Denon PMA-2500NE & DCD1600NE review

Numpty112233

Active Member
At those prices I'll appreciate the vinyl more.... and maybe get the standard CD for 1/10th the price and 99% (at least on the Denon with it's upscaling) sq
 

gibbsy

Moderator
At those prices I'll appreciate the vinyl more.... and maybe get the standard CD for 1/10th the price and 99% (at least on the Denon with it's upscaling) sq
Amazon have the 2000 pressing advertised and it has a very good dynamic range average of 14. Problem with Amazon is that I've ordered a particular year that was advertised only to have a different pressing delivered, but looking at all the CD pressings they all have very good dynamics.


I've contact HiFi Corner with regards to p/x on my Marantz. Thanks for the tip.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
Will look into that pressing
Yes - Amazon have their moments lol - I ordered vinyl John Coltrane's A love Supreme - and this is what I can listen to digitally on my account, however they sent me Santana and McLaughlin's version (which I've kept) and don't seem to be able to differentiate between them on the site.
I'm currently re listening to the Sextant SACD that I berated for it's treble harshness and either my player has soothed slightly from the 1st time it was ever switched on or forewarned is forearmed - or most likely I have the volume lower (always helps) but it's now definitely a bit easier on the ear and has great soundstage. I'm, er, actually enjoying it...
Hifi corner have a good reputation for customer service so see what they offer you
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
At those prices I'll appreciate the vinyl more.... and maybe get the standard CD for 1/10th the price and 99% (at least on the Denon with it's upscaling) sq
Yes, many of the decently mastered CDs I've got sound superb - and I wouldn't bother with the SACD version. However, there are exceptions where I have still gone after the SACD. The most recent being the Analogue Productions remastered version of Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' - stonkingly good as an SACD - also, Supertramp's 'Breakfast in America' (Mobile Fidelity remaster).

In general, SACD is certainly the best way to hear classical orchestral music - reproducing the very wide dynamic range of a concert hall, very accurately placing each instrument in space, and revealing background detail such as the turning of music sheets in the background. Consider 'A Violin for All Seasons' - BBC Symphony Orchestra, with Tasmin Little, Chandos label; and 'Elgar / Vaughan Williams, Enigma Variations, The Wasps, Greensleeves, Reference Recordings label.

You will sometimes find that some classical recordings have been mastered at lower volume levels, so need the volume control winding up - but beware the much wider dynamic range of the SACD format, you could blow your speakers! :eek:

Enjoy :thumbsup:
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
I have recently acquired a number of the Reference Recordings SACDs to which you refer which do indeed live up to their name. Maybe 3 decades ago I got a free sample CD of theirs which included Malcolm Arnold's Beckus The Dandipratt that has been a go-to for audition and general listening pleasure. It sounds stunning upscaled on the DCD-1600
edit - I also have the full Arnold CD played by London Philharmonic RR-48CD if it's still available highly recommended
2nd edit - just played it at full blast and not only is my hair (what little I have) standing on end but I have goosebumps. One of those rare disks when both the playing and recording are a full 10 out of 10
 
Last edited:

HenryHonda

Active Member
I'm currently re listening to the Sextant SACD that I berated for it's treble harshness and either my player has soothed slightly from the 1st time it was ever switched on or forewarned is forearmed - or most likely I have the volume lower (always helps) but it's now definitely a bit easier on the ear and has great soundstage. I'm, er, actually enjoying it...
Yes, definitely recommend running the player in :smashin: I left mine, set to whole disc repeat, running 24/7 for about 10 days before serious listening. It certainly got noticeably smoother with an improved soundstage - as you have found.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I've been in touch with HiFi Corner regarding the part ex on my Marantz, little low for the 1600 but offered more against the 2500. When I told the wife the prices the frown on her face wasn't too bad when I mentioned the price of the 2500, which is excellent with a discount. I could put the 6006 up for sale in the Forum's classifieds. Now I have to decide.

Is the 2500 worth the premium over the 1600. The idea is to use either of the Denons connected to my Lehmann Linear headphone amp as this still makes around 80% of my music listening on headphones. The wife, because of her heart condition gets tired and goes to bed early, too early for me and that's when I do most of my listening. It would not be fair to play the main system as the bedroom is right above the speakers. The Marantz 8005 would go back into the main system.

