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Robert Follis Associates Limited - Home Cinema Choice - Oct13
HIGH END
HERO
^ itting dealers' shelves
with a price tag far
beyond its mass-market
rivals, Arcam's new
^ seven-channel AVR has
a lot to live up to. And it succeeds...
Robert Follis Associates Limited - Home Cinema Choice - Oct13
REVIEWS 19
IT'S PROBABLY FAIR to say that Arcam
doesn't rush its AV receivers to market.
It's been four years since the launch of the
brand's last flagship, the AVR600, which in
the world of home electronics is something of
an age. At least the brand doesn't undersell
them when they arrive. The AVR750, it says,
is not just the finest home cinema receiver
it's ever made - it's also the best-sounding
stereo amplifier, too. Quite a claim, and the
guys from Cambridge may well be right.
Certainly this new AVR is a powerful
vindication of the company's philosophy
that there needn't be an unbridgeable divide
between two-channel and multichannel
entertainment. Whether playing Lou Reed's
Transformer or Michael Bay's Transformers,
there's an authority to this amplifier that's
deeply reassuring. But there's also a
conservatism to the feature specification
that may well disappoint badge-hunters.
Arcam's a very different company now
to what it was when it first released
the AVR600. The brand has shifted
manufacturing from the UK, and found
a new lease of life via its series of new
media accessories. Both impact the AVR750
in different ways.
Back in the day, Arcam receivers were just
a little bit cranky, which set them apart from
their mainstream competition just as surely
as their sonic attributes. That eccentricity has
wm
been ironed out of the AVR750; it feels
altogether more polished and refined and is
a much smoother component to drive. The
Arcam behaves much as you'd expect it to,
while the clear-cut specification makes it
a supremely easy AVR to install and tune.
In terms of design, this newcomer is just
beautiful. Its clean lines and dark-grey
bodywork reflect the familiar FMJ aesthetic.
There are no hidden flaps or manual control
knobs. The fascia merely presents a status
display window underscored by a dozen
buttons, which offer on-body +/- input
selection and volume control, mode
selection and so on. A 3.5mm aux input
for both analogue and optical digital
has
been testing AV
receivers since the
1990s and was
once excited by
composite video
inputs. Now he
gets annoyed if he
spots one
OCTOBER 2013 HOME CINEMA CHOICE
WlEROtf
Robert Follis Associates Limited - Home Cinema Choice Oct13
sources and a 3.5mm headphone jack offer
the only front-panel hookup.
At 16.7kg, the model also exhibits serious
heft. The neatly laid-out rear panel is as
generous as it is clean. There are seven HDMI
inputs and two outputs, both of which are
ARC (Audio Return Channel) compatible.
Curiously, one of the inputs is labelled VCR,
which is clearly a little ridiculous. This
vestigial nomenclature can also be found
on the remote control.
There's also a trio of component inputs,
four legacy phono AV inputs and a Zone 2
analogue output. Digital audio options
include two optical and four coaxial. Should
you feel the need to haul in an external power
pusher, there's also a 7.1 bank of pre-amp
outputs. As is the trend these days, though,
there are no multichannel analogue inputs.
This might just be an issue if you have a
legacy Super Audio CD/DVD-Audio deck.
The receiver is a seven-channel design,
using multi-voltage Class G amplification.
It can be configured as a full 7.1 system,
or as 5.1 with two channels serving a second
zone. Alternatively, users can opt to bi-amp
the front stereo pair in 5.1. For this review, the
AVR750 was run in its 7.1 configuration.
Network entertainment is delivered via
an Ethernet input; there's also a rear-mounted
USB, which when the HDMI inputs are
populated becomes virtually unusable.
External control support includes RS232,
plus 12V and IR triggers, which can
automatically switch on connected kit.
Revamped electronics
While some elements of the AVR750 recall
its antecedents, there have been big changes
beneath the hood. The entire HDMI and video
processing stage is new, sourced from Analog
Devices. This is quite a change from its
predecessor, which featured software
specifically written in-house by Arcam.
Unfortunately, that bravery led to a number
of reliability issues. In comparison, this
platform appears bulletproof. The receiver's
video switching time has improved, too, and
the AVR basically handshakes with every
hot plug as soon as it's powered up, which
dramatically improves overall slickness
and usability. All sources can be upscaled
to 4K resolution.
The supplied CR450 remote is a backlit,
learning zapper. It also comes pre
programmed for other Arcam devices,
and, in time-honoured tradition, button
functionality changes depending on which
source device is selected. A comprehensive
guide to this multi-functionality is provided
in the tutorial booklet.
