AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 28, 2011 5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $999 At A Glance: Homegrown room correction and listening modes • Rated 60 watts into 8 ohms with five channels driven • 3D ready via software upgrade

An Anthem A/V receiver? AVRs were Anathema to anthem, I mean anathema to Anthem, until recently. This company’s heart has always been in surround separates—bleeding-edge surround processors, muscle amps that live on steak and steroids. The quintessential Anthem product—to digress from the main subject for a moment—would be the P5 five-channel amplifier, basically five 325-watt monoblocks in a single gut-busting enclosure.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jul 25, 2011 0 comments
Price: $2,499 At A Glance: Rated 90 watts x7 with all channels driven • Dolby Volume reconciles dialogue and effects • First 3D-compatible Arcam A/V receiver

Daddy, Am I High End?

What exactly is a high-end A/V receiver? Is it the most expensive and feature-rich model in a manufacturer’s line? Is it a model with power specs above a certain level? Is it a model that sells above a certain price point? Is it any model from a manufacturer with a high-end pedigree? There are some who insist the phrase “high-end A/V receiver” is a contradiction in terms. Before we split any more hairs, let’s all favor that kind of person with a dirty look. Under certain circumstances, it might be OK to throw a martini in his smug little face.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Apr 11, 2011 0 comments
Price: $600 At A Glance: Slim A/V receiver with energy-saving Class D amplification • Variety of streaming content via VuNow and PlayOn • Dolby Volume low-volume listening mode

Internet in a Boxx

As networked media features steadily infiltrate HDTVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, and other audio/video products, streaming may be upstaging 3D as the must-have technology. The question is how to get streaming into your system. Do you want your choice of HDTV to hinge on streaming features—as opposed to, say, picture quality? While that may be the ideal solution for some, others will seek ways of smuggling streaming into their racks via smaller purchases such as Blu-ray players, set-top boxes—or A/V receivers, like the Sherwood R-904N NetBoxx. At $650, it delivers a huge array of networked media features for a nice price.

Filed under
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 11, 2011 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,400 At A Glance: THX Select2 Plus certified for medium-size rooms • Audyssey MultEQ, DSX, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume • Loaded with networked audio features

Like My Tattoo?

Once, tattoos were restricted to dock workers and people in dubious professions. Now they’re mainstream: You practically can’t be a musician, actor, or accountant without one. Why? Scientists are baffled. Maybe the bodyart lobby put something in the drinking water. In any case, the Integra DTR-50.2 is as tattooed as any rock star. I counted 11 logos on the front panel, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Just as many people add more tattoos on, um, intimate parts of the body, this AVR’s Webpage boasts a total of 27. True, some of them are small change: Do we really need logos for USB and Zone 3? But this AVR’s cornucopia is fairly bursting with meaningful logos from THX, Audyssey, and—my new favorite—Slacker.

Filed under
Fred Manteghian Posted: Feb 23, 2011 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Light on bells and whistles, heavy on high-end sound • Anthem Room Correction worth the additional effort • High value from a true high-end brand

Anthem Lite and Right

When I hear “Anthem,” I also usually hear “ka-ching!” Anthem’s Statement D2v surround processor sells for a cool $8,500, which is enough cash to keep a Colorado hippie blazing in medical marijuana for years. The MRX 700 is the company’s welcome foray into the world of down-to-earth-priced AVRs, punctuated by the inclusion of the same Anthem Room Correction (ARC) system the company uses in its costlier separates. Anthem’s proprietary room correction alone might be enough to swing some consumers’ decision. Those who’ve used ARC with Anthem’s separates (including some people employed by this fine publication) hold it in high regard. An AVR at the MRX 700’s $2,000 price point is going to be up against a lot of stiff competition. Will Anthem pull it off, or is its first attempt at a killer AVR for the masses about to go up in smoke?

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 20, 2011 1 comments
Price: $749 At A Glance: Top model in regular line • THX Select2 Plus certification, proprietary auto setup • Marvell video processing, DPLIIz height enhancement

Not Elite but Neat

Like Sony, Pioneer maintains two separate A/V receiver lines. Pioneer Elite emphasizes build quality and power while providing all the latest features. The line simply known as Pioneer emphasizes value while providing nearly as many of the latest features as Elite. They both succeed handsomely. Over the summer, Pioneer updated both lines. Having already dived into the bottomless pool of joy that is the Elite SC-37 [HT, December 2010], top model among the new Elites, I was ready to slide the regular Pioneer line’s top model into my rack’s guest AVR berth.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 27, 2010 8 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,600 At A Glance: Top-line model with porthole front panel • Step-up Audyssey MultEQ XT auto setup • DLNA, Bluetooth, Pandora, vTuner, Rhapsody, Napster

Porthole Chic

It’s not unusual for a Marantz A/V receiver to have a curved front panel, inspired by the company’s high-end two-channel gear. But this one has an unusual twist found in no other AVR models (so far). Between the usual volume and source-select knobs is a porthole display. It’s not large enough to support much information—but if you flip down the large door below it, another display appears.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 20, 2010 4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Vibration-killing fifth foot and other refinements • HQV Vida video processing, DLNA certification • Proprietary YPAO auto setup and room correction

