Despite the global gloom Blu-ray has been getting a foothold in the home entertainment market of late. Even so, Denon’s decision to launch its high-end DVD-3800BD Blu-ray deck seems brave – surely there can’t be many buyers for a disc-spinner that costs twice as much as most TVs?

But the DVD-3800BD hasn’t been created to sell by the bucketload but to push the boundaries of Blu-ray performance.

Specced to the hilt

It’s based on the £800 DVD-2500BT transport, but internally the DVD-3800BD is quite different. Denon has equipped this formidably constructed and lavishly finished leviathan with every picture and sound-enhancing tool imaginable.

Quite apart from its cutting-edge 12-bit/297MHz video DAC, the Denon is also the first Blu-ray player in the world to feature the Silicon Optix Realta chipset, a powerful 10-bit video processor normally found in high-end AV receivers and DVD players.

The best Blu-ray picture ever

Realta allows for a variety of picture enhancements, including digital noise reduction and ultra-high-quality scaling, and it can be used to enhance both DVDs and, where necessary, Blu-ray discs.

Teamed with Pixel Image Correction, which attempts to smooth out curved edges and avoid ‘ringing’ noise on the image, it ensures the Denon provides simply the best Blu-ray pictures you can buy, bar none – and it’s not half-bad as a DVD player, either.

Clarity, depth and colour realism are astonishing, background noise (even with scaled DVD) is almost absent and black depth is phenomenal.

Better value elsewhere

Of course, some will argue that Sony’s PS3 or DVP-S550 Blu-ray decks look almost as good for much less, and to an extent they’re right.

View sources like these side-by-side with the Denon on a 40in TV playing a good Blu-ray disc, and you’ll certainly be able to see the DVD-3800BD’s superiority, but whether you’ll be able to justify its extra cost is another matter.

But a 40in TV isn’t really the ideal hunting ground for the big Denon – it really asserts its superiority when viewed through a high-end, big-screen projector.

Sounds as good as it looks

Sonically, though, you’d have to be entirely disinterested in sound quality not to hear the Denon’s massive sonic advantage over cheaper alternatives.

It can decode all forms of HD audio to multi-channel analogue or PCM if needed, or stream them from its HDMI output as you prefer.

However you to choose to listen, the end result is the same: superlative precision, power, realism and musicality. Five 24-bit/192kHz DACs, two powerful DSP processors and Denon’s own 24-bit AL24 processing for stereo music use see to that.

Downsides? Only one, but it’s enough to irritate. This is a Profile 1.1 player, and it doesn’t have an Ethernet port, so disc-loading times can be a little slow, and some BD-Live features can be out of reach.


Stuff says... 

Denon DVD-3800BD review

The finest Blu-ray player on the planet. Painfully pricey, but in the right system it will astonish