The $370 DVD-1940CI is the least expensive of the four single-disc universal players in Denon’s current product lineup, and it also enjoys the distinction of being the least expensive player in our survey. Despite its relatively low price, though, the DVD-1940CI never feels like a “stripped down” product, but rather appeals with its “no frills” simplicity and solid core performance. Like several other players in this class, the Denon provides Faroudja DCDi video processing, which helps ensure good video performance both on benchmark and real world DVD tests. In turn, Denon equipped the player with high quality Burr Brown DACs (digital to analog converters), which help give the DVD-1940CI pleasingly neutral tonal balance that serves all types of music well. Though the player does not offer the last word in sonic detail, tonal richness, or 3D soundstaging, its smooth, evenly balanced sound almost always carries the day.
The DVD-SD1800 has a fairly straightforward user interface and remote control, and is for the most part easy to set up. Some elements we particularly liked included the following:
We did identify several user interface shortcomings, as noted below:
Playback uses the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark DVD Ver. 4 to conduct benchmark tests, and over time we’ve found that certain video processors tend to yield consistent, “signature” results on our tests. It came as no surprise, then, that the DVD-1940CI performed much like the other Faroudja DCDi processor-equipped players we tested, which is a good thing (remember, the DVD-1940CI is the least expensive of the DCDi-equipped players in our survey). The Denon showed solid performance on most tests, but exhibited minor shortcomings in the following areas:
For purposes of watching DVDs under real-world conditions, the Denon produced smooth and generally glitch-free images that upscaled cleanly when the player was set for 1080i output (the setting that works best with our lab’s reference HDTV). I found it revealing to watch the opening scenes of Open Range, where Mose (Abraham Benrubi) labors in the late afternoon sun to erect a canvas shelter before a storm arrives. As the wind kicks up around Mose, you can actually see fine bits of dust and plant debris swirl up into the air as Mose hammers tent stakes into the ground. It’s small visual details such as these that make this player so rewarding.
That said, however, I should point out that when upscaling images the Denon captures just slightly less image detail and sharpness than the best players we’ve seen in this class. In the same scene from Open Range, Charley Waite (Kevin Costner) looks at the sky to check on storm clouds, but then quickly steps back under the shelter as raindrops begin to fall. When he does so we get an up close view of the surface textures of the canvas roof from the inside— textures that some players resolve so well you’d swear you could reach out and feel the warp and woof of the fabric, but that the Denon softens just a bit. It’s a case where the Denon does well (very well, actually), but where a few other affordable players can do even better.