I've got till close of trade Wednesday to make up my mind. Just wish I could listen to them side by side.
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
I don't envy you...:( Very difficult to determine whether it will be VFM as you will mainly be listening via headphones.

I have a pair of Focal Elears, driven by a Heed CanAmp. Much better than the Sennheiser HD650s I had before - but I still have buyer's remorse.... Should have gone for the Focal Clears and a Lehmann Linear amp :confused: (it just seemed too expensive at the time) In my case, I don't hear anywhere near as much improvement over the headphone system as I do via my Neat speakers - but then, that's my system, and the Elears have a noticeable dip in response in the upper mid range (still pricey tho...)

Sorry I can't be more definite :) Difficult decision...
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
You will be delighted with either
Questions;-
will you always be kicking yourself you didn't get the 2500 if you only got the 1600, even if you were extremely happy with it (which you would be)? The pain of cost is quickly forgotten but regret is permanent....
What would the kids spend the extra inheritance on?
Would the difference in cost get a decent upgrade in headphones that would be greater than the difference in sq between the two players? (Just thought I would throw this grenade in lol)
Would Hifi Corner give you the better trade-in value on the 1600 if you told them getting the business depended on it, particularly if another matched it? It's nice positive cashflow business for them - you're paying them before they pay Denon as they only buy it to order.
Is the difference in px value no more than the cost of a SACD?

To quote an earlier post - I like spending other people's money ;-)
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Would Hifi Corner give you the better trade-in value on the 1600 if you told them getting the business depended on it, particularly if another matched it? It's nice positive cashflow business for them - you're paying them before they pay Denon as they only buy it to order.
As I privately told Numpty, I got a well-known national online/stores retailer to price beat HiFi Corner, and got a half-price 6-year warranty into the bargain. Again, it was bought to order.

Happy to PM you with the details, if you wish...:cool:
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Listening to my newly delivered SHM SACD copies of 'Aja' and 'Gaucho' as I type :thumbsup:
 

gibbsy

Moderator
You will be delighted with either
Questions;-
will you always be kicking yourself you didn't get the 2500 if you only got the 1600, even if you were extremely happy with it (which you would be)? The pain of cost is quickly forgotten but regret is permanent....
What would the kids spend the extra inheritance on?
Would the difference in cost get a decent upgrade in headphones that would be greater than the difference in sq between the two players? (Just thought I would throw this grenade in lol)
Would Hifi Corner give you the better trade-in value on the 1600 if you told them getting the business depended on it, particularly if another matched it? It's nice positive cashflow business for them - you're paying them before they pay Denon as they only buy it to order.
Is the difference in px value no more than the cost of a SACD?

To quote an earlier post - I like spending other people's money ;-)
I'm happy with my headphones, Oppo PM1s is the top of the three pair I've got. I know what you mean with buyer's remorse. My son has no interest in either HiFi or HT and would sell the lot to finance a nice big aquarium. Think I'll try and get a better deal with HiFi Corner.
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Welcome to the club :thumbsup:

I'm sure you'll enjoy it for many years to come :cool:
 

HD lover

Active Member
My 2500NE arrived from AV Online yesterday.

I was a little worried as the polystyrene packaging on the bottom was smashed up somewhat, even though the box was undamaged, but luckily the player is fine.

As I said the other day, I have the 1520AE which I always thought was a beautifully constructed CD player, but the 2500 beats it into fits. Fantastically smooth machine that obviously sounds incredible. I’m waiting for some higher quality audio leads to arrive, but it’s hard to imagine it sounding much better than it does now!

Considering how good this is, it does make me wonder what the truly high end players that costs thousands are like... Not that I’ll ever find out.:D

Anyway, I’d say to anyone on the fence about the 2500, have no fears. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll be disappointed.
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Welcome to the club - another member :thumbsup: ;)

're the polystyrene packaging - I found the same when I opened mine! I sent emails and photographs to my supplier and to Denon UK. That was a few months ago, but I've not found any problems since :smashin:

However, I'd recommend that you do the same to back-up your warranty - just in case... I got a rather generic response from Denon UK - thanking me for letting them know, and that they would pass on to their production colleagues for future improvements. My thoughts are that, because the unit is so heavy (13.7 kg) and built like a tank, standard expanded polystyrene is just not up to the job. I would think that a more modern closed-cell HDPE foam (e.g. like that used by Oppo) would be much more robust - and recyclable!

