Arcam Solo Movie 5.1 DVD Receiver Page 2

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The Short Form
Price $3,249 / / 317-841-4100
Truly high-end sound and picture from an elegant, delightfully compact component - at a price.
•Gorgeous, both in the flesh and onscreen •Top-shelf sound •Very good DVD images •DVD-receiver combo saves shelf space
•No video scaling of external sources or transcoding of video signals •No analog multichannel inputs •Remote's ergonomics could be better
Key Features
•Slim-profile DVD/receiver combo •50 watts x 5 channels •Inputs: 2 HDMI, 2 component-/composite-video; IR in (2-zone); 12-volt trigger; RS-232; port for optional iPod dock or cable •Outputs: HDMI, component-video, composite-video, IR, 5 analog preouts •FM/AM tuner with 30 presets, RDS •17.3 x 3.1 x 14 in; 23 lb
Test Bench
The Solo Movie 5.1 measured well in almost all regards. Power was generous for a 50-watt x 5 design, and it had no trouble producing 71 watts with all channels driven. Noise and distortion were excellent on the digital-input tests (stereo PCM and Dolby Digital) but didn't improve much with 96-kHz/24-bit PCM sources. With the Arcam's merely average analog-input (stereo) noise performance, this suggests that its analog output circuits are the limiting factor here. Full Lab Results
SETUP Setup for the Solo Movie was a snap. After connecting my usual satellite speakers and subwoofer, I followed Arcam's clear, elegantly produced manual to the setup screen. Wow! The onscreen displays are gorgeous, with sharp graphics of a visual standard rarely equaled even among flagship receivers, displayed in whatever resolution you set over HDMI (or in 480p if viewed via the component output). Since the Arcam includes DVD video scaling, setup incorporates output-resolution choices of 720p and 1080i - and, unusually, 768p (1,366 x 768), which could be handy with a plasma or LCD TV whose pixel-for-pixel native resolution matches this. DVD resolution from the component output remains at 480p (or 480i), though external component (or HDMI) sources pass through in whatever format they originate in. As usual with upconverting DVD players, only the HDMI output enjoys upscaling, so owners of non-HDMI screens may feel shortchanged.

The Arcam doesn't transcode video, so signals are available only in the format (composite, component, or HDMI) in which they arrive at the receiver. That means you can't hook up an external source to the component inputs and then view it on the HDMI output. So if your set-top box, say, lacks HDMI, you'd normally want to run parallel HDMI and component-video hookups between the Solo Movie and your screen and then switch TV inputs as needed. But there's a catch: The Arcam shuts off its component output when it has a live connection on its HDMI output, and vice versa. This limits you in practical terms to an all-component or all-HDMI setup, at least for gear connected through the receiver.

Audio setup was strictly manual - the Arcam lacks the auto-calibration routine found on many recent A/V receivers - but it was easy and accurate thanks to the stunning menus and logical layout.

MUSIC & MOVIES Listening to plain ol' stereo quickly demonstrated the Solo Movie's native quality level: very high. Good discs sounded crisp and punchy but with the roundness to instruments and the lusciousness of space that require top-shelf amplification to reproduce. Since the Arcam is an SACD (and DVD-A) player as well, I quickly moved on to multichannel stuff, such as a new reissue of Rebecca Pidgeon's 1994 debut, The Raven, from audiophile label Chesky. This classic's unpolished but preternaturally lifelike room sound came blooming from my speakers with much the same stunning spaciousness I have heard from high-end separates. Pidgeon's well-modulated alto had rigorous definition and detail, as did the various acoustic instruments employed to complement it. A Solo Movie bonus is the attractive navigation menu it puts up on the video screen, which lets you select or program tracks (via artist, title, and track names, where they're encoded) and gain access to any disc extras.