SURROUND PROCESSOR REVIEWS

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Michael Fremer Posted: Oct 20, 2010 2 comments
Price: $4,998 At A Glance: Superior surround processor sonics • Excellent ergonomics • Cool-running ICEpower amp lacks definition

The Ladder to the High End

You’ve got to have sympathy for sound- and build-quality-oriented A/V electronics manufacturers like Rotel. You can go online, and for four hundred bucks and change buy a “630-watt” 7.1-channel AVR from a big-name manufacturer with all the latest lossless audio decoding from Dolby and DTS, video processing, 1080p HDMI switching, upconversion, and more. Since many people these days don’t care about good sound and because they’ve never actually heard it, they think, “Everything sounds the same.” And they think they should get it all for a pittance.

Fred Manteghian Posted: Sep 21, 2010 1 comments

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Price: $18,000 At A Glance: Audio is smooth yet highly detailed • Amp has power to drive cattle • Great ergonomics • Spartan video

HT editor Shane Buettner laughed at me when I told him I spent two months strength training before the Revel Salon2 speakers arrived at my home last year.

Kris Deering Posted: May 03, 2010 0 comments
Price: $2,300 At A Glance: Bleeding-edge surround sound processing includes 9.2 Audyssey DSX • State-of-the-art video processing • Internet and home network streaming

Third One’s a Charm

In the separates world, we seldom see a lot of change within a short period of time. With A/V receivers, manufacturers almost customarily update their lines yearly, introducing new features and aesthetics that beckon for your dollar. On the other hand, surround processors are usually a slow burn. New versions hit the shelves every few years. Plus, manufacturers offer upgrades to existing models, so you don’t have to buy new equipment every time there’s a new whiz-bang format.

Michael Fremer Posted: Apr 12, 2010 0 comments

Cinema 11a Surround Processor
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Model 7.125 Amplifier
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Price: $8,000 At A Glance: Minimal video-switching capabilities • Maximum sound quality • Amplifier made in America

Core Audiophile Values

During the last decade or so, specialty audio manufacturers have seen the marriage of home theater and high-performance audio become contentious at best and life threatening at worst. These days, companies have fewer financial resources and longer R&D lead times. Relatively small audiophile-oriented companies that sought the A/V path have been overwhelmed. Sometimes, fast-moving, shelf-life-shortening developments­—such as the adaptation of new audio and video formats—have burned these companies outright.

Kris Deering Posted: Jul 27, 2009 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
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Price: $15,000 At A Glance: State-of-the-art video and audio performance • Customizable amplifier • Sets the bar for connectivity • Tedious GUI and remote

Both Guns Blazing

The separates market has long been the pinnacle of audio performance for high-end home theater setups. But you’ve always had to pay a price for that performance: the lack of bleeding-edge features. While standalone processors typically set the bar for pure audio performance, many of them lack the latest features that A/V receivers offer. I’ve been guilty of envious glances at the latest high-end receiver designs, wishing that those cutting-edge features would find their way into a reference-level surround processor. But unfortunately that hasn’t been the reality—until now, that is.

Kris Deering Posted: May 26, 2009 0 comments
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Outstanding video processing • All of the latest audio flavors • Dynamic EQ offers exciting experiences at lower volumes

More Bang, Less Buck

Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Integra DTC-9.8 surround processor (HT, May 2008). The DTC-9.8 was one of the first processors to offer full decoding abilities for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and it included state-of-the-art video processing. But one of the DTC-9.8’s best features was its price. Seldom do we see a feature-rich processor that’s south of the $2,000 price point.

Michael Fremer Posted: Oct 13, 2008 0 comments
An Antidote to the AVR

With flagship A/V receivers approaching apartment building size and black-hole heft, there’s a great deal to be said about separating the brains of the operation from the brawn. If you choose separates, it means you never have to borrow a construction crane to hoist a feature-laden, mega-watt seven- or eight-channel receiver onto a tall equipment rack.

Fred Manteghian Posted: Oct 06, 2008 0 comments
Separates Are What Keep Us Apart

Back in the days when CRT front projectors roamed the earth, any serious home theater required a separate surround processor and amplifier. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to find a Tri-Amplisauri from Parasound, Proceed, and others covering those three all-important front channels. Of course, technology has advanced significantly in the past decade. These days, unless you have some very special needs, you can’t go wrong with today’s powerful and reasonably priced one-piece receivers. Many have more amplified channels than Hillary Clinton has pant suits. Rotel makes a number of A/V receivers. I even reviewed one for UltimateAVmag.com a few years ago. But the separates I reviewed here are not simply a case of cutting the baby in half. This here is a new species.