I am currently using Chord Clearway RCA interconnects with great results, and am not sure whether going to the Shawline is going to reap any significant benefits...

What I did do, was put an SACD on whole disc repeat play 24/7 for a week, followed by the same for a redbook CD - as a run-in.

Enjoy :cool:
 

HD lover

Active Member
Welcome to the club - another member :thumbsup: ;)

're the polystyrene packaging - I found the same when I opened mine! I sent emails and photographs to my supplier and to Denon UK. That was a few months ago, but I've not found any problems since :smashin:

However, I'd recommend that you do the same to back-up your warranty - just in case... I got a rather generic response from Denon UK - thanking me for letting them know, and that they would pass on to their production colleagues for future improvements. My thoughts are that, because the unit is so heavy (13.7 kg) and built like a tank, standard expanded polystyrene is just not up to the job. I would think that a more modern closed-cell HDPE foam (e.g. like that used by Oppo) would be much more robust - and recyclable!

I am currently using Chord Clearway RCA interconnects with great results, and am not sure whether going to the Shawline is going to reap any significant benefits...

What I did do, was put an SACD on whole disc repeat play 24/7 for a week, followed by the same for a redbook CD - as a run-in.

Enjoy :cool:
Thanks. It makes sense what you say about the CD player being too heavy for the packaging. I could hear the player rattling around in the box when I got it!. The box itself was fine, though. Didn’t look like it had been knocked about.

As for the standard warranty, there was nothing in the box, is it automatically activated when you purchase it, or do I have to do something else?

Thanks again.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
From memory I didn't have the polystyrene issue with the DCD-1600 - it isn't quite as heavy as the 2500 and the polystyrene fitted properly. My PMA-2500, however suffered the same issues as you describe. Further more the polystyrene cutout is too large, allowing it to wobble in the box. Packed well they ain't. My 1st PMA2500 suffered at the hands of DPD delivery and so it had to be replaced.
But wow! now it has I'm still utterly blown away by it. Whether analogue in (for SACD), USB to internal DAC or Phono stage it's absolutely fantastic and still has me grinning from ear to ear.
You all enjoy your DCD-2500s. If they are as good as the matching amp then you've got yourselves some stunning kit.
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
I believe that the standard warranty (2yrs) is through an authorised dealer. However, like my Denon home cinema receiver, I registered the 2500 online at Denon UK's website:


In my case, as I purchased through RS, my warranty was extended to 6 years through them.

Hope this helps :)
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Link didn't work....

Try this:

:confused:
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I'll take a good look at the packaging when the player arrives because of your remarks on both the DCD 2500 and the PMA2500. Should be with me towards the end of next month. The true cost of the player is about to be revealed, the wife has spent all afternoon buying on the interweb. :)
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
Lol you're old enough to ken when She doesn't raise too much of an eyebrow She's seeing it as an opportunity ;-)
Don't get too hung up on the poor packaging - my 1st PMA didn't work out the box because it went walkies "somewhere along the M6" for 3 days in transit with the couriers. By the state of the external box those 3 days had been eventful. That said some professional reviewers apparently get mildly sexually excited by how some hifi is packaged. They wouldn't with this - but generally it will be up to the job.
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Considering how good this is, it does make me wonder what the truly high end players that costs thousands are like... Not that I’ll ever find out.:D
Yes, in Japan, Denon have no less than three models pitched at a higher level than the DCD-2500NE - the DCD-SX11, the DCD-SX1 and the DCD-SX1 Limited:


- at roughly twice, three times, and four times the price :eek:

They appear to have digital inputs (access to internal DAC), a copper plated chassis, XLR outputs, custom capacitors, further improved advanced SVH drive mechanism, even better twin shielded transformers, improved master clock etc. Probably competing with the high end Marantz players, Esoterics etc.

We're obviously considered too badly off in the UK to see those in our market :rolleyes:
 
Last edited:

HD lover

Active Member
Yes, in Japan, Denon have no less than three models pitched at a higher level than the DCD-2500NE - the DCD-SX11, the DCD-SX1 and the DCD-SX1 Limited:


- at roughly twice, three times, and four times the price :eek:

They appear to have digital inputs (access to internal DAC), a copper plated chassis, XLR outputs, custom capacitors, further improved advanced SVH drive mechanism, even better twin shielded transformers, improved master clock etc. Probably competing with the high end Marantz players, Esoterics etc.

