SURROUND PROCESSOR REVIEWS

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 26, 2017  |  10 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Muscular Class A/B amp
PC-USB and phono inputs
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 7.1.4 decoding
Minus
No auto setup
Limited access to seven-channel amp for Atmos/DTS:X

THE VERDICT
Rotel returns to analog amplification for their latest top-of-the-line home theater machine—and the results are golden.

Is the Rotel RAP-1580 the surround receiver that dares not speak its name? In keeping with the two-channel distinction between stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers, Rotel calls it a surround amplified processor because it doesn’t include an AM/FM tuner. But to my mind, the defining trait of a surround receiver is that it combines a surround preamp/processor and a multichannel amp in one box. So I prefer to call this an audiophile receiver. You say tomato... [Editor’s Note: I’d call it a surround amplifier, and I don’t think it’s the last of this type we’ll be seeing...but, whatever.—RS]

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 28, 2017  |  1 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Unimpeachable audio and basic video quality
Generally good ergonomic design
Eminently useful pop-up Quick Menu
Minus
No aptX for Bluetooth
Local-streaming audio doesn’t display file type/sampling info
Fairly downscaled remote

THE VERDICT
Onkyo’s latest A/V preamp/processor adds the Dolby Atmos/DTS:X and 4K/HDR capabilities needed to bring the brand’s pre/pro current, while maintaining very solid value in the field.

The A/V preamp/processors from Onkyo (and sister brand Integra) have been through five or six generations over the years, and I think I’ve tested or at least used just about all of them. And for that decade-plus span, my overall reaction to them has remained pretty consistent: all the A/V-system quarterbacking any rational being needs at a fair price. Onkyo’s latest iteration, the PR-RZ5100 network A/V controller, seems unlikely to change that conclusion while updating the series to 11.2-channel, 4K/HDR status.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 01, 2017  |  0 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Pristine audio plus 4K passthrough video
Clean, simple, eminently usable design
Excellent proprietary auto-setup/EQ system
DTS Play-Fi streaming/multiroom wireless capability
Minus
Lacks Bluetooth, USB playback
No legacy video connections or scaling

THE VERDICT
The AVM 60 has everything you want in an A/V preamp/processor—and less. The stuff that Anthem has left off their more affordable pre/pro model contributes to simplicity and usability, and most buyers will end up thanking them in the long run.

For much of the home theater epoch, system builders who (for whatever reasons) have favored a separates-based system— built around an A/V preamplifier/processor and a suitable amplifier or amps—and have preferred such a system over the more usual A/V receiver approach have had, in essence, two choices. They could select one of a few very expensive, esoteric, high-end American or European designs, with the knowledge that they would probably lag a generation or two behind in HDMI version and latest-greatest surround and video processing. Or they could select a latest-model Japanese offering—recently, this has meant, effect-ively, Integra/Onkyo, Marantz, or Yamaha—and get more up-tothe-minute tech and more digestible pricing, at a certain cost in audiophile street-cred and (perhaps, depending on your belief system) sonic refinement.

Kris Deering  |  Dec 06, 2016  |  0 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $8,900

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent sonics
Dirac room correction
Minus
Limited setup and connectivity options
Dirac execution unintuitive
Very pricey

THE VERDICT
AudioControl's high-end processor is long on sound quality but comes up a little short on features.

The dwindling audio processor market has been shrinking for quite some time now. More than a year ago, while I was wandering around CEDIA 2015, I stumbled on one enticing option that caught my eye from high-end audio purveyor AudioControl. There were a few reasons it piqued my interest. For one, AudioControl is based out of my backyard in the Pacific Northwest, so they're something akin to my hometown brand. Their AV processor also supported the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio formats, another critical selling point. But perhaps the biggest draw was their inclusion of another hot name in audio circles: Dirac. Dirac's room correction scheme is well respected among audiophiles for its performance and adjustability, and I'd never had a chance to try it out. Finally, after some shop talk, lots of emails and a few months of waiting, the company was nice enough to send us a sample of their $8,900, Maestro M9 flagship.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 23, 2015  |  23 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dirac Live speaker/room EQ
Highly flexible setup and automation options
Division I sound quality
Async-USB DAC input for streaming playback
Minus
Only one Dirac curve-set at a time can be loaded
Requires personal computer for setup; no onboard auto calibration

THE VERDICT
A noteworthy addition to the high-end preamp/processor ranks, with Dirac Live a fascinating, must-hear plus.

