An­them State­ment D2v 3D A/V Pro­ces­sor

NOVO - - PRODUCT REVIEW - Suave Ka­jko

If you have ever won­dered what ad­van­tages a sep­a­rate A/V pro­ces­sor and a ded­i­cated mul­ti­chan­nel am­pli­fier can bring to the home theatre ex­pe­ri­ence, then you’ve come to the right place. As the pub­lisher of an au­dio video mag­a­zine I’ve had the de­light of sit­ting through demon­stra­tions of some re­mark­able home theatre sys­tems over the years. From mod­estly priced set­ups with small speak­ers and flat panel TVs to out­ra­geously ex­pen­sive sys­tems with stu­dio­qual­ity speak­ers and gi­gan­tic screens, I’ve seen just about ev­ery­thing. But none left a last­ing im­pres­sion on me quite like the home theatre in­stalled at the Par­a­digm/ An­them head­quar­ters. What was it that cap­ti­vated me so much about this par­tic­u­lar setup you ask? It was the sys­tem’s un­canny abil­ity to trans­port me right in front of a live mu­si­cal per­for­mance and of­fer one of the most im­mer­sive movie ex­pe­ri­ences I had ever watched. Since then, my own home theatre sys­tem has never brought me the same plea­sure. Okay, that’s a bit of an ex­ag­ger­a­tion but the fact is that I’ve de­sired to own an An­them A/V pro­ces­sor and a match­ing am­pli­fier ever since.

Nat­u­rally then, when the An­them D2v 3D A/V Pro­ces­sor ar­rived at my house, I was filled with joy. It came very well packed in a dou­ble box and de­spite the large di­men­sions of the pack­age, it tipped the scale at a man­age­able 27 lbs. An­them is con­sid­ered by many, in­clud­ing my­self, to be one of the top home theatre com­po­nent mak­ers in the world and so it should come as no sur­prise that its top-gun A/V pro­ces­sor comes with a price tag of $10,499. If you com­pare it to other A/V pro­ces­sors out there it might seem a lit­tle pricey, but if you com­pare it to a high-end au­dio pream­pli­fier, the price makes much more sense. That’s be­cause the An­them D2v is a ma­chine en­gi­neered to de­liver not only the high­est level of au­dio but also un­com­pro­mised video per­for­mance. Like most An­them com­po­nents, the D2v is de­signed and built en­tirely in Mississauga, On­tario (Canada).

de­sign | fea­tures

Un­like many of to­day’s A/V re­ceivers, the D2v doesn’t of­fer a long list of fea­tures, many of which you’ll prob­a­bly never use any­way. In­stead the D2v fo­cuses ex­clu­sively on per­for­mance. If the D2v was a car, it wouldn’t be a fam­ily sedan or even a sports car – it would be a pure­bred rac­ing ma­chine with a sin­gle goal, to out­per­form ev­ery­one else on the cir­cuit. At its core the D2v is a 7.1-chan­nel au­dio and video pro­ces­sor that of­fers 3D com­pat­i­bil­ity, the com­pany’s renowned An­them Room Cor­rec­tion (ARC), a Sigma De­signs VXP broad­cast qual­ity video pro­ces­sor and state of the art au­dio pro­cess­ing. It of­fers de­cod­ing of all the lat­est au­dio for­mats in­clud­ing Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio, as well as PCM 24/192 play­back. All chan­nels in the main zone are up­sam­pled to 24-bit/192 kHz for im­proved fidelity and as you might ex­pect the D2v is equipped with top-notch DACs and ADCs, cho­sen care­fully for their syn­ergy with other com­po­nents. Fi­nally the D2v also fea­tures a built-in AM/FM tuner for all you ra­dio lis­ten­ers.

