Sherwood Newcastle A-965
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Sherwood Newcastle A 965 7-channel power amp and R 965 7-channel receiver (power amp section only)
Manufacturer: Sherwood America, 13101 Moore Street, Cerritos, CA 90703; 800/962-3203; www.sherwoodusa.com Price: A-965 Power Amp, $1,500; R-965 AV Receiver, $2,000 Source: Manufacturer loan Reviewer: David Arthur Rich A-965 7-channel Power Amp All-Channels-Driven Power 20 Hz-20 kHz: 10 Watts per channel (x 2) into 8 ohms All-Channels-Driven Power 20 Hz-20 kHz: 100 Watts per channel (x 7) into 8 ohms All-Channels-Driven Power 20 Hz-20 kHz: 160 Watts per channel (x 7) into 4 ohms THD for all test conditions above: Less than 0.02% Signal to noise ratio: 115 dB (18.7 bits digital equivalent) Dimensions (H x W x D): 7 5/8 x 17 3/8 x 18 Weight: 80 lbs. A 965 AV Receiver (power amp section) Two-Channels-Driven Power 20 Hz-20 kHz: 120 Watts per channel (x 2) into 8 ohms THD: Less than 0.02%
Dimensions (H x W x D): 7 5/8 x 17 3/8 x 18 Weight: 46 lbs. The Sherwood brand has a lengthy history, but the original management is long gone. Korean Etronics Corp. now has the rights to the brand. Korean Etronics manufactures for a wide variety of well known names in the business and capitalizes on its economies of scale. More impressive is the lean nature of the US operation. Eugene Chavez juggles customer support, technical support, and the service center. Jeff Hipps and Gary Graning handle sales, marketing, and press relations. I almost ran past the CES booth, which had little relation to the size of this company. All these overworked employees are keeping costs down, allowing the savings to pass through to the consumer. I am currently testing the Sherwood Newcastle R-965 receiver (review to come in a future issue), but the A-965 power amp, which is related to the power amp in the R-965, is the subject of this review. The A-965 is a significant product in its own right and deserves to have the spotlight shone upon it. The front end of the R-965 is a complex piece of electronics that I have reviewed in a separate review. The A-965 sells for $1,500. The R-965 with the complete AV front end is $2,000. The standalone front-end of the R-965 is available for $1,500 as the P-965 AV controller. Sherwood expects most A-965 power amps will ship with P-965 AV controllers ($3,000 for the two units), but I expect the A-965 to have a wider audience. The A-965 weighs 80 pounds, with the power supply and the heat sinks providing the center of gravity. Two giant transformers take up most of the space in the unit and the rest is the heat sinks. With all the metal, the unit will pass FTC with seven channels driven into a 4-ohm load. The power into 4 ohms is 160 watts. That is just about the maximum power that can be expected from a seven-channel amplifier designed to be meet the ULdeveloped safety standards. (Things are not as simple as
looking for the UL label anymore. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration now certifies multiple companies to test consumer equipment for safety. These are called Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL). In most cases the testing standard used is the one developed by UL in the past. If the NRTL is not UL it will use its own Registered Certification Mark. The web site http:/ /www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/nrtlmrk.html shows marks for each NRTL that would be placed on equipment for each NRTL that could test the unit. One wishes that OSHA would have established a single mark to indicate that an NTRL had certified a product was safe to OSHA standards, but instead we have to deal with many different marks that indicated a product has been tested to OSHA standards of safety.) Class AB amplifiers running full out are approximately 70% efficient at full power so the power coming out of the wall is 13 amps, which is just under the rating for a standard wall outlet (leaving 2 amps to supply everything else on the same AC loop). Amplifier manufacturers selling 300-watt channels times 7 will not pass UL safety tests and an NSTL label is absent on these amplifiers. I looked high and low at CES and not one of the manufacturers sporting an amplifier rated at 300 watts times 7 had an NSTL label on the back. In reality, you would need to hang a 15-amp 220-volt power cord on these amplifiers to prevent them from popping a fuse. These giant amplifiers do not pop fuses in real life because they rarely approach full power, at least not simultaneously on all channels. Why has no 300 watt multi-channel power amp been offered with the correct power cable? You guessed itthe high-end dealers would go crazy with thoughts of reduced sales. Imagine them having to advise clients to first call their electrician before proceeding with the sale. These same highend dealers will, of course, gladly sell you $1,000 power cords for your 15-amp circuit. I do not know about you, but I would worry about a power amp sitting in my living room that was not tested to UL standards by an OSHAcertified laboratory. Apparently, products without NTRL labels are available for sale in all states but Oregon. Go Beavers!
