Denon DCD-100/PMA-150H CD Player/Amplifier Page 2

Networking is via both wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi, the latter sharing a single stub antenna, and there's a separate connection for a DAB/FM aerial. Output is on a single set of speaker terminals, and there's also a single phono socket to feed a subwoofer. This is also marked as 'Pre-Out' and, as it's unfiltered, will need to be used with an active sub having its own low-pass filter. There's also a 6.35mm headphone socket fed from a dedicated amp, with a choice of three impedance settings offered.

sqnote Rich Pickings
Denon has an enviable history when it comes to making things to play physical media, having produced its first cylinder players back in 1910, so it's no surprise the DCD-100 is an attractive-sounding machine whether connected via digital or analogue outputs. The company's in-house signal processing has long been about a sound combining smoothness with fine rendition of detail, and so it is here, especially when the player is connected to the amp using an optical link. After all, there seems little point in converting digital to analogue in the player only for the amp to re-digitise it.

522nad2.remPlaying some hardy favourites, with the amp connected to the unusual Neat Iota Alpha speakers [HFN Oct '16], which match well with the aesthetic of the electronics, that mixture of warmth and openness is appreciated. The rich soundscape of Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms [Vertigo 824 499-2] sounds reasonably lush, whether with the drive of 'Money For Nothing' or the cinematic title track, and when I switched up to the bigger Iota Xplorer floorstanders [HFN Jul '18] the little Denon amp proved more than up to the job. It stayed clean even at 'exciting' levels, even if I might not choose this amp if non-stop window-rattling was my priority. It sounds powerful, but has its limits.

What's more, the Denon combination maintains its easy to enjoy, involving presentation across a wide range of musical styles, from the synth-pop of Depeche Mode's 'Tora! Tora! Tora!' from Speak & Spell [Mute CD STUMM 5] to the scale and drama of the Bach Collegium Japan's new recording of Bach's St Matthew Passion [BIS BIS-2500; 96kHz/24-bit].

Yes, while the Denon duo is a very good solution for playing CDs, it wasn't long before hearing what the amp could do with hi-res files had me straying to the dark side. The combination of warmth and insight is the perfect foil for the performance of Masaaki Suzuki and his Japanese ensemble, presenting the headlong rush of Bach's passion play with real emotion.

Rap Swagger
Yes, there are amplifiers and digital front-ends able to deliver this music with even greater scale and – in particular – weight, but the Denon combination never suggests it's merely hinting at what a recording has to offer, and neither does it require allowances to be made for its 'designer' style. Instead it treats the listener to an enticing flow of music and does so with minimal fuss.

Play Anna Fedorova's luscious reading of piano works by Sergei Rachmaninov, including his first piano concerto and the Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini [Channel Classics CCS42640; DXD 352.8kHz], and the PMA-150H, fed from a Mac mini, does a fine job with the balance between soloist and orchestra, controlling my compact floorstanders to impressive effect. And in the Rhapsody there's a lovely rendition of the precision and fluidity of Fedorova's playing, with both soloist and the Symphony Orchestra St Gallen under Modestas Pitrenas benefiting from the tight control of the amp, both in terms of crisp detail and rhythmic acuity.


And yes, this combination will satisfy those with more mainstream music tastes, whether it's the intertwining influences of Coldplay's Everyday Life [Parlophone 0190295337834] or the rap swagger of Grime star Stormzy's Heavy Is The Head [Merky Records/Atlantic 0190295403034]. In other words, this compact Denon system is pretty much perfectly sorted for its target market.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Denon's duo proves you don't have to give away too much performance to get a system with flexibility, style and ease of use. Of the pair, the CD player is perhaps less easy to justify at the price, and if you major on music streaming it could be left off the shopping list. For those transitioning from physical media to file-and-stream music playback, and wanting a discrete solution, there's much to enjoy here.

Sound United LLC/DEI Holdings
Supplied by: Sound United UK (D&M Audiovisual Ltd)
0208 103 4770