While the world is wondering if CD players still exist, we recently saw the advent of one more product category that could further hasten the so-called extinction of CDs in the AV world — the network audio player. A network audio player simply has the capability to source audio from any network that it is connected to and route the audio to an amplifier that the listener wants it to. Today, we look at one such network audio player, the Denon DNP-720AE.
Out of the Box
It wouldn’t surprise us if you mistake the DNP-720AE for an amp or a CD player from Denon. The network audio player bears striking resemblance to most of the devices that come from this Japanese electronics maker along with all the finesse and aesthetics that Denon products are known for. Clad-in an all black design with a subtle shine on the front fascia, the Denon DNP-720AE can be a frontrunner for any showroom’s rack.
A neat looking set up
So what exactly is a network audio player? It is a media player conceived by considering the current needs of consumers who have entertainment media stored in a hundred different places. A network audio player gives consumers a chance to streamline all their digital audio and route it through a single point source — the significance being ease-of-use and convenience. In the audio signal chain, a network audio player will sit exactly where a CD player would — just before the amplifier.
The Denon DNP-720AE comes with a conventional analog output that can be connected to an amplifier and a digital output, which can be connected to a DAC. There are two significant ports on the back panel for network connectivity, one to connect a Wi-Fi antenna that comes with the player, and another for the Ethernet wire. It can communicate with a number of different devices (either wired or wirelessly) like the Apple iPad, iPod, USB drives, computers and even portable media players. Lastly, to maintain the audio standards that Denon has laid out for all its products, the DNP-720AE features a basic circuit design with minimum adulteration and complexity.
Sleek and stylish
For users who prefer not to use external DACs, the player features high-quality internal DACs so that you can use the analogue outputs of the device.
For the sparsely populated front panel of the player, the remote is an important tool for using all the features on the player. We liked the way in which the remote is neatly divided into four different sections—sources, tuner, navigation and numbers. The division makes the remote easy-to-use. You also get an app for Apple and Android devices through which you can operate the DNP-720AE.
Full function remote
The tag of a network audio player can be quite daunting for those who fear words like network, Ethernet and Wi-Fi. But the DNP-720AE is an absolute delight to operate and is a simple plug-n-play device. There are three different ways to wirelessly connect the DNP-720AE to any network. First is the regular auto set-up wherein the player does the work and you need to respond only when asked by it. Secondly, if your Wi-Fi router is WPS*-enabled then you can simply connect the router to the player in one click. The third way is a lengthy one wherein you have to manually feed in all the required information to connect the player to the network. We employed the auto set-up and the manual method as well, and both worked flawlessly.
While setting it up though, the small display of the player was a bit of a problem. A slightly wider display area with bigger letters or maybe a monitor out would’ve made it easier. Once we were through with the set-up process, we started checking all the available input sources for the player. The player does not understand or see all that is shared on your computer. You will have to work with a media UPnP (Universal Plug-n-Play) based software which will automatically see your player as a playback device on your network and will start streaming data to the player. For Apple devices, the DNP-720AE comes with Apple’s AirPlay wherein your apple devices can talk to the player simply with one touch. The only condition is that both the devices i.e. the Denon player and the Apple device (iPad in our case) have to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
Will fit right in
Once connected, the AirPlay icon shows up and you can simply click on it to start playing music on the Denon DNP-720AE. For USB devices, the player took five seconds to completely load an 8 GB pen drive. We tried both MP3 and FLAC files on the pen drive, and as it turned out, the Denon DNP-720AE did justice to the formats. The FLAC files sounded much better and fuller as compared to the MP3 files and the reason was obvious — more and better information on the FLAC files. We found no difference between the analogue and digital output of the player: we had connected both the outputs to an Onkyo AV receiver, and the player gave equal importance to both the digital and analogue outputs and churned out clean, crisp and clear audio.
The idea of a network audio player is to be a single point source to all the digital music that you have with you and the Denon DNP-720AE does the job with all its integrity. Be it an iPad, USB drives, portable media players, storage drives or a computer, the DNP-720AE can easily communicate with any of these devices and make your life more fun. Definitely worth the price of Rs.29,900!
THD+N: 0.003% @1kHz
Frequency Response: 2Hz–20kHz +/-0.2dB
Signal to Noise Ratio: 110dB
Digital Outputs: 1xAnalogue Out, 1xOptical Out
Audio Formats: WMA, MP3, WAV, AAC, FLAC, WMA Lossless (Transcode), FLAC 96/24
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