Despite its high-end designation, the
AVR750 is not a difficult receiver to set up
and optimize. Typically in a home cinema
system, you'll declare all speakers to be
small regardless of their physical size, thereby
allowing the subwoofer to handle lowerfrequency information. However, given the
AVR750's audiophile leanings, this approach
Taking the top off: inside Arcam's AVR750
The AVR750 employs
a revised and refined
seven-channel Class G
amplifier for 'clean and
tight power delivery'
HOME CINEMA CHOICE 0C1
B
An Analog Devices 4K
processor enables Ultra HD
passthrough, and upscaling
of hi-def and standard-def
sources to 3,840x2,160
Audio clarity is improved,
says Arcam, by virtue of
an ultra-low-noise pre
amplifier with discrete
electronic volume control
may not always be appropriate; helpfully, you
can elect to configure the AVR750 for stereo
listening differently.
The Arcam ships with an Auto Speaker
setup calibration mic, which performs the
usual enclosure measurements and room EQ
sleight of hand. You can elect to manually
select which inputs benefit from this
equalisation - ideal if you prefer certain
sources uncoloured. While I preferred the
AVR750 sans EQ in two-channel mode, this
calibration certainly helped multichannel
material. The routine takes a little longer to
complete than rival systems, but positional
accuracy is very good. Inevitably, though, some
further tweaking was done to get the most
agreeable sound balance.
When it comes to a user interface, the
AVR750 offers a utilitarian face to the world. >
HERO 4
Robert Follis Associates Limited - Home Cinema Choice - Oct13
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■•^^^
VS.
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'Tai A.^^no*.^ AV
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* 4k.
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In fact, the Ul is the same as that featured
on the AVR600, but at least it's far more
responsive this time around. Cinephiles
more concerned with the performance chops
of the system are unlikely to be put off by
such frugality.
The AVR750 is networked for audio,
offering playback from uPnP-enabled
'Arcam's new receiver
is breathtakingly
exciting - fast and
furious and with
huge dynamics'
devices, as well as internet radio via vTuner.
Media compatibility is standard, with MP3,
WMA, WAV, FLAC and M4A/AAC files all
playing from both USB and across a network
from a NAS. There's no album art support,
HOME CINEMA CHOICE OCTOBER 2013
though. There's no Screensaver mode, either
- so plasma owners beware.
Two-channel tenacity
In audiophile guise, Stereo Direct is the
way to go. This bypasses all processing and
circumnavigates surround effects. As there's
no bass management, nothing is directed to
the subwoofer channel. The resulting twochannel performance is positively seductive.
Seraphim (Angel Mix) by Digitonal,
a FLAC download from Linn Records, has
a soundstage that grows wider and deeper
as the track progresses, and the AVR750 sings
along sweetly. Arcam makes no bones about
the fact that this receiver has been engineered
first and foremost to convey believable music,
confident that once that's achieved all other
aspects will fall into place.
The AVR750 sounds similarly glorious with
multichannel music (EQ employed). Kosuke
Yamashita's The Earth Overture in 192kHz/
24-bit 7.1 Linear PCM is suitably grandiose.
vx
Of course, AV-Holics might be forgiven
for thinking that any AVR whose DNA was
forged in a musical furnace will sound fey and
gutless with ballsy action fare. However, this
Arcam will prove them wrong. The AVR750 is
brawnier than a pumped-up Sylvester Stallone
- an analogy given credence by the lengthy
pre-credit sequence in The Expendables 2
(Blu-ray). The AVR750 delivers the
magnificent chaos of this madcap 7.1 DTS-HD
Master Audio mix without the vaguest hint of
exhaustion. As Sly's Bad Attitude convoy
blasts through the Nepalese compound,
the receiver disgorges ordnance and falling
masonry with huge dynamics. The wraparound
imaging is fast and furious, with dialogue
cleanly delineated (no mean feat given the
scenery-chewing cast). It's all breathlessly
exciting. There's a temptation with the AVR750
to see just how far you can push its reserves,
but in anything other than a theatre-sized
space you'll hit the pain threshold before the
receiver squirms.
Robert Follis Associates Limited - Home Cinema Choice Oct13 REVIEWS
The AVR750 doesn't feature an over
abundance of multichannel processing modes.
Codec support covers the basics - Dolby
TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and Pro-Logic llx,
along with DTS-HD MA and DTS-ES 6.1.
