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Discussion Starter #1
As I stated a few weeks back in a previous thread, I had the chance to make a rough comparison between the '20 and the Lexicon MC-12 (both up stream from an Anthem MCA 5 driving similar speakers with different DVD players) in different rooms. With about 2 hours under its belt, the AVM' was extremely impressive - ergo, I made it a point to audition it again, and so I did. In this case the system was:

* Pioneer Elite DV38-A

* AVM20 (about 1 hour break-in)

* MCA 5-II

* Martin Logan Prodigy's up front

* Martin Logan center and surrounds (forget the vintage)

This system gave me a much better idea of what it could do, seeing that I'd be hooking mine up to a Sunfire driving Martin Logan Sequels up front.


To put it simply, it was so impressive that I purchased it as the first HT component to eventually retire my two-channel rig into the office. When I get the chance, I'll relay more after I've played with it for a while. :) But for now, it's time to go have FUN!
 

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I too eagerly await more info.
 

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I heard a rumor that the AVM-20 does not keep its volume control in the analog domain. This would seem to be a serious error if the unit is going after "audiophile quality". Does anyone know if this is true?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Not true. As an experiment, I have both the digital and 5.1 analog outputs of my Sony DVP-C650D connected to the '20, and the volume control is in-circuit in both cases. :)
 

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Jaker,


I suspect (and perhaps Brian can confirm this) that there's a bit of nomenclature confusion.


Likely, they're using something along the lines of a Crystal Semi Volume control. This is a digitally managed, analog volume control of quite high quality.


Digital management means no mechanical parts to degrade over time, while still maintaining analog volume control.


Additionally, it would nearly impossible to add analog bypass without an analog volume control.


Regards,
 

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AirCeeJ,


Your test isn't particularly conclusive, I'm sorry to say.


In a pre/pro with no analog bypass, the volume control would still be "in-circuit" if the input were digitized.


Regards,
 

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You are correct JK in that they use Crystal CS3310 digitally controlled analogue volume controls.


Digital management means much more than just no mechanical parts but that can wait for the review.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Quote:
Originally posted by John Kotches
AirCeeJ,


Your test isn't particularly conclusive, I'm sorry to say.


In a pre/pro with no analog bypass, the volume control would still be "in-circuit" if the input were digitized.


Regards,
Dear John,


The AVM20 is fully equipped for A/D bypass, which is user-defeatable. So in the experiment, I bypassed the A/D stage through a menu selection and found the volume control worked as required.


Regards,

C.J.
 

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CJ,


Cool -- sorry I made you clarify!


Regards,
 

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Brian,


I believe the term "you lucky dog" is appropriate here :D


So I'll say it, You lucky dog!.




Regards,
 

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George,


All I can say is reread the thread and your question is answered!


No comment other than what's stated here.


Regards,
 

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John,


Yes reading the thread indicates that a review is in progress. I guess I was just fishing for some advance information.


Thanks,


George
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Hold on to your hats, I've got about 25 hours on my '20, and will be ready to post a preliminary review rather shortly. Stay tuned, 'cause it's gonna be a good'n!


Regards,

Ceej
 

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Discussion Starter #18
MSRP $3,200.00

3 Zone, THXR Ultra Certified 7.1 Channel A/V Pre/Pro Tuner with DD, DTS, Home THX Cinemaª, THX Surround EXª, 24/192 DACs, Balanced and single-ended connections; full bass-management for all inputs; 5.1 SE analog input, video switching for high resolution formats up to 1080p; hardware and software upgradeable (to a certain extent); software version = 1.00.


Background: As I am designing a new home with a dedicated HT (thanks to insight from Russ Herschelmann's series in SGHT), I thought I'd find a Pre/Pro/tuner that does everything I wanted now along with upgrade paths for the future. Therefore, this was one of those rare occasions where the planets happened to align just right to purchase a new piece of gear. After all, I was in the market (always helps) and came into a small cache of cash from a grateful client, the AVM20 just debuted, AND there just happens to be a few dealers in Canada carrying the '20 with which one can bargain, allowing me to take further advantage of the favorable US/Canadian exchange rate.


