Denon's sixth-generation mini hi-fi doesn't fail to deliver on the promise of its predecessor, the D-M31. The D-M35DAB is an upgrade with digital radio added. For those on a more restricted budget, a model is available without DAB, the D-M33.
The Denon D-M35DAB Micro Component System is a good all-rounder, and would be great for either the bedroom or the living room. With CD, tuner and various connection options on the back you have the option of either using it as a stand-alone unit or integrating it into your existing home-entertainment system. Audiophiles could consider using it as a secondary system. At £380 with the speakers this system isn't cheap, but the build quality means it's worth every penny.
The Denon D-M35 has a silver brushed-metal front and an all-metal body. Deeper than it is wide (as are the speakers), this metal box, with its slightly rounded edges, is subtle and understated. It doesn't scream its credentials, but instead quietly impresses -- it's both stylish and tasteful. Minimal buttons on the front give an impression of accessibility and good design.
The 105 by 28mm display is located at the bottom of the unit, on the front. It's a two-line dot-matrix display and is legible across a room.
The speakers have heavy-duty MDF cabinets (which help with the overall sound reproduction) with a pine-effect veneer. They are rear-ported, so you can use your own audio connector cables should you wish to. They also have a curious woofer-over-tweeter design, which helps with sound dispersion. The WOK-style woofers have a single laminated diaphragm without a centre-cap, to provide greater rigidity over the bass cone.
There are three aerial connections -- DAB, FM and AM -- and the aerials are provided. Denon recommends purchasing an external DAB aerial in order to improve reception, but for the casual listener, the one provided should be adequate.
There's a minijack headphone socket underneath the Function button on the front of the stereo. At the back is the wealth of connections that makes this system flexible. Most useful are the two stereo analogue inputs and outputs, as well as a digital optical out. This means you can hook up this stereo to an existing system, and also that you can record from the radio using either analogue (such as a tape) or digital (MiniDisc) media. As well as aerial and speaker connections, there's a 230V AC out if you're short of electrical sockets. There is also a Mono out should you wish to connect a subwoofer. The D-M35DAB runs from the mains.
After wrestling the beast from the box, DAB setup is both quick and painless. Connect the speakers and aerials, then select the DAB function. The Denon D-M35DAB automatically scans for DAB broadcasts and stores the stations in alphanumeric order. The whole process takes under 30 seconds. You have the option of changing both the order the stations appear in and changing the station name and descriptor using the Edit button on the remote, should you wish to -- useful if you want to personalise your stereo.
Once the stations are stored, you can cycle through them using the Channel +/- buttons. When you have selected a station, you have to wait 4 seconds for the radio to tune before being able to listen to a broadcast. Should you wish, you can manually tune the DAB, which may be useful in areas of poor reception.
Storing presets is very simple and intuitive, although you need to use the remote to do it. The system is flexible and allows personalisation as well as enabling you to store up to 60 stations as presets. Denon is obviously looking to the future here, because at the time of writing it's only possible to pick up 52 stations in London.
Accessing the presets is also painless. To cycle through the presets, press the Channel +/- buttons, and to cycle through the DAB stations, press the Tuner +/- buttons, which are only on the remote.
Scanning for FM and AM stations is again an easy procedure. Once FM has been selected on the tuner, you can either tune manually or scan for stations automatically. The D-M35DAB uses the very annoying standard 50KHz tuning interval for FM, a differentiation which is too broad and means you may as well just tune automatically. Presetting the FM and AM stations uses the same simple procedure as presetting the DAB stations. FM supports Radio Data System (RDS), so you can see station information.
When the D-M35 is in the DAB band, the display is clear, easily accessible and readable. By pressing the Time/Display button on the remote when a station is selected, you cycle through the information display. The stereo defaults to Data Label Segment (DLS), which means you have scrolling artist, song name and station promotional material flitting over the display panel. It moves across the screen at a good speed, and is legible. Other available information includes station name, programme type, ensemble name, frequency, signal quality, audio information (bit rate), and date and time. You can also turn off the display when it's on Standby, in order to save power, by pressing the Menu/Set button. The default setting shows the clock on Standby.
You need to use some kind of external recording device (either analogue or digital) if you want to record from the radio. This is made easier by the host of connections on the back.
There is an intuitive timer, which is very useful indeed. A simple set of menus lets you first choose what type of timer you would like to use: Everyday or Once. It's this kind of simplicity brought to a potentially complicated procedure that makes this machine such a joy to use. Once you have chosen the function you wish to use the timer with (eg CD, tuner), you can then be more specific (eg DAB, FM, AM, or programme the tracks on the CD). After this, just set the clock using the Menu/Set and Channel +/- buttons, turn the timer on, and you're away. The whole process is intuitive and quick.
Setting the sleep timer is also easy, but only possible from the remote. You can fall asleep listening to music and wake up to whatever you choose, and you don't have to turn the radio off again.
The Denon D-M35 sounds absolutely fantastic. This is due to improvements made to the circuitry inside, including audiophile grade capacitors in the amplifier, and an improved power supply. The speakers are little works of art -- the cabinets heavy, the woofers and tweeters inverted to improve dispersion. With the dust guards off, the speakers look and sound stunning. It's even possible to hook the system up to a subwoofer.
The imaging is very clear, and the bass and treble response is fantastic. The amp kicks out 22 Watts per channel, and as this micro component system is so well built, that's more than adequate. When testing the volume range we almost deafened ourselves and got complaints from all of our immediate neighbours (and some less immediate ones). CDs give a fuller, richer sound, but DAB is also impressively crystalline.
There are also adequate equaliser options -- both the bass and the treble can be turned up and down by 10 decibels, which is useful for getting the optimum sound. Our only slight complaint is that there is no gradation when turning the bass and treble up -- it's increments of one decibel or nothing.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide