Denon DCD-2560 CD player

My first CD player was a Denon DCD-1800, the grandpappy of 'em all. It was big, clunky, and sounded like, well, you can read back issues to find out what it sounded like. But I was living in a fraternity house at the time, the kind of place where you wake up the next morning after a blow-out to find five plastic cups half full of stale margaritas merry-go-rounding on your turntable because whoever broke into your room during the party snapped your cartridge's cantilever off trying to hear the backwards messages on The Wall and decided to leave you an artistic message to buy a better needle next time, dude. Also, I spent far less time sitting in the sweete spotte getting lost in the superb resolution of inner detail than I did balancing my big-ass Genesis speakers out on the windowsill facing outside so we could have music to drink kegs by. So CD made a lot of sense.

To Denon's DCD-2560 ($750), I say, "you've come a long way, baby!" Sure, it's still heavy; it's still a Denon. However, the 2560 is a far sleeker unit than my old 1800: easier-to-use controls, better programming protocol, even the transport is smoother in operation. Somebody spent a lot of time getting this player to ooze "solidity." The internal build quality is excellent, with a nice-sized power supply and good-quality parts. Small-value film caps and 5532 dual op-amps populate the analog stage, which is AC-coupled to the outside world with what appear to be two large Elna electrolytic caps in parallel with a film bypass for each channel. In addition to the fixed and variable outputs, the 2560 has both Toslink optical and coaxial digital outputs.

Aside from all the usual Every Programming Capability You'll Never Need, the Denon sports one feature unusual in a consumer CD player: PITCH CONTROL! Don't laugh! For us guitar players, the lack of pitch control is one of the worst things about the CD Revolution; used to be, you could slow down or speed up your turntable to match the pitch of Magic Sam's "West Side Soul" to your guitar's standard E tuning while you tried to steal as many licks as you could grok. The Denon came in handy when I bought the new, posthumous CD of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Sky Is Crying (Epic EK-47390); as Stevie always tuned his Strat down to E-flat, all I had to do was tweak the Denon up in pitch to play along in E-natch'l, even if the now sped-up guitar licks were even harder to cop! Good thing my digits don't creak. Yet.

20-bit D/A conversion
Technically, the Denon has more in common with the Kinergetics, Thetas, and Proceeds of the world than the typical Japanese player. For starters, the 2560 uses four Analog Devices AD-1862 20-bit DACs, two for each channel in push-pull configuration. These DACs are flanked by their attendant MSB trimpots, which Denon hand-trims for highest linearity at the factory.

Denon operates these high-quality chips in an interesting configuration they call "Lambda D/A Conversion"; to minimize the zero-crossing distortion caused by MSB nonlinearity, the data stream is taken from the digital filter and duplicated so there are two data streams. After adding a constant digital "bias" to each data stream, positive-going for one and negative-going for the other, the data streams feed the 20-bit Analog Devices DACs, whose analog outputs are then summed; as the bias signals are opposite in value, they ultimately cancel, but the resultant signal is biased away from the zero-crossing line, eliminating that source of distortion. The tradeoff (there's always a tradeoff) is that for high-level signals requiring the full dynamic range of the DACs, the Lambda process is momentarily disabled, the high-level signals then theoretically masking the residual distortion.

Who's on foist?
The first impression the Denon gives is good, solid bass reproduction; one of the CDs that spent a lot of time in my system has been the soundtrack to The Commitments (MCA MCAD-10286; reviewed in the January issue), and the Denon seemed to have both the tightest and most pronounced bass of any of the players reviewed here. Of course, this is electric Fender P-bass we're talking about here, not some audiophiliac organ recording, so what I'm calling bass here is the 40–200Hz range, I guess what a real audio reviewer would call the lower-midbass to the over-easy-hold-the-taters-upper bass/lower midrange. Whatever, the Denon has a fine, firm bottom end that endows pop and rock with a satisfying, pulsing foundation.

Unfortunately, that's about all I can enthuse about. Because while the bass was the best of the bunch of the other CD players I review in this issue (footnote 1)—the opening sub-bass room noise at the very start of the Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Session, courtesy of the mighty Muse subwoofer, made my kidneys hurt—the Denon was outclassed in virtually all other areas of performance. Even after a month of infinite-repeat Motörhead (footnote 2) the Denon had a veiled, chalky midrange that seemed to persist no matter what cables I used with it. The high end, too, was off-putting: following a subdued presence range, the trebles were hard enough to make me not want to continue listening.

