Denon DCD-1100 CD-player
This is the middle-priced model in Denon's series of three CD players which claim a number of advances over earlier designs. After all, Denon's professional arm has been involved in digital recording and processing longer than anyone else, so there should be plenty of digital know-how back at the Nippon Columbia headquarters.
First, a "real-time super linear converter" reduces distortion and employs three sample-and-hold switches to eliminate the tiny (11 microseconds) time delay normally existing between the left and right channel signals (which are read alternately from the disc). This avoids the resulting phase differences and will, for example, clean up mono relays on AM radio. (Some CD players use two D/A converters to achieve the same result.) Separate power supplies are incorporated for the servo, processing and analogue audio circuits, and new LSIs reduce the power consumption and heating effect. Mechanical resonances have been minimized in the laser pickup transport, with damped spring arrangements and a glass-fibre reinforced sub-chassis.
The disc drawer glides out and in very smoothly, and the rest of the front panel has the usual controls ideally laid out a round a helpful display area. There are keys for play, pause, stop, track skip, fast search (with audible cue at full volume), repeat, memory programming of up to 9 items. call (to verify the track numbers stored in the memory), plus a headphone socket with it s own volume control. Rather confusingly, the fast search feature is referred to as "skip", a term which I prefer to reserve for the actual track number jumping controls. A display button changes the display from track and index number to track elapsed time in minutes and seconds. Pressing the same button immediately after loading a disc will display the total disc time.
The infra-red hand-held remote control unit is a bonus in a CD player at this price, and duplicates all the above functions (even the drawer open/close) with the addition that 10 numbered buttons and a +10 button make it even easier to cue straight to a given track or assemble a programmed sequence.
How it performed
In practice, the remote control unit made a moderately versatile player into one of above average user-friendliness. Access time was not particularly speedy at about 3 seconds to Track 1 and 6 seconds to Track 15 but, with the display switched to show the track elapsed time, there was a clear count-down in seconds before each new track on discs so encoded. This made it possible to use the pause control to set up the music for very accurate playing on demand. It may appear that I am making too much of these operational features, but they certainly add to a CD player's usefulness.
Error correction was as effective as one could wish, passing all the standard tests with flying colours. Insulation from external shocks was only average, however, but mechanical noise was no more than just a faint whirring, in audible at a couple of feet away. Channel separation is at a reasonable - 86dB or so over the whole band and the measured signal-to-noise ratio was an excellent 99.5dB. Distortion too was unusually low at 0.003% suggesting that both the design and the construction are up to high standards.
Sound quality had a clear forward emphasis which suited voices, solo piano, chamber music, etc. At the same time there was an absence of extreme treble edge, which made for tireless listening over long periods if nonetheless losing some of the immediacy of some top-price players.
In sum, the DCD-1100 offers at £299.95 an excellent specification, easy-on-the-ear sound and remote-control convenience. The machine can also be set up to start playing when switched on by a separate timer unit, and it has the sub-code output socket which we are told will give us graphics and text visuals on CDs of the future.