OK, back to the Sherwood A-965 and R-965, which proudly display their UL labels. From a practical perspective, the R-965 is about as big and heavy as an AV receiver can get. The single transformer of the R-965 AV receiver distinguishes it from the A-965. The R-965 also has less room for heat sinks since all the front-end electronics fills half the box. Otherwise, the differences are minor. With all the metal taken out of the R-965, it can only pass FTC into 8 ohms with two channels driven at a slightly higher power rating of 120 watts per channel. Making that compromise saves $1,000 over the A-965/P 965 combo. Both Sherwood units share a nicely designed circuit topology and some high quality parts. Attached to the big heat sinks are expensive Sanken 2SA1216/2SC2922 complementary-pair power transistors. These transistors mean business packaged in the MT 200 plastic package that measures 1.5 inches wide. For a single 10 msec burst, they can source 35mA. While you can achieve the same thing more economically by putting multiple transistors in parallel, you would have a hard time achieving as low of junction capacitance. The devices have a unity current gain frequency (the frequency that a piece of wire would do as well) of 40MHz. Thats twice as fast as most power transistors in this class, which is why the 2SA1216/2SC 2922 are more than twice the normal price. Faster is better, because the amplifier can be made more stable when driving complex loads at audio frequencies. The A-965 has two pairs of paralleled pairs of 2SA1216/2SC 2922 per channel while the R-965 has one pair. In all other respects, the electronics on the power supply board are the same. To generate enough current at the base of the 2SA1216/2SC 2922, a two-transistor compound common-collector common-emitter pair is employed instead of a single transistor pre-driver stage. For the voltage gain stages, the amplifier starts with a differential pair with an active current-mirror load to ensure excellent common-mode rejection. By biasing the differential pair with a Wilson current-mirror, the rejection ratio is further improved. A high common-mode rejection ratio improves the distortion performance of an amplifier when used in a non-inverting feedback configuration, which is the standard topology for
Electronically reprinted from DECEMBER 2004 www.UltimateAVmag.com
Sherwood Newcastle R-965
Lawrence E. Ullman
> AV RECEIVER
S P E C I F I C AT I O N S
R-965 AV receiver Output power, stereo: 120Wpc @ 8, 20Hz20kHz, 0.05% THD Output power, surround: 140Wpc @ 8, 1kHz, 0.7% THD, 1 channel or channel pair driven Signal/noise: line, 105dB; phono (MM), 80dB (IHF A-weighted) Sound modes: Dolby: Virtual Speaker, Headphone, Pro Logic II, Pro Logic IIx Music, Pro Logic IIx Movie, 5.1, EX DTS: 96/24, Neo:6 Cinema, Neo:6 Music, ES Matrix 6.1, ES Discrete 6.1 Other: Stereo, 7.1-channel analog bypass, MPEG Multichannel, 13 DSP modes Video inputs: Rear: 3 component, 6 S-video, 6 composite. Front: 1 S-video, 1 composite
Back in the misty days when 2-channel stereo was still an exciting new format and tubes ruled the land, Sherwood was a brand name to be reckoned with. Together with such companies as Harman/Kardon, Fisher, Marantz, and McIntosh, Sherwood was instrumental in launching the American hi-fi industry on a path that would culminate in todays highend audio geargrist for our sister publication, Stereophile. However, the path was a rocky one. When audio went solid-state in the 1960s and 70s, Sherwood and the other giants of American hi-fi found themselves unable to compete with the cheap transistorized gear flooding in from Japan. One by one, the American companies fell on hard times and were forced to sell. For the next decade or so, the once proud Sherwood logo appeared