The D2v’s rear panel of­fers a great wealth of con­nec­tions. For starters there are 8 HDMI in­puts and 2 par­al­lel out­puts. There are also 4 com­po­nent video in­puts, and 2 out­puts, along with more S-video and com­pos­ite video in­puts than you’ll know what to do with. On the au­dio side, the D2v has a plethora of in­puts: 7 dig­i­tal coax­ial, 3 dig­i­tal Toslink, 7 ana­log RCA, 1 bal­anced XLR as well as ded­i­cated 8.2-chan­nel ana­log in­puts (which in­clude 2 cen­tre chan­nels and 2 subs). Its main au­dio out­put sec­tion of­fers out­puts for 8 chan­nels, plus dual sub­woofers, in both RCA and bal­anced XLR for­mats. In ad­di­tion to the main zone, the D2v of­fers two ad­di­tional stereo zones.

There are so many tech­ni­cal as­pects to talk about un­der the hood of the D2v, that this re­view could eas­ily run for many pages. I’d like to re­fer the highly tech­ni­cal read­ers to get more de­tailed tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion from the D2v prod­uct page on www.an­the­mav.com, and in­stead I’ll

fo­cus here pri­mar­ily on the mu­sic that I lis­tened to and the movies that I watched, through the D2v. This should serve greater value to all read­ers.

The ini­tial setup of the An­them D2v is a lit­tle more in­volved than set­ting up a typ­i­cal A/V re­ceiver. There are more con­nec­tions to be made and the ARC setup process takes a lit­tle longer. I set up my D2v re­view sam­ple to­gether with a multi-chan­nel Ax­iom Au­dio ADA-1500 am­pli­fier, which you’ll find a re­view of in the next is­sue of CANADA HiFi. This is a very pow­er­ful and won­der­ful sound­ing am­pli­fier ca­pa­ble of putting out 300 watts per chan­nel with 5 chan­nels driven (8 ohms loads), and 214 watts per chan­nel when driv­ing 7 chan­nels. An­them of course of­fers its own match­ing State­ment se­ries of am­pli­fiers, with three dif­fer­ent ranges to choose from – the A se­ries, M1 monoau­ral, and P se­ries. The speak­ers used in this re­view con­sisted of my ref­er­ence 5.1-chan­nel sys­tem of the Mon­i­tor Au­dio GX Gold se­ries, while the pic­ture was pro­vided by the best Pi­o­neer ever of­fered, the PDP6020FD 60-inch KURO plasma TV. My source was the Cam­bridge Au­dio Azur BD751 univer­sal Blu-ray player.

With ev­ery­thing con­nected, I ini­ti­ated the ARC setup. I’m quite fa­mil­iar with the ARC setup as I own An­them’s MRX 500 A/V re­ceiver and have ran the cal­i­bra­tion nu­mer­ous times in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments. The D2v comes sup­plied with all the com­po­nents you’ll need to make the ARC work: a mi­cro­phone (with a stand), a USB ca­ble, a se­rial ca­ble, a USB to se­rial adapter and the ARC soft­ware (for PCs only, al­though can be run on Macs us­ing Win­dows em­u­la­tor soft­ware). The only thing you’ll need to sup­ply is your own lap­top. Un­like pretty much all A/V re­ceiver room cal­i­bra­tion sys­tems in the mar­ket, the ARC so­phis­ti­ca­tion re­quires com­put­ing power that A/V re­ceiver chips aren’t ca­pa­ble of – hence the need for a lap­top. Once ev­ery­thing is con­nected, the ARC plays test tones on each speaker as the mi­cro­phone is repo­si­tioned a num­ber of times around the room. The sys­tem then ad­justs the fre­quency curve for each speaker in the at­tempt to pro­vide the flat­test re­sponse. This process takes about 20 min­utes to run and is ex­tremely ef­fec­tive in cor­rect­ing acous­tic room prob­lems – which nearly all rooms suf­fer from. In fact, the ARC is the most ef­fec­tive room cal­i­bra­tion sys­tem I have per­son­ally used to date. To learn more de­tails about the ARC set up and cal­i­bra­tion pro­ce­dure, please check out the An­them MRX 500 re­view on www.canadahifi.com. Af­ter con­nect­ing your sources to the D2v, you can en­joy mu­sic and movies in a mat­ter of min­utes. But to take full ad­van­tage of the D2v’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties, you’ll def­i­nitely want to take the time to fine tune its set­tings. The D2v of­fers ad­vanced au­dio and video pro­cess­ing – likely far bet­ter than your sources and dis­play – so you’ll want it to per­form all the de­cod­ing, scal­ing and pro­cess­ing of all au­dio and video signals. The set­tings for each source can be ad­justed in­di­vid­u­ally and there are no short­age of ad­just­ments to tweak – var­i­ous lev­els of au­dio pro­cess­ing, video scal­ing, noise re­duc­tion, de­tail en­hance­ment, just to men­tion a few. The D2v of­fers more au­dio and video set­tings than any other A/V pro­ces­sor or re­ceiver I’ve ever con­fig­ured. The con­trol and cus­tomiza­tion op­tions are seemly end­less. In fact some users may find the sheer choice of set­tings over­whelm­ing, in which case the so­lu­tion might be to ask your An­them dealer to set up the D2v for you.