Great for starters, 'cause I wanted a Pre/Pro/Tuner with (first and foremost) superb sonics, with all of the stuff the '20 has combined with ease of operation, great aesthetics, and from (hopefully) a company I trusted. Oh yeah, and it had to have full analog bypass - all for around $2,500.00.


Enter a good deal of bargaining skills, a willing dealer, and the Anthem AVM20. While the lack of high-end aesthetics (there are better looking receivers out there) put a slight dent in the "yeah it's MSRP is ___ and it looks it" bragging rites (important), it's nonetheless an outstanding performer; enough in fact to compare favorably to my Sonic Frontiers Line I! 'Sides when the goal is to enjoy the performance anyway, who needs to be distracted by rather plain-jane looking gear? I'll just eventually hide it away in a rack so as not to distract from the event at hand. But the event at hand and its ability to draw one into it, is where the '20 shines. Whether helping to reproduce music or movies, the '20 is among the top of a very selective bell curve.


- Functionality -

Cons:

First of all, the low contrast lime green text on top of swamp green background on-board display has got to go. When you're a company with a well-known reputation for manufacturing high-end audio gear, why choose an extremely low fidelity visual medium to communicate information to your intended market (those with a more generous budget toward greater audio and visual fidelity)? And when stuck in a darkened room what's the sense of having the extra (read backlit) light pollution when you don't wanna use the on-screen generator but want to catch info. at a glance without disturbing the rest of your audience? For that matter, it is far easier to read the displays on just about any receiver I've seen, than it is with the AVM20 (something to be said for lit text on a dark background). Though one can dim and turn off the display along with the panel lights, there's still no excuse for this lack of function/usability especially given the intended marketplace and cost of the unit. Chalk it up to another dent in buyer satisfaction.


The lack of an incoming data width and frequency display mode is disconcerting. This is obviously helpful in discerning the benefits of various digital encoding rates and frequencies. It is also helpful in verifying manufacturer's claims for a given player's digital output. After talking with certain individuals at SF, I understand that this function takes a simple software upgrade and may be included in an upcoming revision.


Upon powering-on the unit, there is a small "power glitch" heard through the speakers. Though this can be ameliorated at the users end, it doesn't take much from the manufacture's side to disengage the outputs until the unit has powered-up.


The 24/88.2 A/D converters should be beefed up to at least 24/192.


The roughly one second delay between pressing a button on the remote and the AVM's response to it is disconcerting.


18 FM presets is pretty low, and the inability to bypass the AM band when rifling through presets is also annoying. While on the topic, it would be nice to have assignable stereo, hi-blend, or mono attributes for each preset; if this is already available, I haven't found it.


When using one of the zone sleep timers (a very useful function), the otherwise dimmed (in my case) on-board display will temporarily brighten with each minute decremented; annoying.


And of course the manual isn't a model of usefulness, but it is at least better than some I have seen. For instance, there are whole functions concerning the remote that are never explained at the point of interest. As a consultant who researches, designs, and delivers courses to just about everyone on the corporate ladder, end-user manuals - their function, layout, and utility are high priorities on my list; not to mention aesthetics of the equipment concerned.


Point of interest:

There is no power on/off button on the AVM' itself, merely pressing one of the input, FM preset, or zone buttons on the unit will power it up; or you can just hit the "Power On" button via the remote!


Though there is full bass management for a multi-channel analog source, this for my wants is pretty well negated by the 24/88.2 A/D sampling frequency. I understand that the ADC's may be upgraded along with the DPII hardware upgrade, lets hope that's the case.


While there is a cost penalty for the upcoming DPII upgrade, there may be those who don't want this feature right away, so they don't have to pay for it up front which keeps the AVM20's debut cost lower.


A certain hardware and software upgrade path is designed into the unit, but the usability of these paths depends on how adaptable SF designed the unit to be (which I am unsure of), and of course the direction of future market trends.


Pros:

There are almost too many to mention, and considering that I purchased mine for just a tick over $2,500 US, it is actually a very good investment considering its ability to handle audio was my greatest concern. After all, if I can't be drawn into a musical event through a perspective P/P or P/P/T, then all else fails and I take my aspirations and wallet elsewhere. This is not to say I haven't been moved by music played through a table radio, it is to say that when I'm paying for greater fidelity, I certainly want the intended gear to perform far greater than it's price tag would indicate; and the '20 does just that.