We're obviously considered too badly off in the UK to see those in our market :rolleyes:
Yes, and I’m sure the 2500NE is a pretty old model too. I think it was around when I bought my 1520AE in 2016
 

gibbsy

Moderator
The 2500 models, player and amp, were introduced in early 2016.
 

HenryHonda

Active Member
Yes, and I’m sure the 2500NE is a pretty old model too. I think it was around when I bought my 1520AE in 2016
The 2500 models, player and amp, were introduced in early 2016.
Yep, as indicated by some of the reviews.

However, as has already been said, very difficult to imagine any significant audible improvements over the 2500 in a well-specced system. Anything higher would surely be an extreme case of the law of diminishing returns...

I'm currently considering whether I should purchase a 'spare' SVH drive assembly - to extend the potential life of the player...
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I'm currently considering whether I should purchase a 'spare' SVH drive assembly - to extend the potential life of the player...
To be honest I think SACD is pretty healthy and unless there is a radical overhaul of the business by Sound United the building of high quality players is safe. They may very well be a niche market for the higher end models but that has always been so with high end HiFi. The only dark cloud on the landscape is the modern trend for current artists to have all their music produced with a dynamic range that is flatter than hammered s**t.
 

Clive D

Standard Member
Review of Denon PMA-2500NE flagship stereo amp and DCD-1600NE SACD player, how they compare with Cambridge CXA-80, CXC and CXN and other stuff.


I post this as these do not seem to get mentioned on this forum.


Lets be upfront from the start. Unlike many on here I am no hi-fi expert, real or pretend delusional. My experience comes pretty much from listening to what I have owned and I have had little opportunity to hear others’ equipment. Like most on this forum though I am of a certain age and have appreciated hi-fi for many years. I am also as guilty as the next man of confirmation bias and placebo, however hard I try to be objective, open and honest.


Back in the day, within days of arriving at college I blew my entire term’s grant on a Fisher music system that looked like, but wasn’t, separates and came complete with it’s own cabinet. It was the door to an expanding LP collection and served me well as a student.

A year later I had landed a graduate’s job and my wages went straight into a “proper” hi-fi. I treated myself to a Musical Fidelity B1 amp and Wharfedale Diamond speakers. Richer Sounds were knocking out Marantz’s top of the range CD96(?) and accompanying separate DAC for 1/2 price - a snip at £500 each in the 1980s. I got them both on the promise that if I couldn’t hear any difference with the outboard DAC I could return it “no problem” for full refund. I couldn’t and had an almighty row with Richer Sounds who didn’t want it back. Only when I had cleared a full shop of customers did they relent.

A couple of weeks later my flatmate’s brother popped round. He was the Sales Director of a tube amp manufacturer, I can’t remember which one, and lent me one of his products for a couple of hours he had just happened to have in the boot of his car to compare with the B1. The difference was jaw dropping; such transparency, dynamics and sweetness of sound blew me away and by comparison the coloured, muddled, flat and distorted sound of the B1 was 3rd, ney, 4th rate. Sadly it is the only time I have ever heard a tube amp. In truth I was disappointed with the Musical Fidelity from the start. It had the stying, fit and finish of an Austin Allegro and the big parts bin power switch flickered orange when on like there was a dodgy power supply. This hi-fi magazine Best Buy gave the impression of a DIY amp knocked together in a shed.

A year later the local burglars and insurance company conspired together to allow me to upgrade to a new system. I acquired the latest Best Buys, being an Arcam Alpha+ CD player and Pioneer A400 amp. I wanted the must-have Mission 753 speakers but was advised by a magazine journalist that they would be too bright with the A400 and that the Castle Chester floor standers would be a much better combination. On pre-arranged audition Sevenoaks Hifi sold the 753s before I arrived (the power of magazine marketing had these going out the door like hot cakes) so instead I just got the hard sell on interconnect cables. I couldn’t hear any difference with the more expensive ones and left with cheap interconnects and the Castles (for the record their 1/4 horn design sound suits Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet well but can’t cope with Eminem. I have always wondered if I would have preferred the brighter, faster sound of the 753s) I also got a second hand turntable, more of which later. I still have and use this system to this day, but generally stream to it. For many years it got little use as I was working too hard which no doubt has helped the fact it is all still fully working.

