Denon DCD/PMA-1700NE SACD Player/Amplifier Page 2

So, in stark contrast to the disc player, the PMA-1700NE integrated positively brims with connectivity. Okay, streaming isn't built in, which is both understandable considering Denon's design philosophy but also strange as the brand doesn't currently offer a standalone streamer. Instead, the PMA-1700NE features a USB-B connection for hooking up a network transport or computer. This is a scenario which Denon is heavily promoting, as it allows you to feed the amplifier hi-res files up to 384kHz/32-bit as well as DSD256.

sqnote When Two Become One
This DCD/PMA pairing sounds superb as a single system, the two units combining to deliver a rich, impactful sound, but with plenty of subtlety and precision. Denon's amplifier is rewardingly powerful, ensuring largescale pieces are conveyed with the appropriate heft, yet the crucial and subtle brush strokes of music, whether played from the DCD-1700NE or from other sources into the PMA-1700NE, aren't neglected. This two-box system might have acquired 'top-range' status by default, but it certainly wears it well.

SACD is seen by many as dead and buried, yet there are specialist labels still churning out the format. Norway's 2L, for one, is particularly generous to anyone buying its DXD recordings on disc – you'll generally find a hybrid SACD and a Blu-ray in the case, allowing you to choose whatever format tickles your fancy. The label's European Tour SACD [2L-128-SABD], with the Nordic Brass Ensemble, is a fine example of its prowess. It features excellently recorded Renaissance works from across Europe, and this new Denon duo paints them convincingly on a grand canvas.


CD/SACD player [top] has optical/coaxial digital outs and analogue outs on RCAs. Amp [below] has MM/MC, a 'tape' in/out and two line ins, a power amp input, two optical, coax and USB digital inputs plus two sets of 4mm speaker binding posts

From the blast that is the opening four (of the 32) tracks, the DCD-1700NE and PMA-1700NE displayed a dynamic, full-bodied soundstage, making for a thrilling listen. But it is Arauxo's 'Battalla de Morales' which showed it was not all about fury and flair; there was true refinement here too, allowing me to savour the skill of the nine brass players. This ability to handle dynamics without losing sight of the overall balance and detail made the six-part 'Suite Terpsichore' particularly enjoyable. The horns and other brass instruments were the attention-grabbers of course, but this Denon system also pointed out the softly applied period percussion, emphasising the 'back-in-time' feel of this collection.

And while the amplifier is in a price class below my go-to Focal Sopra No2 loudspeakers [HFN Sep '15], at no point did it feel underpowered or unsophisticated. Take the first movement from Schumann: Symphonies Nos 1 & 3 [SACD, LSO Live LS00844), with Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the Barbican in 2019 – the opening bars heralded an exciting and forceful piece, with the orchestra going full-bore, but also interspersed with finely portrayed diminuendo flute playing. The system wasn't finding ultimate detail, but there was no real sense of loss because the overall presentation was so captivating. I've heard many Denon systems over the years, and to my mind striking a considered balance, even during intense moments, is one of their core values – and not an unwise decision at all.

Royal Approval
'1615 Gabrieli In Venice', performed by His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts for The Choir of King's College Cambridge label [SACD & BD Audio, KGS0012], is a landmark Dolby Atmos recording often used for multichannel demos. But during testing I realised there was also a hybrid SACD included (I've only owned it eight years…), which made for an interesting comparison between the surround version I know well and this two-channel mix. The contrast was less stark than you might presume as the DCD-1700NE revealed a lot of spatial info, evoking the chapel's acoustics remarkably well via my two Focal floorstanders. Once again, the resolution of small dynamic details and soundstage width were notable, with a finely textured solo voice rising above the choir with suitable majesty.

Throughout my listening I did struggle slightly with the 'law' of the volume control which seems to encompass the bulk of the amplifier's gain over the first third of its rotation. This might sound like a minor niggle, but it did detract from my enjoyment quota, especially with classical works that start off quietly and build to a crescendo. Both with my Focal Sopra No2s and a pair of DALI's Rubicon 2 standmounts the dial was barely lifted off the ground. Turning the volume up to 12 o'clock would have been very exciting indeed...

Moving on, The Bridge [CD; A&M 00602438587070] shows Sting, 71 while recording, still capable of sounding a lot like himself forty or so years ago. His singing style was highlighted on 'Loving You', full-bodied with backing vocals layered behind. I appreciated how the quirky synth sounds remained low-key in the background, as on more analytical systems this element can become a distraction. The DCD-1700NE and PMA-1700NE seem to know what to accentuate and what to let lie.


The RC-1249 system remote governs both '1700 separates, providing access to CD/SACD disc playing functions, amp input selection, direct mode, volume, mute, etc

Aces High
Although I was focused on the performance of these components as a single system, I did use the USB-B input on the PMA-1700NE in combination with an iFi Audio NEO Stream [HFN Mar '23], because even ardent SACD and CD buffs still might want to stream music from time to time. There was a smidge of low-extension emphasis on Gary Clark Jr. – Live [Warner 9362 49335 4; 96kHz/24-bit], but no matter – the ace blues guitar playing was not suppressed, making for a gripping performance that captured the live sensation and had the crunch and drive to keep you listening.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The two-box DCD-1700NE and PMA-1700NE combo succeeds in its aim to please those remaining 'physical disc' enthusiasts, spreading hope to those of us who still appreciate the joy of CD and SACD media. Moreover, as a complete music system it offers an exciting, energetic but also suitably polished performance that will surely bring in as many listeners who are more tempted by 'virtual' music sources!

Masimo Consumer
Irvine, CA, USA
Supplied by: Masimo Consumer Europe, The Netherlands
02890 279830