On the Right Foot

Surround aficionados often look at the front and back panels of an A/V receiver under consideration. But how often do we flip over the AVR and look at its bottom? If you do that with the Yamaha Aventage RX-A2000, you’ll see a total of five feet. The fifth foot, Yamaha’s press release explains, is there “to improve structural rigidity, reduce vibration, and improve sound.” Some Aventage models also include double-bottom construction and other improved parts. With all these changes, Yamaha is confident enough to add an extra year to the warranty, now three years for Aventage AVRs.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 15, 2010 0 comments
Price: $899 At A Glance: 3D and HDMI 1.4a • Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume • DPLIIz height enhancement with seven channels • Built-in digital HD Radio tuner

Installer’s Pet

It’s not every day that I get to review a product from a 100-year-old brand name. But Denon is indeed celebrating its centenary in 2010.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 06, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Middle AVR in Sony’s higher-end ES line • Numerous custom-install and remote options • DLNA, SHOUTcast, Rhapsody network features

Sony Goes It Alone

Sony recently announced that it would begin selling its ES products only through A/V specialty retailers, from Best Buy’s Magnolia down to smaller independent retailers. No longer will you find these products online, not even through Sony’s own sonystyle.com. This will give Sony more control over pricing. More important to the consumer is the fact that Sony is reorienting its better AVRs to retailers who can give convincing demos and cater to the needs of custom installation and higher-end home theater.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 06, 2010 4 comments
Price: $2,200 At A Glance: THX Ultra2 Plus certification including Volume Plus • Energy-efficient ICEpower amplification • Cornucopia of listening modes

Listening a la Modes

Must...write...lead.... Knew I shouldn’t have left...this...for...last.... Overwhelmed with features.... All those listening modes (gasp).... Running out of space.... Help me.... Help me....

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Fred Manteghian Posted: Nov 29, 2010 3 comments
Price: $2,699 At A Glance: Gobs of clean power • Super ergonomics and my favorite onscreen display • Super-detailed audio

A Bigger Boat

So the red-felt-topped pool table with the Bud Light (get it?) lamp suspended above it in your man cave doesn’t illicit “oohs” and “aahs” from visitors like it once did? Maybe it’s time to re-create that 1980s Crazy Eddie’s look by installing a showroom’s worth of speakers and driving them with the Onkyo TX-NR5008 AVR.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Oct 25, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: A/V receiver with integrated Blu-ray drive • Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume • USB port for direct iPod connection

Looking for the Right Fit

Let’s say you hit the mall looking for a leather jacket. You find a store with an especially nice selection and immerse yourself in the joy of leather. At first, you just walk around enjoying the sights. But then you refine your search: by color, style, material, lining, presence or absence of shoulder padding, the mechanical integrity of the zipper, and the little things, like whether there’s a fastened interior pocket the right size for your iPhone. Finally you hit the target, finding the jacket line that meets all of your specifications. You begin pawing through jackets, at first enjoying the little thrill of handling something you actually may buy. You paw through some more, getting nervous. Finally, you reach the end of the rack, and you’re frantic. You turn around, find a salesperson standing there, and ask: “Is this jacket available in a small?” The salesperson smirks and answers: “Sorry, sir, we only have that in large or extra-large.”

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Aug 15, 2010 0 comments
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: Second- and third-zone A-BUS keypad outputs with video • Extra channels to biamp front speakers • Audio Split mode • Optional iPod dock

Simpler Sounds Better

I’m not sure I qualify as an Anglophile, but I do like most things British—except for spotted dick. Even after you know that it’s just steamed suet pudding, it still doesn’t sound any better. So I expected that I’d feel a continually growing affinity for the new Azur 650R AVR from Cambridge Audio (that’s the “other” Cambridge for you Massachusetters). Since it began in 1968, the company has made a well-respected, high-fidelity name for itself. It even built the world’s first two-box CD player. After a tough time in the mid-’80s, Cambridge Audio was acquired by Audio Partnership, which currently owns a number of other venerable U.K. brands. As I hear them tell it, this economy of scale is a good thing for Cambridge Audio—and something that most higher-end companies don’t normally enjoy—because such a spread of brands lets the parent company employ an unusually high percentage of engineers on their staff (almost 40 percent). They happily tell the fact as if it guarantees them success and good cheer. Or at least good gear. I certainly expected it to be that way. I was initially impressed by the specs and build quality, so it surprised me when I didn’t keep that warm and fuzzy-logic feeling after I first set up the Azur 650R. In fact, I began to think that maybe Audio Partnership had hired too many engineers.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Aug 09, 2010 0 comments
toppick.jpgPrice: $599 At A Glance: First THX-certified 3D-capable AVR • HDMI 1.4a includes all current 3D formats • Width or height processing via Audyssey DSX

THX and 3D

Many tributaries feed the mighty Mississippi. South of the Twin Cities, the Minnesota River gushes in. In Wisconsin, it is joined by the St. Croix River, the Black River, the La Crosse River, the Root River, and the Wisconsin River. Then come the Rock, Iowa, Skunk, Des Moines, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Platte, Arkansas, Yazoo, and Atchafalaya rivers—all gliding in until the increasingly vast Mississippi ends its epic American journey at the Gulf of Mexico. I’m typing out all of this for two reasons. Contemplating the American landscape is an awe-inspiring pleasure—and pleasure is what I’m all about.

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