AudioControl Concert AVR-1 A/V Receiver

Price: $5,500 At A Glance: Class H amplification delivers lots of peak power • Dolby Volume tames dynamic extremes • Offers the transparency and power of separates

Powerful But Clever

The AudioControl Concert AVR-1 embodies the paradox of high-end A/V receivers. Befitting an audiophile product, its Class H amplification can take an input signal and fill a room with commendable transparency and power. At the same time, it departs from strict fidelity to the input signal by offering pragmatic features like Dolby Volume and room correction. Let’s take a closer look at its dual nature.

AudioControl likens its implementation of Class H amp topology to a car’s transmission shifting gears. At low volumes, the amp powers its output devices from a low-voltage rail. When it needs more power, it shifts to a high-voltage rail. On a technical level, this means less energy dissipated as heat, smaller heat sinks, less component stress, better reliability, and high performance with real-world reactive loads. Simply put, AudioControl can pack gutsier amps into a box that’s no larger than a conventional A/V receiver and still shave a penny or two off your power bill.

Dolby Volume is one of several new listening modes from various format licensors. Its direct competitors (not present here) include THX Loudness Plus and the one-two punch of Audyssey Dynamic Volume and Audyssey Dynamic EQ. Dolby Volume does two useful things. First, it evens out levels among input sources. It also uses sophisticated processing to narrow the dynamic extremes of source material—especially movie soundtracks—to spare the ears of real-world listeners. Of course, if you want a no-holds-barred experience in a bleeding-edge home theater system, you’ll need to switch it off. But as I’ll discuss below, the Matrix movies would be unbearable without this kind of dynamic adjustment.

You can have your cake and eat it too. The AVR-1 can deliver remarkable dynamics. But it has the finesse to apply its power with selective and surgical precision. And it makes it all look (and sound) easy.

Monster in Blue
At 60 pounds, the Concert AVR-1 is a monster. Everything that lights up on the front panel is blue, including the LED display and control legends. The back panel is a model of logical organization, with all of the input types and speaker terminals arranged in neat columns. If you’re a neatnik about cable management, you may like this.

The front-panel controls are minimal. They include a large volume ring at right, with the AudioControl logo inside it, and 11 small buttons. The latter are for menu navigation, source selection, and some listening modes. However, given AudioControl’s positioning in the custom install industry, you’ll likely use a touchscreen or other interface set up by a pro. AudioControl will supply various remotes at extra cost. The remote that came with the review unit worked fine. It has a liquid-crystal window and resembles some products from Universal Remote Control.

The graphic user interface—in black, white, and green—is fairly straightforward. Various audio and video adjustments, including Dolby Volume settings, are adjustable for each signal source in the Input Configuration menu. This was the only thing that drove me to the admirably plain-spoken manual, which mirrors the product’s relative simplicity (at least by AVR standards).

Feature highlights include Pixelworks video processing and a proprietary auto setup and room correction system. Via the Ethernet connection, the receiver can play Internet radio or get music off a PC’s hard drive, including lossless FLAC and Ogg files along with the standard lossy codecs.

A note on pricing: Most AudioControl products are professionally installed. In lieu of a manufacturer’s suggested retail price, this product would appear in a system bid for about $5,500.

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