Test Drive: The Denon DN-970FA CD Cart Player

There is also a REPEAT button on the front panel which enables repeat play of any part of the CD whether it be the whole CD, a track, an index, or the part between selected points A and B. The only disappointing aspect of the DN-970FA is that the repeat function does not employ a RAM buffer. The result is a "gap" of silence between the repeats as the pickup returns to the start of the loop. A RAM buffer would allow for seamless loops and a very easy way to turn a ten second intro of a song into an endless instrumental bed.

The DN-970FA does utilize a small RAM buffer to allow it to cue to audio, and audio will begin within 30 ms from the time the PLAY button is pressed. The level of audio the unit looks for as a cue point can be adjusted from -72 dB to -36 dB using the dip switches. These switches are also used for a number of other options. Fade in/fade out times can be set from 2.5 ms to 247 ms. The EOM (End Of Message) signal can be set from 5 seconds to 35 seconds. (This signal is used mainly for on-air use of the unit and can trigger an external light to come on when a song is near its end.) Dip switch S1-1 switches the output of the unit from stereo to mono. Switch S2-3 determines whether or not the unit will retain previous settings once the cartridge is ejected. Switch S2-1 shuts the FRAMES display on and off. The list of options is fairly long and covers a wide array of the player's functions.

Since Denon was the first to introduce the CD Cart Player, it's no surprise that they now offer "the world's first 'Smart' CD Cart Player." For a few dollars more you can easily upgrade the DN-970FA by installing a chip which will activate Denon's AUTO TRACK SELECT function. If there are any PD's out there who don't use CD's in the control room simply because your jocks choose to play OTHER cuts on the CD besides the one they're supposed to, then the AUTO TRACK SELECT upgrade is for you. Along with your new chip you'll also get a set of circular plates about the size of poker chips but thinner. The plates are encoded with "bar-code" information which tells the DN-970FA what tracks to play and what tracks not to play. The self-sticking plates adhere to the CD cartridge and are read by the player. There are three kinds of plates for three levels of control. These levels are TRACK EXCLUSIVE, TRACK PRIORITY, and TRACK PROHIBIT.

Using the TRACK EXCLUSIVE plate labeled "03" will automatically cue up track 3 when the CD is inserted into the player. Only track 3 can be played, and the jock will be unable to play any other tracks on the CD (unless he removes the bar-coded plate, which could be hazardous to his health).

Using the TRACK PRIORITY plate labeled "06" will automatically cue up track 6 when the CD is inserted, but the jock will also have access to the other tracks. This is nothing more than a step saver in the case where only one cut is being played from a CD but others are allowed. The jock doesn't have to select cut 6. It's done automatically.

Using the TRACK PROHIBIT plate labeled "04" will "lock out" that track and make it impossible to play track 4 (unless, of course, the plate is removed). The jock will have access to all other tracks on the disk.

This is a new application of bar-code technology, and it will probably undergo some changes as it evolves. As it is now, with the DN-970FA, it does have some limitations. For example, let's say you want your jocks to play only track 7 and track 5 but no others. Sorry. Can't do. Let's say your jocks can play any track except tracks 3 and 6. Sorry, you can only prohibit one track per CD. You get the idea. Even so, under most circumstances, the AUTO TRACK SELECT feature should prove to be quite useful. Furthermore, you can probably bank on the fact that Denon is already working on a way to provide this "custom bar-coding." And if that doesn't work, now that we have CD recorders the size of cassette decks, it won't be long before all CD's will have a writable track on them for encoding playback information of a similar nature. (Will this be how parents will be able to lock out cuts with dirty lyrics so their kids can't play them?)

The DN-970FA comes with balanced XLR outs as well as a digital XLR output. The oversampling rate is 8X. The D/A converters are 18 bit. Frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The S/N ratio is 92 dB or better. Rear panel connectors provide extensive remote control for versatile installation in either an on-air studio or a production studio.

The controls and buttons "feel" solid, and working with the CD cartridges is a great improvement over having to delicately handle a "naked" CD. As CD's become more prominent in production studios as well as on-air studios, and CD's remain the delicate medium they are, CD cart players will easily take the place of the traditional CD player in broadcasting.

The DN-970FA lists for $2,599.

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