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The DVD deck we once described as having no equal is back – only now it’s even better.

Anyone who has spent time with Denon’s flagship DVD player, the DVD-A1XV, will have discovered a deck that set wholly new standards of video and audio performance.

So forgive us for being ridiculously excited by the arrival of a souped-up version called the A1XVA.

So what’s new? Well, Denon has added a 1080p output to the deck’s upscaling talents. But, before we get into whether the addition of 1080p really adds anything to the exceptional video quality that this deck already delivers with its 1080i/720p upscaled options, it’s worth recapping on why the A1XV sits at the top of the DVD tree…

Build and connections

For starters, it’s built like the proverbial brick outhouse; it’s so outrageously solid and robust that some might be put off by its considerable bulk.  

 

Connectivity is outstanding. For instance, while most upscaling DVD decks only provide one digital video option, the A1XVA has two: one HDMI and one DVI. Other notable connections include a duo of component video outputs for progressive scan duties, and twin i.link/IEEE1394 ports capable of piping full high-resolution multichannel audio streams (from DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD discs).

The unit also has the latest iteration of DenonLink3; a proprietary Denon interface able to transfer audio data between high-level Denon kit at lower than normal voltages, making it less susceptible to jitter. It’s this connection which should be used for audio if you’re lucky enough to partner the A1XVA and a suitably equipped amplifier/receiver like the brand’s own AVR-A1XV.

On top of all this, of course, you get the normal attributes like digital and coaxial digital audio connections, an RGB Scart output, and analogue line-outs for six-channel mixes.

Dig inside the A1XVA and you’ll find the true heart of the beast: its advanced picture scaling system. Of course, there are cheaper decks that now boast HD upscaling. But the quality of Denon’s proposal frankly eats the budget brigade for breakfast.

 

It’s based around two core components: a single-chip version of Silicon Optix’s hugely acclaimed Realta Hollywood Quality Video picture processing; and Anchor Bay/DVDO’s

10-bit Precision Video Scaling system. Denon’s marketeers love to remind us that a ‘full’ version of the Realta system, as used by numerous Hollywood movie studios in Silicon Optix’s ‘Teranex’ processor, would set you back almost $100,000 – so getting a version of it on a $7000 DVD deck rather seems like a bargain.

The new 1080p element of the A1XVA’s processing actually comes from DVDO, with the whole processing kit and caboodle further backed up by Denon’s own Pixel Image Correction algorithms for processing colour and brightness improvements at a ‘per pixel’ level.

More prosaic but no less useful features at your disposal include a life-sappingly long list of manual picture tweaks, playback of both Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio formats, and Denon’s AL24 processing for injecting more life into the digital-to-the-analogue audio conversion process. The only significant feature absent from this stunningly specified machine, in fact, is DivX playback support.

 

Finally getting to the deck’s playing capabilities, We decided to remind myself of the quality of its 1080i/720p performance before examining the new 1080p output. Has the passage of time diminished the impact of deck’s 720p/1080i delivery? Nope. Its images still stand above anything else in town. There are various reasons for this, but the most telling is the way the scaling engine does its thing without any of the customary noise-related disadvantages. 

The A1XVA adds a level of texture and detail to a standard-definition picture that, while often subtle, is undeniably effective.

New Year’s Resolution

And so onto 1080p. Can this ‘Full HD’ output really eek any more from a standard-definition DVD source?

Well, we’ll argue that it can. Video displays able to show 1080p feeds in their native format remain in short supply – but find one and you’ll see. We borrowed a 1080p-capable projector as a source and noted several refinements.

Pictures appear to have at least an enhanced sense of texture, if not more actual detail. The result is a more three-dimensional viewing experience. Images have a filmic solidity that gets closer to recreating the sort of experience you’d enjoy in a real cinema than on any other DVD deck we’ve ever seen.

 

Also, the A1XVA’s motion-handling seems to be marginally improved in 1080p mode.

There’s no need to dwell on the A1XVA’s outstanding audio capabilities again here; they’re unchanged from the deck’s earlier incarnation, so all we need do is reiterate that its performance is of audiophile grade, particularly if you take advantage of the brand’s proprietary DenonLink audio interface.

Conclusion

Even without 1080p, Denon’s A1XVA is without peer when it comes to DVD delivery. This latest iteration is just the icing on the cake. Perhaps the bigger question is whether a buyer can justify its cost, with true HD hardware drifting onto the global stage.

We would advocate you can. This is not an either or situation. With most enthusiasts owning a substantial library of DVDs, and the format unlikely to fade as the de facto standard for video, there’s every incentive to squeeze the most from the format.

And squeeze the A1XVa does, in a deliciously vicious way.

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Denon DVD-A1XVA | $6999 | |www.audioproducts.com.au

For: Strong build; outstanding connectivity and superb audio visual: what else do you need to know?
Against: None in terms of performance
Verdict: The Denon DVD-A1XVA is without peer when it comes to DVD delivery
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