Arcam's top-flight receiver holds no truck with
height or width processing (hardly surprising
considering it only offers seven channels) nor
any of the virtual science proffered by the likes
of Sony's STR-DA5800ES. This is very much
a classical AV package.
That's not to say fun can't be had with
some of the Arcam's old-school modes. With
genuine 7.1 mixes still in short supply, Dolby
Digital EX works well in fleshing out the
surround with 5.1 sources. The opening
sequence to Transformers: Dark of The Moon
(Sky Movies) immediately becomes more
immersive when EX is applied. As the
animated Paramount logo encircles the
listener, the 360-degree pan gets a little vague
in 5.1; with EX on and those rear back channels
engaged, there's no holes in the wall of sound.
The receiver is rated to deliver 130W (into
eight Ohms) with two channels driven,
dropping to around 100W when all seven
channels are in flight. However, this doesn't
really give a sense of the transient response
offered by the onboard power plant. This can
run 20W of low-distortion Class A across all
channels (more than the
AVR600 and cooler, too),
but switches in another
supply using larger
capacitors when things
really kick off. Which is
probably why it sounds
so elegant with music but
is unfazed by mayhem.
As an aside, it's worth
ON THE MENU
-»The Arcam features a no-nonsense,
straightforward user interface, borrowed from its
AVR600 predecessor but now faster to browse
S p e c i fi c a t i o n s
DOLBY TRUEHD: Yes. Plus Dolby Digital EX;
Dolby Pro-Logic llx
DTS-HD MASTER AUDIO: Yes. Plus DTS-ES 6.1
Discrete; DTS-ES 6.1 Matrix;
rHX:No
MULTICHANNEL INPUT: No
MULTICHANNEL OUTPUT (CLAIMED):
7xlOOW
MULTIROOM: Yes. Second zone, analogue
audio/video
IPUTS: 4 x composite; 4 x digital audio
(2 x optical; 2 x coaxial)
HDMI: Yes. 7 x inputs; 2 x outputs
COMPONENT VIDEO: 3 x inputs
VIDEO UPSCALING: Yes. To 4K
DIMENSIONS: 433(w) x 425(d) x 171(h)mm
WEIGHT: 16.7kg
ALSO FEATURING: Ethernet; USB; vTuner 'net
radio; AM/FM radio; Auto Speaker Calibration;
RS232; 12V trigger; learning backlit remote
control; Class G amplification; 7.1-channel
pre-outs; free iPad remote app; 4K and 3D
passthrough; media file playback via USB or
network; Stereo Direct mode
mentioning that I also
listened to the AVR750
Connections
A Zone 2
The Zone 2 stereo and
composite video outputs
allow a two-channel second
zone system to be run from the AVR
B Preamp output
Should you wish you can pre-amp out all
channels to an external power amp
C USB connection
While the rear-mounted USB will play the
same selection of audio files as those across
a network, the awkward rear-placement
makes it unlikely to see much casual use
DDual HDMI output
The AVR750 offers a paired HDMI output,
for screen and projector use. Both are Audio
Return Channel compatible, allowing your
TV's audio to be routed back into the AVR
as a source
utilising Arcam's inspired
rBlink. A diminutive
Bluetooth DAC, this
allows users to stream
from their mobile
device to the big AVR. The results were
surprisingly musical.
H C C Ve r d i c t
Effortlessly confident
There is no escaping the fact that Arcam's
AVR750 is a magnificent-sounding AV receiver.
Easily the most accomplished AVR from the
brand to date, it's effortlessly confident with
multichannel and is a luxurious two-channel
listen as well. While it's perhaps regrettable
that little operational niceties such as HDMI
passthrough and GUI flourishes have been
ignored, particularly given the lofty price point,
the business-like specification probably won't
worry those seeking second-to-none audio.
This delivers a titanic listening experience,
regardless of your sound and vision
predilection. Book a demo now ■
Arcam FMJ AVR750
-» £4,000 Approx -* www.arcam.co.uk
-♦Tel: 01223 203200
HIGHS: Marvellous sound quality with
wonderful clarity and huge dynamics; simple
to set up and use; sturdy build quality and
fuss-free design
LOWS: No HDMI passthrough; no integrated
web services beyond vTuner; USB port is
awkward to access; silly VCR input label
Performance
Design
Features
• ••••I
*****1
•
••
1
Overall *•***!
OCTOBER 2013 HOME CINEMA CHOICE