I think it says something about our hustle-bustle world that one of the most common recipes we see these days boils down to “just add _____.” I don’t just mean cooking instructions. In the world of audio, we often talk about “just add speakers” solutions like the NAD C 399 and Cambridge Audio Evo 150.
Denon calls its new DNP-2000NE ($1599, all prices USD) a “high-resolution audio streamer.” That moniker only just sort of describes the unit, because it doesn’t quite fit so neatly into that recipe—at least not at first glance. Instead, it’s more like the recipes my momma passed along to me before she died. There’s some wiggle room. There’s space for improvisation and personal taste. Hand one to each of us, and what I end up with might not bear a strong resemblance to yours.
What does any of that mean? Well, let’s break down what the DNP-2000NE actually is and does, and hopefully that’ll help. Yes, as its name implies, at the heart of the unit is a music streamer based on Denon and Marantz’s HEOS platform. It supports all the music-streaming services currently available via HEOS: Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, Pandora, TuneIn, Deezer, iHeart, Mood:Mix, Napster, SiriusXM, and SoundCloud.
No Qobuz, unfortunately, at least not natively, but the DNP-2000NE also features AirPlay 2 connectivity, so as long as you don’t mind a bit of transcoding, you can enjoy audio from any app on your i-device. And if you’re a little more fancy-pantsed, you can use Roon. So simply add it as a source device to your existing sound system, and you’ve got access to just about any and all digital music that most people would want to access at home.
But wait. The DNP-2000NE also has a volume control and your choice between fixed- and variable-level stereo analog outputs, meaning you could simply connect a pair of active speakers via RCA interconnects and have yourself a complete sound system focused on streaming and play any audio files located on your portable audio devices. Or you could add a stereo amp and a pair of passive speakers.
But hang on. The unit also has oodles of inputs, including a USB-DAC connection (Type B), along with one coaxial and two optical digital ins. There’s an HDMI ARC port as well.
So, in short, you could use this thing as a simple streaming source device with analog or digital (optical or coaxial) outputs, a preamp with integrated music streaming, or even a stereo A/V preamp of sorts. Of course, Denon has to tout other features as crucial to the value of the 2000NE—its Ultra AL32 processing, its quad DAC configuration, its audiophile-grade componentry, the isolation between its analog and digital circuitry, its Alexa/Google/Siri voice control—but it’s really the unit’s incredible flexibility, in terms of connectivity and operation alike, that is its main selling point.
Extending our metaphor about as far as it’ll go, when you’re using the 2000NE as an ingredient in your system, the clause that best fills the blank in the “just add _____” recipe is “sort of whatever you want.” Which anyone with a hint of hillbilly DNA will tell you is always the best sort of recipe.
Installing and configuring the Denon DNP-2000NE
With a highly connected product as new as the DNP-2000NE, sometimes it’s stressful to start a review the moment the thing hits shelves. And I say that because there can be some quirks that are more often than not sorted out with the first firmware update.
Unfortunately, I ran into one such quirk when setting this one up. Whether it will resemble in any way the setup process experienced by most end users, I cannot say. I suspect not. But it’d be a dereliction of duty not to report my experiences exactly as they occurred.
When I first set up the 2000NE, I connected it via ethernet, not Wi-Fi, because I was raised right. I always test the Wi-Fi connectivity of any network-connected product at some point during my evaluation, but when I’m just getting started, I’d far rather start forming some impressions of a product’s other capabilities.
When I fired up the DNP-2000NE connected via ethernet for the first time, though, I couldn’t even get through the initial setup process. Trying to connect to the network resulted in an infinite loop. The HEOS app couldn’t see the product. I couldn’t update the firmware. And this was despite the fact that the unit reported having secured an IP address and was pingable via my network tools.
So I did a factory reset and started over from scratch. Same problem. And it was at this point that I decided to give Wi-Fi a try. Since I’m on iOS, that involved setting up the connection via my iPhone and adding the 2000NE as a new AirPlay device. And it worked! As soon as I had that connection done, the HEOS app started downloading firmware automatically, which, once finished and installed, resulted in an updated player that once again had no network connectivity. But one final run-through of the Wi-Fi setup did the trick, and I was then able to connect my ethernet cable and get to rockin’.
And that was seriously the last hiccup I had with the DNP-2000NE. Precedent dictates that I spend most of the performance section below discussing the audio quality of the unit, but it needs to be said that in my time with it, I’ve found it more reliable in terms of network connectivity than the Sonos, Amazon, and Play-Fi devices currently scattered around my house. Whether wired or wireless, it has never skipped or stuttered, never stopped playing in the middle of a playlist, never glitched out—nothing of the sort. The only other streaming hardware in-house that has been as reliable as the DNP-2000NE is some BluOS gear I’m currently testing for Wirecutter. Even the newer Sonos gear occasionally just stops playing and needs a reboot (maybe once every other week). And the Play-Fi stuff is the living nightmare it always is. But HEOS hasn’t needed a bit of babying since that initial setup, and I’ve left the 2000NE on the entire time I’ve had it.
Of course, that’s not to say that HEOS is perfect. It’s a little clunky in terms of navigation, and it doesn’t support a few key music services. But it also has some features that the other major players lack, which we’ll discuss below.
With that out of the way, I had to figure out what sort of product I wanted to treat the DNP-2000NE as during the course of my review. I couldn’t decide, so I did it all. I connected a pair of SVS Prime Wireless Speakers to the unit and ran it all as a self-contained system. I connected it to my TV via HDMI ARC and added a pair of powered Fluance speakers. I also connected it as a source to my Classé Sigma 2200i integrated amp for the bulk of my testing, relying on both the USB port as well as the network connectivity for input into the Denon. I switched back and forth between analog output (using Straight Wire Encore II analog interconnects) and digital (relying on a TosLink cable that, if memory serves me well, came from Monoprice).