In 2006 I got a new system for another room, a Cyrus 6 CD and amp with B&W CM1 speakers. The Cyrus was chosen on size of discount and magazine review and the speakers on audition (with review confirmation bias). It produced a clean and detailed sound with great imaging and sound stage but over time I realised it lacked any fun. Last year I replaced the CM1s with Monitor Audio Silver 2s and the sound transformed from thorough VAT inspection to full on party. Even the ornaments on the mantlepiece started dancing. In the neighbour’s house. Across the road.

A few years ago I took possession of a Cambridge system for my new extension, the CXA-80, CXC and CXN (clearly I had just about forgiven Richer Sounds by now) and liked their powerful, musical sound, particularly that of the Monitor Audio Silver 8 floorstanders. Since purchase this has been my go-to system and I have connected the 2nd hand turntable I have had most of my life, a Systemdek IIX with Linn Basik arm. On the Pioneer this produced a clearly inferior sound quality to CDs and was rarely used so I upgraded the stylus to the Ortofon 2M Blue and got a Pro-Ject Phono Box USB V to make it work with the CXA-80. Whilst the digitising of my LP collection was useful and done with little loss of s.q. the overall sound, like it was coming from the bottom of a well, was still very much the poor relation to CD. I really wanted to appreciate vinyl but just couldn’t get what the fuss was about and didn’t know if the fault was with the turntable, arm, cartridge or pre-amp or if vinyl was just marketing.

When I got my MA Silver 2s last year I also treated myself to an Audiolab M-ONE to use as a desktop office system connected to my Mac via USB and stuck the CM1s on the end of it. Like the Cyrus before it the sound was very clean, detailed and with great soundstage, but grey and lifeless, all charisma surgically removed.

Then 6 months ago I decided I would convert the garage into a dedicated stereo and 7.1.4 AV room. New equipment needed. This time eventually it would be what I really wanted, a “best” system, rather than being sensible price rung down ;-)

Very initial research (I had several months before I needed the stuff as I hadn’t even started to clear out the garage, let alone any of the building works) threw up an AVonline sale bargain; Monitor Audio Gold 5.1 package “only” £5,555. Wow. Only 1 left. This was at 1am. Months too early to start buying now. Lets sleep on it. Next morning I looked again and saw the package offer - another £100 secured a £2,000 Yamaha RX-A 3070 to power them. Out came the credit card. (by the way I think this offer is still on with only 4 left, 3 more than 6 months ago….) Welcome to Numpty112233 world lol.

A game of musical speakers ensued. The Monitor Audio G300s temporarily replaced the S8s on the end of the CXA-80. Initial impression from brand new was more detail, more “hi-fi” but the same sound signature that I like. The S8s went into storage until the new room is finished and it will be interesting to hear the difference going back the way now the G300s are run in. The G50s replaced the CM1s on the end of the M-ONE. Not only did they improve upon the CM1 strengths but also addressed the sterile signature with a huge dose of fun and musicality. The 1st speaker change was big but not huge and the 2nd was transformational. The rest of the “package deal” boxes are still sitting sealed in storage.

Choosing a stereo amp has been far, far more protracted and painful. No immediate impulse buy here but instead months of research into the wee hours drawing up a shortlist that became longer than my arm between £1.5k and £6k, all to be auditioned prior to purchase. I was only requiring two inputs, USB from my Mac (so the CDs & LPs could stay with the Cambridge system) and HT bypass for the G300s. I was wanting a one box solution. Very few amps offer both and so throwing in a 2nd box complicated decisions and budget further. Auditioning was going to be problematic. This would be true for all the amps on my list but let’s take the one on the top of my list as an example, the Cambridge Edge A. Sold only by Richer Sounds, they didn’t stock many of the amps I wished to compare it with (Moon or Hegel for example). Further more they possibly didn’t have for audition some of those they did stock. Certainly they didn’t have Monitor Audio Gold 300s for me to listen to them on. A solution would be to get a home demo. Only my nearest store is a 200 mile round trip and I hadn’t forgotten my previous experience of trying to return and get my money back on a demo. (Cambridge if you read this - I understand why in the U.K. you exclusively retail through Richer as I am led to believe there is shared personnel in the boardroom so I get the business model, however i.m.o. the Edge range should be sold through more upmarket independent retailers who sell more compatible top end speakers and are better at providing a “sophisticated” customer experience. Not doing so potentially cost you my business)

