AV Pro­ces­sor + Power Am­pli­fier of the Year

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As com­pre­hen­sive as the win­ners of our top AV re­ceiver awards are, there is a level above to which the finest home cin­e­mas can as­pire. As with pre-power am­pli­fiers in stereo hi-fi, the top level of cin­ema sound is de­liv­ered by sep­a­rated pro­ces­sors and power am­pli­fiers, and this year we spent time with a com­bi­na­tion which is now be­ing widely praised as the ul­ti­mate home cin­ema pro­cess­ing so­lu­tion. In­deed the French com­pany Trin­nov also makes units for the pro­fes­sional market, where they are used in real cin­e­mas as well as such places as Fox Stu­dios, the BBC, NHK and, na­turelle­ment, France Télévi­sion.

Such a pro­fes­sional level of prod­uct doesn’t come cheap. The Trin­nov Alti­tude16 pro­ces­sor is $23,999 (a 32-chan­nel ver­sion is also avail­able), while the eight-chan­nel Trin­nov Am­pli­tude8m power am­pli­fier $11,499, and of course if you’re us­ing all 16 chan­nels of pro­cess­ing you’ll be need­ing two of those.

The pro­ces­sor is un­like any­thing we’ve pre­vi­ously seen, par­tic­u­larly in hav­ing two very dif­fer­ent sec­tions. First is a fairly tra­di­tional dig­i­tal pream­pli­fier with DAC and ADC ca­pa­bil­i­ties (de­vel­oped by Trin­nov for its pro gear) and rather more ad­vanced than usual in its switch­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. But along­side this is a com­puter. A real Linux-based com­puter, not just a con­cep­tual one. Why? Be­cause Trin­nov doesn’t buy sur­round sound de­coder chips from the stan­dard sup­pli­ers. It uses its own cus­tom soft­ware in a gen­eral-pur­pose com­puter to do the sur­round de­cod­ing (and, it seems, the speaker and room op­ti­mi­sa­tion). Rather than wait­ing for chip com­pa­nies to in­cor­po­rate new stan­dards like Dolby At­mos or DTS:X, Trin­nov runs the code into its com­puter, claim­ing thereby to be 18-24 months faster to market. New fea­tures or per­for­mance im­prove­ments can be de­liv­ered by soft­ware up­date. So how’s that for fu­ture proof­ing? This soft­ware also al­lows highly com­plex and ef­fec­tive EQ, bass man­age­ment and room cal­i­bra­tion.

We imag­ine most peo­ple con­sid­er­ing Trin­nov for the home cin­ema will be work­ing with an in­staller, so won’t have to work out their sys­tem, but note that the Alti­tude16 is pri­mar­ily dig­i­tal in its in­puts - seven HDMI, two each of op­ti­cal and coax­ial dig­i­tal au­dio, but only two ana­logue in­puts, one of them on bal­anced XLR, and no ana­logue video in­puts at all. It does, how­ever, sup­port net­work au­dio stream­ing up to 96kHz sam­pling, and also fully sup­ports Roon. All au­dio out­puts are on bal­anced XLR.

So un­sur­pris­ingly the 30kg beast of the Am­pli­tude8m has bal­anced in­puts only, us­ing the au­dio­phile-level Ncore

JUDGES’ COM­MENT “A pro­ces­sor of­fer­ing the ul­ti­mate in home cin­ema flex­i­bil­ity, with a mul­ti­chan­nel power amp of­fer­ing the qual­ity of the very best in stereo hi-fi.”

Hypex Class-D amp mod­ules (also favoured, per­haps not co­in­ci­den­tally, by our top stereo am­pli­fier this year, the Bel Canto ACI 600, see p70). Th­ese prom­ise 200W each into eight ohms, 300W each into four ohms. We found the re­sults as­ton­ish­ing in tone, in power, in clar­ity. The ul­ti­mate home cin­ema com­bi­na­tion? Well, let’s just say we’ve not heard bet­ter in our 30 years of AV pub­lish­ing.

More info: www.cog­works.io

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