Anthem AVM 50v Preamp/processor Page 2

PERFORMANCE

The AVM 50v turned out to be a very capable controller - nimble, responsive, and virtually free of HDMI-related glitches. And its video performance was truly top-notch. High-def signals were switched with no degradation, and standard-def ones coming in via analog and digital connections and then upconverted by the processor looked uniformly solid and clean.

I can say this without hesitation: ARC noticeably improved my system's sound. When I watched the animated movie Up with the Anthem's correction mode active, dialogue sounded smoother, and low-frequency effects in the storm sequence where Carl Fredricksen's floating house gets blown about displayed greater extension and impact. Of course, the benefits were even more evident with music. Cueing up Mazzy Star's "Flowers in December," from Among My Swan, bass-guitar notes sounded tighter and more nuanced than they did when listening to the same track with ARC switched off. And the cleaned-up bass allowed more space for Hope Sandoval's languid vocals to breathe.

ERGONOMICS

Anthem's upgrades for the AVM 50v don't extend to its remote control. But over the years, I've come to appreciate this handset, with its backlit keypad, multiple buttons for direct sourceswitching, and separate buttons to trim front L/R, center, surround, and subwoofer levels on the fly. A few operations - aspect ratio and dynamic range mode selection, for example - need to be accessed by pressing a button that does double duty controlling an entirely different function and holding it down for a few seconds. Keeping track of which button does what can sometimes be tough, but it beats dealing with a hopelessly cluttered remote.

Anthem also didn't bother to give the AVM 50v's onscreen menus and information displays a makeover this time out. Not that I'm complaining: Although basic in appearance, both text and menus are easy to read and quick to scroll through via remote control.

BOTTOM LINE

Anthem's AVM 50v is a worthy successor to the company's AVM 50 preamp/processor, bringing a number of welcome audio features like the company's impressive ARC room-correction and built-in Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack decoding. Video, too, gets a bump up with Anthem's addition of block and mosquito noise reduction. I've often told friends and colleagues that if you're going to buy an A/V preamp/processor, Anthem is the brand to get. After spending time with the company's new AVM 50v, it's clear that there's no reason at all for me to change my tune.

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