per­for­mance

With the ini­tial setup in the rearview mir­ror, I fi­nally hit the couch to do some lis­ten­ing. Given my level of ex­cite­ment, I wanted to start with some­thing that I knew was a qual­ity record­ing. When I put on the AIX Records 3D Mu­sic Al­bum Demo & Au­dio Cal­i­bra­tion Disc (Blu-ray), I was rewarded with some amaz­ingly stim­u­lat­ing mu­si­cal per­for­mances. In ad­di­tion to be­ing ex­tremely well recorded, this disc of­fers a 5.1 chan­nel Dolby TrueHD sound­track as well as a two chan­nel pre­sen­ta­tion in 96kHz/24-bits. Plus you can lis­ten to the disc in one of three mixes - a stage mix, an au­di­ence mix, and a stage & au­di­ence per­spec­tive. I lis­tened to the 5.1 au­di­ence mix. This was with­out ques­tion the most en­gag­ing, mu­si­cal per­for­mance I’ve heard in my home theatre to date. The first track, Lau­rance Ju­ber’s solo acous­tic gui­tar per­for­mance, is a play­ful song that sounded breath­tak­ingly real. The gui­tar strings played with the full­ness and rich­ness that I’m used to hear­ing when I play my own gui­tar. Ev­ery string picked, ev­ery chord strummed, played with a re­mark­able tex­ture. The next track, Rita Coolidge’s “Play Some­thing Sweet (Brick­yard Blues)” of­fered a won­der­ful fe­male vo­cal per­for­mance backed by an 11-piece band. De­spite the num­ber of in­stru­ments in this record­ing, the vo­cals along with each in­stru­ment were pre­sented in their own clearly de­fined three di­men­sional space. Coolidge’s voice was ex­cep­tion­ally clean and con­tained the tini­est nu­ances that a lesser sys­tem would con­ceal. The D2v pro­ces­sor’s trans­par­ent qual­ity al­lowed ev­ery in­stru­ment to shine through with su­perb tonal ac­cu­racy, of­fer­ing all the tex­tu­ral de­tails. I en­joyed this disc many times be­fore through var­i­ous A/V re­ceivers in my sys­tem but this was an al­most en­tirely new ex­pe­ri­ence. The An­them D2v pro­ces­sor, along with the Ax­iom Au­dio ADA-1500 am­pli­fier pre­sented me with a height­ened level of re­al­ism, which re­sulted in a hair-rais­ing mu­si­cal per­for­mance. I loved ev­ery part of it.

