Denon Professional DN-C640 Network CD Player
Has some limitations, yet deserves serious consideration.
Review By Clarke Robinson
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As much as we all hoped (or feared)
that the compact disc would be replaced by one of the new high-resolution
formats, but it looks as if
's music consumers have spoken, and they are choosing digital downloads in
ever-increasing numbers. The CD may be on its way out, but it is still the most
popular medium for music distribution for the time being (almost 6x that of
digital download sales in 2007), so you're still going to need one for the
foreseeable future. However, a new question is emerging among audiophiles faced
with growing collections of music files on their hard drives: how do I play all
that stuff on my "real" audio system?
In this month's chapter of my informal series, "The Last CD
Player You Will Ever Buy", I take a look at the DN-C640 Network CD Player from
Denon Professional, a player sturdy enough to last a lifetime, but is "future
proofed" (if there is such a thing) by its ability to be connected to a computer
network. Sound interesting? I thought so, and Denon Professional's PR agents
were nice enough to respond to my request for a review sample.
a pro unit, the DN-C640 is designed to handle a good deal more abuse than it
would ever experience in an audiophile system. The slot-loading player has no
flimsy plastic CD drawer, the front panel appears to be cut from a 5/16-inch
slab of aluminum, and the buttons and knobs have a solidity to them that appears
would last millions of cycles. The DN-C640 was intended for use in radio
stations, dance clubs, shopping malls playing background music,
etc... situations where the unit would be played 24/7 for months at a time.
The transport (which seems to be an off-the-shelf Tohei unit) is designed for
high-reliability... all its parts that I could see after popping the top were metal, and the unit as a whole includes a two year warranty. I couldn't think of a way to effectively test the unit's longevity other than playing it on "repeat" for a few weeks straight, which it did without breaking a
The DN-C640 has many features that seldom (if ever) appear on
consumer-level CD players. These range from the amusing (fade in/fade out,
adjustable in half-second increments up to 10 seconds in length) to the
irrelevant (pitch shift, which speeds up or slows down the playback, thus
adjusting the pitch in half-step increments). Still, none of these detract from
the usability of the player except to add a few buttons to the front fascia and
the remote. The cue feature (common to pro players, unheard of in consumer
units), on the other hand, is mildly annoying until you modify its behavior in
the player's preferences.
There are other, cheaper options on the market if all you want
is a rock-solid disc spinner (Denon's own DN-C615 and DN-C635 among them). The
real reason to consider the DN-C640 is its network abilities, which I am geeky
enough to be thoroughly excited by.
Running an Ethernet cable from the port on the rear of the
DN-C640 to a network router automatically assigns a dynamic IP address to the
player. Cool network feature #1: typing that IP address into any web browser on
your network brings up the players own web-based interface, which can be used to
control every aspect of the
player: from major functions like play, stop and pause to obscure preferences
like fade in/out duration and what the cue button does.
network feature #2: once you have the player up in browser, you can assign any
shared directory on your network to the DN-C640. It didn't work if the remote
directory was on a computer connected wirelessly to the network, but worked
flawlessly with those connected by Ethernet cable. All of the supported audio
files (mp3, wav, & wma) in that directory can be played via the front panel
display or the web-based interface. The manual doesn't go out of its way to make
this task easy for the networking newbie, but if you know enough to set up a
home router, you can probably pull it off without too much trouble.
I ran the web-based interface off a laptop connected
wirelessly to my network (I suppose you could do the same from a PDA or iPhone).
While the on-screen display is far more usable than the front panel of any CD
player I know of, it is quite primitive compared to most any PC-based music
application you may be familiar with, like iTunes or Winamp. The main control
screen only shows 20 tracks at a time, with only "next" and "previous" buttons
for navigation. If you have 800 files in your shared directory, you'll have to
click "next" 20 times before you see any tracks that start with the letter "M".
Playlists can be created and saved locally, but the unit lacks any kind of
searching, shuffle play, or sorting (by artist, genre, etc.). Potentially even
more crippling, the player cannot "see" more than 999 files in a directory.
While that is certainly more than you're likely to listen to in any one session
(or any one week) it is a limitation for those looking to use the DN-C640 as the
main interface between their computer and audio system.
The DN-C640 boasts one set of balanced outputs and two sets of
unbalanced (one with fixed output, the other variable by the unit's front panel
jog wheel). I only tried the fixed outputs, but found their sound remarkably
good: clean & airy, with excellent detail retrieval and accurate tonality.
Compared to the best digital player I had on hand, my aging (but highly regarded
in it's day) Perpetual Technologies P-3A, the Denon boasted a top-end that was
smoother and more extended, with
more lifelike instrument timbres in the midrange, and bass that was slightly
better defined and punchier. Differences were subtle, to be sure (as they are
between any two digital source components) but still...very impressive
performance for a unit packed with this much functionality.
