Denon’s $500 networked audio player targets purists

Denon has managed to stay on the bleeding edge of network audio integration over the past couple of years by embracing DLNA certification, Internet radio and, more recently, Airplay early in the game and integrating it into high-end audio gear. The company’s A/V receivers were among the very first to offer access to these music destinations, which have handily eclipsed the CD as a source of entertainment for much of the music listening population.

Now that almost every A/V receiver, TV and Blu-ray disc player manufacturer has gotten the memo on the importance of network audio integration, we’re seeing support for Pandora, Rhapsody,, Internet radio and DLNA in everything from entry-level A/V receivers to $400 televisions. That being the case, it’s fair to wonder: Who in the world would want a $500 stand-alone device that serves up what is already built into so many other products already and can be had from other standalone components (like the Squeezebox Touch) for half the price? That question has already been posed by more than just a couple of snarky bloggers in reaction to Denon’s announcement of the DNP-720AE, a standalone network music player that provides Wi-Fi access to just about every sort of digital music file as well as good ole’ AM/FM radio and Apple’s Airplay, then processes it through a high-end 24-bit, 192 kHz DAC.  So, we figured we would throw an answer out there.

Audiophiles (and not just the crazy tweakers you see sitting around at high-end audio shows smoking cigars, sipping Johnny Blue and listening to Pat Benetar on vinyl through a $7,000 turntable rig with amplification that costs more than your car) probably will. Then there’s the folks out there that own two-channel integrated amps instead of an 11.2 receiver, and those who have vintage gear and don’t feel like hooking up a glossy, plastic-housed touchscreen with questionabe fidelity to their 1970’s tube rig. Those folks might dig it, too.

We think Denon’s DNP-720AE might be worth a look and listen. The  DNP-720AE will play just about any file you might care to download or create from your physical music collection. FLAC, WAV, super-high-bit-rate AAC and WMA lossless… it does them all, and pumps it out through a high-quality DAC, so the files will (hopefully) sound really good when you listen to them, which is more than can be said for most network media players under $500.

Is $500 (not $660 as has been falsely reported) a little much for such a thing? Maybe, but keep in mind that there are similar devices  that cost a good bit more. The Logitech Transporter SE, for instance, goes for over $1000 and even Marantz’s NA7004 goes for about $800.

Granted, it’s a niche product, but we think fan’s of Denon’s sound will find this addition to the network audio player market an appealing one.

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