Review: Arcam FMJ AVR400 A/V Receiver Page 2

 

Performance

 

“She’s only 50 watts, but they sound like a hundred!” That classic salesperson’s line has some truth on rare occasions, and this is one of them. Arcam’s receiver, despite its slightly modest ratings, sounded superb from the first, and never once suggested that it had a third or so less power than most of its same-price competitors. (In fairness, power differences of less than double rarely do.)

My everyday setup combines a very well-respected 7-channel power amp of 150 watts per, a flagship preamp/processor from a couple years back, and a mixed suite of speakers of somewhat lower-than-average sensitivity. With the AVR400 in its place, I would never have known the difference if a black curtain had been placed to conceal the gear rack.

Among the recent additions to my multichannel SACD collection (sadly, a dwindling trickle) is a remaster of a 1970s quad production of the Saints-Saëns Cello Concertos, from PentaTone Classics (distributed by Naxos). The production’s warm, expansive sound, including the mellow attack of cellist Christine Walevska, were entirely transporting. Realistic, first-section concert levels of the big 19th-century orchestra were no problem whatsoever; Arcam has indeed managed the trick of producing a modestly powerful design that outperforms its ratings, in an integrated receiver that “sounds like separates.” (The AVR400 does not direct-decode DSD, alas, so I was listening to my player’s PCM stream.)

Tron: Legacy isn’t a film I can recommend to anyone not trolling for demo or test material. Thankfully, I was doing exactly that. The Light Cycle race sequence beginning with Chapter 7, for example, let the Arcam display its full muscle to good effect, with the DTSHD Master Audio soundtrack’s powerful effects zooming seamlessly across, behind, and around the listener, with occasionally breathtaking impact. Arcam employs upper-echelon video processing in the form of Faroudja’s Torino processing engine. Our standard rotation of eyes-on tests revealed no misbehavior, and standard-def sources looked quite clean and solid via the AVR400’s upconverted HDMI output.

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