Denon DVD-1600 DVD Player

    After the disappointment expressed by Michael over the Denon DVD-1500 and his rapture over the Denon DVD-3300, I was keen as mustard to take a look at Denon's latest mid-priced model, the DVD-1600. Like many other models of this generation, the DVD-1600 professes to play everything, including MP3s, and Video CDs. Unlike other models of the "play everything" generation, it also plays DVD-Audio, and it claims to be able to play DVD-R into the bargain. At a suggested retail price of $1199, however, the DVD-1600 is priced outside of the typical first-time buyer's price range, unless they have an abundance of funds and some knowledge about what they are doing. Still, if you want a player that can handle everything in the audio-visual spectrum, and handle it well, then you need look no further than this model.

What's In The Box

    The following items were found in the DVD-1600's box:     Thinking about it some more, it would have been nice if at least an S-Video cable, or a set of three stereo cables to plug the DVD-Audio analogue outputs to the 5.1 channel input of my receiver, had been included. Still, with this modest collection of bits and pieces, this package contains everything that the user requires to get started in a minimal sense.

    When I opened up this player, I noted that there was quite a lot of unused space inside, with the circuit boards being seated quite low in the player while the only thing above them was the disc transport. Aside from this specific point, however, the player was well built, with all the circuitry being put together with the sort of quality that one expects of a player in this price range.

    The Denon DVD-1600 is available in either black or gold.

Front Panel

    The Denon DVD-1600 features a front panel with everything you need and very little that you don't. From left to right, we have:

    Overall, I found the front panel of the DVD-1600 to be quite serviceable, although it took some getting used to at first. One thing I found a little distracting was that the fluorescent display automatically dims itself when no inputs have been received for some time, then brightens again when any button on the remote control is pressed. This dimming and brightening can be somewhat distracting, and I am sure it will bother some people that this display cannot simply be permanently dimmed via the remote control or the setup menu.

Rear Panel

    The Denon DVD-1600 features a very serviceable rear panel, with just a couple of minor omissions that some users may find to be an issue. From left to right, we have:

    One of the more pleasant aspects of the DVD-1600's rear panel is that the optical digital audio output has a built-in cover that automatically closes when there is nothing plugged in. This is far preferable to the normal arrangement of removable (and very loseable) plugs. Overall, the outputs are nice and evenly spaced, making it easy to connect cables without making any errors.

Remote Control

    Toshiba has long suffered criticisms over the shape and layout of their remote controls, so they obviously thought to themselves "ah-ha, this will fix them - we'll make one that is even worse!". How is this relevant to a Denon player, I hear you ask? Well, Denon has long used similar remotes to Toshiba, and it appears that they have followed suit and responded to criticisms of their remote control by packaging their player with a remote control that makes the previous one look good. The RC551 is an ugly remote that, in spite of its larger shape, is extremely difficult to use without having a very clear view of its surface.

    This remote control essentially has two sections - the top and the other buttons. At the top of the remote, about a centimetre away from any other buttons, are the Open/Close button, the Power button, and the basic disc navigation buttons. As I alluded to in the previous sentence, these keys are offset from the other remote control functions by an approximate centimetre of empty space, and this is the only positive thing I have to say about this remote control. Even then, the layout of these essential buttons is very awkward, and the proximity of the Open/Close button to the Play button will have some users spitting chips as the disc tray opens when they meant to start the disc. The worst issue by far with this remote control, however, is that the numeral buttons and such buttons as the Play Mode, Subtitle, Audio, and Angle buttons are virtually indistinguishable from one another, making them impossible to use in a darkened home theatre environment.

    At the bottom of the remote control, there is a collection of five buttons that relate to the audio and DVD-Audio playback capabilities of this DVD player. Clockwise from the top left, we have the Group, Page, Audio Only, SP V.S.S., and HP V.S.S. buttons, three of which are relevant to DVD-Audio, while the V.S.S. modes simulate virtual speakers using external loudspeakers or headphones, hence the cryptic abbreviations.

    On the positive side, the operating range and speed of the remote control were more than satisfactory, with the DVD-1600 being rather quick to respond to inputs from well outside of the stated thirty-degree angle. Sometimes, however, it took multiple keypresses to make the player respond, particularly with the menu functions. This problem only reared its head every once in a while, but it did make for a frustrating experience navigating through the setup options at times. I suspect this problem arises from the highly graphical nature of the setup menus, which slows down the loading of different pages quite considerably.


    The manual included with this player is a hundred and thirty-nine pages in length, with twenty-three of them being in English. Little explanation is given of the finer details of the player's functions, making it something of a fishing expedition to find out how the player handles such things as searches, audio selection, or menu functions. On the positive side, the manual is well written, with perfectly understandable phrasing and instructions that make perfect sense.