So more online burning of the midnight oil as the room progressed, the building works swallowing more money than I had budgeted ( I hadn’t actually set a budget but lots of things I hadn’t considered quickly mounted up to way more than I had thought, over £2k on worktops for example). I remembered Linn coining an acronym G.I.G.O. - Garbage in garbage out - that they used to market their expensive turntables with the correct theory that nothing downline improved a crappy source, however good it was. In the digital age, however, the source of uncompressed 1s and 0s merely requires a DAC, amplifier and speakers. In my opinion generally speaking differences between cheap and expensive DACs are comparatively small, amps by comparison medium and speakers large. I am therefore of the opinion that this should be replicated in dividing a budget for a balanced system and I eventually concluded the G300s wouldn’t make the most of the Edge A.

At about the same time I stumbled upon passing mention of a group test winning Denon amp, the PMA-1600NE. Until this point Denon hadn’t even been on the radar. No mention of it on this forum or the usual online review providers. To me Denon was good at cheap mini systems and mainstream AV. In my experience the brand has been utterly reliable - I have been woken up by a mini system for the past 30 years, it coming on for 3 hours every single day for 3 decades without once missing a beat. Similarly my more recent but overly complicated AVR has been flawless and (complication apart) user friendly. Neither, though, are particularly hi-fi so the brand hadn’t been considered.

Further investigation revealed it unusually had both DAC and HT bypass so piqued my interest. I eventually found the group test it had won online (link below) and discovered the competition included the Yamaha A-S1100, which had come last. This aroused much interest as the reportedly very similar sounding A-S2100, with its fan club on here, was under serious consideration. Rightly or wrongly I hold more weight to Hifichoice group tests than some other reviews as I understand they are done blind with a group of listeners and directly compare differences between products instead of one person stating one known product is wonderful on its own merit because a manufacturer gave him a sample to promote specifically to support a paid advert. More digging not only revealed similar conclusions in different languages but even more so for the flagship model above this, the PMA-2500NE and I confess I started getting excited to the point of salivating. It ticked all the boxes. Inputs. Flagship. Price. Brand. Reviews.

A new top of the list for audition then but still not needed for a while. A quick price check showed one retailer £300 cheaper than the others and they offered trade ins. My M-ONE would be surplus to requirements and so, out of curiosity I emailed them. Hi-fi Corner offered me over £75 more for it as a trade in than I had paid new, so I quickly convinced myself that Brexit was about to make everything more expensive and pressed the button. Not hearing it 1st would save me an extremely long drive.

Flushed with excitement I had committed - and got a deal (£1,425 + M-ONE) so much cheaper than the £4,500 Edge I thought what the heck and got the DCD-1600NE SACD player as well. I’m not really sure why as my CDs were to stay in another room (the amp source was to be purely the Mac) and I owned no SACDs. I blame Gibsy on here for banging on about SACDs lol.

The 1 to 5 day advertised delivery became 7 - 10 days immediately Hi-fi Corner got my money and a week or so later they sent them both out. Only it was just the SACD player turned up. 3 days later a battered amp finally appeared, but didn’t work. DPD had obviously given it the red carpet treatment. So another 10 days wait for the replacement.

This, however, gave me the opportunity to play with the DCD-1600NE in my Cambridge CX set up and these are my conclusions;-


For following comparisons;- amp is Cambridge CXA-80, speakers Monitor Audio Gold 300 (series 4)


A/B comparison between CD ripped to Mac as lossless AIFF file (better sq than ALAC) and streamed wirelessly via Airplay to Cambridge CXN

and playing CD on Cambridge CXC using digital co-axial to CXN


Playing the CD on the CXC sounded better, like a ballet dancer taking off her hiking boots and skipping lightly across the floor.By comparison ripped CDs over Airplay sounded heavy.


A/B comparison between Denon DCD-1600NE and Cambridge CXC transport & CXN DAC.


