Audioaccess W.H.E.N. Audio/Video Distribution/Surround System Page 4

The Short Form

Price $7,019 (as tested) / / 888-691-4171
W.H.E.N.'s powerful combination of functions is attractive, but its limitations may make some installers think twice.
•Complete home theater and distributed A/V solution •Intercom system beats most standalones •Easy-to-use keypads
•Keypads offer limited source control •iPod control is very slow •Faroudja video adjustments tough to use •No HDMI inputs
Key Features
System as tested: AVR21EN receiver ($2,199) (6) KP21 keypad controllers ($499 each) AVH21 audio/video distribution hub ($699) WPS21 power-supply hub ($399) SPFKIT source power flag kit ($230) aDock iPod docking station/controller ($498) •8 sources plus local source in each zone •20 zones max •70 watts x 7 (AVR21EN receiver); 50 watts x 2 (KP21 keypad) •Faroudja DCDi video processing/upconversion •iPod integration with aDock controller
PERFORMANCE As a home theater receiver, the W.H.E.N.'s AVR21EN was a solid performer, and its 70-watt digital amplifiers should be capable of driving most speakers and filling average-sized listening rooms. My reference receiver, a 125-watt THX Ultra certified model, had more punch, depth, and top end. But with pre-outs available for all of the AVR21EN's channels, adding outboard amplification would be a snap.

The W.H.E.N.'s remote is packed with more than 70 buttons, which will be overwhelming to many users. Because of the unique way that IR signals are sent - proprietary codes from the remote trigger the receiver to transmit the correct IR signals to control source and display components - adding a universal remote is a bit trickier than normal. But it's doable, and recommended for long-term system enjoyment. Also, the keypads don't respond to the supplied remote control but, rather, to the optional KP21R zone remote ($100).

I do have two operational complaints with the receiver. First is its inability to hold certain settings. My monitor's native resolution is 720p, so I wanted the receiver's HDMI output to match. Yet any time a 1080i signal came along, the receiver switched to 1080i and remained there. Likewise, I prefer leaving the surround- back speakers engaged at all times, but the receiver constantly reverted to plain Dolby Digital, kicking out of the Dolby PLIIx mode I had selected. (Audioaccess says that the back-speaker issue will be addressed in a future firmware upgrade.)

My second complaint: Audioaccess touts its use of Faroudja's video-scaling technology, which offers various adjustments for fine-tuning the picture. Sadly, these adjustments are essentially useless because they are accessible only when the receiver's static blue menu is onscreen. That's a real oversight.

Distributing audio and video signals to the four corners of your home is what truly separates the W.H.E.N. system from other A/V receivers, and your primary control interface in other zones will be the keypads. They have a nice large display with blue, green, or aqua backlighting and not too many buttons. This greatly simplifies navigating and making selections, and anyone should master them quickly.