Denon has been at this game for longer than most. It was trousering gongs for systems of this kind well over a decade ago, and launched its first ‘lifestyle’ systems way back in the early 1990s.
At first glance, the D-M38DAB we have here has little to distinguish it from the D-M37DAB (apart from the catchy name), but the truth is Denon has done enough to ensure this little system made us loft our eyebrows in appreciation.
What’s new? Well, the system now has a direct digital input for iPods and iPhones: no need to faff around with docks, or put up with the digital conversion in the players. You can just use the standard USB sync lead into the Denon’s front-panel socket.
While they were at it, the Denon boffs took the opportunity to give the sound a brush-up. The system now has a more powerful, pacier presentation. Oh, and the DAB tuner is now ready for DAB+ services when they arrive in Blighty.
Retained from the D-M37 are the styling and feeling of quality, which are impressive; less impressive – though adequate – are the SC-M37 speakers, also available with the old system.
This receiver has more to give than the Denon speakers can reveal. With the Denon bins in harness, the sound is certainly peppy, detailed and involving, with fine bass definition and speed. But improve the speakers and it all becomes more spacious, gains weight and low-end clout, and projects voices and lead instruments much better.
If it were our money, we’d go for the speaker delete option: just buy the RCD-M38DAB CD receiver for as little as £200 (with not much shopping around online), and partner it with speakers such as the excellent Q Acoustics 2010s (£110) or Mission’s little MX1s (£150).
In fact, what the Denon manages to do, given the restrictions of the CD receiver’s size and the tight budget, is pretty amazing.
The tuner section is very good, especially when given a decent signal from an outdoor aerial, it plays CDs extremely well, and even tunes from an iPod sound punchy and attractive (even if the remote control operation of the player via the system handset is tricky).
Denon has done more than enough to keep this little system on the pace. At this low system price point, Denon remains the undisputed champ.