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Denon AVC-A1sr Home Cinema Amplifier, size: 7.7 MB
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|asticot||6:39pm on Thursday, May 6th, 2010|
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0309WHC25 System 5
Components System 5: 6,050
Arcam FMJ DV27 DVD 1,600 Denon AVC-A1SR Amp 3,000 Kef Q-Series Speakers 1,450
The most expensive combi in this group test by a country mile will cost you a whopping 6,050. So what do you get for your hard-earned cash?
The bundle looks great the designs complement each other well and the speakers ooze class
he final system in this group test will set you back a cool 6,050. What we want to know is, what exactly do you get for this sort of money? Let's find out. The bundle certainly looks great the glorious designs of the Arcam FMJ DV27 DVD player and Denon amp complement each other well, while the Q-Series speakers ooze class. The Q-Series speakers are 50 percent more expensive than the Monitor speakers featured in the previous test, and its worth noting that the package is sold without a subwoofer, relying instead on the tall Q7s to supply bass response. The 2d rear speakers are the latest addition to the range. They dont have the
punch of the Q7s but, like the front three speakers, they can extend down to a low 27kHz and so are perfectly compatible with high-resolution DVD-Audio and SACD formats. All the speakers look stunning and have excellent build quality.
Considering the wealth of features to be found on some of the cheaper amps in this group test, youre probably wondering what more you get for 3,000. For starters, the AVC-A1SR is THX-Ultra 2 certified, which is the highest quality certificate awarded by George Lucas crew at THX. The list of compatible formats reads like a Whos Who and includes DTS ES, Dolby Digital EX and a host of THX modes. The AVC-A1SR is also the only true 7.1-channel amplifier in this test, and delivers a massive 170W to each speaker. The AVC-A1SR offers two multi-zone outputs which means that the amplifier can
simultaneously power two systems based in different rooms. The amp also provides two sets of 7.1 analogue inputs, allowing you to hook up both a DVD-A and SACD player. The FMJ DV27 is one stylish mutha of a DVD player. It has been upgraded to deliver PAL progressive scan (for the best pictures from Region 2 DVDs), while it can also be improved to boast DVD-Audio compatibility. (When the player is purchased in the form of the FMJ DV27A, both these options are fitted as standard.) Build quality is very impressive, and the player weighs a hefty 6.2kg, thanks to the heavyweight processing inside and the Sontech metal chassis. The rear panel of the player is awash with sockets and includes component video outputs (for those superior progressive scan pictures with both Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs), while there's also an RGB Scart and electrical and optical digital outputs.
What Home Cinema September 2003
The performance of the DVD player is about as good as it gets. Progressive scan provides the best results, with deliciously detailed and smooth images.
Such is the quality that the player is one of the best performers with projectors, for giant images. As the gladiators get handed their weapons in the bowels of the Coliseum on our Gladiator test disc, the Arcam exhibits detail un-matched by others in this test. Despite the dim lighting, it's possible to see great definition in the armour and you can make out individual brickwork on the background walls, while there's no grain or blocking. Sensational. PERFECT PARTNERS The audio capabilities of this package are equally impressive. The speed and clarity with which the AVC-ASR1 amp moves effects around the soundstage is simply breathtaking. There's more detail than with any other amp in this test, especially in the recreation of the battle of Carthage. Additional voices in the crowd can be heard and the whole scene is delivered with greater depth and texture. TEST SCENES
The speakers play their part too and don't need a subwoofer, though it would provide extra bite. When a chariot bashes into a wall in the Coliseum, it is met with a deep thud, but not the overwhelming crash that some may want. And the sub is more sorely missed with stereo music.