Talar du svenska? Emotiva does. Enough Swedish, at any rate, for the Tennessee tenderer of direct-to-consumer A/V gear to bake Swedish firm Dirac’s speaker/room-correction DSP into its new preamp/processor, the long-awaited XMC-1.

If you’ll forgive a Miller analogy, Dirac is to Uppsala University as Audyssey is to USC: Dirac, too, evolved out of original academic electroacoustics research—although USC’s weather is better, and I’m pretty sure the Trojans could take the Swedes on the gridiron.

David Vaughn  |  May 21, 2015  |  46 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
11.1 channels with Audyssey MultEQ XT processing
Dolby Atmos, Auro-3D, and DTS:X surround
Full 4K video processing upgradable to HDCP 2.2
Minus
Limited range for remote sensor

THE VERDICT
Noticeably improved sound quality over its predecessor plus Atmos, Auro-3D, and DTS:X surround processing make the Marantz AV8802 a top-notch upgrade.

It’s been a little more than two years since I reviewed the Marantz AV8801 surround processor, and I liked that model so much, it never left my system. At the time, I thought it was the best-sounding pre/pro I had ever owned, and I had no real desire to upgrade anytime soon. That all changed last fall when Dolby announced that Atmos for the home was on its way. I started thinking how I could finagle four extra speakers into my room—because for some reason, I have this overwhelming desire to stay on the cutting edge of home theater technology, regardless of the personal expense.

Michael Fremer  |  Mar 13, 2014  |  9 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $6,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sonics High build quality No widgets, gimmicks, or extraneous features
Minus
No widgets, gimmicks, or extraneous features Klunky OS, incomplete instructions, non-backlit remote

THE VERDICT
Krell’s aptly named, sonically sophisticated Foundation counters a foolish industry trend toward sacrificing sound quality for useless and/or redundant features.

We live in a bizarre world where automobile commercials tout peripheral accessories while omitting mention of engines, transmissions, and brakes. What’s more important: Stopping distance or voice-activated Bluetooth?

So it’s not surprising that in much of today’s home theater electronics, sound quality takes a backseat to features and widgets. Backseat? In some, sound quality doesn’t even go along for the ride.

Fred Manteghian  |  Feb 06, 2014  |  9 comments

Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,095

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fulfills your innermost audiophile aspirations
Simple operation
Excellent proprietary room EQ
Minus
Kiss your sweet analog sources goodbye
Feature-wise, it’s missing a lot more than the kitchen sink

THE VERDICT
You’ll easily get through your diet of high-def viewing and listening with this great-sounding surround processor that works without a hitch.

I couldn’t make the John Mayer concert in Hartford a few weeks ago, but I heard it was great. Best I can do is throw the Born and Raised CD into the tray and set the AVP-18 surround processor to one of the DSP modes that turns a studio album into a concert event in your living room. Let’s see, he was at the open-air under-cover Comcast theater which has really great sound from most seats, so nothing slap-echo-happy like the over-the-top Stadium or Theater modes. Ahh, Rock has just the right amount of reverb tail.

David Vaughn  |  Jan 02, 2014  |  12 comments

CX-A5000 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
MX-A5000 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE CX-A5000, $3,000; MX-A5000, $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Audiophile pre/pro sound quality
Impeccable build quality
Apple AirPlay support
Minus
Amp performance merely competent
Limited network interface

THE VERDICT
Yamaha’s new pre/pro is a surefire contender, though its matching 11-channel amplifier wasn’t quite the same caliber.

