Denon DRA N5 (with Synology NAS) review

Discussion in 'Music Streamers' started by reg091, Jun 23, 2015.

  1. reg091

    reg091
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    Apologies for the long post but I thought sharing my experiences after six months or so of use might help others.
    Firstly, the concept is great! I have a Synology NAS that holds all of our music, and with one of these Denons in the kitchen and one in the living room the convenience is great.

    The Denons are really flaky (probably the best way of describing them), although of course the set up may have something to contribute to the issues they show (I mean that I haven't tried another media server, or other media server software on my NAS, so this a "out of the box, over wifi with a Synology NAS and Q Accoustic speakers review"). Also I have a mixture of FLAC ripped and MP3 etc.

    1. Tracks will stop playing at any time. Not a buffering issue as it never resumes, or (more often) just jumps to the next track. When it stops and doesn't jump to the next track then the display is just blank.
    2. Tracks will repeat for no obvious reason. (no, not the Repeat function set!)
    3. A track will get "stuck" as the only track it will play and next time you switch it on again that track keeps playing whatever you choose. The only solution to that is a hard reboot.
    4. They will lose connection with the network "no connection available" very often and the only solution is a hard reboot again. Running through setup doesn't re-acquire the network. (Network is wireless, SKY router in a pretty small house - Denons are less than 20 feet from the router).
    5. Not really an issue as such but something to be aware of: when you are using the Android app to control them then the majority of the controls on the unit and remote are unavailable.
    6. Sound quality: I appreciate this is going to be subjective, and obviously affected by the speakers you have, and the fact that this is not high-end audiophile equipment anyway. But the sound overall is very bland and uninvolving. There is no soundscape painted in front of you (I have tried classical, rock, metal, pop and nothing creates a sound picture in between the speakers).
    7. You really will have to use them with the app as trying to use the small LCD display to scroll through hundreds of albums (with no search, or "jump to" a letter of the alphabet) is useless.
    8. However, the Denon app is really flaky too: it hangs a lot (Ok, could be my phone but it is a brand new HTC Desire 510).
    9. The Denon app regularly fails to find the Denons and/or the server. (I tried changing the setting on the server to broadcast itself every 5 seconds but it made no difference). Refreshing does nothing. Restarting the app does nothing. The only "solution" I have found is to give up and go and do something else instead!
    10. There are many third-party apps for Android but I have not found one that doesn't have some annoyance or other, or just plain doesn't work. There are a few apps for Windows and they have their issues too.
    11. They often miss the first second or so of each track. Don't know why, it's like it buffers it, starts playing and then (perhaps) brings up the volume. Annoying.
    12. It will often cut off the end of a track and move to the next, usually just a few seconds before the end - weird, and annoying.
    13. Time lag on the remote is awful! You press a button (with the remote a foot away from the unit and pointing right at it) and nothing happens. You push again, you push again. Of course then it executes all of the commands!
    14. When you change the volume the volume slider display sometimes gets "stuck" on the screen, Powering off is the only solution.

    I had a mate round for an evening and so an opportunity to "show off" my new tech. It was an embarrassing litany of "oh, why is it playing that? oh why is it playing that AGAIN? Oh it's locked up, sorry I'll have to reboot it and re-find the network server, oh wait, let me reboot my phone, oh that hasn't helped. Shall we watch tv?". All we wanted to do was sit down and listen to an album in its entirety!

    If you feel the urge to hear a bit of music and grab the remote/app you may have lost interest (or forgotten what it was you wanted to listen to!) by the time you actually get to play the thing!!!
     
  2. nicka099

    nicka099
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    Do the problems still occur if you hardwire the devices ? Maybe its wireless interference - do the Denons allow to set the wifi channel ? You can use a wifi scanner to check which channels have least congestion. Do Denon have any support network ? Failing all that, can you return the Denons as being wholly unusable for their intended purpose (under sales of goods act) ?

    Did you ever look at Sonos ? You can use the Sonos Amp with separate speakers or use the active range (Play 1,3 or 5) as fully integrated. They are the most easy to setup/control and reliable in the market.
     
  3. Digital Tench

    Digital Tench
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    I'd also suggest wireless interference - you have described very similar symptoms to what I experienced on my Sonos setup until I changed wireless channel and used homeplugs on one or two devices.
     
