NuForce AVP-18 Surround Processor


Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,095

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fulfills your innermost audiophile aspirations
Simple operation
Excellent proprietary room EQ
Minus
Kiss your sweet analog sources goodbye
Feature-wise, it’s missing a lot more than the kitchen sink

THE VERDICT
You’ll easily get through your diet of high-def viewing and listening with this great-sounding surround processor that works without a hitch.

I couldn’t make the John Mayer concert in Hartford a few weeks ago, but I heard it was great. Best I can do is throw the Born and Raised CD into the tray and set the AVP-18 surround processor to one of the DSP modes that turns a studio album into a concert event in your living room. Let’s see, he was at the open-air under-cover Comcast theater which has really great sound from most seats, so nothing slap-echo-happy like the over-the-top Stadium or Theater modes. Ahh, Rock has just the right amount of reverb tail.

NuForce may not be a name you’re familiar with. The company made a reputation for itself with a wide variety of Class D amplifiers that run from the affordable to reference class. The AVP-18 is NuForce's second foray into multichannel preamp/processing, relying heavily on the company’s extensive experience with audio DACs. NuForce has focused on the new breed of audiophiles and videophiles and cut the proverbial cord with the vinyl and VCR crowd. In other words, the AVP-18 is a straight-ahead digital processor. Don’t look for analog RCA jacks in the back for your 1972 McIntosh MR78 tuner.

Up front, you’ll find two large knobs that flank the LED display panel. Push the right knob in for a second to turn the AVP-18 on or off. After that, rotating it controls the volume. The left knob rotates to select the input. Pushing the left knob activates the AVP-18’s setup menu, at which point both knobs can be rotated or poked to adjust all your menu settings—but do so only if you also excel at rubbing your belly and patting your head simultaneously. The rest of us will use the remote to access the setup menu, control aspects of which are still a little funky but easily learned.

The back panel holds four HDMI inputs, which is enough for my DirecTV Genie, Panasonic Blu-ray player, an older Sony PS3, and a spare. Unfortunately, the AVP-18 only has one HDMI output, so if you have a projector for nighttime viewing, you’ll have to swap cables or spring for an external switcher or splitter. There are also two coaxial digital and two optical digital inputs for use with a CD transport or older DVD player.

There are eight analog RCA outputs for a 7.1 surround setup and a single digital coaxial output that carries the left- and right-channel signals but won’t give you a two-channel mix-down of a multichannel soundtrack. A single 12-volt trigger is available to turn another component on or off in sync with the AVP-18. Use of the trigger, along with lip sync control, is customizable by input.

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There’s a dedicated USB-3 port for a yet unreleased Bluetooth audio device. If you want to stream Spotify from your phone to the AVP-18 now, you can use NuForce’s existing BTR-100 Bluetooth receiver connected to one of the two optical digital jacks. An RS-232 port allows you to program the AVP-18 to work with a home automation system. Firmware updates can be done through an additional USB port, but little else—this is not a network-connected appliance. Lastly, there’s a microphone input for automated room equalization.

Special mention about the remote. While its single failing from my perspective is that its keys lack backlighting, in all other respects, it feels well designed and is easy to use. You’ll quickly learn where the two surround mode up/down keys are, as well as the EQ mode up/down keys, and not get them confused later because NuForce wisely chose to keep them relatively far apart. I don’t know how many times I’ve hit Skip and been taken to the beginning of a chapter on a poorly designed BD player remote when I simply meant to rewind a few seconds to catch some missed dialogue.

Nu Hear This
While many large AVR manufacturers have turned to industry leader Audyssey when it comes to room equalization, NuForce decided to roll their own. And what a fine job they did! The manual is extremely sparse when it comes to describing the steps to go through, and the online FAQ page is only somewhat better. From looking online, I learned that you should set the size, crossover point, and high-pass slopes for your speakers first before you plug in the calibration mic. If you don’t know what those terms mean, don’t look in the manual. If after running the EQ procedure you decide to experiment by, say, changing the crossover frequency for your center, or specifying a steeper 24-decibel slope for the surrounds, you need to first reset the AVP-18 to its factory defaults. That’s because it adds any subsequent EQ measurements you take on top of those already stored, giving you an average of sorts, but probably not what you want.

COMPANY INFO
NuForce
(408) 890-6840
ARTICLE CONTENTS
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COMMENTS
LordoftheRings's picture

It fails that one and yet it receives five stars!

Rob Sabin's picture
Our 5-Star Video rating was reflective of what ran in our magazine print version of this review, which was contingent on Nuforce resolving the clipping issue with a pending firmware update. Unfortunately, that clarification appeared in print but not here. The clipping issue has now been fully resolved in AVP-18 firmware version "AVP-18_Firmware_02172014" or later, available at the Nuforce Web site. See our Test Bench page for more information.
TimmyS's picture

I was looking at the circuit board for this unit and it looks in many areas suspiciously like some other "direct to consumer" brands unit that sells for much less and even has more inputs.

Could someone address this?

samchitwood's picture

They're also suspiciously similar...

I'm very disappointed at S&V for not mentioning the similarities to the other company's product. That product was also reviewed here months ago, so it's not like they can claim they didn't know about it.

Why I should pay nearly double for this unit? That should have been the core of this review. But this smells of product placement. That makes some people specifically choose another vendor.

LordoftheRings's picture
LordoftheRings's picture

Sorry, I don't know how to give direct links here.

Anyhow:

1. Emotiva UMC-200
2. Outlaw Model 975

* Perhaps it's up to the readers to compare, and not up to the reviewers?

hoffdano@gmail.com's picture

As exposed in other forums, the Nuforce unit appears to be an Emotive UMC200 in a different case with fewer inputs at about twice the price. Exact same remote, same front panel display, and other pics of the internals are nearly identical. The EQ behaves the same. Hard to see why the Nuforce is worth the price.

JAC's picture

This has been covered in other forums as it pops up, but this "clone" concept is put forth by those who don't know that many companies use OEM contractors to build their designs based on a pre-existing foundation.

The above mentioned companies are no different. The OEM offers a Chassis, and various foundational circuitry and or firmware, and the company then "SPECIFIES" what components/parts quality, functions, performance specifications, feature sets, and materials are to be used.

There are at least 4-5, if not more companies using this same chassis, and ALL of them offer different inputs/outputs, component parts, functions, and other features at various price ranges.

So these units may share "some" features that work the same, and some that work differently based on the firmware menus the Company selected. For example Processing Firmwares are ALL the same since Dolby Labs, DTS, etc require a strict adherence to performance parameters using specific processors.

For example the $9400 Bryston uses the same Processor chipset as some far less expensive Harman Kardon Receivers, because they work and function the same.

This practice is common, but making the assumption that the units are clones, displays only the ability to recognize the chassis size and "look". Upon closer inspection the differences and designs show clear differences.

It is up to you, to evaluate and figure out which best fits your needs, system quality, and budget.

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