There are two digital outputs: one coaxial and one XLR. When I
first tried them, they were so noisy as to be unusable. After pointing this out
to my contacts at Denon, I was informed that a firmware update had been released
that cures the problem. Normally these are shipped out for free on CD-ROM, but I
was in a hurry to make my deadline so I downloaded the files and burned my own
CD. With the CD in hand, updating the firmware couldn't be easier: just insert
the disc into the player, the screen reads "FW Update", click "enter", and you're
done in a minute or two. It did indeed fix the problem, although I occasionally
heard the same noise when the player was stopped, music was perfectly clean with
every DAC I tried.
The headphone output, equipped with its own volume pot, is
excellent. Typical of a pro unit, it seems optimized for higher-impedance
headphones (like my 300 ohm Sennheiser HD-580s) but still performed well with my
32 ohm, current-hungry Grado SR-225s. In each case, performance of the on-board
headphone amp was clean, accurate, and punchy…making for listening that was
both engaging and useful as a sonic reference.
The DN-C640 is easy to recommend based on its sound quality
alone, however there are numerous units around its $900 retail price that are
similarly excellent. It is the unit's network connectivity options that make it
unique. While these are not features that are required by the vast majority of
the music-loving populace, this player can fill a badly needed niche for those
who want to spin discs and occasionally play digital files directly off their
hard drive with a single unit.
The DN-C640's few caveats will be more serious to some than to
others. Not much can be done about the unit's cosmetics, but if a noisy digital
out can be fixed with a firmware update, I assume the clunkier aspects of the
unit's UI can as well. That said, if you can live with the unit's looks and don't
need it to access a huge library of music files on your computer, the Denon
deserves your serious consideration. I know of no other player that does
everything the DN-C640 does at all, let alone well, so it can be placed with
confidence at the top of a very short audition list.
Ascend Sierra-1 stand-mounted loudspeakers
Sony SCD-CE595 SACD Player
Perpetual Technologies P-3A DAC
Parasound Model 2100 Preamplifier
Parasound Model 2125 Amplifier
Listening room is approximately 13 feet wide and 25 feet long. Acoustic
treatments include wall-wall carpet, curtains, and a large overstuffed sofa.
Type: Networked CD Player
Frequency Response: 10Hz to 20kHz (+1dB)
Dynamic Range: 98dB
Signal-to-noise Ratio: 104dB (1kHz, 0dB playback, A filter)
Channel Separation: 96dB (1kHz, 0dB playback, A filter)
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.004% (1kHz, 0dB playback, A filter)
Unbalanced Output (RCA): 2.0 Vrms at 0dB disc, 10 kohms
Variable Range: 4.0 Vrms at 0dB disc, volume max.
Balanced Output (XLR): +18dBu at 0dB disc, 600 ohms
Variable Range: +24dBu to +0 dBu at 0dB disc
Unbalanced Output (RCA): 0.5 Vp-p, 75 ohms
Balanced Output (XLR): 3.5 Vp-p, 110 ohms
Signal Format (Selectable): SPDIF (IEC958 type II) - Consumer, AES/EBU (IEC958 type I) - Professional
Headphone Output (1/4"): 20mW, 33 ohms
Variable Pitch Control: +12% maximum
Frame Search Accuracy: 1/75 second (CD-DA or WAV)
Sampling Frequency: 44.1kHz at Normal Pitch
Sample Rate Converter Settings: Auto, 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz
Quantization: 16-bit Linear
2 Analog Unbalanced Outputs: RCA L/R Fixed Level, RCA L/R Variable Level
1 Analog Balanced Output: XLR L/R Output with Trim Control
2 Digital Outputs: RCA S/PDIF Format, XLR AES/EBU Format
1 Headphone Output: 1/4" Headphone Output (front panel mounted, w/ level control)
Ethernet (LAN): RJ-45, 10BASE-T/100BASE-TX
Serial Remote: RS232C, D-Sub 9-pin
Parallel Remote: D-Sub 25-pin
IR Control Input: IR Sensor
Power Supply, USA and Canada models: 120V AC +10%, 60Hz
Power Consumption: 25W (USA and Canada Models)
19-inch, 1U rack space
Maximum Dimensions: 19" (W) x 1.7" (H) x 12.8" (D)
Weight: 4.3 kg, 9.5 lbs.
Accessory: IR Remote Included
Operating Temperature: +5°C to +35°C
Operating Humidity: 25% to 85%, non-condensing
Compatible Disc Type: Standard Compact Discs (12 cm), CD-DA, CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW
Compatible Audio Formats: CD-DA (.cda), WAVE (.wav), MPEG-1/2 Layer III (.mp3), MPEG-1 Layer II (.mpg), Windows Media Audio (.wma)
Max. Files (LAN or Disc): 999
Max. Directories (LAN or Disc): 254
Compatible Text: CD-Text, ID3 v1/v2
Price: $699 (street)
A Division of Marantz America, Inc.
1100 Maplewood Drive
Itasca, IL 60143
Voice: (630) 741-0330
Fax: (630) 741-0652