Denon D-M41DAB £379
Denon has dominated the micro system category for as long as we care to remember, and the D-M41DAB continues its unrivalled reign.
The big news when this model arrived last year was that Denon had added Bluetooth to its micro system for the first time. That alone would be cause for celebration, but Denon also claims its new analogue amplifier circuit, with its shortened signal paths, offers greater clarity and avoids sources of interference. This is part of what Denon dubs its Triple Noise Reduction Design, which also encompasses careful separation of analogue and digital circuits plus precision signal grounding.
It also says distortion from the input selector, volume control and power amplifier is better suppressed for the cleanest possible sound.
On the outside, though, the only way to tell the D-M41DAB apart from its predecessors is that the CD drive and display screen have swapped places, and the screen itself is flatter than before, meaning less reflection.
More significant is the removal of the USB input. There are still analogue and digital optical inputs for playing music from external sources, but it means no more memory sticks.
The redesign is more than just a tweak, then, and the rewards are obvious. We suspected the D-M41DAB would be good, we just had no way of knowing it would be this much better than its Award-winning predecessor.
The whole character of the system has been improved. The presentation is more forward – it’s still pleasantly even, but it now really throws itself into rhythms with confidence. Dynamics, too, are more insightful and expressive.
The expected drop in sound quality from CD to Spotify stream has no effect on the D-M41DAB’S sonic mastery. The combination of low-end stability and dynamic sensibilities leaves us with a remarkably human performance for a micro system at this price.
The D-M41DAB doesn’t quite put its predecessor the D-M40DAB to shame, but it certainly puts it in the shade. There are multiple marked improvements across the board, combining to offer a character of performance that could hold its own against groups of separates at greater cost. Denon could have simply added Bluetooth to its system and struck the only item from our “against” column. But we’re pleased it didn’t. You can always improve the D-M41DAB even further by upgrading your speakers, of course, but the Denon micro system as a whole is quite the accomplishment. There’s just nothing else to rival it at this price.
Bluetooth is in for USB, but the real headline is a quite remarkable upturn in performance