  4. nicka099

    nicka099
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    try something like Inssider from inSSIDer 3.1.2.1 Download - TechSpot

    its a free tool to check what devices and channels are in use. Try changing your router to channel 1,6 or 11 depending on what else is in the neighborhood i.e. choose the channel with the least other devices broadcasting on that channel at a high strength.
     
  5. reg091

    reg091
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    I haven't tried hardwiring but appreciate that is the obvious diagnostic step.

    You cannot set the wifi channel.

    I did look at Sonos but the cost (of four Sonos Ones) was way too much.

    Cool, thanks for the tip. I will give that a go.
     
  6. nicka099

    nicka099
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    reg091 - sorry, you wont need to change the channel on the Denons- they dont have a separate wifi network (unlike sonos) so you only need to change on your router to a 'better' channel if possible.

    There is a promo at the moment for 2 x Play 1 for £299. However, I accept that is hardly 'cheap' but is it much more than the Denon with speakers ?
     
  7. reg091

    reg091
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    Thanks Nick. I paid about £320 I think (plus speaker cable) so not much in it.

    I have just been running the inSSIDer software and that shows not much of a problem with wireless channels. The router is set to auto channel selection and was on channel 6. There are a few other channel 6 networks in range but nothing close to overlapping. There is only one channel 11 network in range so I changed my router to that but it didn't improve the score (the other network doesn't come close to overlapping).

    It doesn't say what a good score is but sitting here next to the router I am getting 100 and in the locations of the two Denons it drops to a minimum of 84. Signal is around -40 - 45 dbm.

    I will have to try a wired connection and see as it is not looking too much like a wireless issue to me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2015
  8. reg091

    reg091
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    ..and another thing! They just stop playing for no apparent reason. Nothing on the display, they aren't buffering the next track (it shows when it is buffering), they just decide not to play any more tracks! Sometimes several minutes later they will continue playing, sometimes not. Crazy.
     
  9. larkone

    larkone
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    I have the Denon N8 and use Vortexbox running LMS as a server. Have had similar problems with my Denon. Soundwise I haven't experienced the issues you point to but that could be down to speakers and positioning - am using Dali Zensor 1s with a Rega sub.

    A factory reset helps but you have to put in all your radio stations again. I also found that using BubbleUPNP as an app on my HTC phone to control streaming to the Denon was much more stable. It can take a few minutes though to find the Denon but once it has it is stable. Hardwiring using homeplugs was also an improvement to network stability.

    The Denon app itself is great for demonstrating just how to get an app totally wrong - unstable, doesn't work the way you would want to use it and badly written, complete pile of doggy doo. What makes it even more laughable is they release updates to improve stability - not seen an improvement yet. I think they think the solution is to give the drunk more alcohol.
     
  10. reg091

    reg091
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    Thanks. I have tried the Bubbleupnp app but found it not much better. I can't remember now if it was due to it not finding devices or (more likely) not solving the problems I am having with the renderers.

    I am really not convinced that the issues are due to network bandwidth. I can stream from the NAS for hours flawlessly to play on my laptop (VLC media player). Perhaps more to do with the Denons "falling off" the network, or remaining connected but not communicating properly with the server software?
     
  11. Cebolla

    Cebolla
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    If it is a network issue, it's more likely to be in its support for UPnP streaming. For example, some routers have problems fowarding IGMP multicast packets, which are used by UPnP devices to discover each other on the network.

    Were you using VLC to playback the music files from the NAS's network shared folders, rather than actually UPnP network streaming from the NAS's UPnP media server?
     
  12. reg091

    reg091
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    Interesting point. You are right, playing on the laptop with VLC is via browsing to the music folder on the NAS.
     
  13. Cebolla

    Cebolla
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    VLC is supposed to have some UPnP streaming support, but last time I checked it was broken.

    A better application to test with on your laptop (assuming it's Windows) would be the excellent free Foobar2000 music player. If you also install its foo_UPnP plugin component, you can turn the laptop into a UPnP music file streamer. The foo_UPnP streamer has renderer capabilities, which means its playback can be fully controlled by any UPnP control point on the network. I suggest you use a decent one for this purpose, such as the one provided by the BubbleUPnP Android app mentioned by Larkone. In fact the BubbleUPnP family of software and the foo_UPnP plugin share the same much respected developer, Bubbleguuum (aka Bubblesoft).

