Field Report: Denon DN-C640


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Looking for replacements for our old, rebuilt-many-times, Audiometric CD10 CD players turned up some good candidates. On a whim I accessed the Denon professional website to see what the company offered as a replacement for its discontinued, cartridge-style CD players. I discovered a 1RU CD player, the DN-C640. This player was introduced early in 2007 and was displayed at NAB2007, although I did not notice it at the time. After I read the description, I decided this was no ordinary CD player: It is network addressable and was worth a closer look.

For a 1RU CD player, the front and back panels are well designed and the functions fairly intuitive. This CD player is slot-loading, not cartridge-loading. Only time will tell how this will hold up under the daily duress of a broadcast facility, but it cannot be any worse than the cartridge trays. One comforting feature is that the eject button is locked while a CD plays. Along with your normal transport controls, a multi-function jog wheel controls track selection, network media selection, preset selections and pitch control. Advanced functions are accessed by the Menu/Store/Utility button and a Shift button. The latter adds depth to the menu scheme without confusing the user. The Network button is the new — and quite useful — feature of accessing a shared network drive whether its a PC or a server. In my tests I set up a UNC path to a file server folder.

The back panel has all the amenities of a CD player and provides interconnects necessary for a broadcast facility. As expected from a professional machine, the analog outputs are balanced, XLR type connections. If that was not enough, unbalanced outputs are available, one with variable output level control via the internal Web interface. For those working in the digital realm both AES3 and S/PDIF outputs are provided, and active simultaneously. For interfacing to external equipment, the parallel DB-25 type connection accesses transport controls and tally and the RS-232 DB-9 connection is a full-function serial port. An EOM (end of message) tally is also provided.

Performance at a glance
Occupies 1RU
±12 percent pitch control
Plays back audio from network location
Reads CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW discs
Supports WAV, MP3, MPG and WMA files
User selectable Finish Mode feature
This question is both easy and difficult to answer. With automation systems playing music and so many other networked devices, I wondered at this device. My colleagues and I produced a list of uses instantly upon setting up this unit. For morning shows, have one machine assigned to access stored interviews and archived bits for near instant playback. While many stations are becoming more network-intensive, a production file server can be addressed. One suggestion was to backup the automation system with currents. Another concept is a backup source at the transmitter site. If an off-site server is deployed and the main studio is inaccessible, you can stream through the CD player over the network. We intend to try this soon. You can expand this to storing a playlist at a program director's home that can be accessed. There are alternatives to this method, but how many laptop computers provide AES3 out to feed a digital exciter?

The nontraditional addition is the LAN jack. This is a standard 10Base-T/100Base-T Ethernet connection. IP address is assigned dynamically by DHCP or static. I recommend assigning the IP address statically to these machines, as it is difficult to keep up with a device with a Web interface and potentially changing IP address.

The most notable feature of the DN-C640 is its networking capability. Using the internal Web interface, after setting up the IP address, you can fully control the CD player and playback files stored on a server or PC. The formats supported are WAV, MP3, MP2, WMA and CD-DA. It also reads the ID3 standard to provide artist and title content of MP3s. You can also create playlists in the M3U format and upload/download them to the machine. For disk compatibility, this machine will play music CD, audio files on CD and audio files on DVD data discs. As expected, you can upload a track or a whole CD to a network location from the CD player. Between CDs and network access, the flexibility is amazing.

Many other features are found on this machine that take a back seat to the new networking functions. Many CD players today do not have pitch control, but there are still uses for this feature. The DN-C640 varies the pitch between ±12 percent. Many presets can be set on how the player responds when a disc is first inserted to what the player does when a song ends. This latter feature is the Finish Mode. Upon completion of a song, you can set whether the machine stops, continues to play, plays next or recues. The capability to recue on end is quite useful. Presets are set via the front panel controls or the internal Web interface.

The rear panel connections are clearly labeled.

The rear panel connections are clearly labeled.

Bench testing revealed typical specs for a professional CD player. The most impressive is the start of playback from a CD or a file over the network. This unit is as close to instant start as one can get. Press play and the machine plays. Even files played over the network show minimal delay in playback. Network response is dependent on network traffic. We keep our audio separate from day-to-day use to off-set latency. The Auto Cue function assists in quick play response. The cue level is user selectable between off, -48dB, -42dB, and -36dB. I chose -48 for my tests and did not experience any up-cutting. Another example of a user selectable item is the EOM. This defaults at 10 seconds and can be set for 15, 20, 30 or 60 seconds. For morning shows or contests that require the playback of a snippet of a song, there is a Skip Back function where the amount of time the player will instantly play back when engaged is selected.

Who needs a network?

As with any new product there is room for improvement. Unless you map to the root directory of a server or computer there is limited access to network resources. One machine cannot access multiple locations or machines without being configured for such access each time using the Web interface. This limitation forces you to assign one machine to a morning show that may not store on the same file server as the rest of production. In addition the network location must be chosen using the Web interface, not the front panel.

On my test unit, the most annoying item is the time remaining setting. I was unable to set this and make it stay. It is also not a default setting. Recently, Denon provided a firmware upgrade to the machine, which is very easy to use. The company provides a CD; you pop it into the machine, and accept the update. Again, the default for the timer was not remaining time, but a press of a couple of buttons and the setting is changed and stays even if you need to power down the machine. With this fix out of the way, I still would like to be able to name uploaded tracks from a CD through the player. Though inconvenient, you can edit the name on the file server later.

Denon
P
W
E
630-741-0330
www.d-mpro.com
info@d-mpro.com
The Denon DN-C640 is a true professional CD player and the network functionality adds to the experience. The response on playback is tremendous. It took less than a half-hour to have the unit up and running on the network and most configurations were done without using the manual. Intuitive design and user functionality make this CD player a useful tool in any broadcast facility.

Eisenhamer is the staff engineer for Lincoln Financial Media Company of California.




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