AV RECEIVER REVIEWS

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Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 13, 2016  |  1 comments
Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $6,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding seven-channel power from uncommon amp topology
Dirac Live auto setup and room correction
Winning remote handset
Minus
Lacks wireless
connectivity
Premium pricing

THE VERDICT
Reference-grade seven-channel power, an unusual (and unusually effective) auto-EQ system, and refreshing simplicity and straightforward ergonomics in a pricey, albeit very attractive and well-executed package.

Arcam’s new flagship A/V receiver, the AVR850, is about the most expensive receiver you can buy today: $6,000 here in the Land of the Free(-ish) (not counting a slightly more expensive, similarly spec’d model sourced by Arcam for AudioControl). That’s a lot of simoleons for a box that, on the surface anyway, doesn’t do quite as much stuff as the big-brand models, doesn’t have as much claimed-on-paper power or as many colored lights or flashing displays, and which exudes a substantially simpler design aesthetic. So what do you get for your extra couple of kilo-clams?

Michael Trei  |  Mar 31, 2001  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2001  |  0 comments
The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming! Arcam's first A/V receiver takes music reproduction quite seriously.

After years of lagging behind the colonies, the British are finally taking home theater—er, home cinema—seriously, and British manufacturers have started to make impressive gear using their own characteristic design approach. For years, Arcam has been made up of a bunch of die-hard two-channel-stereo types, yet the company has always been a leader when it comes to new technologies like digital radio. Although they have manufactured surround equipment for a few years now, the AVR100 is their first A/V receiver.

Lawrence E. Ullman  |  Jun 26, 2005  |  0 comments

Americans tend to prefer quantity over quality. Given the opportunity, we build McMansions. We drive Hummers. We wash down our Whoppers with Big Gulps. And we always buy the biggest AV receiver we can, because you can't be too rich, too thin, or have too many watts. More is <I>better</I>.

Adrienne Maxwell  |  Jul 20, 2005  |  0 comments
Thinking outside the box.

Who says you have to sacrifice performance to create a small, affordable speaker system? Not Atlantic Technology. With the new $899–$999 System 920, they set out to prove that we can and should expect more than we're currently getting from most tiny sub/sat and HTIB speakers. I put their claim to the test for this Spotlight review by mating the speakers with Onkyo's brand-new $300 TX-SR503 A/V receiver. Add an inexpensive universal disc player to this combo, and you've got a complete home theater system for about $1,400.

Gary Altunian  |  Jul 02, 2007  |  First Published: Jun 02, 2007  |  0 comments
American design meets German engineering.

Even a quick glance at the home theater section of your local consumer electronics retailer reveals an overabundance of A/V receivers. They're a staple component in home theater. After you sift through all the ubiquitous brands, you'll come across Sunfire. The company is the creation of the venerable Bob Carver, also founder of Phase Linear and Carver Corporation. In a previous audio life, I sold many Phase Linear 400 and 700 power amplifiers, which were among the most popular and affordable high-powered stereo amps during the 1970s. Bob Carver has consistently reinvented himself and refined his product offerings, and one of his latest creations is the Sunfire Theater Grand TGR-3 A/V receiver from the company's XT Series. It's a component that borrows many features from Sunfire's high-end processors and amplifiers. And its straightforward operation, proprietary features, and impressive sound quality might earn it a place among the best high-end receivers. The TGR-3 is a great example of meticulous American design, albeit of Chinese construction.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 26, 2009  |  0 comments
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.

Michael Berk  |  Aug 10, 2011  |  0 comments

There's a lot of action on the AVR front this week, with new models and upgrades from major manufacturers.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Mar 18, 2008  |  0 comments
Sense and sensibility and connectivity.

One of the home theater industry’s greatest sins is modesty. If excessively modest people hide their lights under a bushel, speaker and receiver manufacturers go them one better, hiding their achievements in boxes. Boxes with drivers on the front, boxes with buttons and knobs that sit in a rack—boxes. True, surround speaker packages that break away from the boxy norm are slowly making inroads into the conservative milieu of home theater, just as some clever surround receivers boast digital amps and slim form factors. This month’s Spotlight System does none of those things. To divine what’s special about it, you’ll have to look deeply into its soul.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Jul 20, 2005  |  0 comments
Big ambitions.

Boston Acoustics has been perfecting the art of speaker design for 26 years, so I guess they're ready to try something new. For 2005, the company set their sights on the fiercely competitive A/V-receiver market and released a classically handsome, custom-installer-savvy contender, the AVR7120. To keep it all in the family, I checked out the receiver with a contingent of Boston VR Series speakers.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 04, 2008  |  0 comments
Let’s face it: The French have a better shape.

