A Legendary Classic; the DENON DCD-1500

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by MacGyver, Apr 19, 2010.

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  1. MacGyver

    MacGyver Forum Resident Thread Starter


    i'm creating this thread to share with you all
    one of the formative experiences in my life
    that led me to Audiophilia.

    that experience, about three/four years back,
    concerned a SALVATION ARMY and the classic
    DENON DCD-1500 CD player.

    i had never had or heard a high-performance CDP
    before, my only digital source at the time being
    a bottom-rung PANASONIC DVD player
    that saw more use as a CDP than a DVDP.

    routinely staying up at my grandmother's for medical appointments,
    in my hometown of PORTLAND OR; a major city,
    i had access to FAR better thrifts than anything
    in my current backwater area.

    i had went through several permutations at the time,
    from a sixty-disc TECHNICS changer, to a low-end
    KENWOOD single-disc that DID NOT like CD-R,
    i finally settled for a while on a fairly decent-sounding
    PHILIPS/MAGNAVOX six-disc that had no qualms with

    that remained my primary digital source until i happened
    across a PIONEER PD-M50 six-disc, and replaced the
    PHILIPS/MAGNAVOX with that.

    the M50 remained my main for a good stretch,
    until another appointment came along.

    me and my grandma were going about town,
    looking for a good set of floorstanders for me,
    as i had been convincingly demonstrated
    of a quality floorstander's superiority
    over the decent JENSEN surround-sound
    suite that i had at the time.

    we stopped at the SALVATION ARMY very close to
    my grandma's house, and i immediately found
    the pair of PIONEER CS-G503 4-ways that
    i currently use to this day (SUPERB speaker system!)

    i had also at that same moment caught eye of this rather
    nice looking (to me, at least) and well built (though cosmetically
    rough) CD player.

    it was a DENON, a brand i never took particularly seriously.
    me and my grandma co-paid for the CS-G503s, so we could
    get the senior discount, and skidaddled.
    i passed on the DENON, rigidly interested in PIONEER brand ONLY.

    that would have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life,
    if not for the fact that, about two weeks later, heading out,
    my grandma inexplicably decided to hit that SALLY-ANN again,
    out of the blue. i always enjoy scouting thrifts, so i basically
    scoured the place once more, despite doing that just recently before.

    getting bored, i was drawn back that swanky DENON.
    not being busy with those speakers, i gave it a more
    careful evaluation. i plugged it in and put it through the basic motions.

    though i was unable to give it a listen,
    i was nonetheless BLOWN AWAY. the smoothness and certainty
    in which the disc tray actuated, the SPEED in which the tracks
    skipped, it was LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, and i just had to have it,
    PIONEER or no.

    me and my grandma got it for $13.00 (!!) with the usual
    old-people discount. i'll tell you, once i got it back home
    and gave it a listen, i knew it was the best $13 i had ever
    spent in my life.

    now THIS was a digital source component!!
    while the PIONEER PD-M50 remained in my system,
    as i've always had a love and fascination for
    PIONEER's magazine changers,
    the DCD-1500 was my primary CD playback source.

    this was one of the first pictures i took of that
    cosmetically weatherbeaten, yet angelically beautiful
    sounding player;


    (note that those large isolator feet, my very first mod,
    were culled from a CHAPARAAL C/KU band sat. receiver)
    Mowgli likes this.
  2. MacGyver

    MacGyver Forum Resident Thread Starter

    a year or two later, i happened across what became the only 1500 of it's kind
    in the world (to my knowledge) when i happened across a CRAIGSLIST ad
    for a NEAR MINT 1500 with remote and OPTIONAL WOOD PANELS in place
    for $80.00!!

    i secured it just as fast as i could, i was ecstatic!!
    it was my new baby, perfect in most every way.

    still, there was room for improvement.
    that is what led to the series of mods
    that i personally performed on this shining example,
    to make it perfect to my eye in every conceivable fashion..
  3. MacGyver

    MacGyver Forum Resident Thread Starter

    here is the finished product.

    i'll describe it as i go along;


    the first difference you may notice is the isolator feet.
    DENON never adopted large, late-80's style isolators
    until 1987, over a year after the 1500 hit the street.

    these were my innovation, culled from a 1988 DCD-910
    that i found at a thrift.
    further, the thick pads on the isolators were taken
    from a SONY SLV-R5UC S-VHS VCR (1990)


    interior view. as you can see, i placed foam rubber in places
    that i felt needed it. i also used some to dampen the action
    of the POWER switch.

    though you cannot really see it in this shot,
    i replaced the thin power cord with a hefty,
    shielded power cable culled from an IEC.

    a large ferrite bead was slipped on, just inside
    the chassis enclosure, and movement was damped
    with more of the foam.

    finally, i thoroughly lubed the transport mechanism
    so operation is now even smoother than before!



    in the meantime, i have managed to track down most of the
    accessories for this exceptional player,
    though i'm still actively searching for both the original packing carton,
    first edition brochure (featuring the 1500 on the cover)
    and any other effects of this player;


    Mowgli likes this.
  4. MacGyver

    MacGyver Forum Resident Thread Starter

    i will be also getting this 1983 sampler disc
    to go along with my baby;



    and, in case anyone is curious,
    DENON made a successor machine to this model,
    the DCD-1500 II;



    it was available in limited quantities in a silver/champagne
    variant, as was it's ancestor;




  5. Digital-G

    Digital-G Forum Resident

    Dayton, OH
    The DCD-1500 is the player I currently use, unmodded.