As discussed earlier in the thread, the volume control is in the signal path during full analog bypass mode for a given input.


The 10 balanced and 10 SE outputs provide easy capability for using the balanced connections for channel amps with the SE's used for discrete channel subwoofers (if so inclined). And if so inclined, you'll need to perform a few menu selections, and use an external crossover between the '20 and its intended recipients.


24/192 DAC's for each channel are nice. This function was cited in the Integra Research marketing blurbs and had me wondering if this was an uncommon implementation (not being too familiar with circuit topologies for this market, and not too many manufacturers citing it for each channel). So I contacted a SF rep. who relayed that DAC's are commonly manufactured in pairs within a chip, so there would be 1 for each channel - as is implemented in the AVM 20. I realize that the RDC-7 (which I haven't heard yet) also benefits from Apogee's jitter reduction circuitry... I have no idea if SF employed something similar, but I am getting a better idea of how the '20 sounds as a whole, and I'd definitely put it up against an MC-12 (which I have in a brief listen) or an RDC-7 any day.


The fact that the unit operates merely above room temp. (in a semi-enclosed cabinet) should help its longevity.


Each input is assignable for name and input mode (digital, analog direct, or analog DSP) is a great touch.


SF/Anthem's eye toward parts choice, circuit designs, grounding plains, software implementation, et. al., have certainly helped, as this unit is very quiet when listening to material through it! Speaking of which, I understand they grabbed some guru to write their source code for certain proprietary functions, like being able to hear stereo output in Zone Two from a multi-channel analog source. While I haven't been able to verify this yet, it is nice to know that they had certain usability in mind during the design process.


Center Eq/TV Size Eq. Depending on whether your center channel is placed on a bookshelf or right near your monitor or screen, SF employs a thoughtful function that allows one to counteract the increased "baffle" size the center channel may encounter.


Selectable Subwoofer crossover frequency between 40 and 160Hz in 10Hz increments is also available.


The ability to extract low bass from "small" speakers while augmenting the bass output from "large" speakers is a nice selection.


There are Zone 1, 2, and 3 (recording path) Timers that one can program in advance to enable the unit so you don't miss a given recording opportunity, or have the unit come-on just before you get home!


The "Simulcast" function is pretty cool as it allows one to view a given video source while listening to a completely separate audio source. Nice touch...


The "Audio Group Delay" function is useful as well, in that it allows audio to synch-up with a video source when the video is routed through a line doubler, etc.


You can also preset bass and treble attributes for a given input, which is independent of the bass and treble controls on the unit. This can be thankfully bypassed, with just the touch of a button - gotta love that!


There's also a selection to use dipole surrounds and rear speakers.


The AVM20 will even tell you when the Dialog Track on a given movie was offset (in dB's) one way or the other from the rest of the audio information - niiiiiiiice...


Another great forethought is the '20 can memorize the input level of any given source, eliminating the need to adjust individual speaker levels when switching between sources.


It has 2 component video in's, 1 out; there are 3 I.R inputs on the back, along with 2 emitters, and 3 relay triggers. I'm sure that there are probably more features in this already heavily laden unit that I have yet to discover; but suffice it to say for now, that the '20 is LOADED!


My HT is one in the making however, as it stands now, it goes something like this:


Equipment

Sony DVP-C650D DVD Player

WireWorld Starlight III

Anthem AVM20

Nordost Blue Heaven's (balanced)

Sunfire two-channel (voltage outs)

KimberKable 4TC speaker cables

Martin Logan Sequel I's

KimberKable Hero Interconnects

Adcom 555

CAT-5 computer cable braided in dual runs

B&W 602 S-2's for surrounds

Tributaries Video Cable

Either a Sunfire True II or a Paradigm PW2200

The video monitor shall remain nameless at this time ;-)


Audio review forthcoming in Part II
 

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AirCeeJ:


According to my source, the AVM-20 utilizes Asahi Kasei Microsystems AK4382 DACs which are good for PCM out to 24bit/192kHz.


Would you care to expound on this conflicting information?


Hopefully, I'll be reading an edited version of your review that reflects this corrected DAC data.


Regards,
 
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