Lapis interconnect did much to reduce the glare, but the overall sound still lacked life. Joe Henderson's tenor intro on track five of the Chesky Bros.' McCoy Tyner disc (New York Reunion), a 3-D live-in-the-room track through the Theta DS Pro Basic, became less emotionally stirring, as if Joe were merely warming up instead of really blowing. Switching to the XLO cable did little to change things, the sound still lacking that essential harmonic rightness that clues the brain to "Dig This." And it doesn't take a $2000 Theta to hear this quality, either; the $399 Audio Alchemy DDE has it, the similarly priced Rotel RCD-855 has it, even the li'l $299 NAD 5425 a couple of pages down the river has it. Without that indefinable "rightness," I find it extremely hard to pay attention to the music. Whenever I find myself trying to remember if there's anything I forgot to take care of at work while I'm sitting there listening to music, I know something's desperately wrong, and that's just what I found myself doing with the Denon.

I won't go much into areas like depth, soundstaging, and imaging, because the Denon was disappointing in these areas. Imaging featured inflated center-fill and next to no discrete image outline; on The Trinity Session's first track, Margo Timmins's vocal, usually very starkly defined, was vague and shapeless, changing position as her voice went up and down in range. I could go on, but it would be cruel; space, the Denon doesn't do.

Summing Up
To say I was surprised by the relatively poor performance of the Denon DCD-2560 is putting it mildly; its litany of advanced technology and use of edge-of-the-art DACs suggested greater things, but in practice it sounded pretty mediocre. For nearly the same green, I got true high-end digital sound with the Audio Alchemy DAC/Rotel 855 transport combo.

Footnote 1: JVC XL-Z1050TN, NAD 5425, Sony CDP-X555ES, and Sonographe SD-22.

Footnote 2: The Denon player was broken-in for roughly a month before I sat down to listen. I fed it CDs, set it for infinite repeat, and hooked the fixed outputs to a 10k load (you can make this by soldering a 10k resistor between the signal and ground of an RCA plug, or alternately, you can just hook the player up to an input on your preamp, turned all the way down), which ensured that signal would flow through the audio circuitry, output coupling caps, wire, etc. If you leave the output jacks unterminated there's no signal flow, and all you accomplish is a ha'pen'orth's higher electric bill. This is a good way to break in interconnects as well, although an FM tuner set for interstation hiss puts less wear on your player.

Denon America Inc.
Parsippanny, NJ 07054 (1992)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Well, DCD-2560 is no longer available but, DCD-1600NE CD/SACD player is available ($1,200) :-) ........'s picture

is something more important going on than a 28yo cd player? why is no one talking about this gem?!?! did i miss something?

Whatever happened to Corey Greenberg, anyway?

Poor Audiophile's picture
I don't recall why he left Stereophile.

tonykaz's picture

He left Audio writing for TV.

I left for Automotive a little earlier.

Now, those 1990s seems like a lifetime ago.

This Denon review is just a sad memory of a wonderful life.

Tony in Venice

jimtavegia's picture

Tomorrow some tests on my old 3 head cassette deck with adjustable bias. I had my old high school give me about 80 TDK and Maxell new tapes that they were going to disgard. Whoa! Not so fast their, Cowboy. I have a use for those.

I will do some recording at -20db ; -10db and at 0db and we'll see how the frequency response comes out. I pretty much know as I was a big fan of Julian Hirsch/Stereo Review fame and his tape deck measurements.

Poor Audiophile's picture

Hey Jim. I started reading S.R. around 1977 when I found a copy in the public library near my H.S. I used to stop in sometimes as I was walking home from school. Do you remember those cards that they inserted in the mag that you would fill out for more info from the advertisers? After filling out a few of those & getting more info in the mail, S.R. sent me a letter asking me if I wanted to subscribe. I did & I continued for several years. I still have my collection in my parents basement! I know they had their problems(like all equipment sounds the same),but I learned a lot about audio from them. Julian, Craig Stark, Larry Klein, Ralph Hodges. Amazing I can remember all those names! I sent a question to Larry once & he sent it back with hand written answers on it. Considering how busy he must have been, it was very kind of him! Also,he & I share the same first name!

jimtavegia's picture

I loved how they tested everything, especially turntables with rumble measurements and then cartridges with their frequency responses. Old school stuff, but still great reading. It was sad when Ziff-Davis closed it down. They had great writers who started many of us down the path to hifi and then Stereophile took it to a new level.