As is usually the case in my main stereo rig, I connected my Paradigm Studio 100 v5 tower speakers via a pair of pre-terminated Elac Sensible Speaker Cables and got to listening.
How does the Denon DNP-2000NE perform?
Let’s dispense with something right away. When I listened to the DNP-2000NE in a variety of setups—used as an A/V preamp, a stereo preamp, a source device, what have you—it quickly became apparent that trying to convey any sonic virtues of one mode of operation versus the others would be folly. The unit simply doesn’t, as far as I can hear, have any aural signature of its own. It’s clear, quiet, dynamic, undistorted, and as neutral as can be.
One thing I very much enjoyed about streaming through the 2000NE in every configuration was how easy HEOS makes it to natively stream music stored on my phone without transcoding it via protocols like AirPlay or cascading codecs with Bluetooth. One such track that I used to use a lot as reference material is an ALAC rip of Abigail Washburn’s “Chains” from City of Refuge (Rounder Records 0011661859821). The brushed percussion early in the song has always served me well as a test of any DAC’s reconstruction filters, as a super-slow roll-off can create a sort of hashy sound that some folks might like, but not me. Through the DNP-2000NE, the percussion sounded lovely, natural, airy, and precise, leading me to strongly suspect that Denon isn’t doing anything silly with the reconstruction filters here.
Switching over to Spotify Connect, I cued up Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” from Can’t Buy a Thrill (320kbps Ogg Vorbis, UMG Recordings / Spotify). I was straining my brain to listen to the hi-hat and the strum of the acoustic guitar, both of which can be really revealing of problems with a DAC or even shortcomings of a lossy codec, but I kept getting distracted by the sumptuous sounds of Fagen’s Wurlitzer, which sounded smoother than room-temperature butter in Alabama in August.
Once I acclimated to that a bit and was able to focus on the higher frequencies and the transients, I found the 2000NE’s performance absolutely unimpeachable. If there’s anything funky going on here, either it’s inaudible or I like it. But I seriously doubt that there is.
During my time with the 2000NE, I primarily relied on the HEOS app for control and playback, but when I had the unit in my A/V setup, I did rely on the included remote a bit to select sources and control volume. Although the clicker doesn’t look like much, I found it surprisingly responsive. At one point, I pressed a button without realizing that the remote was pointed at my face instead of the 2000NE. It still responded. So I played around with pointing the remote in every direction but at the unit, and in every case it responded promptly.
Honestly, the remote was working so well no matter which direction I pointed it that I started to suspect it might operate via RF instead of IR, but when I covered the end of the wand with my hand, the unit stopped responding. So it’s definitely IR, and it’s definitely “line of sight” in a sense. But it’s sensitive enough to pick up on that IR signal no matter how many times it bounces around the room.
What other streamers in this price class should you consider?
If you’re looking to stay within the HEOS streaming ecosystem, you can still find the DNP-2000NE’s predecessor, the PMA-800NE, kicking around for about $600 at retailers that still have any stock. It lacks its newer sibling’s USB and HDMI connectivity, as well as the other digital inputs, making it less attractive as a full-featured A/V-capable audio hub. But if you’re just looking for a streamer, it’s a shame that Denon doesn’t still offer something equivalent, or simply offer the 800NE as a more straightforward alternative to the 2000NE.
If you’re willing to consider other platforms, Bluesound has its popular Node and Node X streamers for $599 and $749, respectively. Either represents a substantially better value, in my opinion, and overall, I think BluOS is the better platform, even if it lacks a few features of HEOS that I really dig.
If you’re looking for something more Roon-focused, I also reviewed the iFi Audio Neo Stream for sister-site Simplifi a while back. At $1299, it’s a bit of a better bargain than the Denon, and it’s also more audiophile-focused in terms of its connectivity. But it’s not the easiest thing in the world to use, and it doesn’t directly support any streaming apps.
TL;DR: Should you buy the Denon DNP-2000NE audio streamer?
This one’s tough. I love Denon as a brand so much, but as of late it seems to be making some unforced errors in terms of value propositions on the hi-fi side of things. There’s simply no denying that the enhanced connectivity of the 2000NE makes it more flexible in terms of setup and integration, but I honestly think that most people looking for a streamer probably just want either a streamer or an integrated amp with streaming capabilities. If you’ve got a pair of active speakers and you’re not happy with whatever streaming functionality they have, sure, the 2000NE is a scratch in search of that particular itch. And if Denon had a full range of streamers available, including at least one with simpler connectivity, sure, you could laud this one as a more comprehensive alternative.
I honestly think at this level, Denon should have combined the functionality of the PMA-1700NE integrated amp and DNP-2000NE streamer into one chassis. Because as it stands, individually they both seem a little overpriced for what they offer, even if it’s nigh impossible to ding either in terms of performance.
. . . Dennis Burger
- Speakers: Paradigm Studio 100 v.5; Fluance Ai41.
- Speaker-level connections: Elac Sensible Speaker Cables.
- Interconnects: Monoprice Monolith #33464 USB Type-A to USB Type-B cable; Monoprice #2765 Premium S/PDIF (TosLink) Digital Optical Audio Cable, 12′.
- Sources and control devices: Maingear Vybe PC; iPhone 12 Pro Max.
- Display: Vizio P75-F1.
- Power protection: SurgeX XR115 surge eliminator/power conditioner.
Denon DNP-2000NE Streaming Preamplifier
Warranty: Two years, parts and labor.
5541 Fermi Ct.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Phone: (800) 497-8921