only on a long line of inexpensive, mass-market gear. Then something wonderful happened. Several years ago, Sherwoodnow owned by Etonicsannounced a new line of high-quality audio products. Named after the location of the companys assembly plant in the UK, Newcastle components would be sold only through custom installers and AV specialty retailers. The first product in the Newcastle linethe R-945 AV receiverwas introduced to great critical acclaim in 1998. Michael Fremer reviewed it in the May 1998 issue of the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater. Next came the companys first home-theater sepaVideo outputs: Monitor: 1 component, 1 S-video, rates, the AVP-9080R processor and AM1 composite. Record: 2 S-video, 2 composite 9080 multichannel amp. I not only gave the Analog audio inputs: Rear: 1 7.1-channel, 8 L/R, 9080 combo a glowing review in the (sadly 1 phono. Front: 1 L/R defunct) webzine etown.com, but found the Analog audio outputs: 9 preamp, 2 L/R pair satisfying enough to use as the centerDigital audio inputs: 2 coax, 7 optical (1 on piece of my reference system for several front), 1 USB more years.(The AVP-9080R and AM-9080 Digital audio outputs: 1 coax, 1 optical were also reviewed in the June 1999 SGHT.) Other connectors: 1 RS-232C (DB9), 2 IR ins, Progress marches on, and the 5.11 IR out, 2 12VDC trigger outs, 2 Sherwood channel 9080 separates I so enjoyed have DigiLink, 2 switched AC outlets been superseded by the 7.1-channel P-965 Dimensions: 17.4" 7.8" 17.8" (WHD) processor and A-965 multichannel amplifier. Weight: 51.8 lbs Going full circle, Sherwood recently repackPrice: $1999.95 aged its flagship 965 separates, combining the two pieces into a single cabinet to create Sherwood America the subject of this review, the R-965 AV (800) 962-3203 receiver. www.sherwoodusa.com
ULTIMATE AV | DECEMBER 2004
First Impressions Last
No sooner had the UPS driver pulled away from the curb than I had the Sherwood unpacked and up on a table under bright lighting. The brushed-aluminum, or Titanium-finish front panel looks expensive, giving the impression of having been machined out of a solid blockat least when seen head on. From the sides, you can see that the panel is actually a single formed aluminum sheet about one-tenth of an inch thick, capped by gray plastic end pieces. The overall look is clean and understated. A pair of large knobs and ten small, lighted buttons are symmetrically arranged around a large fluorescent display. All of these controls
feel great in the hand, turning with silky weighted motions and engaging with positive tactile feedback. Rows of additional buttons and the renamable Video 6 input suite (composite video, S-video, stereo analog audio, and optical digital audio) are located behind a dropdown door. Everything is labeled with white, screened-on text, which looked elegant on my brightly lit dining table, but later proved hard to read when the unit was on a shelf in a dark theater. This is a big component, so be sure to check that your equipment cabinet or rack has at least 2024 inches of free depth to accommodate the unit, including room for cable clearance.
Under the Hood
Removing the R-965s top panel (dont try this at home!) was like looking under the hood of a Porsche. The chassis is beautifully packaged and laid out. Someone clearly sweated the signal-routing details here everything in my unit was spic and span, with nary a stray wire harness in sight. Theres even a nifty wire bridge that channels and hides the few wires that must traverse the chassiss width. Sherwood logos decorate the wire bridge, as well as the power supplys massive 6-inch-diameter toroidal transformer and twin 2700F filter capacitors. Ive seen megabuck high-end amps that dont look this good inside.
