Denon DN-C680 CD Player

Denon has produced quite a decent professional CD player in its DN-C680 model ($900). This player came to me some time ago and has been put to use as a playback master for dubbing personal (finalized) CD-R recordings and as a standalone player for feeding material into a digital audio server for later playback.
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Denon has produced quite a decent professional CD player in its DN-C680 model ($900). This player came to me some time ago and has been put to use as a playback master for dubbing personal (finalized) CD-R recordings and as a standalone player for feeding material into a digital audio server for later playback.
Product PointsApplications: Sporting events; clubs; broadcast outlets; video houses

Key Features: Oversized (6.25" by 2") status display; large stop, standby/cue and play/pause buttons; mode-dependent soft function knob

Price: $900

Contact: Denon at 973-396-0810.

Plus

+ Large status display

+ Intuitive

+ Sound quality

+ Built for broadcast

Minus

- Wired pin-3 hot

The Score: With its versatile features, intuitive feature sets and large status display, the DN-C680 is well-suited for broadcast use.
Features

The first thing I liked about the unit, straight out of the box, was the oversized (6.25" x 2") status display. For broadcast use, a bright display with unambiguous messages is a must. In addition to the usual timing digits, the display boasts a 13 character alphanumeric line. Below the text is a progress bar that displays the relative position when playing a track or an entire CD. Both the current track and the next track number are displayed. Small END-OF-MESSAGE (EOM) characters blink when the CD is near the end of the track. This EOM message is menu-programmable to trigger between 30 and 0 seconds before the end of the track or it can be disabled entirely from the setup menu.

The controls on the front panel are clustered in logical groups and the respective buttons sized in importance. The three primary transport controls stop, standby/cue and play/pause are 3/4" square illuminated rubber buttons. A control cluster below the display, consisting of smaller illuminated rubber buttons, sets the behavior of the DN-C680. Play mode allows one to set the entire disc to be played (continuous mode) or to play cut-by-cut selections (single mode). Pitch + and pitch ö sets and engages +/-9.9% pitch change. Index selects an index within a track and fader enables the fader start contacts in the parallel remote control.

A, B and repeat define play points on the disc. Auto-cue advances past silence at the top of a track to a menu-adjustable threshold and auto-space inserts a four-second silence between tracks during continuous playback. Three finish mode buttons set whether the DN-C680 stops, recues to the previous cut or cues to the next cut when playback of a disc or cut is finished. An END MON button advances to a selectable length from a disc's or track's end and plays from that point to the end. This is a great feature for auditioning a track before playing it.

A curious feature is controlled by the auto edit button: pressing it causes the DN-C680 to divide the disc into two playback sides and display the exact duration of each side. The division is calculated so that both sides are as close to equal duration as practical. The A and B buttons display the beginning cut of the respective side and the exact, down-to-the-frame duration. Curious, but a nifty feature for transferring personal recordings to cassette, eight-track or other two-sided media.

A concentric spring-loaded jog knob makes cueing to a single frame easy; the outer wheel shuttles quickly, the inner wheel scans in one-frame increments.

To the right of the primary transport controls is a soft-function knob with detent clicks and push-to-activate action. Depending on the current mode, this control instantly selects the track to play, selects the track to add to the preprogrammed set or provides browsing access to the DN-C680 setup menu.

To access the setup menu, hold the play mode button while pressing the standby/cue button. The DN-C680 menu is fairly intuitive, but with 31 operating parameters (more if the optional cards are installed), a user may require the reference manual to understand the deeper menu selections.

Other familiar menu items deal with the enabling and setup of the remote control I/O, end monitor and EOM timing, fade times, play lock (disables all keys during playback except play/pause), version number and the like. There were also several features I had not expected, such as stereo/mono output, and player ID (a selectable number between 0 and 15 to identify the machine to controlling software).

The rear panel has connectors for wired remote control, serial RS-232/422 (switchable) remote control, AES and S/PDIF digital outputs, analog XLR outputs, unbalanced outputs on RCA jacks and screwdriver-level trim for the analog outs. Curiously, Denon supplies the analog XLR outputs as Pin-3 hot and Pin-2 cold for the United States and Canadian models and those pins reversed for the rest of the world. Although no mention of it was found in our copy of the manual, the downloaded DN-C680 User's Guide (www.del.denon.com) mentions "swapping internal jumpers can change to #2 Hot."

For serious sync applications, the Denon offers the optional ACD-27CS SMPTE timecode kit that has sync input and timecode input for forcing the unit to chase to (or be auto-started from) pro workstations, DAT machines, pro VCRs and synchronizers.

The player can be ordered with an optional ACD-25FSC sample-rate frequency converter, giving two additional sampling frequencies, 32 kHz and 48 kHz, to the AES and S/PDIF spigots. This CD player will be at home at sporting events, clubs, broadcast outlets, video houses and in the company of serious audio enthusiasts.

In use

I used the DN-C680 in several locales and gave it general playback tasks. Its initial use was in the A/V realm, providing CD playback for sessions at a national conference. The balanced outputs meant fewer adapter cables from CD to mixer and the large display was easy to read in bright conference room florescence. It was a simple matter to program tracks: dial up the track number with the soft-function knob and press. Inserting and deleting a track from the program was as simple as pressing + to insert and ö to delete.

When I used the DN-C680 as a source player for loading material into a workstation, I found the quick cueing, frame-resolution jogging and easily programmed playback features useful.

My preferred DN-C680 use was as a master playback device for duplicating personal recordings on CD-R. The S/PDIF signal from the DN-C680 was connected to an HHB CDR-850 CD-RW recorder. I inserted my freshly finalized CD-R into the DN-C680, enabled the subcode information and selected digital consumer format, then programmed the DN-C680 to play the tracks out-of-sequence.

The HHB recorder sensed the start and began recording. The DN-C680 code stream flowed without interruption - even during programmed playback. The only disadvantage was the slightly longer delay between tracks on my dub because of the additional time the DN-C680 takes seeking the next track. Playback from standby is instantaneous, with about two seconds delay from a no-servo stop to track playback.

Any time I turned the soft-function knob the servo would rev up to speed, ready to play. The published audio start-up time is 0.01 second, which we found pleasingly quick for on-air operations. Professional CD players often lag and linger when a disc is loaded and they're commanded to seek a high-numbered track, but the DN-C680 performed well.

Summary

Overall, I was pleased with the appearance and performance of the DN-C680. Good accessory cards; good, full remote control capability; sophisticated menu-driven features; and best of all, an easily seen display with on-air friendliness.