    If the Fb2k renderer has similar problems streaming from the NAS as the Denon, then I'd consider looking at your network's configuration for UPnP media file streaming. Certainly search on the internet for any issues with your router and UPnP streaming.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2015
  14. reg091

    reg091
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    Top advice, thanks Cebolla. I will give that a shot.
     
  15. reg091

    reg091
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    Yeah, VLC has a source option under Local Network to select "Universal Plug'n'Play" but nothing happens when you select it!

    Been running FB2K on the laptop all day (controlled from the Bubble app on the phone) and it has been faultless. Even in the garden at the extreme of the wireless range it has behaved itself perfectly.
    Using the phone as a renderer works fine too.
    I will keep testing but, sadly, this points to my original conclusion that it is the Denons that are the weak point.

    The router has some UpnP settings I can play with (Advertisement Period and Advertisement Time), but it does look like Upnp is working OK, it is just the Denons that aren't playing ball.
     
  16. reg091

    reg091
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    UPDATE and potential progress!

    Reached a useful diagnostic point when suddenly neither of the Denon's could find the NAS. What was useful was that they were not displaying "no connection available" it was just that the Media Server list was empty.

    At this point (thanks to the useful info provided by you good people here) I ran Foobar2000 on the laptop and using Bubble on the phone was instantly able to play from the NAS to the laptop - so Upnp was working OK on the NAS. Pointing the finger, once again, at poor server detection on the Denon's.

    There is a setting on the NAS for SSDP interval, set to 920 by default (920 what it doesn't say. Seconds maybe?). It says to reduce this if your DLNA device has trouble detecting the NAS. Long story short, I reduced this to 5 and voila the Denon's picked up the NAS.

    Yes, I had tried this setting before but that was when I was getting "no connection available" on the Denon's, and it made no difference. (Not surprisingly if they had fallen off the network completely).

    So potentially I have improved the communication between the Denon's and the NAS. But that doesn't solve the problem of when they just can't see the network at all!
     
  17. planetgaffnet

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    I've just located this thread...hopefully still active.

    For my sins I own two of these as well; consequently I do not enjoy an easy life and think I've spent more time troubleshooting problems than actually listening to music on them.

    I had reached a point in life where I had decided to throw the audiophile in me out of the window and just concentrated on delivery. I just wanted to hear songs and couldn't care less about loading CDs into anything, so purchased these. Oh man, Denon must have seen me coming. Their app sucks, the units suck and I am a foole for buying them.

    Anyhow, to get back on point, I've run the whole gamut of issues conveyed by the OP, plus some more. Today both units decided they would only play ten seconds of any song on my NAS and then try to initialise the music server. And repeat.

    Enough is enough and I've made the decision to sell these on somehow (to a sucker with more patience than me) and go the Sonos route.
     
  18. reg091

    reg091
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    Mine have been behaving better in recent weeks, after a factory reset. Not perfect though by any means. However, yesterday I too started getting the "10 seconds only then lose connection issue".

    Denon Support seem to be aware of it which suggests there must have been a firmware update rollout perhaps?
     
  19. planetgaffnet

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    I thought the issue was (possibly) down to me installing new powerline plugs, but everything else worked, so I discounted that. Then I figured it was my NAS, so I decided to factory reset and re upload everything. That didnt sort things either. Then I discovered your thread here.

    This is what life is like with these units. It's like owning an old Mark II Jaguar...you know that these vintage motors are great once you can get them running; it's just about getting them running.

    You say that the ass-hats at Denon know about this 10 second malarkey. Care to share your source?
    Cheers
    Paul
     
  20. planetgaffnet

    planetgaffnet
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    Just to throw in other stories of woe, I had a lengthy dialogue with Denon support as their app wouldn't find everything on my NAS*. I had thousands of MP3s...Denon hadn't tested the app with anywhere like that number. They fixed it eventually. At their suggestion I bought a new router too, but that didn't help.

    Have you experienced the app issue where content just scrolls uncontrollably? That's a belter. Needs the unit unplugged from network and power AND phone needs to have the battery pulled out (restarting doesn't sort it!).