To Americans accustomed to seeing other Americans waddling through shopping malls—and let me be the first to admit I’ve been doing a fair amount of waddling myself lately—the streets of Paris come as a pleasant shock. How do people who feast on duck liver and red wine stay so lean and sexy? Perhaps that eternal mystery springs from the same source as Cabasse’s fashionably thin Artis Baltic Evolution tower loudspeaker. Like one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s amazing cantilevered houses, it seems to defy gravity, the sphere holding its coaxial driver array floating on a skinny diagonal slash of solid wood. I suspect that the people who designed the speaker sat down to an excellent dinner afterward.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 16, 2012  |  13 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,299 At A Glance: Advanced cooling allows for small chassis • Auto setup but no room correction • A true music lover’s receiver

Some of the best-sounding audio/video receivers come from companies that have earned a “low end of the high end” reputation in the two-channel sphere. And, yes, in case you were wondering, that’s a good thing. These receiver brands offer audiophile performance at what I would call moderate prices—although the owner of doghouse monoblocks would consider them cheap, while penny pinchers at the other end of the spectrum would consider them sky high. Among others, I’m referring to Arcam, Rotel, NAD—and Cambridge Audio, which just revamped its AVR line to include three new models.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Aug 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Price: $1,799 At A Glance: Second- and third-zone A-BUS keypad outputs with video • Extra channels to biamp front speakers • Audio Split mode • Optional iPod dock

Simpler Sounds Better

I’m not sure I qualify as an Anglophile, but I do like most things British—except for spotted dick. Even after you know that it’s just steamed suet pudding, it still doesn’t sound any better. So I expected that I’d feel a continually growing affinity for the new Azur 650R AVR from Cambridge Audio (that’s the “other” Cambridge for you Massachusetters). Since it began in 1968, the company has made a well-respected, high-fidelity name for itself. It even built the world’s first two-box CD player. After a tough time in the mid-’80s, Cambridge Audio was acquired by Audio Partnership, which currently owns a number of other venerable U.K. brands. As I hear them tell it, this economy of scale is a good thing for Cambridge Audio—and something that most higher-end companies don’t normally enjoy—because such a spread of brands lets the parent company employ an unusually high percentage of engineers on their staff (almost 40 percent). They happily tell the fact as if it guarantees them success and good cheer. Or at least good gear. I certainly expected it to be that way. I was initially impressed by the specs and build quality, so it surprised me when I didn’t keep that warm and fuzzy-logic feeling after I first set up the Azur 650R. In fact, I began to think that maybe Audio Partnership had hired too many engineers.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 31, 2013  |  0 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,999 At A Glance: Beefy but balanced performer • Top-of-the-line amplifier design • Entry-level Audyssey 2EQ

There are things I just won’t do. I won’t let a door slam in the face of a parent pushing a stroller. I won’t desecrate discs from the public library with fingerprints and scratches. I won’t have a second martini (learned that one the hard way). I won’t use the word anyhoo. That’s not even a word. Look it up. And I won’t let two-channel loyalists glory-hog the high ground when they claim the audio/video receiver is always an underperformer, never more than the sum of its attention-getting features, and somehow irredeemably anti-high-end.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 07, 2015  |  18 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Nuanced, open, uncolored sonics
Stream Magic module
Auto setup imposes no room correction
Minus
Bluetooth requires adapter
A $2,400 AVR with no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X
Auto setup imposes no room correction

THE VERDICT
This receiver makes idiosyncratic audiophile choices—omitting Atmos, Bluetooth, and other features—but the revamped look and feel are great, and the sound is reliably musical.

At first glance, the cosmetic difference between Cambridge Audio’s new CXR receivers and the company’s previous Azur line is almost shocking. The older receivers were stellar performers, but their look was strictly utilitarian, even a bit dowdy. They were the consumer electronics equivalent of Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever her traditional virtues may be, she hasn’t won many beauty contests lately. What a difference a new look makes! The CXR receivers have a cleaner, sleeker front panel, with fewer controls and a generously oversized display. They’re less QEII, more Kate Middleton—who, coincidentally, is also known as the Duchess of Cambridge.

Chris Lewis  |  Feb 15, 2005  |  0 comments
Good sound made easy by Lexicon and Canton.

In case you didn't believe we were serious about dedicating more of our pages to the overriding reality of home theater—the necessity of individual components coming together to form a cohesive system—we offer exhibit B, our new Spotlight System review. Exhibit A, for those keeping score, is our Hook Me Up column: Sometimes it includes reviews, and sometimes it doesn't, but it always keeps an eye on system issues, especially connections. This new column contains all of the elements of a standard gear review, with the notable exception of being focused on a system, rather than individual components.

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