Review: Arcam FMJ AVR400 A/V Receiver

Once, all you needed to enter the receiver business was audio-engineering chops, competence in packaging efficiency, and a sharp pencil over the bottom line. That was then before the digital audio/video revolution and the birth of the A/V receiver as we know it. Today, you need at least as much smartsin the computer, DSP, and software/firmware fieldsas you do in plain ol’ audio, a fact that has thinned,and continues to thin, the herd of receiver makers noticeably.

Arcam is one of the survivors — perhaps due to its early embrace of digital audio, its rational-price high-end-market positioning, or simply its British, bulldog-breed stubbornness. Whatever the reasons, we consumers are the beneficiaries of a new, three-model lineup of handsome, HDMI 1.4-equipped Arcam A/V receivers, of which the FMJ AVR400 is the least costly. The significantly more expensive AVR600 and AVR800 appear to share an entirely different hardware architecture (despite the 400’s similar, knob-less appearance), though their feature sets, and even power ratings, are not so very much grander, at least on paper.

 

Setup

 

The days when installing a new A/V receiver required a lab coat and pocket protector are largely behind us, thanks to the simplicity introduced by one-cable HDMI connectivity along with auto-setup routines. Arcam has its own Arcam Auto Setup, which selects speaker size (crossover-point) and level settings, and performs simple room-correction equalization. (I say simple, because it acquires data from just the one primary listening position, which as I understand these things substantially limits corrective precision.)

In any event, setup was a snap. The AVR400 produced the usual sequential noise bursts, and the results, at least in terms of speaker levels and crossovers, proved consistent with my oft-repeated manual measurements of my speakers and room. The final destination was an obviously smoother, warmer presentation, attractive enough though quite different from those produced by other auto-EQ systems I’ve employed in the same room and system. Possibly, Arcam dials in a classically British top-octaves treble “tilt” by design. Whatever the case, in the interest of parity, I as always performed my extended auditions with the room-EQ feature defeated.

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