"Roger, Niner Niner, I've got you on my radar!"
The Sherwood Newcastle R-972 won't be out until April '08, but I sat down for a demo of their new receiver. What sets it apart from other 4 HMDI in (1 out) AVRs is their Trinnov Optimizer. The fuzzy shot above shows green speakers along the peripheral of the coincentric circles that describe the speaker placement positions used during soundtrack mastering. The smaller red speaker positions show where people normally put them. By generating tones, I was told, the Sherwood receiver will figure out where you've placed speakers in your room, and compensate for it. I asked if you'd get that great on-screen display with the R-972's implementation, but alas, no. However, you can interface your laptop to the receiver and work with the setup that way.
On the gimmicky side of things, you can "recenter" your listening perspective, so that if you go from you easy chair to your nappy couch, the speakers can reconfigure so that the stereo image is still in front of you using, say, the left front and left side channel to get you there. Like I said, a little gimmicky, but cool.
The sound I heard was interesting, but with two channel audio on a disc I produced, bass seemed be reduced noticeably. On the other hand, the strength of the center image was also noticeably improved. We're seriously interested in hearing this in our own ill-configured home theater, my precious.
Another pretty amazing feat for the Sherwood is inclusion of Silicon Optix Reon processing which will scale video to anything between 480p and 1080p, and it will do so for halp the price of the big Denon. $1,800.