A wealth of features, while sound clarity and separation is astonishing. Pristine progressive scan pictures
The speakers would benefit from a sub, especially with stereo material
Blood n guts
Yet the speakers are delightfully rich and boast stacks of detail. They are agile and effects move freely around the soundstage. The 2ds provide excellent guts to surround effects, but most impressive is the way they hurl effects forward to the front speakers. In the opening scene of the movie, as Roman soldiers fire a stream of arrows at the Barbarians, the sound from the rears is strong and solid, and sears to the front three channels. It's no exaggeration to say that the FMJ DV27 and AVC-A1SR are astonishing products, with the latter being the best integrated amp currently on sale. If you've got the cash, it may be worth pushing the boat out and getting even better speakers, such as those in Kef's Reference series. As it is, this is one hell of a slice of home cinema heaven. WHC
The FMJ DV27 and AVC-A1SR are awesome. The speakers are great, but you may want even better ones
PLASMA OR PROJECTOR
Style Ease of use Features Picture Sound Value Overall 5555555556
TUNNEL VISION HITACHI 42PMA400E 2,800
Having spent a few thousand quid on the separates, check out the great resolution and clarity on this plasma The Arcam DVD player handles the darker scenes in Gladiator with ease, allowing for greater definition
Call Arcam or visit www.arcam.co.uk Call Denon or visit www.denon.co.uk Call Kef or visit www.kef.com
THEMESCENE H55 3,700
This DLP projector will give your movies the bigscreen treatment with the FMJ DV27s stunning DVD images
Progressive scan adds spectacular clarity to fast-moving objects like these speeding chariots
0406HCC09 Denon AVC-A1SR Amp P
DENON AVC-A1SRA N 3,000 (APPROX) N N www.denon.co.uk
Refining the legend
ALVIN GOLD TESTS THE DEFINITIVE AVC-A1SRA AMPLIFIER FROM DENON
ere, ladies and gentlemen, is a quintessential, solid gold, copper bottom, monster home
performance area that is of particular interest to many buyers of big monster home cinema amplifiers, namely the ability to deal with all manner of media, from complex digital soundtracks to two channel audio.
Highs: Arguably the definitive monster home cinema amplifier, two years on, the updated AVC-A1SRA remains prodigiously powerful, flexible and well equipped. The improvements in the A version are incremental, but the price remains the same, and the additional features can be retrofitted to older amplifiers. Lows: The instructions are still opaque, and the amplifier is not easy to drive. The reliance on Denon Link is also limiting, not just because DSD compatibility is still not available, but also because it excludes the much wider choice of i.Link equipped universal players.
Sound Build Features Overall ##### ##### ####12 #####
cinema amplifier, first class and flagship of the Denon fleet. Those with long memories, or a good
collection of back issues, may have noticed that this product, or rather its
A TOUCH OF CLASS
A more detailed description of the Denon is available in the original review, but in summary, the AVC-A1SRA is nearly 30kg of beautifully built amplification, featuring a massive power supply, based as usual on a shared transformer, and whose cosmetics are enhanced by the champagne gold finished slab alloy fascia extrusion, with minor controls under a front flap. A complex and sophisticated touchscreen coded and programmable remote control completes the package. This is a full blown 7.1 channel THX Ultra2 certified product, one of the very few currently available, the main competition coming from Pioneer with the VSA-AX10i, which itself is in the process of being revamped. Just about every possible surround sound algorithm is on tap, including Dolby Headphone, and with the new model the list includes the latest higher resolution (96kHz compatible) 5.1 and 6.1 channel version of DTS Neo:6 and Dolby Labs nearest equivalent, Pro Logic IIx which can field a full 7.1 channel speaker system. Driving the spatial processing and the THX Ultra2 circuitry are two of Ultra Analogs massively powerful 21161 HammerHead SHARC 32bit processors While Pioneer has gone down the route of equipping its competing model, the VSA-AX10, with a sophisticated automatic setup regime which sets virtually the whole system up at the
predecessor, the AVC-A1SR, was the
subject of a review in this magazine about a year an a half ago. This test covers the new model, with an A suffix, which includes changes that are detailed below. But given the water that has flowed under the bridge since the original review, we thought it would be instructive to reassess the amplifier in the light of the current competition, with a particular emphasis on one
Manufacturers Rated Output 7 x 170W into 8 Measured power @ 1kHz 2ch driven: 190W into 8 5ch driven: 160W into 8 Fidelity firewall @ 1kHz/ 2ch 185W:into 8 (0.05%THD) Distortion @ 1kHz 0.004%THD @ 50W (8) Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz +/- 0.4 dB
