susceptible to jitter induced by SPDIF interface.

    It would be interesting if you can further qualify the difference between the two players in this particular respect. You are certainly pointing that even for AC3/DTs bits-are-bits argument does not hold and that the sound quality is coloured by the digital interfaces used.

    This is a question frequently asked in HTPC forum where many find strange that different sound cards can make AC3/DTS data streams sent to an external decoded sound different. My own experience in this respect confirms your findings.
     

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