Photos 2004 Cordero Studios
[SHERWOOD NEWCASTLE R-965]
When I looked closer, it quickly became apparent that the R-965s underlying architecture resembles that of a personal computer. A horizontally oriented motherboard occupies the central rear portion of the chassis, with slots for six vertically oriented expansion cards, which in turn expose arrays of connectors through the rear panel. The cards are labeled Processor, DSP, Input1, Input2, SVideo, and C[omposite]-Video. A separate daughtercard serves up the component-video connectors. Among other advantages, this modular design should make upgrades and repairs much more practical. The R-965s similarity to a PC ended when I examined the top-flight complement of DSP chips that populate its expansion cards. The
Sources Pioneer Elite DV-F07 DVD Jukebox Sony DVP-NS700P DVD player Sony SAT-W60 digital satellite receiver-recorder ProScan PSVR75 HiFi VCR Adelphia analog cable Display V, Inc. Vizio RP56 56" DLP rear-projection TV Speakers B&W 801 Matrix Anniversary Edition (L/R) B&W HTM (center) M&K S-90 (surrounds) Cables Digital: Monster, MIT Interconnect: Monster, AudioQuest Speaker: 14 AWG copper w/banana plugs
centerpiece is a Cirrus Logic CS-49400 32-bit audio decoder that ably crunches just about every DTS and Dolby algorithm known to man or beast. All eight output channels are handled by Analog Devices AD-1852 24-bit/192kHz D/A converters; AKM AK-5380 24-bit A/D converters take care of business on the input side. An Analog Devices AD-1896 sample-rate converter remasters 2-channel PCM sources to 24/192 resolution. No PC case ever held anything like the pair of shiny, machined-aluminum heatsinks that flank the Sherwoods motherboard on both sides. These finned beauties are each 15 inches long and 5 inches high, spanning the full depth and height of the cabinet. Large amplifier boards are mounted along the outside of each heatsink. Ventilation slots stamped into the bottom of the chassis directly below the all-important power transistors create a chimney effect to draw air across the sinks and out the slots in the top cover, so be sure you dont block em.
According to Sherwoods website, amplifier output in Stereo mode is an ample 120 watts per channel into 8, from 20Hz to 20kHz, with <0.02% THD; the R-965s manual lists the THD at a slightly higher 0.05%. I was sad (but not surprised) to see that the R-965s multichannel output power is not fully specified with all channels driven. Sherwoods website claims 120 Watts per Channel x 7 in Surround Mode, a meaningless, unqualified spec. The R-965 manual
lists 140Wpc into 8 at 1kHz with 0.7% THD only channel driven; i.e., only the frontchannel pair, center, surround-channel pair, or surround rear/Room2 pair are driven during the test. This only-channel-driven rating at 1kHz is a far cry from the fully specd, 20Hz20kHz, all-channels-driven rating wed like to see. Another specification that raised my eyebrows is the amps apparently limited ability to drive low-impedance loads. A note in the manual warns that speakers of at least 6 should be used all around when connecting one pair of surround speakers; i.e., for a 5.1-channel configuration. This is not exactly reassuring, as the ability to remain stable into low impedance loads is something I take for granted when dealing with a high-end, $2000 component. That said, I used a pair of 4 M&K S90s for surrounds throughout the review period without incident. If youre planning on implementing a 7.1channel configuration, however, Id think twice before using any 4 speaker. The manual cautions use only speakers with impedance of over 12 when using both Surround A and Surround B connections and other [LCR] speakers with impedance of over 6. This could pose problems, as few decent speakers are rated at over 8, and a great many high-performance models are rated at only 4. It will be interesting to see how the R-965 behaves when we put it through its paces on the test bench (see sidebar, Measurements). Of course, Sherwood is hardly the only audio company to indulge in a bit of specsmanshipits rampant in our industry. And I dont want to give the impression that the R965 lacked sufficient amplifier oomphanything but! The point is, you cant shoehorn an advanced digital processor plus seven channels of amplification into a single cabinet without making some sacrificesnot if you want to sell the thing for less than a kings ransom. To their credit, Sherwood acknowledges this fact on their website: Our R-965 flagship receiver is identical to its more advanced parents [the P-965 processor and A-965 amp] except for the necessary compromises due to the use of a single power supply for both the preamp and main amp sections and in its ultimate power capability. For the record, Sherwoods A-965 7-channel amplifier has two toroidal transformers and separate amplifier monoblocks for each of the seven channels, vs. the R-965s single transformer and two amplifier blocks, each with multiple channels. The A-965 amp is fully specd at 100Wpc into 8, 20Hz20kHz, <0.02% THD, all channels
driven. A separate rating is given for 4 loads: 160Wpc, 20Hz20kHz, <0.09%, again with all channels driven. Of course, the A-965 lists for $1499.95, plus another $1499.95 for the matching P-965 processor; together, they list for a cool $1000 more than the R-965. Ive said it before and Ill say it again: when it comes to analog electronics such as a power amp, you really do get what you pay for.