Sockets: 3 audio inputs (inc phono & tape); 8 audio/video S-video & composite inputs (inc 2 tape); 3 component video inputs; video outputs include 2 composite, 2 S-video and 1 component video outputs; all inputs bar phono are assignable; 6 optical and 5 electrical S/PDIF digital inputs & 2 optical digital outputs; Denon Digital Link 3 multichannel input; Dolby Digital RF input; 8 pairs of 4mm binding post loudspeaker terminals. RS232 interface, 1 3.5mm room to room IR control link in/out, 1 3.5mm 12V trigger out; 6.3mm headphone socket; remote control has USB socket for downloading IR codes and backing up to a computer. Surround formats supported: Dolby Pro-Logic IIx, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, DTS 5.1, DTS Discrete 6.1/DTS-ES Matrix 6.1, DTS Neo:6 (96kHz enhanced version), DTS 96/24, MPEG audio, THX Cinema, THX Ultra2 Cinema & MusicMode, & THX Boundary Gain Compensation, DSP modes include Super Stadium, Rock Arena, Jazz Club, Classic Concert, Mono Movie, matrix surround with adjustable parameters, 5 and 7 channel stereo. Features: 170W/channel (driven singly or in pairs) RMS 8 20Hz 20kHz 0.05%THD, tone controls, video converter composite & S-video to component video. Backlit LCD touch screen programmable/coded multi-component remote control. HDCD decoder. LFE/subwoofer crossover 80Hz (THX) and switchable 40Hz 120Hz in 20Hz steps. 8 channel Denon Digital Link 3 encrypted digital interface. Audio delay adjust for lip sync with progressive scan DVD etc, Dolby Headphone, Dual surround sound speaker mode. Pure Direct mode, multi-zone mode for two additional zones. Dimensions: 434(w) x 216(h) x 486(d) mm Weight: 29kg
press of a button using a supplied microphone, the Denon and its opposite number from Sony, the newly introduced, all-digital TA-DA9000ES, are strictly hair shirt. But the Denon has other tricks up its sleeve, such as an input, known as Denon Link 3 in its latest iteration, which is capable of accepting the uncompressed digital output of a similarly equipped DVDAudio or (shortly) SACD player. Aside from the SACD-ready Denon Link 3, enhanced DTS Neo:6 and Dolby Pro Logic IIx (retrofittable to the original model by the way), the new amplifier is also equipped with an HDCD decoder which operates across the Denon Link, which means an expanded dynamic range and lower distortion from HDCD discs. There are not too many of these,
72 H O M E C I N E M A C H O I C E
Just about every possible surround sound algorithm is on tap here
but the list does include the excellent Reference Recordings stable. These changes are on top of a number of other changes that have been made since the earliest model, including THX Ultra2, DTS 96:24, Denon Link 2 (now superseded of course) and the new more powerful SHARC processors. Of course the original strengths remain, and these include a meticulously designed and unusually transparent D/A stage based on no less than 16 (count em!) Burr Brown 24 bit 192kHz DACs, which clearly outperforms the D/A stage of just about any DVD player you care to name. One of the great strengths of the AVC-A1SR was always that it had the most power of any integrated amplifier, not just on paper, with power output very close to the rated one and two channel figure of 170W/channel even when five channels were driven at once. The impression of almost boundless power also holds up in the real world. Thankfully, nothing has changed here with this new model, and the price remains unaltered too.
mettle of any home cinema amplifier more clearly than any other performance characteristic, and for many people of course it is important for its own sake. I ran the player from a Chord CD player/DAC and into Triangle and B&W 800 speakers with results that were interesting to say the least. The basic sound signature is extremely well controlled and detailed, but there is a trace of harshness and strain when the amplifier is extended dynamically, but still well within its power ceiling. It is not a classic stereo amplifier, and certainly not the equal of a good purist integrated amplifier (from the likes of Krell or Karan, for example), but in my judgement it is more than the equal of its direct peers. As a multichannel home cinema amplifier, the Denon is phenomenal. Once set up properly, and it will take some time and dedication to tweak it to perfection, the Denon offers exquisitely
refined and detailed sound quality. Image steering is particularly strong, not just because the Denon can position any sound source with precision in the 360 degree compass (which it can of course) but because it can do so for a multiplicity of sound sources being reproduced in unison, which is the kind of ability demanded by Hollywoods more complex soundtracks. Better still, the sound overall provides a real feeling of envelopment without any obvious artificiality or manipulation or at least artificiality or manipulation that is not part of the original recording. And there is also plenty of brawn in the Denons makeup to accompany its very obvious subtlety and finesse. This is a genuinely potent creation, one that can do justice to virtually any film soundtrack even in large rooms and with difficult to drive speakers, such as the B&W Nautilus 800 based system used for this test I
It is some time since I looked at the Denon as a surrogate for a standard stereo amplifier, with all digital video and video processing bypassed or switched off. In a way this shows the
The Cat5 Denon Link has been improved to carry an SACD signal
Rock-solid build quality both inside and out
This universal touchscreen remote deserves a manual in itself
More functions and tone controls behind the front flap
H O M E C I N E M A C H O I C E 73
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