Set-Up Menu

    The Denon DVD-1600 has a very decorative graphical set-up menu that is relatively easy to use once you've familiarized yourself with its layout. Options are included for configuring the manner in which the player handles DTS, Dolby Digital, and MPEG soundtracks. All three of these soundtrack options can either be set for conversion into Linear PCM, or output in Bitstream form.

Video Playback

    After calibrating my display with The Ultimate DVD Platinum and familiarizing myself with the player's video options, I put the DVD-1600 to work on some of the best discs my collection contained. Somewhat interestingly, the factory default setting for TV Shape in the DVD-1600's setup menu is 4:3 Pan & Scan. Being that I like to watch all of my picture, I set it to 16:9 and set my display to the appropriate settings on a disc-by-disc basis. The only downside here is that the DVD-1600 is not capable of passing an NTSC blacker-than-black signal.

    The image that the DVD-1600 produces is very clean and smooth, with no harshness or edginess apparent in source materials that tend to produce such a look when used with my reference player. Even the all-region Criterion version of RoboCop, with which I tested the NTSC to PAL conversion and is noted for its very harsh, mechanical look, was noticeably smoother than I was used to. Far from producing a soft image, however, the DVD-1600 produces an image that is quite film-like in its quality, with plenty of vivid detail on offer in all aspects of the picture. Discs that have been sourced from less than optimal source materials, such as Black Adder, Season 2, also fare pretty well on this player. Suffice it to say that this player will extract the best possible look from all of your discs without adding the harshness associated with some players that this can be said of.

    The fast forward and fast reverse functions on this player are impeccably handled, with five speeds varying between 2X and roughly 50X available. Playback is resumed from the exact point shown on the video display when the player is taken out of fast forward or fast reverse mode, a big plus in my view. Audio can be played back in the 2X mode, which also helps in picking the exact point where one wants to resume normal playback. For those who find this function irritating, it can be disabled in the setup menu.

    Layer changes on this player are still noticeable, but less jarring than I am normally used to, with noticeable pauses lasting roughly half as long as they normally do on my reference player.

On Screen Display

    The On Screen Display is rather small and minimal, with a few omissions that I found slightly off-putting. First of all, there is no display of the disc's bitrate, total or otherwise, which will be off-putting to those who have to know how much of the disc's bandwidth is in use at any given moment. Secondly, subtitle languages are only displayed as three-letter abbreviations for the languages that are known to the player, although easily recognizable abbreviations are used. Subtitle languages other than the fifteen mentioned in the manual are simply displayed as a singular star, which is not exactly helpful.

    Some of the more appealing features of the On Screen Display include a graphical fast forward and fast reverse option, referred to in the manual as the Shuttle Screen. The DVD-Video On Screen Display also allows simple navigation through the Titles, Chapters, Soundtracks, and Subtitle options of any given disc, with a provision for specific time codes to be entered. The DVD-1600 does not display the total running time of a title for DVD-Video, only for DVD-Audio, an omission that I found to be extremely irritating considering I rely on this function for a number of reasons.

Standards Conversions

    The Denon DVD-1600 has an option for converting NTSC discs into PAL-60. Contrary to what you might believe, the PAL-60 signal is not compatible with all PAL televisions, so verifying whether your display can sync to this signal is advised before buying this player for its standards conversion ability. Having said that, the conversion is extremely serviceable, with very little if any evident artefacts resulting from the conversion process, which I tested with numerous Region 4 and All Region NTSC discs.

CDR & Video CD

    The DVD-1600 can play back CD-Rs, as would be expected from a player that claims to offer MP3 playback. The manual also claims that the DVD-1600 can play back DVD-R 4.7 gigabyte discs, although I was unable to specifically test this function due to the lack of appropriate software. The claim made in the manual is that the DVD-1600 can play back 4.7 gigabyte DVD-Rs that have been recorded and finalized on DVD-Recorder machines.

Audio Playback

    I tested the audio playback capabilities of the Denon DVD-1600 through its 5.1 channel analogue outputs as well as its optical digital output, and after having calibrated the speaker settings to my satisfaction, found it to be the best player I have ever seen in the realm of audio playback due to some welcome and simple features that I will discuss in detail here.

    The first feature of the audio playback system that caught my eye was that the individual levels of speakers could be adjusted according to the listener's needs when the internal decoder was engaged. This already puts the DVD-1600 head and shoulders above similar entry-level models that claim to have internal decoders, but the fun doesn't stop there, either. The internal decoder of the DVD-1600 will decode Dolby Digital, DTS, MLP, and MPEG soundtracks into 5.1 channel analogue for your receiver to play back in all their glory. As an owner of several early Roadshow titles (Wild Things being the disc I tested with this function), I was as pleased as punch to have the deafening silence I normally encounter with MPEG bitstreams replaced by six channels of surround action.

    Of course, the deafening silence of MPEG soundtracks is still present and accounted for when they are being played through the optical digital output, unless you have an external decoder that can handle such a signal. For the majority of us who do not, the option of downconverting such bitstreams into 48 kHz Linear PCM 2.0 soundtracks is provided, which effectively means there is not a single soundtrack that the DVD-1600 cannot at least handle in some manner.