One look at the R-965s rear panel is enough to make a grown man weep. Intimidating at first glance, this jack pack is complete, well thought out, and above all, flexible. First off, there are five AV inputs, each with an accompanying S-video jack. There are also three line-level audio-only inputs, labeled Aux, CD, and Tape Monitor, plus a movingmagnet phono input for you vinyl diehards. The AV, Aux, and CD inputs can be renamed. Many lesser receivers force you to plan a connection strategy that can accommodate fixed digital-audio input assignments; e.g., Video 1 has a coaxial input, Video 2 has optical, and so on. The R-965 gives you four optical and two coaxial digital inputs on the rear panel and lets you reassign them as you please. Similar flexibility is extended to the three component-video inputs, each of which can be freely assigned to any AV input. These are switched by relays, not microprocessors, so high-bandwidth HD signals should pass through with no rolloff. The R-965 is the first product Ive had inhouse that upconverts composite and S-video inputs to produce a unified, or universal, component-video output. This allows you to make a single component-video connection between the receiver and your video display, thus relieving you and your family of ever again having to switch video inputs on the TV. I saw no apparent decline in the video quality of the composite signal coming from my dusty VCR or from the S-video output of our muchloved Sony digital satellite receiver-recorder. And even if there was a performance penalty, Id gladly pay it to eliminate those dreaded midday phone calls from the wife and kids complaining that Theres no %#$* picture again! With so much flexibility on tap, its easy to forget what needs to be assigned where by the time you finally squeeze out from behind the equipment rack and sit down to program the input assignments. I found it helpful to make a little chart to keep track of each inputs new name, as well as its accompanying digital and component-video assignments. The Video 1 and 2 inputs are record loops with matching AV outputs, so youll want to reserve these inputs for use with a VCR, DVD
recorder, or TiVo. The record outputs can be switched independently to send different sources. However, the Video 2 record output serves double duty as the Room 2 output, so if you plan to have a second zone, youll be left with only one record output in your main room. And if your recording device can accept a digital audio input, the Sherwood has a digital optical output for recording (plus a coaxial digital output for a Zone 2 feed). In addition to the regular AV inputs, the R965 has a 7.1-channel analog Direct Input for use with a DVD-Audio or SACD player. (Of course, there are no such players with eight analog outputs, so the point of having the extra inputs is beyond me.) [Perhaps 7.1-discrete channels on some future format such as Blu-ray-based SACD or HD-DVD-based DVDAudio? Just daydreaming.Ed.] Dedicated composite and S-video inputs are provided, and the receivers bass-management f[unctions are active on this input. The R-965 has preamp outputs for all channels, including two subwoofer outputs. If youll be using only one Surround Back speaker in a 6.1-channel configuration, you can switch the unit to Passive Subwoofer mode and connect an unpowered sub to the Surround Back R speaker terminals. There are a total of nine pairs of high-quality speaker binding posts, labeled Front (L/R), Center, Surround A (L/R), Surround B (L/R), and Surround Back/SW (L/R). In addition to feeding a passive sub as mentioned above, the Surround Back speaker terminals can be assigned to feed speaker-level audio to the Room 2 zone. This is the first receiver Ive seen that sports a USB connector. Familiar to computer users, this high-speed serial port can accept 2-channel PCM digital audio from a PC, or it can be switched to enable downloads of
upgraded operating software. A 9-pin RS232C connector is also provided for the latter function. Custom installers and our more intrepid readers can use the R-965s IR control jacks in conjunction with a Xantech multiroom kit (sold separately) to operate the unit from a second room or when it is hidden from sight behind cabinet doors. A pair of DC trigger outputs can be used to raise and lower projectors, screens, and the like. The first jack triggers each time the receiver is powered on or off, the second when a specific, assignable input source is selected.
