AudioControl Maestro M2e Preamp/Processor and Savoy Power Amp Page 2

The Short Form
Price $2,399 (Maestro M2e), $2,499 (Savoy) / / 425-775-8461
Behind utilitarian looks and features lie superb made-in-America performance - and plenty of American ingenuity.
•Outstanding audio and video performance •Efficient amp yields high power from a compact box •Balanced output for long HD runs
•No video scaling or HDMI conversion •No onscreen graphics on HDMI or in high-def •Industrial cosmetics may underwhelm
Key Features
•150 watts x 7 •2 HDMI inputs (1080p) •Transcodes S-/composite-video to component-video •Balanced audio inputs and outputs (XLR) for all channels •Active-balanced video output sends HD-capable component-video and digital audio up to 300 feet •FM/AM tuner •IR in (2-zone) and out; 12-volt trigger outs (3); RS-232 serial port •17 x 5.3 x 15.5 in, 30 lb (Maestro M2e); 17 x 5.8 x 15.8 inches, 41 lb (Savoy)
Test Bench
AudioControl's duo produced very impressive power in all tests, which was surprising for a relatively compact and light amplifier. The Savoy met its 150-watt spec even with all 7 channels driven (hitting 157 wpc), and surpassed it by wide margins in our stereo and five-channel trials. Other results were generally very good; noise performance was the one area in which the pairing was merely average, yielding noise figures 2 to 5 dB higher than those of the best units we've tested. But only the analog-multichannel-input noise measurement - a below-average -77.4 dBW - might in my opinion approach audibility, and then only on truly excellent SACD or DVD-A material auditioned on low-sensitivity speakers at reference levels in a quiet room. Full Lab Results

Both components are simply but solidly constructed on metal chassis, with evident care both inside and out. None but perhaps a Soviet-era apartment-block architect would call them elegant - but in electronics, as in life, handsome tends to be much as Forrest Gump's mama always told him. Anyway, these components are more likely to live in a cabinet or an equipment closet than under an accent light.

Setup Since both AudioControls include pro-style balanced (XLR) inputs/outputs for all channels, I used high-quality XLR cables between the pre/pro and the amp for the LCR channels. (This doesn't make a meaningful difference over short runs, but it could reduce noise pickup on long runs in some systems.) Meanwhile, I found when I went to hook up my sources that the Maestro M2e's HDMI connectivity is strictly first-generation - that is, digital-video-only, requiring a coax digital-audio connection alongside HDMI for my Blu-ray Disc player. And since the pre/pro sends no onscreen graphics via HDMI, I also made component-video connections between it and my Samsung 52-inch LCD TV, as well as for all my sources.

Although menus do appear on the component-video output, the Maestro first switches its resolution to 480i to do so. Thus, unless you are viewing in 480i (unlikely these days), the momentary-alert displays for volume-change, mode-select, and so on are suppressed. The Maestro's menus include individual bass/treble settings for each channel and the ability to assign component-video, HDMI, and digital-audio inputs - but there's just a single crossover assignment for all channels (though that's not terribly important in most systems). I set this to 60 Hz, a good compromise in my setup.

Music & Movies A mere 20 minutes of listening was time enough to suggest, richly, that the AudioControl pairing had all the musicality and muscle I would ever require from A/V separates. The Savoy amp delivers power that belies its comparatively modest size (and weight), easily producing more level than I would demand even in fully theater-like playback, and even with my medium-sensitivity, subwoofer-supported speaker suite. The Departed on Blu-ray Disc only occasionally demands a lot of audio impact, but when those moments come along, the shock value is an important cinematic tool. AudioControl's gear abetted Martin Scorsese's eruptive violence with sadistic glee: When the first unexpected gunshot fired off, I nearly leapt from my chair.