If you’re in the market for a new AVR, you can spend countless hours researching all of the various manufacturers’ Websites and, when all is said and done, still have 20 or more models to choose from that have all the bells and whistles you want. The same can’t be said for the surround processor market, which is extremely limited by comparison.

Most companies offer only one model—if that—and it’s generally a reconstruction of their flagship AVR minus the amp section. Don’t expect a discounted price, though; with such a limited audience for pre/pros, you can expect to pay top dollar even when the amps are absent. That said, this isn’t such a bad deal because you can then choose an amplifier that mates well with your particular speakers. Furthermore, by having the electronically noisy amps in a separate enclosure, energized by their own dedicated power supply, you can theoretically enjoy improved audio quality. Of course, you also get an increased footprint in your rack with additional black boxes. The quest for audio nirvana certainly isn’t easy.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 27, 2013  |  6 comments
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE 2,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
HDBaseT audio/video via CAT5e/6
4K upconversion and passthrough
Feature packed and futureproof
Minus
Lackluster sonics

THE VERDICT
The futureproof, feature-packed, and easy-to-operate midline DHC-60.5 is a custom installer’s dream, but it falls short on sound quality.

Integra’s new THX Ultra2 Plus–certified DHC-60.5 A/V controller—one of the first to offer HDBaseT connectivity—is clearly intended for the custom install market. But with its generous feature array and ease of operability, the $2,000 midline offering will no doubt also attract its share of retail consumers.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 24, 2013  |  1 comments

You can’t get much plainer than Outlaw’s new Model 975 preamp/processor. With its unadorned black chassis and fascia and plain white lettering, the 975’s un-cosmetics speak of a component conceived to do a job, completely and effectively, and to otherwise stay the hell out of the way.

David Vaughn  |  Apr 10, 2013  |  17 comments

Emotiva UMC-200 Preamp/Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
Price: $599 At A Glance: Audiophile audio quality at a bargain price • Customizable EQ solution • Outstanding value

I’m not an engineer, and no, I don’t play one on TV either, although I’ve been around the A/V business long enough to know the technological challenges manufacturers face when creating a new pre/pro or AVR from the ground up. This is especially hard for smaller companies with limited budgets in an HDMI-enabled world.

Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 25, 2013  |  0 comments

Emotiva. The name sounds like the latest cure-all marketed by Big Pharma on the evening news programs. (Remember “restless leg?”) It is, in fact the consumer-audio brand of Tennessee’s Jade Designs. And Jade Designs, in turn, is the direct-to-consumer brand founded by a longtime veteran of the rough-and-tumble electronics OEM (original equipment manufacturing) world.

Kris Deering  |  Mar 20, 2013  |  4 comments
PT-7030 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
PA 7-350 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: PT-7030, $1,799; PA 7-350, $2,799 At A Glance: Audiophile focus • Great dynamics • Lacks some bells and whistles

We’ve all heard the old saying, “less is more”, but that doesn’t always translate well to audio surround processors. While audiophile processors of yesteryear concentrated more on core components for the best possible sound quality and less on crazy surround modes and other digital processing, today’s market seems to demand these features.

David Vaughn  |  Feb 20, 2013  |  14 comments

AV8801 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
MM8077 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: AV8801, $3,599; MM8077, $2,399 At a Glance: Up to 11.2-channel playback with Audyssey DSX and DTS Neo:X Audyssey MultEQ XT32 and Sub EQ HT Apple AirPlay support

As A/V enthusiasts, we are constantly on the lookout for the best audio and video we can find, and when we reach that state of nirvana, we enjoy our equipment until the next CES or CEDIA when we then hear about something new and begin to worry that our system will soon be second best. Writing for Home Theater makes me an unwilling accomplice in this never-ending cycle of upgrade-itis, but truth be told, I’m just as affected by this as the rest of you. Thankfully, I’m able to get my fix by having lots of equipment moving through my rack, but every now and then, I fall in love with a piece and don’t want it to leave my possession.

Pages

X