I have already ascertained that CDs sound better from the CXC when using the DAC in the CXN network player before sending via balanced cables to the CXA80 amp rather than simply using the DAC in the CXA80. The CXA80 DAC sounds dull and hard in comparison. Via the CXN there is an added sparkle and “musicality”.


Connecting the Denon to the unbalanced analogue in of the CXA80 and playing the same CD there is another clear step up in sound quality. In isolation I enjoy the sound from the CXC & CXN DAC, however by comparison the CXC / CXN sounds thin and the Denon puts more meat on the bones, the sound is fuller, richer and smoother. It also feels, operates and looks a more premium product. Pricewise they could be considered comparable - ok the Denon is twice the price (I paid £670 and £300) but as a transport only the CXC is but half the product and requires a DAC.


A/B comparison between SACD and CD layer in the Denon


My first experience of SACD was an assault on the ears, and not in a good way. I had not heard Herbie Hancock’s Sextant album before and I had it too loud. The following screeches were like fingernails down a blackboard at full volume. Furthermore, bizarrely, track 2 had me in a cold sweat peering into the dim corners of the room expecting to see Kojak coming for me. And no I wasn’t on drugs. I suspect this album would be better on vinyl.

Things improved immeasurably thereafter and I concluded SACD was indeed a step up, further increasing the same differences already revealed between the Denon and the CXC.

The improvement, however, was only slight. On the face of it I should be disappointed, having forked out a not inconsiderable sum extra for a player with SACD capability and even more for a handful of SACDs. The opposite is true as what this player does is upscale my existing large collection of CDs to “near SACD” standard, thereby, in theory, saving me a fortune in buying a library of seriously overpriced SACDs, and in reality not actually being able to as the available selection at any price is bare bones. As I type Amazon have just informed me my order for Dark Side Of The Moon, which was a 3 month delivery, cannot be fulfilled as it is no longer available. HMS SACD, I am discovering, is a rapidly sinking ship. Only classical music still supports this format - and then not necessarily the better performances. If anyone can point me in the direction of a plentiful supply of cheap SACDs please let me know.


A/B comparison between CD layer of SACD and CD


For this I used Brothers In Arms and what ensued was 2 minutes of panic. I was expecting them to sound the same. Anything but! 1st up was the CD layer in the Denon. Then I switched to the CD in the CXC and over half the volume was lost. The sq was there but it was very, very quiet. What was the matter with the CXC? It was just out of its warranty and clearly something was wrong. After much concern and head scratching I swapped the disks over and suddenly it was the Denon that went all quiet and the CXC back to full volume. The issue was with the disks. Phew! After that I gave up on this comparison.


Meanwhile trading in the M-ONE (which was a vey nice wee unit) freed up the MA Gold 50s to put on the Cyrus, an excellent partnership that the Cyrus had been waiting 13 years for, but I digress.


Finally the replacement PMA-2500NE amp arrives - and this one actually turns on. Yippee!


1st - 3 things to note. I don’t think the speaker terminals accept banana plugs, just spades and bare wire. There are no balanced connections. It doesn’t do the housework.


A/B comparison between Denon and Cambridge amps using SACD


The difference is a big un! The Denon takes the Cambridge strengths to another level and fully addresses its weaknesses. It is better in every way. At two or three times the price it should be in a different league… and it is. If anyone bothering to read this far is looking at the new CXA-81 then also audition the group test winning PMA-1600NE which has recently come down in price.


Following comparisons are with the Denon amp and CD player and MA Gold 300 speakers;-


A/B comparison between DSD and FLAC via 8 metre Supra USB

Bach Cello Suite transcribed to violin by Rachel Podger


First thing to state was when downloading DSD in 256 I quit the download once it hit 11Gb. 11+Gb for one album!!! So I went down a level to 128 but even that took up almost 4 times as much storage as a 192kHz flac, which itself is a very big file.


This is a high quality recording of solo violin, so no bass. I was expecting both to sound exactly the same but they weren’t. The DSD was a more grounded, solid sound - slightly less shrill and fatiguing. I won’t be bothering with DSD though as the files are simply far too big.