Switch­ing gears, I lis­tened to sev­eral 2-chan­nel clas­si­cal record­ings, in­clud­ing Holst “The Plan­ets” per­formed by the Los An­ge­les Phil­har­monic orches­tra. Per­son­ally, I find that the vast ma­jor­ity of A/V re­ceivers out there to­day sim­ply don’t sound mu­si­cal enough when it comes to 2-chan­nel per­for­mance. Most A/V re­ceivers will show their lim­its es­pe­cially when play­ing highly dy­namic clas­si­cal mu­sic. Dur­ing de­mand­ing mu­si­cal pas­sages, the sound­stage pre­sen­ta­tion can col­lapse and re­sult in a con­gested mess that’s sim­ply un­pleas­ant to lis­ten to. Even if you don’t lis­ten to clas­si­cal mu­sic, think of how many movie sound­tracks rely on dy­namic or­ches­tral scores. So I was re­ally cu­ri­ous how this An­them/Ax­iom Au­dio duo would fair. When lis­ten­ing to “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jol­lity” in stereo, this duo once again showed its true strengths and demon­strated the ben­e­fits of us­ing sep­a­rates in a mul­ti­chan­nel sys­tem. I rarely ever lis­ten to clas­si­cal record­ings in my home theatre sim­ply be­cause they don’t sound nearly as good here as they do through my two chan­nel sys­tem. To my de­light how­ever this was the very first time that I was pre­sented with a true high-end two chan­nel per­for­mance in my home theatre. All the best qual­i­ties of a great two chan­nel sys­tem were of­fered here in spades: tonal ac­cu­racy, sound­stag­ing, dy­nam­ics,

de­tail ex­trac­tion and over­all en­gage­ment and mu­si­cal­ity. Even when lis­ten­ing to the loud­est of pas­sages at high vol­umes, the sound­stage kept its com­po­sure, along with its im­pres­sive depth and width. The over­all pres­ence and dy­nam­ics of the sound were su­perb. The macro­dy­nam­ics – or­ches­tral crescen­dos and bass drums – were pre­sented with a great sense of im­pact and power. The mi­cro­dy­nam­ics, such as small per­cus­sion in­stru­ments and tri­an­gles, were de­liv­ered with fine, re­al­is­tic tex­tures with proper de­cay. When clas­si­cal mu­sic sounds this good, it leaves you – at least it left me – air con­duct­ing.

To see how the D2v han­dled al­bums with some­what lower stan­dards of record­ing, I tried a few pop­u­lar live al­bums such as Florence + the Ma­chine’s “MTV Un­plugged”, Nir­vana’s “MTV Un­plugged in New Year”, Ala­nis Moris­sette’s “MTV Un­plugged” and “Jagged Lit­tle Pill Un­plugged”. All of the tracks that I lis­tened to from th­ese al­bums played with a great bal­ance, with in­stru­ments never over pow­er­ing one an­other. Some of the dig­i­tal harsh­ness that I as­so­ciate with th­ese record­ings on lesser qual­ity sys­tems was vir­tu­ally en­tirely cleaned up by the D2v. The sound­stag­ing was also more three di­men­sional here than I would ever ex­pect from a home theatre com­po­nent.

Fol­low­ing such de­light­fully mu­si­cal per­for­mances, I deemed it was time to watch some video. I watched a wide range of scenes on Blu-ray from Space­balls, The Dark Knight Rises, Tron, Un­stop­pable, Sher­lock Holmes and The Pa­cific HBO se­ries. Space­balls has long been one of my very favourites, and I was thrilled when it fi­nally came out on Blu-ray a few years ago. Its iconic com­bi­na­tion of scifi and com­edy never seizes to amaze me and al­ways puts a big smile on my face. Oh, how I’ve al­ways wished Mel Brooks fol­lowed up with a se­quel. As soon as the movie be­gan, I felt some­thing spe­cial about the sound. The DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio sound­track sounded cleaner, bet­ter de­fined and flowed more ef­fort­lessly than I’ve heard it be­fore in my home theatre room. Jim Mor­ris’ or­ches­tral score was pre­sented by the An­them D2v/Ax­iom Au­dio ADA-1500 duo with a great dy­namic range, some­thing you could never ex­pect from an A/V re­ceiver. The bass re­sponse was re­mark­able, with each note ar­tic­u­lated very well and with great tight­ness. I knew I had the D2v’s ARC sys­tem to thank for this. Not only does the ARC clean up the fre­quency re­sponse from all the speak­ers un­like other room cal­i­bra­tion sys­tems I’ve tested, it does a re­mark­able job at flat­ten­ing out the bass re­sponse as well. The sonic ben­e­fits of the ARC are just awe­some.

