So this video or review is personal for me. I grew up around my dads record collection, which was a lot of Mo-Town, and since about 2012 I have been growing my record collection and playing records is very core to how I interact with my hifi system. I am not going to get on any high horse about whether vinyl sounds better than digital sources but I will say that I love the act of going to my shelves and picking a record, getting it out of the sleeve and dropping the needle. It creates a more intentional listening experience for me and that has its own rewards.
Direct-Drive Turntable Landscape
As I started to shop for a new turntable I was really drawn to the idea of moving to direct drive and the default option was very obviously Technics. I love the Technics brand and product but thought it was at least worth learning what other options were available which pushed me right down the Denon rabbit hole.
If you are in the US, Denon might not be the first name you think of when you think about turntables. If you have been around hip hop or any DJ community you probably think of Technics and their legendary SL-1200. If you are deep in HiFi you might be thinking of dedicated Turntable brands like VPI or Rega, but Denon has a huge history in analog playback and now a modern turntable that competes with some of the best out there. So today we are going to set the record straight on legendary Japanese turntables.
Denon Turntable History
Denon grew out of a parent company called Nippon Columbia which was founded in 1910 and their very first product was a phonograph with a gramophone horn so if you want to stretch to Denon’s roots you could say that they have been in the analog business for nearly 115 years. This parent company also spent decades pressing records with the brand’s slogan being “Music for Japanese families.”
So yeah Denon has some history with analog.
In the 1970s they manufactured turntables primarily for broadcasting where direct drive was a key technology. Think about it if you are a radio DJ you need two things to be certain with your equipment. 1. The table needs to get to speed almost instantly and 2. You need rock solid reliability.
Denon Direct Drive tables delivered both and soon became the gold standard in broadcast quality turntables.
So fast forward another half century and we have Denon’s latest and according to the brand most refined turntable to date the DP-3000NE.
How does Denon honor their heritage and create a turntable worthy of their history?
They started by rethinking the 3 phase AC drive motor they have used versions of for decades. Then they utilized a marriage of time tested components, paired with some modern rocket science. Finally, they applied something called Space Vector Pulse Wave Modulation to the power control of this older motor design. The results are a drive system with proven reliability and speed fluctuations that are so low it is nearly impossible to measure.
To have a turntable give you perfectly accurate reproduction is ONLY one of the three key areas to address. Whats next?
Well the tone arm and the ability to track the grooves accurately. Denon accomplishes this with an S shape tonearm extruded from aluminum. The materials were chosen for low vibration and the shape optimizes tracking angle at any point in the record. This tonearm has all the necessary adjustments including a full 9mm of vertical adjustment to accommodate a huge variety of MM and MC cartridges and your choice of slip mats.
Speaking of cartridges, Denon also has an amazing legacy in cartridges with the DL103 being the single longest running sku’s in their catalog and likely one of the longest unchanged products in the HiFi industry. These cartridges are still handmade and perform exceptionally well for their price across a huge range of music. Want to test different carts? Well you are in luck with the bayonet style headshells you can change carts in seconds to suit your listening preferences.
The last thing you address to get highly accurate reproduction from your turntable is probably the first thing you would notice with the DP-3000NE. It is all about minimizing vibration and this table is a beast. At 40+ lbs this thing is a tank with most of that weight being this dense MDF plinth combined with massive, some might say, over-engineered feet. These feet combine metal, ABS, rubber, and a spring to help you set a perfect level and keep unwanted vibration from affecting the playback.
So in my journey to find my next turntable where did all this research leave me? I mean learning all of this about the DP-3000NE certainly put it on my shortlist, but what about the DJ proven HiFi praised units from Technics?
I will say emotionally I was in conflict, stuck making this decision on where to invest in a turntable I will likely have for the next decade. That is until we were able to unbox a DP-3000NE here in our studio. The photos and even this 4k video doesn’t do it justice. This is a beautifully built table with every finish a marvel to look at and even better to touch. Since my HiFi set up is not a dedicated listening room or man cave I brought my wife into the decision and the decision was made. The Denon oozes sophisticated luxury where the Technics radiates with techy widgets and the bravado of a club DJ? Am I ever going to use pitch control or a light for queuing? It's not likely and at the end of the day I am taking home the DP-3000NE as my primary turntable for years to come.