A/B comparison between CD and AIFF ripped CD


The same 1s & 0s here were taking very different paths. On the one hand they were being read at normal speed by a quality, low vibration transport before being converted to analogue in the same player and being sent to the amp via 0.6 metre analogue RCA. This was being compared with them being ripped at fast speed by a £20 poorly made external CD drive into my Mac before being sent to the amp’s DAC via a 8 metre USB cable. Both DACs were upscaling to PCM 352.8kHz


The result was remarkably similar. I struggled to tell a difference and I wouldn’t want to put money on guessing right in a blind test. Maybe the ripped version was slightly duller but we’re splitting hairs here.


A/B comparison between CD and vinyl


Time to connect up my old turntable. The result was truly a revelation. For the 1st time in 30 years of ownership it sounded really good. Clearly what had previously been holding it back had been the phono stage as, using the on-board Denon stage, it sang. Yes, it sounded different to CD, but it was like comparing siblings rather than being a poor 3rd cousin. Violin, guitar and saxophone sounded velvety rich and smooth across a large soundstage but perhaps the biggest difference was it was very difficult to critically listen to the sound (as I had been with digital) but rather I found myself just enjoying the music and how it flowed. And that, ultimately, is of course what it is all about…

I fear the money I don’t have that was going to get spent on SACDs will now get spent on somewhat larger disks of plastic.


CONCLUSION


Denon’s DCD-1600NE SACD player is a quality piece of kit. Well engineered and put together it produces a great sound by upscaling CDs to near SACD quality. Its SACD capability is unfortunately limited by the lack of availability and price of such disks. Sadly it lacks a digital in for other sources to make use of its excellent DAC


The PMA-2500NE amp is the star of the show though. Not only is it in a different league to my Cambridge CXA-80, as it should be for the price, but, unlike many of its competitors, it is a complete package with HT bypass (which unusually goes straight to the power amp) and very high quality upscaling DAC, MM & MC phono stage and headphone amp. Very much recommended.




Postscript. Cables, cables, cables. Get yer popcorn…


I have a confession to make. When comparing the Denon with the Cambridge I was using different cables in each, both interconnect and speaker. For those of you in Camp A this will not matter one jot as all cables sound the same. For those of you in Camp B my comparisons are now rendered meaningless as all cables sound different. I have sat too long on the fence in this entrenched war, my left bum cheek on one side, my right on the other, and it’s giving me piles. Time to get off and nail my flag to the mast, thereby alienating half of the two readers still wading through this post.


I had been leaning more towards Camp A until I changed my USB cable used between my Mac and M-ONE feeding MA Gold 50s. The reason for change was purely to go from 0.6m to 8m and I was concerned the longer cable may suffer dropouts, otherwise I fully expected it to sound exactly the same - it’s all just 0s and 1s right? It didn’t. The longer Supra cable sounded far more transparent than the shorter Fisual Havana. The difference was immediate and obvious when I wasn’t even listening for it and I was genuinely surprised. I then got a basic freebie and compared it to the Havana. The Havana was slightly better but the difference very much smaller. Fwiw both cables are What Hifi 5 star…


A/B comparison between analogue RCA cables - freebie supplied with Denon 0.6m, QED Performance 40 2m and QED Reference 40 0.6m using Brothers In Arms SACD


The QED sounds brighter, fuller and more open, the Reference more so than the performance. The freebie is flat and coloured by comparison. The QED lifts the sound but some may find the extra clarity and sparkle of the Reference over the Performance fatiguing. The differences between all 3 is slight and not night and day like between USB cables though, not enough to warrant me to upgrade cables on my other systems where perhaps differences would be negligible (as I found when auditioning my A400 & Alpha+)


Speaker cables yet to be tested. Bi-wire anyone?
Great review, many thanks!

I got my Denon PMA2500 a few months ago now and am delighted with it. But...you wrote that it wouldn’t accept banana plugs: it does! I bought some Van Damme cables terminated both ends with banana plugs and they fit beautifully in the Denon amp. Just loosen the collars before attaching them then tighten up, it’s easy and preferable to bare wire in my opinion.
 

Trending threads

Latest news

Netflix to drop support for older Roku players on December 1st
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
AVForums Podcast: 14th October 2019
  • By Phil Hinton
  • Published
Linn unveils Series 3 wireless speaker
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Primare unveils NP5 Prisma network player
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Samsung trademarks Infinity Screen TV display terminology
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Top Bottom