Review: Denon DCD-1700NE

Time for a CD revival?

The Denon DCD-1700NE cannot be used as a DAC and it does not have built-in streaming. It doesn't need to either.

Published 2024-03-22 - 8:00 am
Denon DCD-1700NE
John Hvidlykke

While analogue vinyl albums are becoming more and more popular year after year, the CD medium has gone the other way. Since its peak in 2000, sales have dropped by around 95 per cent. Should you want to expand your music selection, you can often pick up entire CD collections for free in your neighbourhood. Which is fortunate, as it’s virtually impossible to find a store that sells new CDs.

Facts like these makes it sound like madness to bring a new and ambitious CD player to market. But after several years of hiatus, all the major hi-fi manufacturers are now releasing new models. We have tested several over the past year.

(The DVD-1700NE is available in black and silver finishes. Photo: Denon)

The Denon DCD-1700NE looks reassuringly like the classic stereo component that it is. The solid aluminium front plate matches Denon’s other hi-fi components. And it’s almost visually identical to the twice as expensive DCD-A110 we tested in 2020.

The resemblance to the anniversary model isn’t just superficial. The DCD-1700NE has many of the same circuitry solutions as the DVD-A110. And the same limitations.

Also check out Denon's definitive cd player

Denon's anniversary player can take loving care of your records for many years to come. But your streaming is left out in the cold.

Is that all it can do?

At a price of 1,200 euros, the Denon DCD-1700NE is not unattainable for most people, but still so painfully expensive that you ask “is thatall it can do?

Well yes and no. The DCD-1700NE can play both CDs and the high-resolution but rare SACD discs. And it can also play music files from CD and DVD media. But that’s it.

There are no networking or streaming capabilities. And it doesn’t have any digital inputs or USB ports either. On the back of the large enclosure, there is only a set of RCA sockets for analogue audio, as well as optical and coaxial digital output. Plus a set of minijack sockets for remote control.

Stripped down features

The display in the DCD-1700NE is clear and easy to read. But it doesn’t provide much information, as CD text is not supported. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a player that wasn’t able to display track titles.

The Pure Direct button switches off the digital output to reduce the risk of noise in the analogue circuits. This also switches off the display. The difference in information is minimal.

The back of the DCD-1700NE is simple. And digital inputs are not to be found. (Photo: Denon)

The DCD-1700NE comes with a remote control. But although it is large and comprehensive, it lacks some important functions. For example, you can only open the CD drawer from a button on the front panel, but not with the remote control.

Fast forwarding and rewinding tracks is a feature that CD players have offered since prehistoric times in the 80s. But this does not apply to the DCD-1700NE. You can only skip to the next or previous track. Denon emphasises that the CD drive is Denon’s own. Perhaps the only one on the market where the rewind function is not implemented?

Same DAC chip as big brother

The digital converter in the DCD-1700NE is based on the Burr-Brown PCM1795. This is a highly renowned DAC chip with a full 32-bit resolution that with 15 years of experience has become a classic. The same circuit is used in the luxurious DCD-A110, but twice as many are used to force the noise floor even lower.

The DCD-1700NE digital converter is built around the same Burr-Brown chip as the expensive DCD-A110. But fewer of them are used. (Photo: Denon)

Sound quality

Setup and commissioning is simple. Just switch on the power, connect the RCA outputs to the amplifier and put a CD in the drawer – which opens demonstratively slowly.

And then suddenly, as the music starts to flow, any frustration over missing network functions, information-void display and cluttered remote control disappears.

DENDCD1700NEBK_O_2 de_dcd_A110_left
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The similarity between the DCD-1700NE and the expensive DAC-A110 is not just cosmetic. (Photo: Denon)

Because it sounds damn good. There’s an immediate warmth and intimacy to the DCD-1700NE’s way of playing music that’s hard not to like.

Starting off with the test classic I’m Confessin’ from Jazz at the Pawnshop. The track is ancient and I know it like the back of my hand. But today, it’s a little more fun and cosy to join a listener in the Swedish jazz club.

I also know the choir from the title track of Philips Glass’ Koyaanisquatsi in detail. And then again, maybe not. Because the voices seem a little more present and physical than I’m used to.

It’s not all supposed to be pling-plong music, and Rise of the Triads by Code Elektro sets the room in motion and reveals that the DCD-1700NE has excellent dynamics. But there’s no time for dancing during working hours…

The reproduction of the acoustic stage on a concert hall recording like the Telarc version of Johann Strauss’ Banditen-Galopp with the Cincinnati Pops isn’t the deepest or most accurate I’ve experienced. But it’s definitely among the best I’ve heard in its price range. And the Denon adds a charming sprinkling of warmth throughout.

Also check out Simply a damn fine player

The Marantz CD 60 is a smash hit in the centre of the market for those who want a better CD player.

Competitors

Although rumours of the death of the CD player were exaggerated and new models are starting to appear, the range of competitors is not huge. One interesting competitor comes from sister company Marantz, which is also an (almost) pure CD player without digital inputs and streaming – but with playback of music files from USB storage. The Marantz CD-60 is characterised by a very open and clear, but also slightly cooler sound. Which is best will be a matter of taste.

Conclusion

The Denon DCD-1700NE is a challenging and thought-provoking guest on the test bench. Challenging because fiddling with physical CD discs seems old-fashioned and cumbersome. And thought-provoking because it plays so damn well and charmingly.

Sonically, it comes close to matching Denon’s anniversary player – but at half the price. So while the price is solid, you’re getting relatively good value for money.

That said, it feels like a waste that the good digital converter in the DCD-1700NE is not allowed to benefit other digital sources via one or more digital inputs on the back and perhaps an option to play digital music files on storage media other than CD and DVD.

DCD-1700NE afspiller kun CD og SACD. Hvis du vil lytte til streaming eller downloadede digitale filer, må du anskaffe en netværksafspiller som DNP2000NE. (Foto: Denon)

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Denon DCD-1700NE
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We think

CD-mediet er stadig relevant. Luksuskvalitet. Næsten lige så god som DCD-A110, men til den halve pris. Afspiller SACD. No digital input. No streaming. Do you even own any SACDs? The remote control is dysfunctional.

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