Shane Buettner Posted: Sep 22, 2008 1 comments
Worthy of a sequel.

When we first reviewed Anthem’s Statement D2 in the December 2006 issue, HDMI switching was just emerging. But it wasn’t as crucial as it is today, now that next-gen audio and video applications are firmly established. There’s a story to be told in how the Statement D2 increased its utility in the connectivity tumult of these last two years. And there’s another story in its ability to stand tall even now, as onboard decoding of the advanced audio formats is now emerging in AVRs and pre/pros. The Statement D2 has adapted to the evolving standards and features that HDMI carries. Now at $7,499, the Statement D2 offers an advanced auto-setup and room-calibration system that furthers its value. It’s worth a fresh look.

Kris Deering Posted: Apr 07, 2008 0 comments
Next-generation audio/video controller.

Integra raised a lot of eyebrows when it announced the new DTC-9.8 A/V processor at CEDIA last year. Not only was this the first pre/pro on the market to offer decoding of the next-gen audio codecs from Dolby and DTS, it also boasts Silicon Optix video processing and highly sophisticated Audyssey room correction. And its $1,600 price point was almost unheard of in the separates market.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 26, 2008 0 comments
Hide your credit cards now before it's too late.

My son, Nick, recently attended an engineering weekend for high-school seniors at a nearby university. After splitting into teams, the attendees competed in several engineering challenges, one of which was to build a contraption made from a meager assortment of supplied materials (including an Alka-Seltzer tablet) that would move a small toy car across a pan of water.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 22, 2007 Published: Feb 22, 2007 0 comments
Multinational speakers meet American amps.

On the battlefield of speaker design, I am the triage nurse. I walk into speaker demo rooms at trade shows, my badge sometimes inadvertently turned inward, listen for a moment, and quietly mutter to myself, "This one's a keeper," or, "He's dead, Jim." Or occasionally just, "Hmmm," because good speakers may sound iffy under bad conditions, and I respect the potential buried within an ambiguous first take. But, if my instincts tell me to pursue a review, I whip out a business card and start making arrangements on the spot.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Jan 26, 2007 0 comments
They want to take you higher.

The component that put NAD on the map in the mid 1970s—the 3020 integrated stereo amplifier—didn't look like a giant killer. Finished in an indeterminate shade of grayish-brown and devoid of gee-whiz features, the 3020 nevertheless became one of the best-selling audiophile amplifiers of all time—and not just because it sounded better than anything going for two or three times its humble MSRP. The 3020 had that special something that made it, well, lovable. Over the decades, the engineers squeezed a bit of the 3020's magic into every NAD product, but they've pulled out all the stops with the new Masters Series components. They had to, as the ultimate NADs are competing with the likes of Anthem, Arcam, B&K, and Rotel. They're playing with the big boys now.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 31, 2006 0 comments
Close to the edge.

I'm constantly amazed by the steadily improving sound of real-world-priced components, but it's fun to see how far mind-bogglingly fantastic high-end electronics have come. Yes, I have to admit that there's a certain amount of poseur gear that sports nosebleed pricing but doesn't really deliver sound that's much better than everyday good stuff. Have no such worries here, though. Anthem's Statement D2 surround processor and P5 amplifier are the real deal. Even by high-end standards, their capabilities are inspired.

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Dec 04, 2006 Published: Nov 04, 2006 0 comments
Grander than ever.

While Sunfire's Bob Carver isn't quite the household name that Apple's Steve Jobs is, he absolutely qualifies as a bona fide audio legend. Carver's greatest hits range from his early high-power amplifier, the 350-watt-per-channel Phase Linear 700, to Sonic Holography, Bob's virtual-surround generator. Carver also did much to inspire the new breed of super-potent, ultracompact subwoofers with his much-copied Sunfire True. His knack for audio innovation pumped my expectations for a couple of his latest creations, Sunfire's Theater Grand TGP-5 pre/pro and the TGA-5400, a 400-watt-per-channel amplifier.

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