Test Drive Denon DN-950F CD Cart Player

by Jerry Vigil

What's a CD cart player? It's a cart machine, but the carts are loaded with CD's instead of tape. The DENON DN-950F CD Cart Player, together with the ACD-5B cartridges, provide an easy to use CD player designed especially for on-air use. If you cart music from CD, this is a good way to avoid dubbing that CD to 7 1/2 ips tape (which takes time and loses digital quality) and still maintain that friendly, familiar feel of a cart machine.

CD's, once placed in the cartridges, never have to be touched. They're protected from fingerprints, dust, and scratches, thus ex-tending their life considerably. Plus, you don't have to fiddle with opening CD holders, removing the CD's, and putting them back in their containers when you're through with them every time you play a CD. The cost of the cartridges is around $4 to $5 each. The list price of the machine is $1349.

The 950F not only looks like a cart machine, but acts like one, too. You can't record tones on a pre-recorded CD to signal that you're near the end of a song, so the unit sends an EOM (end of message) signal to trigger an external light when the track is near its end. This is easily installed into any existing "warning light" system using the 37 pin connector on the rear on the machine. The warning time is variable from 5 secs. to 35 secs.

The unit cues to audio as opposed to the beginning of a track, thus eliminating loose cues. The audio level the 950F cues to is adjustable from -54db to -72db.

The display window offers the selected track number and TOTAL or REMAINING time of the track using large, easy to read numbers. When you select a cut, the display shows the total time of the cut. When you begin play, the display counts down to zero. With a glance, you know exactly how much time is left on a cut, whereas, with conventional cart machines, you have to check the cart label for the length of the cut, then check the digitimer for the elapsed time, then do some fast math.

The SELECT knob, the display, and the pickup operate simultaneously. When you select a track, the length is quickly shown and the track is cued at the same time. No other button needs to be pushed to cue the track. Play mode is selectable for SINGLE play or CONTINUOUS play. While playing a cut in the CONTINUOUS mode, you can select a second cut. After the first cut is through, the second cut will begin. Track selection can be made before inserting the cartridge as well as afterwards. Fast and slow SEARCH buttons let you cue to any point on a track very precisely.

The easy operation of the DN-950F is achieved partly by the elimination of a few of the "frills" found on other CD players. The most common of these include programmability beyond a second cut, pitch shifting, and automatic cue to an index. A good "production" version of this machine would include pitch shifting and indexing.

Specs include XLR balanced outputs, frequency response of 20-20kHz, sampling frequency of 44.1kHz, S/N ratio of 92db, and 16-bit linear quantization. Starting time is 200ms. Search precision is 13.3ms for slow search and .5 sec. for fast search.

The "feel" of the machine is good. The large buttons furnish that "broadcast" touch, and rugged construction makes handling the cartridges peculiar because CD's are usually so delicately dealt with. Not any more. With the DN-950F, the white gloves come off, the monitors get cranked, and you're back to slammin' carts in a machine again! Just remember not to get caught doing it.

The DN-950F is available only through ALLIED BROADCAST EQUIPMENT.

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