I was originally going to do a lengthy and detailed review of the Sherwood R-904N, similar to what I've done for other equipment I own, but this AVR turned out to be such a pile of garbage that it wasn't really worth my investment of time. Because of that I'm simply going to list the Pro's (what few there are) and the Con's, and leave it at that...Pro's
- The manual isn't half bad; it's fairly logical and easy to read, and it appears as though the Chinese-to-English translation was done by someone/something that actually knew what he/she/it was doing.
- You can access internet radio stations, which is a really nice feature.
- You can use a USB dongle and get wireless connectivity to your home network; you don't need to run a cable (but you can hook it up that way as well).
- It's a mere 3" high, so if space is an issue -- which it is for me -- then this unit will fit virtually anywhere.
- Changing the channel levels is fast and easy, because you can do it through a dedicated button on the remote.
- Dolby volume flat out doesn't work. Period. No matter how you configure it, or what settings you use, the commercials still blare.
- There's no three digit code for a Motorola cable box, so the Sherwood remote can't control things like the TV channels. Comcast, which is one of the largest cable providers in the entire country, uses a Motorola STB, so you would assume Sherwood had that covered. You would have assumed wrong.
- It gets very hot. One of the primary reasons I bought this unit was because it supposedly had a class D amp. I've never seen a class D amp get anywhere near this hot.
- The DSP's (Hall, Concert, Movie, etc) all sound positively ghastly. Almost every one of them has some type of echo as well. That "feature" is completely useless.
- It seems to be sensitive to other electrical devices, especially those with motors, like fans. If you change the speed of a fan anywhere near this thing, or just turn it on/off, the sound from the speakers will sometimes disappear for a second or two. This happens even if the fan is not plugged into an outlet on the same circuit.
- The front control panel uses the most hideous blue lights on the planet. Every single one of the few reviews that can be found on this AVR all contain the same complaint, yet Sherwood is too oblivious to fix the problem (even though this unit has been out for at least 2 years). There's a "dimmer" function which lowers the intensity on about half of them, but it gets reset back to full intensity every time the AVR is turned off. That means each time you use it you have to run the dimmer function again, otherwise the piercing blue lights blind you.
- The crossover can only be set for 40/80/100/150/200Hz. Variable is obviously the way to go, except if you're Sherwood. At least adding 120Hz would have helped, which a lot of smaller satellites appear to work best with.
- The AVR must be on for the inputs to work. If you want to watch a DVD late at night, and you simply wish to use the TV's speakers so as not to disturb anyone, you're out of luck.
- There's no phantom center, even though the manual says there is. Try as I might I was never able to get that to function, no matter how I had the speakers configured or connected. This was only an issue for me at the beginning, when I was using just 2.1 setup. Regardless, if it's something Sherwood claims as a feature -- and it's listed in the manual -- then the AVR should actually have it.
- No separate EQ, only bass and treble. Don't like how your system sounds? Tough luck.
- The amp has an insane THD of 0.5%! That's beyond appalling, unless this is the 1960's of course.
- There's a "pass through" feature for the Sherwood remote, whereby all the controls for volume will "pass" back to the AVR, even if you have it controlling another device. Trouble is, the Mute button doesn't get past through. What kind of genius would forget to add Mute? Guess Sherwood doesn't think something that mutes the sound is actually part of the functions controlling volume.
- There's no Audyssey. Sherwood has it's own "auto room EQ", but it really doesn't function very well. I have yet to find an instance where it set the distance or channel levels properly, especially for the subwoofer.
- There's no separate settings for LFE, with the exception of a +10db boost for "legacy" connections. Since you can't tailor the LFE to your liking/room, it makes the sound terribly unbalance with some DVD's.
- You can't change the labels for the HDMI ports, so you're not able to name them what they really are. You're stuck with things like AUX, VIDEO 1, F AUX, etc. Not at all helpful or intuitive.
- You can't listen to an internet radio station without the television being turned on. Why is that? How much video content do you see on the radio? This is yet another one of those things you find yourself saying "didn't anyone at Sherwood actually test this thing before they released it?".
- The level from the sub-out connector is very weak. I've tried it with 5 different subwoofers now, and in each instance the volume has to be set really high before the sub comes out of standby. Adjusting the channel level seems to make no difference. Once activated the sub often goes back into standby shortly thereafter, unless you keep the volume fairly high.
Sherwood has a program called VuNow that controls a number of the more advanced features, like playing MP3's or accessing audio and video directly from the internet. Even this cool option they screwed up somehow. For example:
- VuNow itself takes a looooong time to load. I think the quickest it's every loaded was about 90 seconds, but it's usually closer to 2 minutes. That's preposterous for something going from ROM to RAM.
- The first second or two of every MP3 is clipped, so you always start to hear a song after it's already in progress.
- The total run time displayed for MP3's is completely random, and not close to accurate. This is simple addition we're talking about here, yet even something that easy they can't get right.
- Want to change the channel level or dim those offensive blue lights while VuNow is running? Forget it. Those keys are disabled, so you better set all that up beforehand. AAMOF, about half the remote control stops functioning while VuNow is running, which is a double bonus considering how long it takes VuNow to load. If, for some reason, you need to change anything you have to exit VuNow, make your change, then go back in. You're talking a 3-5 minute ordeal, each and every time.
All of this loveliness can be yours for the measly sum of only $650 too! Actually, that's the list price; you can buy it for mid $300 range most places, but even that's at least twice what the thing is worth.
But by far -- and I do mean by far -- the absolute worst part of owning this AVR (and perhaps any Sherwood product, for that matter) is they have no support whatsoever. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No matter what avenue I tried, I simply was not able to get anyone. Email, voice, chat. Nothing. I even tried contacting their sales department to see if they had any way of getting a hold of their own support team, but no one was home their either.
After about 2 months of trying I finally go someone from sales to give me an email address for a person in the support hierarchy. He turned out to be the VP of Customer Service, so I assumed there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Turned out to be an oncoming train instead, because he was as inept as the rest of them. It started to become a matter of personal pride to make these chumps provide support, so I pressed on.
I was finally able to get a hold of someone who alleged to be a technical guru, able to resolve all the problems I was having. He turned out to be as apathetic and incompetent as the rest of them. So how was this person rewarded for his inferiority? They made him the president of Sherwood NA!!
And no, that's not BS, it's a 100% true story. The most arrogant and unprofessional person I encountered during the entire miserable journey was named chief of the chumps. Some stuff you simply can't make up...
This is actually the abridged version of the support nightmare. I didn't go into any detail whatsoever about the sheer number of ignored emails, VM's that were never returned, promises of things that would occur which never did, etc. We've all run into horrendous support problems, that never ending "treadmill from hell" experience, but this one is perhaps the worst I've ever encountered. It was over 6 months worth of crap before I finally threw in the towel and conceded defeat. I honestly don't know if I've ever done that in the past; my tenacity usually wins out, but this time I ran into so many unqualified, inane people I was simply outnumbered.
So, the bottom line is run -- don't walk -- from the R-904. Since Sherwood is probably using the same boneheads in their service department for everything you're rolling the dice buying from this company, so be very cautious before you plunk down your hard earned cash. It's a huge shame too, because Sherwood used to be a decent company making well respected products. Apparently they've decide to switch directions.
Ok, so maybe this review turned out to be a bit more lengthy then I thought it would. Guess my anger fueled this novel after all.