    I bought it new in 1987 for $600+ and of course thought it sounded fabulous. It was my first foray into CD playback. Much later, maybe late 1990's, I got a newfangled Pioneer DVD player and semi-retired the Denon to a second system in the basement. The Pioneer did fine and I replaced it a few years later with a universal Pioneer DV-45A player that was SACD and DVD-Audio friendly. It played everything I threw at it and sounded great... until the transport started to give out and scratched a few DVD's in the process (including my Beatles Anthology).

    The same week my Pioneer DVD gave out, so did my trusty 45" Mitsubishi standard-def TV that was nearing 10 years old. Long story short, I got a new Sony 52" hi-def TV and a Sony BDP-350 blu-ray player to go with it. I no longer had SACD or DVD-Audio capabilities, but I had hi-def TV and hoped to get a player later for audio. This was late 2008.

    So I'm using the Sony blu-ray for blu-ray playback, DVD's, and CD's for close to a year. Slowly I realize that CD's just don't have the same warmth they used to and... I dunno... something is just missing when I play music. It doesn't have the same excitement it did in 1987 when I first got my first... Hey, wait!! I still have that CD player in the closet. The Denon.

    I've assumed over the years that players have gotten better and generally speaking, that they also sounded better. That may be true in many cases but this Denon DCD-1500 was one of, if not the, best players available when it came out. I dug it out of the closet and hooked it up and it was definitely better sounding than the Sony. It was more 'immediate' sounding and had bass punch the Sony was missing. The bass might have a small hump to it, but it's a pleasant hump. As a straight CD player I can't really say how the Denon compares to the Pioneers I had, especially the Elite model, but I suspect it's a bit warmer and more lush, if not accurately so.

    I'm enjoying the Denon again, as well as CD playback, and I guess that's what matters. The player is 23 years old, so I'm not sure what I'll do if it craps out on me - not sure if it's worth fixing or if I'd be better off to buy a new high-end player. And I know it's not the last word on CD playback as it is, but it's paid for and it gives me a nostalgic sound that I like, so for now I'm going to use it.

    I should add a couple of comments. It surprised me when it played CD-Rs that I had made without any problems. The transport is quite fast compared to the Pioneers I had and the Sony - I'll assume because those others are dvd/blu-ray players. But I can put a disk in the Denon tray, hit the play button and walk away and the tray will close and playback begins within 4 or 5 seconds. Pretty good speed for a 23 year old player!

    Thanks for the photos and memories MacGyver.
  6. stereoguy

    stereoguy The King Of Stereo Mixing


    Problem is the A/D converters in those players are old and cant compare with todays converters.
  7. Digital-G

    Digital-G Forum Resident

    Dayton, OH
    That may be, but it sounds better than the converters used in stereo mode of my new Sony blu-ray player.
  8. stereoguy

    stereoguy The King Of Stereo Mixing

    Thats odd, actually. The converter chip in your Sony, even for Redbook, should be a much higher resolution.

    The other thing I've noticed is that some folks who say their old players sound "better" are really just nostalgic for that "80s sound". Theres a definite difference from that CD playback sound to todays playback sound.

    Around a month ago, I went to a friends house who was extolling the virtues of his reel to reel collection. He swore up and down that they sounded better than any Lp, cassette, or CD of the same titles. When we played a few (Carpenters, Elton, CCR) I was almost embarrased for him. Hissy, indistinct sound, wow and flutter, eecchhh.
    Any Lp of those title , in any condition would have sounded better. My point is, how we percieve sound , I think varies wildly from person to person. Many folks who think their equipment sounds "great" have never heard what "great" really is.
  9. KeithH

    KeithH Success With Honor...then and now

    Beaver Stadium
    Which Sony Blu-Ray player do you have? It probably has a better DAC than the Denon DCD-1500, but the Sony may have other design issues.
  10. KeithH

    KeithH Success With Honor...then and now

    Beaver Stadium
    I've never head the Denon DCD-1500, but it looks like a nice player, especially with the wood side panels.

