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Denon DVD-1940 review: Denon DVD-1940

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The Good Class-leading DVD pictures. Good music playback. Elegant styling.

The Bad Upscaling is worse than SD. Only HDMI version 1.1. Same price as the PS3.

The Bottom Line The Denon DVD-1940 is a worthwhile successor to to the 1930, with great DVD pictures. If the upscaler was up to snuff it would be perfect.

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8.0 Overall

Review Sections

In this topsy-turvy world where gaming consoles can outperform home cinema components, it's getting tougher for the "hi-fi establishment" to compete. Take Denon and their new DVD-1940, for example. It's built on the DVD-1930 of last year, which was an excellent player in its own right. But can the new model make its own mark given the change in landscape?

Design
Denon's "2008 Summer line" is a little more curvaceous than previous generations with a rounded aluminium fascia softening the "macho" look of the past. The word for the DVD-1940 is definitely "low slung" and while it's not as large as the Marantz DV7001 it still makes its presence felt.

The front panel controls remain the same as before, rounded and with all the main buttons you would need, bar a dedicated menu button or D-Pad as on the NAD T585.

The remote itself is relatively functional, and will be familiar to users of other Denon components. Nothing much more to add here, though.

Features
The feature count appears unchanged from last year's entrant, with Faroudja processing and 1080p upscaling still present, as well as support for audio formats SACD and DVD-Audio.

HDMI output is included, but it's an old version now -- 1.1 -- which means it won't allow SACD decoding by your receiver or enable the one-remote control offered by HDMI 1.3. Other video duties are performed by a choice of component, S-Video, composite, and even a SCART connection for users of European TVs. On the audio side, you get a 5.1 output, in addition to a stereo connection, and the usual optical and electrical digital outputs.

The features list includes an automatic Aspect Ratio function which converts the images to the correct aspect ratio when viewed over HDMI without the need to punch your TV's aspect in manually. For example, it will convert 4:3 images for optimised output to 16:9 TV screens.

Performance
As you'd expect for a dedicated DVD player, the Denon's performance in standard definition was outstanding. Colours, while not as vivid as we've seen with some players, were true and the better for it -- even in tricky shadow areas. There were no green discolourations or colour stepping -- video performance was simply superb no matter the movie choice.

For example, slip one of our trusty reference disks in -- King Kong -- and simultaneous detailed images and lack of noise were astounding. The long-shot of Kong on top of the Empire State Building in Chapter 38 proved to be one of the cleanest renditions we've seen.

However, the player displayed a little more noise than it should have during the Brontosaurus Stampede (Chapter 30). We've seen a better performance from the latest updates of the PlayStation 3, and that's not good news for Denon. Movement -- particularly of the brontosauruses -- showed up as pixelated noise along the dinosaur's backs.

While the player's performance could otherwise be considered excellent, the same can't be said about "HD" playback. As we found with last year's model, the Denon DVD-1930 upscaling is not necessarily better than standard definition. 720p and 1080p looked far worse than their 576p counterparts in most cases. We found it was best to view in straight progressive mode and let the Faroudja DCDi chipset work its magic. The Denon proves upscaling isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be -- it's only another form of noise reduction, after all.

Another reason you'd buy this player over the cheaper DVD-1740 (AU$349) is if you are secretly cultivating a library of SACD and DVD-Audio. Believe it or not, they're still releasing titles, with the release of the first two Pixies albums on SACD causing some excitement in the CNET camp. As most people would want to play CDs on this player, though, we tried that first. And as a music player, the results were mostly very good.

Sufjan Steven's "Chicago" from Illinoise can sound cold and confused on some players but the Denon had good stereo focus, warmth and intimacy -- especially during the chaotic chorus. However, bass didn't have the definition of the older Pioneer DV-655A DVD player we pitted it against.

We switched to a Queen DVD-Audio title (yeah, we know) and found "Bohemian Rhapsody" could be a little sibilant -- as like most DVD-As it's mixed very brightly -- but the bass performance was very good.

Using an SACD of Peter Gabriel's greatest hits showed that, to our ears at least, this is the superior HD audio format, with "Solsbury Hill" showing great detail and a reined-in bass drum

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