Archive for category Review
“The 13-channel decoding in the AVR-X8500H can be configured in either 9.1.4 or 7.1.6 layouts. The 9.1.4 option returns use of Front Wide speakers, which Denon had stopped supporting for a couple years to some owners’ dismay. Be advised that, in Dolby Atmos, only sounds specifically encoded as objects will pass through the Front Wide channels, and the Dolby Surround Upmixer ignores them altogether. DTS:X and the DTS Neural:X up-mixer may put those speakers to more use.
If Front Wides are not of interest to you, the two additional channels can be used for height speakers instead. Previous mass-market receivers were limited to four height channels of sound, the most typical arrangement for which was Top Front and Top Rear designations. In most rooms, that should be enough to provide strong height effects with separation and directionality. When an airplane or helicopter is supposed to fly overhead, you can hear it move from the front to the back of the room or vice versa. On the other hand, four channels may not be enough for particularly large rooms or those with challenging physical limitations. My own home theater has a low ceiling which, when combined with the distance between Top Front and Top Rear speakers, left me with an auditory hole above my head. Adding two more speakers in Top Middle positions helps to anchor sounds where they did not image adequately before.
Also, I don’t think this is accidental. Every time I found myself wanting a bit more fury from the Q Acoustics system, I was soon revelling in just how well it gets on with everything else. As an array mainly designed for living room setups, it’s likely to see daily use. Useful, then, that broadcast TV is unfailingly a crisp, clean, and well-balanced listen. It’s particularly strong at generating a decently immersive experience from a stereo feed, with dialogue from the centre channel clear and tonally accurate.
Looking back at a previous review of a 7000i package, it’s clear that much hasn’t changed about Q Acoustics’ top-flight sub/sat range. As before, I’m struck by how effective this is used in 2.1-channel guise. Listening to the newly released Lies Are More Flexible by Icelandic electronic duo GusGus (Qobuz, CD-quality FLAC) proves immersive and genuinely musical in a way that many 2.1 systems struggle to match. It’s the kind of performance that gets your foot-tapping and embracing the content, rather than worrying if levels are set correctly.
“To demo the receiver’s audio performance, I played back a wide variety of Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS:X, DTS-HD MA, and PCM content, including several Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and streaming titles from various sources like VUDU, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix. For the majority of my testing, I opted to keep the device in its “Direct” listening mode, which minimizes processing while still engaging the unit’s MCACC speaker calibration.
In general, I typically find that most home theater receivers offer very similar sound when compared to one another using the same speakers. With that in mind, I was actually a bit surprised to notice a warmer tonal quality through the VSX-933 compared to my Onkyo TX-NR555 after swapping the units out.
This distinction in sound mostly applied to playback using each receiver’s auto calibration EQ, but even in their pure modes, there seemed to be slightly more emphasis on the lower mid-range through the Pioneer. While mostly pleasing, this warmer profile also resulted in a comparatively boomy quality in dialogue and bass response at times versus the Onkyo’s brighter yet crisper output. In the end, which approach is superior mostly comes down to a matter of personal preference, and after finishing my evaluation of the VSX-933, I actually found that the Onkyo sounded a little too thin when I swapped it back in. ”
“As much as I enjoyed music on these speakers, movies really made them come to life. With the recent release of Avengers: Infinity War, I’ve found myself revisiting many of the previous Marvel films for a refresher on the backstories of various characters. When I popped in Iron Man 2, a film that pits billionaire superhero Tony Stark against a ruthless Russian physicist, The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack wasted no time in supplying demo-worthy material, with Iron Man leaping from the back of a military transport as AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill” exploded across the soundstage. When a payload door slowly dropped, explosions filled the room as Iron Man vaulted through a pyrotechnic display. With my Anthem AVM60 preamp/processor set for an 80-Hz crossover, the seamless handoff between the main speakers and subwoofers created a full-bodied presentation at multiple listening positions. For example, when Iron Man engaged a crowd, his booming speech, and the reverberation of the crowd’s raucous applause through the room, provided a convincing illusion of being a participant in an actual event. ”
“Even used with comparatively tiny satellite speakers and a high crossover, bass integration is excellent, although I did find I got better results using a line-level input from my Yamaha AVR (bypassing its onboard processing), than via the LFE feed. My only real criticism of the way the SB-4000 behaves is a slightly odd one. This is a superbly controlled subwoofer, aided by some clever DSP, but there are times when I’d love to be able to make it a little more boisterous. Compared to the GoldenEar SuperSub XXL, which can be persuaded into great hulking slabs of unnecessary low-end if you ask it nicely, the SVS stays absolutely controlled. I’d almost like there to be a ‘Ludicrous’ setting in the SVS Bluetooth app (to join the Music and Movie presets), which I could select when I wanted to behave like a five-year-old.”
My only other complaint— also common with inexpensive soundbars—was that the supplied subwoofer couldn’t always keep up with the bar. It did go low for a small, plastic sub; frequency sweep tones in my studio revealed noticeable output at 40 Hz and above, and there was no obvious sonic gap at the crossover to the bar. On the other hand, while it delivered punchy impact with action movie soundtracks, it could also sound one-notey and overwhelmed when pushed and didn’t do as well handling driving bass lines in music or orchestral scores.
Fortunately, Polk’s controls provide some ability to adjust the sound. I found it best to keep the bar in its Music mode for all content, including movies, and then use the Bass and Voice rockers on the remote to optimize the sound. I also found that propping the front of the bar on my 26-inch-high TV stand for better aim at my ears improved its projection into the room.
“It’s also a film that makes creative use of dynamic range, because when someone (or something) does make a noise, my God you know about it. The transient response of these speakers is incredible, viscerally delivering the scares as the soundtrack suddenly goes from relative silence to very very loud. The tendency of sound designers Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn to add plenty of low-frequency heft to these moments for greater impact finds the X12 in fine form – it handled the dynamic beats with ease, establishing a solid foundation and carefully locking in with the other speakers.
Dunkirk and A Quiet Place aren’t big on dialogue but when I moved on to Whiplash (Blu-ray) the abuse that J. K. Simmons hurls at Miles Teller is projected with spiteful precision. The main reason I chose this disc, though, was to ensure the IW150s had retained M&K’s musicality as well as its transparency. I quickly had my answer, thanks to a system that’s tighter than a syncopated jazz quartet, carrying off every high hat, cymbal and snare drum with excellent timing.”