Denon DNP-720AE Network player

This economical component from Denon is actually an AM/FM (RDS) radio tuner to associate the firm's different CD players and amplifiers in its 'AE' range. Compatibility with Napster and subscription services are included too.

Connection to a home network may be via Wi-Fi as well if convenience is an overriding factor. Moreover Apple's AirPlay can be part of the attribute set of this small Denon. A Type USB-A fascia socket enables playback and offers control through the handset to a digital connection for an iPod/iPhone. Track information can be toggled between iDevice from the remote's Mode button or the Denon's screen.

The DNP-720AE handles a maximum sampling rate of 96kHz at 24-bit resolution and may even unpack FLACs at 88.2 and 96kHz. Convenience features include Zone Management and Party Mode. Up to four added UPnP 'attendees' around a house could be served by the Denon acting as the 'organiser'.

Pulling on WAVs via LAN, Tori Amos's 'Cornflake Girl' was impressively' of a piece' despite the Denon's modest cost. Even through my high end system it was more than listenable. It wasn't razor sharp, the vocal and piano having a halo that softened their presentation; but it was cozy and 'sweet'- even a little syrupy.

Together with the ultra-dynamic recording of 'Impossible Mission' the sonic image that was graphic was not audibly focus, the transients of percussion and brass rounded. The sound was relaxed, rather than captivating.

Like the Marantz NA7004, it's limited to some maximum 24/96 ability - but does include 88.2kHz compatibility. Robert Plant's track was served up with tremendously fulfilling low end 'oomph', but the voice appeared a tad clouded, softened with a rosy sheen. It sounded noticeably different, although it could possess exactly the same network playing skill as the Marantz, then. The Marantz was clearly more daring and sharper in focus, the Denon rather hazy in contrast.

With Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra power and the scale of the orchestra was entailed by the likes of Cambridge Stream Magic 6 players and the MF CLiC that were clearly more capable of showcasing the audiophile quality of the recording. Dynamic contrast was limited.

The Achilles' heel of the DNP-720AE is it's merely a network streamer - you can't push music from a correctly set up media player into it - and it will not support gapless playback. For most music lovers, the very thought that segued tracks can only be replicated with dropouts between them will not be completely acceptable.

Denon DNP-720AE Network player photo