    As for me, I caught the "audiophile bug" in 2000. I had a Kenwood rack system from 1989 at the time. Little by little, I began upgrading each component, and I tossed out the Kenwood graphic equalizer. The first CD player I bought was a Sony CDP-CE575 carousel changer. I thought all current CD players were the same (duh), so I bought the Sony changer at Costco. Then I stepped up to a Sony CDP-CA80ES changer, which was noticeably better than the 'CE575. I matured into a full-fledged audio nutcase when I replaced added the Sony SCD-777ES. At the time, I held onto the 'CA80ES, but I rarely used it after getting the '777ES. Shortly after that, I started a second system with a 'CA80ES. Then I added a Pioneer Elite PD-65 to the second system. Both 'CA80ES changers are long gone. I still have and use the '777ES and PD-65. :)
  11. Digital-G

    Digital-G Forum Resident

    Dayton, OH
    My Sony blu-ray is the BDP-350. And I'm pretty sure I was using the analog outputs from it (i.e. the internal DAC) and going thru my Denon AVR-3300.

    If the Sony was giving me 'accurate' CD playback it was definitely at the cost of warmth.

    I admit that the sound from the Denon may have been a nostalgic sound and it may have a bit of a mid-bass hump but to my ears it's better than the Sony was giving me. Maybe what is being lost in the resolution is being made up for in the built-in EQ, I don't know. I'm pretty sure the Denon used Burr-Brown DACs even back then, but obviously older models.
  12. onebit

    onebit Forum Resident

    I still have a DCD 1500 II that I use regularly in a secondary system. A surprisingly good sounding unit, even after all these years. Built like a tank too.
  13. sushimaster

    sushimaster Forum Resident

    For $13, you can't go wrong.
    My dad has a Denon CDP.
    Can't recall the model, but he likes it.
    They make really nice sounding CD's.
    Nice story, thanks for sharing.

    - Sushimaster
  14. zongo

    zongo Forum Resident

    Davis, CA
    That is probably true. However, at the time the Denon that the poster is describing was made, people were already pretty good at making nice preamps and other things that are fairly similar to the analog output stage of a CD player (at least they are similar in my very unprofessional understanding). It seems to me very possible that even if the A/D converter in the old machine is not as good as a new one, the differences might be made up for and overcome by a very nice analog output stage, and it is very believable to me that an older machine could actually sound better despite having a less refined A/D. Probably if you played the older player next to a truly top of the line player of today, it would be bested, but against a sort of standard modern machine it could conceivably compare favorably.

    This is of course all hypothetical, as I have never heard either of the two players being compared and so have no opinion about the particulars of this case.
  15. sushimaster

    sushimaster Forum Resident

    That is assuming the other person will agree/like what you believe to be great sound.

    I think my system is great, but when my dad came over and visited me, he didn't seem too impressed with it. I've heard his tube system, and personally I don't think it's very resolving, even though he favors the warm tube sound.

    So wheather a person hears/or doesnt hear what another person would consider to be a great sounding system is moot point in my opinion.

    - Sushimaster

  16. Rocketstail

    Rocketstail Forum Resident

    I still have a DCD-1520, hasn't been used for years. Weren't those Denon CD players, with Burr-Brown DAC's?
  17. mwheelerk

    mwheelerk Believe In Music Record Shop

    Gilbert AZ
    I had one when it first came out and I loved that unit. I think I had it until I moved to my first universal player about 9 years ago.
  18. gener8tr

    gener8tr Forum Resident

    Vancouver, WA USA
    Just curious, who is the almighty that determines the "definitive" great?
  19. MacGyver

    MacGyver Forum Resident Thread Starter

    by the way,
    someone on another forum has told me
    that the foam could cause heat dissipation issues
    in the player. can anyone verify this?
  20. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Adding something that restricts airflow within a component is probably not a good idea. Heat is the enemy of electronic circuits :agree:
  21. KeithH

    KeithH Success With Honor...then and now

    Beaver Stadium
    It may have had Burr-Brown DACs, but Burr-Brown and other make better DACs today than what the Denon DCD-15XX players have.

    I don't know the specific DAC in my Pioneer Elite PD-65 (MacGyver no doubt knows), but I have no doubt that it was state of the art when the player was released in 1991. The PD-65 is still a good player, but it obviously is not state of the art now. I'm sure the DAC is one reason for that.
  22. KeithH

    KeithH Success With Honor...then and now

    Beaver Stadium
    I was wondering that, too. The guy on the Internet who thinks that my audio systems are not "great" is obviouly not invited into my home to hear them. I don't need to deal with such jackas$ery.
  23. reb

    reb Long Live Rock

    Long Island
    i bought the very first player to feature 20 bit dacs in 1989 and it was a denon. 3 weeks later i traded it in because it sounded like finger nails on a chalkboard.
  24. Jim G.

    Jim G. Geezer with a nice stereo!

    Definetly! One of the main tasks in electrical engineering is heat disipation. The designers of your equipment have determined the amount of heat that the case, vents, and circuit layout can safely disipate. putting that foam in is like putting a blanket on the componets.
  25. JA Fant

    JA Fant Well-Known Member

    Ah, the Denon DCD-1500 cd player series, those were great looking and sounding decks!
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