Back from CES and finally got a chance to play with my 972. This is my initial impression and I will follow up with a more in depth review when I can spend some more time with the unit. Let me start with a quick equipment list.
Sherwood Newcastle 972
Integra Research RSA-7.1
B&W CDM 9NT, CNT, SNT
Stewart 120 inch Screen
Now a little background on myself. I have been an avid HT guy since about 1986 and have built 4 home theaters for myself and consulted on numerous others. I also have 20 years experience mixing live sound. I am a network engineer by trade (computer geek).
I have helped calibrate and installed systems from HTIB to 200k plus systems, so I would like to think I have a pretty good ear (at least I hope so).
I installed the 972 into my current rack replacing my Onkyo 805. I ran the calibration using a tri-pod at the center seating position. I used a laser point er to make sure the red dot pointed to the center speaker as best as possible. Now I will tell you the weakness of my current home cinema. The dimensions are 13 x 13 x 8 (insert gasp here), the worst possible shape. I have large bass traps in the back to help with standing waves, and acoustically treated the walls with Owens Corning panels. The rooms sound pretty good in the sweet spot, but does sound small and has some significant bass tone issues.
The first thing I noticed about the 972 was how open it made my room feel. I noticed detail in imaging that I never noticed before. The unit sounds very good even without the processing, but when Trinnov is turned on you can really here the sound stage open up. I have watched three movies now that I have tested on several high end systems during calibration. On every single movie, things moved around in the sound field in ways I rarely hear. In the movie "Meatballs with a chance of Rain" there is a scene where the fish bowl rolls toward you and then past you. I listened to this clip without Trinnov and the bowl rolls past you but you can here it pass from speaker to speaker as it moves. I then turned on Trinnov. Bowl rolls right through your head, but off to the left a little. Very hard to explain but it is in a 3d space I have only heard in one other theater. On another occasion I was watching a clip with some birds chirping between FR and RS. My old receiver put it smack dab in the middle of the two speakers on the right wall. I then turned the 972 and and kicked on Trinnov. I did not notice the bird at first, but heard something in the next room that sounded like a bird chirping. I stopped the sound and the bird stopped, I then turned it back on and the bird was back. I watched the clip again without Trinnov and the bird was IN the room on the right wall again. The fact that the bird sounded outside the room was amazing and I believe the way it was intended to sound.
Now the 972 does have some short falls. HDMI handshake being one of them. I feel this will be fixed very soon and is not really a deal killer for me. Also the lack of a good manual is a problem, but if you know your way around a home cinema you will find your way around the 972. First thing I learned ?...turn off "auto surround" under each input, this will allow you to select your surround mode instead of being locked into the surround mode the receiver chooses for you (selected by the source code). Also I don't really care for the full 3d Trinnov for movies. It will center the speaker where it needs to be, but I noticed that if you move your head one way or the other, the imaging seems to move with you. I love the 3d mode for stereo though. I wish the mic cord was longer but I used a cat5 coupler to extend the cable length.
Well I hope this helps those of you still on the fence. Give Sherwood some time and they will make this a great unit. If you are looking for the out of the box, plug it in and go solution, then I would stay away from the Sherwood. If you are very familiar with home cinema and can spend some time tweaking, then you can get very very good sound out of the Sherwood. Hope this helps.
OH, I do not work for Sherwood and just met Jeff at CES for the first time last week. I just love home cinema and love the idea of this product. Game changer? We will see.....it can do things that someone in my budget can not usually afford. Will it work in the average living room? I do not know, but I do not think that is really the target market. Just my 2 cents.
Flame suit on