For the most part, I found the Newcastle R965 easy to set up and operate. The onscreen display (OSD) is simple but adequate, with six screens. Menu navigation is annoyingly inconsistent, sometimes requiring a push of the Enter button, other times a Return. I often found myself exiting the menu system entirely rather than stepping back to a previous sub menu. The Power Amp Assign screen is used to direct the rear-channel power amps to drive either the Surround Back or Room 2 speakers (so they can play a second, independent source). The Speaker Setup screen lets you select a speaker configuration (Large/Small for each speaker), which is then applied globally for all inputs. The subwoofer crossover frequency defaults to 80Hz, but can be adjusted from 40 to 120Hz in 20Hz increments. Although the R-965 does not have individual channel-level settings for each input, the Channel Level Setup screen does allow you to adjust and then store three channel-level presets for later recall. You can even adjust the LFE level separately for Dolby, DTS, and MPEG decoding modes.
DECEMBER 2004 | ULTIMATE AV
The System Setup screen is where you reassign digital and component inputs, turn Digital Re-Mastering on and off, etc. The Surround Setup screen selects a default decoding mode and adjusts a variety of Dolby Digital parameters. Finally, the Room2 Setup screen has settings for volume level (fixed or variable) and source. When an S-video or composite source is active, the white menu lettering appears on a transparent background, and so appears to float above the live video image. This can, of course, make it difficult to decipher the menu. On the other hand, the live video image is muted and replaced by a blue background when a component-video source is onscreen. This can be disconcerting, but at least the Sherwoods OSD can be invoked from all outputs, even component. And yes if you wish, you can turn off all onscreen displays, including the volume indicator. Two remotes are included with the R-965. The main one is a universal learning model that Sherwood repackages from Universal Remote Control, who sells it as a standalone product. Its a good-looking remote, with large, well-spaced buttons and a nifty central
rocker control. It feels great in the hand. An LCD shows the current function of ten soft buttons. Its even backlit. But its missing one critical thing: there are no dedicated buttons for input selection! The LCD page labeled Main shows the operating layers. To get to the input-selection buttons, you have to first hit Aud1. Many other frequently used operating functions are buried in subpages. I quickly grew tired of the whole affair and programmed my trusty Marantz RC-2000 Mk.II with the Sherwoods commands. This worked much better for me and my family. A secondary remote is provided for Room 2 operation. This simple remote has buttons for Zone On/Off, Input selection, Volume, and Mute. To use this IR remote, you must purchase and install a Xantech multiroom IR repeater kit. The front-panel fluorescent display is uninspiring, at best. The currently selected input (named as you prefer) appears in large characters, but everything else is indicated by tiny, sometimes confusing legends. I frequently had to get up and walk across the room to peer at the display just to determine which of the many possible surround modes I was listening to. I know Im beating a dead horse, but I just cant let it pass: the R-965s manual is a joke. This is a very complex product, with numerous parameters that must be set correctly for optimal performance. Beginning and advanced users alike deserve logically organized, clearly written operating instructions, which they dont get here.