    I did not detect any audio sync issues with the numerous discs I tested on this player.

    DTS audio streams can also be converted into Linear PCM for those who don't possess the appropriate decoders. Exactly why you would want to when there already is one built in to the DVD player is a question that came to mind, but it's certainly nice to have the option.

MP3 Playback

    With a small array of MP3 CD-Rs, I went to work on testing the MP3 playback functions of the DVD-1600, and found that it absolutely floors the competition in this area, too. It does this because of some simple, yet highly welcome added functions that make the use of this format all the more natural and seamless. First, however, I will deal with a slight negative aspect of the way the DVD-1600 handles MP3. The DVD-1600 does not provide a menu to select specific tracks from, as was the case with the last MP3-capable player I looked at, the Pioneer DV-533K. This minor nuisance aside, however, the DVD-1600 is a joy to use in MP3 mode, and can be credited as the player that made me change my mind about this function.

    The DVD-1600 located all 110 MP3s in the root directory of the MP3 CD I used to perform this test, and played them back in satisfactory fashion, with no apparent anomalies in the decoding. The brief pause as the player searched the disc for the next track, which tends to cause a hiccup between tracks that follow on from one another, was still present, but a little less pronounced. Unfortunately, the DVD-1600 still plays some tracks out of their natural order, presumably because its filing system also truncates filenames down to the 8.3 character length that causes no end of hassles with sorting. Multiple bitrates posed no problems, as the 128 Kb/s, 256 Kb/s, 320 Kb/s, and Variable Bit Rate files were played back with no noticeable problems whatsoever. Far and away the most pleasant surprise was that the DVD-1600 located and played all four sessions on the multisession CD-R, something that no other player I have seen to this date can do.
Test Disc Format Results
110 MP3s in 5 subdirectories Found all files
110 MP3s in root directory Found all files
128 Kb/s, 256 Kb/s, 320 Kb/s, and Variable Bit Rate Played all four files
Multisession CD-R (4 sessions, each with one added MP3) Found all four sessions!

Disc Compatibility Tests

Specific Tests
What Is Tested
Snatch R4 
Stealing Stones
Tests active subtitle feature and seamless branching.
Pulp Fiction R4 
Audio Sync
Opening scene tests audio sync.
Terminator: SE R4 
Menu Load
Tests ability to load complex menu
Independence Day R4 Seamless Branching
Tests ability to handle seamless branching (Chapter 3)
Hollow Man R1 
Tests ability to handle RCE protected DVDs in Auto multizone mode (if applicable).

User Convenience Features

Screen Saver


The Good Points
The Bad Points
    With a player that has so many plusses, it's something of a pity that I have to mention bad points at all, but here goes:

Features At A Glance

Video Component Output RGB Output
Audio DTS Output MP3 Playback
Plays CDRs
Conversion PAL-60
Inbuilt Decoder DTS, Dolby Digital, MPEG, MLP

In Closing

    Novice DVD-Video users will probably balk at the $1199 asking price, claiming it is too expensive for any DVD player, but those in the know will tell you that $1199 for a player than can do all the things the DVD-1600 can do is quite reasonable. With the ability to play back every kind of digital soundtrack you can throw at it and convert NTSC into PAL-60, there is very little I can say about this player that will vaguely discourage the serious videophile or audiophile. Even a terrible remote control and some small omissions from the video playback system can't change my mind about this player - it is a technological thing of beauty. It plays back DVD-Video and plays it back well, not to mention that it is even compatible with formats that are not currently in widespread use. If I had the money with me right now, I would go out and buy one, so go out there and buy one, already.

Ratings (out of 5)

Build Quality
In Operation
Value For Money

Technical Specifications (Manufacturer Supplied)

Product Type: DVD-Video, Video CD and Audio CD player
Region: Marked as Region 2 (Europe/Japan), but factory adjusted to Region 4
Signal System: PAL 625/50 / PAL 525/60 / NTSC
Serial Number Of Unit Tested: AECP011657AU
MPEG Decoder: Panasonic MN677531KA
Audio Frequency Response: DVD (linear audio): 4Hz - 22kHz (48kHz sampling)
4Hz - 44kHz (96kHz sampling)
DVD-Audio: 4Hz - 88kHz (192kHz sampling)
CD Audio: 4Hz - 20kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: CD Audio: 115dB
Dynamic Range: DVD (linear audio): 102dB
CD Audio: 98 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: CD Audio: 0.0025%
Dimensions: 434 (w) x 252 (d) x 82 (h) mm
Weight: 2.9 kg
Price: $1199
Distributor: Audio Products Australia 
67 O'Riordan Street 
Alexandria NSW 2015
Telephone: 1 800 642-922
Facsimile: 1 800 246-262

© Dean McIntosh
December 8, 2001