What I liked about their tape deck reviews was that they were not afraid to let us know that to get extended HF response on the tapes that were available you had to record at levels at -10db and -20db and 1 7/8 ips and small tape just couldn't hold enough. Of course we all havd to get away from that darn high tape hiss noise floor, Ray Dolby really helped us out. Dobly B, C, and S were a great help, but Dolby A was just too pricey to put in a Cassette Deck, unless you bought a outboard unit, and they were not cheap.

I miss that magazine.

Poor Audiophile's picture

Mix magazine! Wow! I first heard about them at "The Recording Workshop" a school I attended for a 6 week course in 1989. I was young! I got a "B" average, but then I wanted to stay near my family here in Roch,NY & never followed through. Well, I tried, but I really should have tried NYC. I won't bore you with the details of my life. What should have been. Larry

jimtavegia's picture

Even in 1954 playing 78's for my sick father on an old RCA flip-top record player got me hooked. High Fidelity...NOT, but it sure was fun.

I think back to how nice I thought my first real stereo was: a Fisher 500TX, Dynaco A-25's, Dual 1209 with a Pickering XV-750; and then added a Teac 350 cassette deck. Later owned a Pioneer 707 R2R, then later a Sony DAT, Sony MiniDisc recorder and had a portable player (still do), The last Sony Walkman with Dolby B; played around with the Denon DRS-810 today and only at recording level of -20db could I get close to 15khz and the bias setting had to be right to get that on a new out of the box TDK-SA tape. The darn noise floor reared its ugly head. So hifi, yet I still love it.

I think back to all that grear that I loved and now arguments about whether redbook is enough, but I am in the 2496 camp for the long haul and about to do a recording project with an excellent soprano saxophone player/friend in formats from 128kbps MP3 to redbook, 16/96, 24/96. and 24/192 and will do no processing to any of the files, just listen to the 1st generation copies and not lie to myself about which is the best.

I have watched the YouTube view interview with esteemed engineer Tony Faulkner and he talked about the extended HF energy possibly causing problems with some amplifiers on playback. In all of my files most of this energy is -100db down, but with 24/192 and SACD the noise rises at the highest frequencies over 70KHZ. I don't know enough about amp design to know of the danger of this, but I have never heard any artifacts in the playback of my amps. That doesn't mean there isn't any.

Much to learn and I look forward to looking at all of the FFT of my recordings soon. I am hoping that the COVID-19 will not put the skids on it. My wife and I are not working for the next two weeks most likely. At 69 and 72 we are trying to be careful as we have been doing background acting here in ATL for the past year and most are shutting down. I have a movie to do over the next two weekends, 5 cameras so a fast shoot, with only a small cast, all in one house location and we are still on...for now. Just old folks trying to have fun. We just did a music video with Jordan Hawkins that was a Sat am shoot and great fun. "Thankful"|.

Poor Audiophile's picture

Glad to hear your recording still. You sent me a CD of your work a few yrs ago that I was grateful for! Glad to hear your being careful.Caution is a good idea, but I think folks shouldn't panic. Here in Roch stores are out of toilet paper along with other items. Good grief!
I've yet to hear HI-Rez. I will sometime soon I hope. I don't have a player yet & I just lost my job Friday so... Larry

jimtavegia's picture

I burn many of my 2496 files to DVD-Rs to give to friends, some of the players can also do DVD-As which I can also do. The DACs may not be the best, but I have yet not to hear a difference from normal CDs. Friend request me on FB and we can work it out.

There is no glamour in our end of the movie business, except you occasionally get to meet some great people. My wife was Kathy Bates body double in Jewel and she got to talk to clint Eastwood for a long time. Quite a gentleman. We have others we can't talk about yet, but most of the days are long 12 hours many, and last week we did days of 16, 14, 11, and 12 hours in a row. This can be tough at times and at our age it is. We choose the jobs we want. Take care.

jon_s's picture

So, the DCD-2560 is a bit of a black sheep, as it does not use the Burr-Brown DACs that Denon (and their listeners) generally preferred. If a DCD-3560 review is sitting around in the archives, I'd love to see that. Or, DCD-S1... Or, DP/DA-S1.

davemill's picture

Being the fraternity DJ, I used my Technics SL-1200 Mk. 2 with a Stanton 680EL cartridge which was designed for back queuing. Still have them!