The DVD-1940CI’s three greatest sonic strengths are smoothness, neutral tonal balance, and a good measure of natural clarity. While some players offer greater levels of detail, slightly more vibrant tonal colors, and can create more “holographic” soundstages, the little Denon holds its own, and does so at a very reasonable price. One appealing aspect of the player is that it seems to perform equally well when playing CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio material, whereas some competing players tend to favor one format or another at the expense of the others.
While conducting listening tests with the Denon, I took an opportunity to play the track “Country Roads” from Gary Burton’s Like Minds [Concord, multichannel SACD] for a colleague in the office. What’s special about the record is not only that it captures a stellar jazz ensemble (Gary Burton on vibes, Chick Corea on piano, Pat Metheny on guitar, Dave Holland on acoustic bass, and Roy Haynes on drums) playing great music, but also the fact that it captures an eerily realistic “stage mix.” As I played the track, the Denon did a beautiful job of reproducing the distinctive timbres of the individual instruments, and a quite respectable job of placing the musicians in front of, behind, and to the left and right sides of the listening area. As the track ended, my colleague looked up with a touch of wonder in his eyes and said, “I’ve rarely heard the Playback Audio Lab system sound this good,” and he was right. While you can find players that sound better than the Denon, at least in some respects, those that do tend to cost more—sometimes quite a lot more.
Denon’s DVD-1940CI is good video performer and a player that delivers smooth, evenly balanced sound on all audio material of all formats. Best of all, the Denon has a satisfyingly even-handed way of dealing with music, tending to draw out the strengths of recordings without belaboring their weaknesses.