In the nick of time
I received my A1030 on Saturday after several on again off again messages from FedEx. So that's 3-day free shipping from Florida to Illinois, not too shabby. Most of Saturday was spent unhooking, cleaning and reconfiguring all of my components from the dying HK AVR520. Friday night the crackling and static was starting to creep in even at normal listening levels, so I felt relieved when the replacement showed up.
Most of the day on Sunday was spent auditioning the new connections, upgrading the firmware and calibrating the PEQ. I was not overly impressed with the YPAO-RSC auto set up. It did correctly identify the "size" and distance of my speaker configuration and not to far off setting the relative levels, which was useful. My HT room is an acoustic nightmare, it's architecturally interesting with open walls, vaulted 16ft. ceiling, not a whole lot of right angles anywhere. However, its a bear to configure. So, I played around with the PEQ curves until I got the FR, C, FL, RR, RL all to their sweet spots. As somebody has mentioned before, the A1030 doesn't EQ the SW. Luckily mine comes with its own PEQ controls and calibration kit. After spending most of the day tinkering and tweaking, I finally sat down to watch Gravity, which I had recorded on the PVR.
Wow, I was blown away by the soundstage. The movie's soundtrack has challenging dynamics; which could lead to listening fatigue, but it all felt very enveloping and immersive without being an assault on the senses. I was particularly looking forward to the ending, which another poster here had been remarking about the flies buzzing around overhead through an enhanced ceiling speaker system. While not quite as remarkable as that, I certainly got the feeling that the sounds were coming from behind and then circling overhead. The Cinema DSP did a good job of emulating front presence speakers.
I also watched a few things on the FireTV just to be sure there weren't any Dolby Digital Plus decoding issues. It worked perfectly, as did the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround from the ATV3. I don't have Netflix, so I can't comment on this. I liked the popup menu function which identifies the sound source and codec. I kept enabling every time I switched inputs, just to see how the audio was being delivered to the AVR (kind of geeky, I know).
Finally, I wanted to check out the audio capability while listening to music. I used the network input to find my Twonky DLNA NAS. It played every compatible music source without issue. I have the Byrne and Eno "Everything That Happens" FLAC download which sounded fantastic through the pure direct setting. I played around with the straight and 2ch-stereo settings, but settled on the pure direct.
Same thing with a DVD-Audio of "Once" by Nightwish through the analog multichannel input from my vintage Samsung HD841. I really wanted to listen to the "A Day in New York" DVD-Audio from Ryuichi Sakamoto, but I couldn't locate my cache of DVD-A. That particular recording has an amazing presence, where you feel like you're sitting right on stage with the performers. I couldn't find my Peter Gabriel SACDs either, but I am sure they will sound equally fantastic.
Finally, the iPad app is a godsend. I can control the system from anywhere in the house. This is especially appreciated when the phone rings and I am blasting music on a different level of the house.
A few things I'm slightly disappointed in, like the Spotify Connect implementation. I'll be sticking to the ATV3 airplay version, thank you. In fact all of the internet audio graphics look like they were written in DOS; clunky, chunky, the only thing missing is an overabundance of cyan. Lots more to explore on this bad boy, but so far it's been a real blast.