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Denon LA-2300

Thanks to Hartmut Hackl for the details.

This laserdisc player from Denon  was a Pioneer clone of the following the Pioneer CLD-D515

Dual System (PAL / NTSC), 5-Disc Compatibility (CD, CDV, LD), 1-Bit DLC with Pulseflow, D/A Converter, Analogue Sound Reproduction NTSC, Horizontal Resolution - PAL / NTSC 440 / 425 lines, DVP (Digital Video Processing) System, Repeat Mode 6, Programme Play (Chapter / Track 24 Steps), Multi-Speed Play (Forward / Reverse) (CAV = NTSC),Still / Step Play (Forward / Reverse) (CAV = NTSC), Random Play, Intro / Hi-Lite Scan, Multilingual On-Screen Display, Big Pictograph Display, Big Letter Display, SR (System Remote) Control Unit, Independent CD Tray, Last Memory Review mode, Dolby Digital RF out (AC-3), In / Out Terminal for SR (System Remote) Control, Video Output 1, Audio Output 1.

Great sound, a good picture, and AC-3 compatibility make this player a leader in the $700 price range. The Denon line includes two laserdisc players the $2,200 LA-3500 and the $700 LA-2300. Now $2,200 is a lot of money to lay out for an LD player, so performance must at minimum be astonishing. 

I should start off by saying that the LA-2300 is essentially a Pioneer in Denon clothing. In the consumer electronics industry, it's common practice for manufacturers to source a component from other companies and have it outfitted with a new chassis and logo, and occasionally a few internal modifications. Given the industry-wide restructuring for the DVD age, more and more manufacturers will probably be looking to Pioneer to provide them with basic LD transports, so expect even more of this kind of thing in the future. In the meantime, this is essentially a Pioneer unit which has undergone a process of Denonization, the most apparent change being the removal of the karaoke mic input which appears on the most nearly equivalent Pioneer model, the CLD-D604. The LA-2300 has an AC-3 output for use with a compatible AC-3 processor. Beyond this, there are two sets of RCA-type audio and video outputs and a single Video output.

Ok No standard digital outputs, either Toslink or coax, are included on the unit, rendering the use of an outboard D/A converter an impossibility. In an LD player above the entry-level price range, a digital output is something I usually expect to see, although many manufacturers seem to be trading it off for an AC-3 output.

Given this feature set, the LA-2300 is not really appropriate for most high-end systems, unless you intend to use it mainly as a source for AC-3 sound, as we did.

The no-frills nature of the LA-2300 also means that digital effects for video, such as slo-mo playback and still frame, are not included. So if that's the type of feature you cannot possibly do without, I'd suggest you pick up the HT Buyer's Guide and look for another model which will suit your needs, such as the LA-3500 or Pioneer's feature-packed $1,235 CLD-D704.

The front panel of the LA-2300 includes all the standard buttons you expect to find on an player: Play, pause, scan, skip, search, and disc side A/B, for quick side-changing of a disc. There are also buttons for opening either the LD or CD drawer separately, enabling you to pop in compact discs without having to open the massive, clunky platter that the laserdisc medium requires.

The remote looks like the ones you get with Pioneer players. It duplicates all the font-panel controls, includes a shuttle knob for forward and reverse visual scans, and was able to control the player even when I bounced the IR signal off the ceiling and walls. There's no backlight, however, to illuminate the remote's main controls for use in environments with little or no ambient light, a feature I personally find extremely useful.

Using the A Video Standard test laserdisc, I checked the LA-2300 for several areas of video performance. Viewing the SMPTE resolution wedge from the composite video output, I noted that the unit was generating nearly the maximum amount of horizontal resolution the laserdisc medium is capable of. The magenta full-field color frame showed a slight amount of chroma PM noise, revealed as darker purple streaks overlaying the field, but compared to other similarly priced players I've seen, the LA-2300's performance in this area was not bad at all. Switching to the player's S-video output, I checked the SMPTE colour bar frame and was impressed to see a minimal, manageable amount of dot crawl between the edges of the bars.

Leaving the television connected to the Denon through its S-video output to watch my favourite laserdiscs, however, revealed that all was not well. Luminance noise, which can manifest itself as a steady gashing throughout the picture, and is most perceptible on wide areas of flat background color, was highly visible.

Goodbye S-video! I spent the rest of my time with the LA-2300 viewing through the composite output, which kept the luminance problem pretty much under control, and generally yielded positive results. Color bleeding was either minimal or imperceptible, even on problematic reds and magentas. And when compared to G-B Labs' reference Pioneer CLD-D703, I'd say that the Denon held its ground; in fact, the more I watched, the more reasonable the $700 price tag ultimately appeared.

Sonically, the LA-2300 proved to be a pleasant surprise. It sounded better than Denon's $2,200 step-up model (compared to $700, that's quite a step up) and the rest of us agreed. CD playback yielded none of the brightness in the upper frequency range one normally anticipates from an inexpensive LD player, which was comforting, given that the lack of a PCM digital output means you have to rely completely on the player's internal D/A converter. With its AC-3 output, however, AC-3-encoded LD playback is the Denon's main advantage and the big reason you'd want to check this player out.

Summary: Good all around audio/video performance and AC-3 output makes the $700 price tag on the Denon LA-2300 an easy sum to swallow. The lack of PCM digital audio output may cause you to look elsewhere.  We, however were more than happy with the LA-2300.

Denon LA-2300 $700