The dra­matic open­ing scene of The Dark Knight Rises com­bines the rum­ble of air­craft en­gines, char­ac­ter dia­logue, gun­shots and a loud or­ches­tral score. The An­them/Ax­iom duo did a re­mark­able job when tasked with sort­ing out all of the in­di­vid­ual com­po­nents of this chal­leng­ing pas­sage. Each of the sonic com­po­nents was clearly de­fined within its own space, yet com­bined seam­lessly into an ex­hil­a­rat­ing au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence that car­ried the movie for­ward. Yet amidst all the ac­tion, the char­ac­ter voices were pre­sented with the out­most clar­ity. The D2v demon­strated an un­canny abil­ity to trans­port me son­i­cally right into ev­ery scene. From a ball­room dance to the sew­ers be­neath Gotham city, I was al­ways placed right in the mid­dle of the ac­tion.

When watch­ing scenes from The Pa­cific, ev­ery part of it seemed a lit­tle more real. The au­dio was hy­per re­al­is­tic and so trans­par­ent that I felt emo­tion­ally con­nected to the char­ac­ters dur­ing the qui­eter chap­ters. On the op­po­site side of the spec­trum, the bat­tle se­quences felt fright­en­ingly real with bul­lets zoom­ing be­tween the chan­nels and ex­plo­sives blow­ing up all around me. The pre­sen­ta­tion of­fered boun­ti­ful power and fan­tas­tic dy­nam­ics.

The D2v of­fers an ex­cep­tion­ally large num­ber of video pro­cess­ing op­tions to help make even the poor­est qual­ity sources look good on a big screen. In­side the video source ad­just­ment menu you’ll find var­i­ous pic­ture con­trols (bright­ness, con­trast, colour, de­tail en­hance­ment, noise re­duc­tion, etc), in­put crop­ping op­tions, out­put scal­ing op­tions, gamma cor­rec­tion and even test pat­terns. What I re­ally en­joyed here is that as you fine tune any of th­ese ad­just­ments, the menu dis­ap­pears from the TV screen so that you can see the dif­fer­ence they’re mak­ing in the video. I found th­ese pro­cess­ing op­tions par­tic­u­larly use­ful with 1080i sources, stan­dard DVDs and non-HD chan­nels from my satel­lite box. While watch­ing Alien on DVD, the D2v was able to clean up some of the pic­ture noise and in­crease the level of de­tail, es­pe­cially in the darker parts of the pic­ture.

If I had to point to some things that could be im­proved with the D2v, it cer­tainly wouldn’t be any­thing to do with its au­dio or video ca­pa­bil­i­ties. But a few items could use some at­ten­tion. The setup menu looks and feels an­ti­quated and could cer­tainly use a mod­ern re­fresh. The re­mote, al­though back­lit, is rather plain and doesn’t of­fer the same sense of pride as other re­motes in­cluded with high-end au­dio gear. Per­haps a brushed alu­minum case with a small LCD screen would be more suit­able. Some users will find the ini­tial setup and ARC cal­i­bra­tion time con­sum­ing and daunt­ing. Then again the D2v is de­signed for home theatre en­thu­si­asts, rather than the aver­age movie viewer, who might en­joy the setup and tweak­ing process. Fi­nally, we hope that the D2v will be hard­ware upgrad­able to sup­port 4K video in the near fu­ture.

The An­them D2v is a highly ad­vanced ma­chine that brought me plea­sure un­like any other A/V pro­ces­sor in my home theatre. Two-chan­nel mu­sic, multi-chan­nel Blu-ray con­cert discs and movies have never sounded bet­ter. Ev­ery time I sat down to en­joy mu­sic or watch a film, I was rewarded with a re­mark­able sound per­for­mance. Thanks to its top-notch video pro­cess­ing lower res­o­lu­tion and in­ter­laced video sources also looked fan­tas­tic. If you de­sire noth­ing but the very best for your home theatre, I can’t think of a bet­ter com­po­nent to place at the heart of your sys­tem. The An­them D2v A/V pro­ces­sor is a win­ner in ev­ery re­gard and hence deserves our high­est level of praise. For be­ing the best A/V pro­ces­sor we ever tested, we proudly award it the “Edi­tor’s Choice” recog­ni­tion.

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