The Sherwood Newcastle R-965 was one great-sounding receiver. My notebook is sprinkled with comments like: Detailed but not harsh. Solid bass. Conveys sense of acoustic ambience. Instruments are rendered 3-dimensionally. No sense of strain. I cant remember the last time I had this kind of reaction to a receiver, even one that lists for two grand. But before I played even a single note
through the R-965, I was struck by how quiet it was. Theres very little self-induced noise, even with the volume cranked. In 2-channel mode, the R-965 reproduced all my favorite tracks with aplomb. Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestras recording of Shostakovichs Symphony 15 (CD, London 417 581-2) has long been a touchstone. The first movement is an orchestral tour de force, with delicate flute and glockenspiel passages, stirring trumpet fanfares, soaring woodwind solos, and a variety of percussion, including snare drum, cymbals, and a truly massive bass drum. All of this is beautifully recorded, with instruments clearly positioned in space and enveloped by the glorious acoustic of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, one of the worlds great concert halls. Through lesser electronics, the sense of 3-dimensional space so wonderfully captured on this disc disappears, resulting in a flat, emotionally uninvolving presentation. But everything was right there with the Sherwood. Moving to a completely different genre, I spent a great deal of time listening to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Bands Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume Two (Universal UVLD12500). The subject of a recent PBS documentary, this groundbreaking 1989 recording was one of the first in decades to gather a group of musicians in a single room and have them actually play together with the tape rolling, rather than bring each performer separately into the studio to overdub a recording track by track. The result is a superb-sounding, musically joyous experience. With John Prine singing Grandpa Was a Carpenter in the background, I switched back and forth between the coaxial digital and analog outputs of my Pioneer Elite DV-F07 DVD/CD jukebox. Even though its a bit of a pain to use as a single-disc player, the Pioneer has been a fixture in my system for several years now. The reason is simple: Ive yet to find a receiver or processor with D/A converters that sound better than the Pioneers Legato Link DACs. I also experimented with the Sherwoods Re-Mastering function, which upconverts garden-variety, 16-bit/44.1kHz PCM audio to 24/192 resolution. With Re-Mastering turned off, the Pioneers Legato Link DACs sounded slightly smoother and cleaner than the Sherwoods in the high frequencies. But with Re-Mastering engaged, the Sherwoods high end seemed to snap into focus, becoming at least the equal of the Pioneer. I still havent decided which I like better, but at this point Im leaning toward the Sherwood. Turning to multichannel soundtracks on
DVD, the Sherwood struck just the right balance of power and finesse. Because I use fullrange front speakers in a fairly small room, I dont feel the need for a subwoofer in my system. Although my big B&W 801 speakers present a fairly benign 8 load to the amp, theyre more than happy to soak up as many watts as I care to throw at them. They also require an amp with good damping characteristics to control their big 12-inch woofers. This obviously places greater demands on a power amplifier than would a more typical home theater speaker system with small satellites and a powered sub. Judging by the deep roar of the Saturn V rocket in Apollo 13, the manifold explosions and mayhem of Saving Private Ryan, and the submarine and minefield detonations in Finding Nemo, among others, the R-965 had what it took to handle the most demanding sound effects, even when driving full-range speakers. It also effortlessly reproduced subtler ambient effects and delivered clean, intelligible dialog. I have yet to feel the need to engage the Sherwoods Cinema EQ, though Im glad to know its there. I watch a lot of regular TV programming on my system. Although some shows are recorded in matrixed Dolby Surround, many are still broadcast in stereo or even mono. Nevertheless, I still prefer to have the dialog coming out of the center speaker, so I usually leave the processor in its Dolby Pro Logic mode when watching TV. The Sherwoods Dolby Pro Logic IIx Movie mode worked great for this purpose, providing a noticeable improvement over plain ol Pro Logic. Last but not least, I have to admit that both the DTS Neo:6 Music and Dolby Pro Logic IIx Music modes work pretty darn well with many 2-channel music sources. These are certainly a huge improvement over the grotesque DSP modes still found on all too
many products. (The R-965 has a dozen such DSP modes, but I wont tell if you wont.)
