The NuForce AVP-18 has the 11 band equalizer for each of the six channels with the seventh, the woofer, looks like it has 4 or 5 bands. Each band can be adjusted in frequency and there is a setting which I believe may be how spread out the equalization will be. Given that the instructions has no information on this, it was found during a search of all of the menu functions. I used the auto equalizer then went in and played around with the various frequency equalization controls. It does provide a lot of flexibility.
I have burned in the unit about 75-100 hours and still have a love / hate relationship. In the hate department, I periodically have channel imbalances which are corrected by turning the unit on and off. Sometimes their are problems with the handshaking between the various HDMI connections and I have to switch to another input then back again to get it to work correctly. Usually the video is OK it is the audio via the HDMI that has some problems. I got so frustrated with my NetGear music center playing though HDMI, I used the sound source selection for this HDMI input and now I am playing the music portion via coax cable with the video going over HDMI. Still, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being an unlivable situation, I would put these annoyances at a 2 or 3 right now.
This is where it gets interesting. I have reported that the dynamics of the music seem stifled at lower volume levels and that I have found myself turning up the volume to get the visceral feel I would get at at lower volume levels with the W4S DAC2. This issue is still present at 75-100 hours of burn in but it is getting better. Music now does seem to be more dynamic at lower levels but still not approaching the W4S DAC2.
There are two other issues I have with the sound quality. The first relates to the dynamics discussed above and that is that the high frequencies, while very clear and detailed still feel like there is a thin gauze between you and the instruments playing. Initially, it sounded like a blanket was covering the high frequency portion of the speakers and the effect has lessened but not quite dissipated.
The second issue is the sibilance around S's and T's. This was never an issue with the W4S DAC2 and is a prime irritant to me. As the unit was burning in, there were times I just had to turn it off due to the excessive sibilance on less than well recorded music. I think this also leads to violins sounding steely on many recordings. This seems to be recording dependent. While the overall problem has also lessened during the burn in, the characteristic is still there.
With the W4S DAC2 about 90% of my CDs are listenable and enjoyable. The DAC2 has the characteristic like the Magnepans I have owned over time to make most music sound good but still provide incredible detail and enjoyment as other ancillary equipment is upgraded and added to the music system.
With the NuForce I would say about 60-70% of the CDs still sound good but the others are not as enjoyable. The debate I am having is the NuForce just bringing out added details of the recording process which may render many poorly recorded CDs close to unlistenable or, is the NuForce somehow over etched and highlighting recording flaws? At times I feel the sibilance is caused by overloading of the circuits or due to a weak power supply not able to keep up with peaks.
The NuForce does add more color and detail to well recorded music than the DAC2. I have found that I am consistently amazed at the details coming through in parts of recordings that I have heard hundreds of times before. I am now getting a very clearly delineated sound stage that is more detailed and 3D than the DAC2. On the right recording at the right time, the NuForce really sounds terrific that cuts well above the asking price. The bass is terrific partially due to the bass management that was not available on my previous setup. I believe the NuForce's mid-range beats out the DAC2 in naturalness and clarity. Really good. I believe the high end is very good, as well, except for the feeling that it is ever so slightly muffled.
Please note that I am still using the supplied power cord and a very cheap Coax cable from my music center to the NuForce. Once I am certain that the unit if fully burned in, I will try some cable changes to see how they will impact overall sound.
The NuForce does many things very well and if you compared it to other AVR units in sound quality, it probably bests anything near its price. Compared to straight stereo systems it does some things really well and has some quirks. The important thing for me is that I am now, after the burn in process, really enjoying music with the NuForce even given its quirks. It has certainly streamlined my system bringing together my video and music sources.