    *Edit here. The NAS issue was about 18-20 months ago. All my MP3/FLAC tags were correct (I'm pretty anal where that's concerned), but the Denon remote app wouldn't find 80% of them. I eventually went the Bubble UPNP route and actually paid for the license; I did point the Denon guys to the Bubble app saying that how could there be a 3rd party app that worked on Denon hardware, yet the official Denon app didn't.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  21. reg091

    reg091
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    Message on Denon support site about the 10 second playback issue: Support Home Page

    I have had much more consistent success using the Bubble app. The only thing it doesn't do is switch the Denon's off (it switches them on when you press play) so I use the Denon app just for switching off! Actually, I did have one moment of joy recently when I was controlling one unit with the Bubble app and one with the Denon app simultaneously!

    I have to say that Denon support were very good throughout all of my dealings over these issues. But they did say that they had not come across them before (the "losing the network" stuff).

    The last suggestion I had from them was to statically assign IP in order to at least cut out the DHCP interaction with the router. I haven't tried that yet as (until the 10 second playback thing) they have been working OK.
     
  22. antonyl

    antonyl
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    Just come across this. Thanks for the heads-up! I've also got the 10 second playback thing and it's driving me nuts!
     
  23. Cebolla

    Cebolla
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    Don't normally cross post, but thought it might be useful to mention this here too (copied from the Denon DNP-720 thread):

    Same issue here with the Denon DNP-F109 streamer.

    Logic dictates that if there hasn't been a firmware update, then the problem must be due to something that the device has already been programmed to do that is no longer working as it should. This could be due to it having developed a fault, unlikely, given that so many devices and models are failing, or, something external has changed.

    As a test I used my network router's firewall to block my Denon streamer's access to the outside world/internet (WAN) and lo and behold, no more 10s stopping/network connection reset problem streaming music files from the UPnP/DLNA media server on my local network!

    So what are these devices trying to access on the internet 10s into streaming and why is that now failing - a Denon/Marantz (home) internet server not responding properly to the streamers, may be?
    Also, why would they need to access the internet anyway if playing files from attached USB storage or from UPnP/DLNA media server on the LAN, though of course understandable for internet radio?
     
  24. reg091

    reg091
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    Very interesting indeed.

    Do we know for sure that there hasn't been a firmware update though?
     
  25. Cebolla

    Cebolla
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    Well can't say for sure for the DRA N5, as I don't own one, but you are normally told by the device that new firmware is available and then given the choice to download and install it. It's a safety feature for you to make sure that your network and internet connection are ok before the process is started.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  26. cicobuff

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    There has not been a firmware update for the DNP720 for at least the past year that also has this problem....Cebolla's useful tip of blocking IP address access to the Internet solved it for me (albeit now no internet radio access). It has made for a speedier media server access to the NAS drive.

    I think Cebolla has hit the nail on the head with it. Clearly within media server functionality, there is something within Denon/Marantz devices whereby its attempting to poll data from the internet unnecessarily...and something has changed.

    Seems simply all that is needed is a firmware upgrade for affected devices to tweak the media server function to prevent it polling data from the internet.
     
  27. reg091

    reg091
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    The DRA N5 doesn't "check" for updates itself. You have to manually perform a check and then download.
     
  28. planetgaffnet

    planetgaffnet
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    Let me just get one thing straight, the 10 second thing is only applicable on playback via my NAS which is on my home network. Spotify is fine. I don't use internet radio.
     
  29. cicobuff

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    Irrespective of manually checking for firmware updates (you also have to manually check on the DNP720 of which its been at least a year since the last update) until D&M either release a firmware update for all affected units (of which they have not done...or for that matter it has not been any recent firmware causing the issue), or fix whatever the issue is with the media streamer attempting to poll data from the internet during NAS streaming the only fix is as stated by Cebolla in blocking your device IP address to the internet.
     
  30. cicobuff

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    Correct, it seems as Cebolla has said there is something within the media streaming playback that is trying to poll data from the internet and crashing the streaming after 10 seconds.

    I was fine with my own Denon DNP720 using internet radio, playing from USB etc. Obviously the fix to disable the internet from the IP address of your device cures the media streaming problem but would in turn cripple in your instance Spotify.

    On my unit this fix (I use NAS media streaming way more than anything else) has crippled my own internet radio, which I am fine with as a temp solution until D&M fix the issue.
     

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