The Sherwood Newcastle R-965 is an attractive and well-thought-out piece with exceptional build quality. It features an enormously comprehensive and flexible suite of AV inputs and outputs, including my new must have feature, unified component-video output. Above all, it delivered excellent audio performance in 2-channel and multichannel modes. The one area that could stand some improvement is the user interfacebut the same thing can be said of most of its competition. Speaking of competition, the R-965 must duke it out for shelf space in a brutally com-
petitive and rapidly changing market. Several 7.1-channel receivers with similar specifications and features are on the market, and all cost less than the Sherwood. Examples include the Denon AVR-3805 ($1199), Onkyo TX-NR901 ($1500), and Marantz SR7400 ($999). I havent had any hands-on experience with these specific receivers, so I cant say how they sound compared to the Sherwood. But the R-965 sets the bar pretty darn high. And Id be surprised indeed if any less-expensive competitor even comes close to the Sherwoods superior build quality and elegant look and feel. If you own a high-performance luxury car like a BMW or Lexus (or would if you could), the R-965 has your name written all over it.
All measurements were taken on the left channel, except as noted. The Sherwood Newcastle R-965s 2-channel analog frequency response, in Pure Audio mode, from the CD input to the speaker output, was 0.57dB at 10Hz, 0.18dB at 20Hz, 0.07dB at 20kHz, and 0.44dB at 50kHz. The response from the multichannel input to the speaker output differed from these results by less 0.2dB at 10Hz and 0.07dB, maximum, at 20Hz, 20kHz, and 50kHz. The Dolby Digital response (optical input to speaker output) was 0.38dB at 20Hz and 0.77dB at 20kHz, left channel (0.34dB at 20Hz and 0.76dB at 20kHz, center channel). With the Sherwoods surround left channel set to Small and the crossover frequency set to 80Hz, the response in that channel was 6dB at 82Hz at the bottom end and 0.79dB at 20kHz at the top. The line output from the LFE channel, normalized to the response at 40Hz, was 1.46dB at 20Hz and 6dB at 109Hz. The signal/noise ratio (A-weighted, 2.83V @ 8) measured 99.8dB. The gain measured 28.9dB, CD in to speaker out, with the level control set to +5. The THD+noise in 2-channel operation at 2.83V into 8 measured 0.010% at 20Hz, 0.011% at 1kHz, and 0.009% at 20kHz. At 2.83V into 4, the corresponding results were identical to within 0.001%. Driving all seven channels into 8, the Sherwood delivered (to the nearest watt) 108Wpc at 20Hz (126Wpc into 4) and 113Wpc at 1kHz (144Wpc into 4) before clipping (1% THD+noise). At 1kHz, with only two channels operating, the Sherwood clipped at 134Wpc into 8 and 220Wpc into 4.Thomas J. Norton
Editor: Thank you for Lawrence E. Ullmans thoughtful review of our Newcastle R-965 AV receiver. His recognition of its beautifully packaged chassis, silky motions, exceptional build quality, and excellent audio performance was appreciated by all involved. We do regret that a standard industry boilerplate warning regarding the use of lowimpedance speakers and our perceived specsmanship seemed to color the first part of the review with skepticism. As your measurements and LEUs listening tests confirm, the R-965 is no wimp. With all seven channels driven, its actual power output exceeds 100Wpc RMS into 8 and 125Wpc into 4. It is clearly low-impedancecapable. Also important is the R-965s field upgradeability. Since its introduction earlier this year, we have already released two updates. The first added AV Synch delay for users of advanced TVs, and the second incorporates automatic speaker setup. We are scheduled to add parametric EQ before the end of the year. These updates are available to Newcastle owners at no charge and are an important part of our customer service. Thank you again for your appreciation of our great-sounding receiver. Jeffrey Hipps Sr. VP, Marketing and Product Planning Sherwood America
Posted with permission from the December 2004 issue of Stereophile Ultimate AV www.UltimateAVmag.com. Copyright 2004, Primedia Inc. All rights reserved. For more information about reprints from Stereophile Ultimate AV, contact Wrights Reprints at 877-652-5295
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