Trinnov Audio Altitude16 AV Processor Review
- Exceptional sound quality
- State-of-the-art room EQ
- Incredibly flexibility in set-up
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X & Auro-3D
- Attractive design & solid build
The not so good
- It ain't cheap
What is the Trinnov Audio Altitude16?
In part that's because the Altitude16's heritage is professional, developing out of the audio side of the French national broadcaster. The processor itself is entirely bespoke, using a software-based platform rather than the off-the-shelf DSPs. This allows for regular upgrades to the processor via internet firmware updates, something that is vitally important in our ever-changing digital world. The beauty of this approach is that regular firmware (and even hardware) updates ensure your expensive AV processor won't suddenly become redundant.
The flagship Altitude32 was first launched in 2014, and Trinnov has been as good as its word in terms of free updates for both the Altitude32 and Altitude16, with the most recent being the addition of DTS:X Pro, IMAX Enhanced, and four additional channels of processing. There's also a planned HDMI 2.1 update in the works. Of course, this kind of state-of-the-art processing isn't cheap, and the Altitude16 will set you back £13,950 before you've even added any amplification, but on the plus side, it's the only AV processor you'll ever need!
Editor's Note: The Trinnov Altitude16 was originally reviewed back in 2018, and since that date there have been a number of firmware updates adding new features. As a result the review has been updated to reflect these changes, and specifically the recent firmware release that adds four extra channels of processing, allowing owners to run a fully discrete 9.4.6-channel system.
The Altitude16 we originally reviewed had eight HDMI inputs and two outputs, with the first three inputs and one of the outputs supporting HDMI 1.4, and all the rest supporting HDMI 2.0b. However since that original review, Trinnov has replaced the HDMI board, and the latest version of the Altitude16 supports HDMI 2.0b on all the inputs and outputs, with one output supporting eARC (enhanced audio return channel). As a result the Altitude16 can handle 4K/60p, high dynamic range (HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision), BT.2020 and HDCP 2.2. The HDMI ports are also multi-functional, so they can be changed to HDMI 1.4 if necessary.
Trinnov plans to release an HDMI 2.1 hardware update for those owners who need the features supported by the format such as 8K/60Hz, 4K/120Hz, VRR (variable refresh rate), and ALLM (auto low latency mode).
In terms of other connections, you'll find Ethernet ports, coaxial and optical digital inputs and outputs (the latter now serve a dual purpose), and analogue inputs using RCA and XLR connectors. Since the processor is squarely aimed at the custom install market, you'll also find a host of features like 12V triggers and an RS232 serial port for system control. The are also connections more commonly found on the back of a PC, which explains the scalable processing platform found on the Altitude16. This is essentially a highly-specified computer with audio capabilities, which is what makes it so flexible in terms of set-up, powerful in terms of processing and easily upgradable.
It's certainly true that once the processor has been set-up, you would only need the remote for a basic level of control. The chances are you'll actually be using some other form of control and the Trinnov supports AMX, Control4, Crestron, Savant and RTI. The processor also supports automation via IP and RS232 protocols, and has a built-in UPnP/DLNA compliant digital media renderer. Trinnov has also announced a free upgrade to add AES67 lossless audio over IP.
A far more detailed level of control and set-up is available via a graphical user interface that can either be accessed directly using a display, mouse and keyboard connected to the Trinnov, or remotely using a web-based interface.
Trinnov Audio Altitude16 Features
Of course the Altitude16 is so ridiculously flexible that you can also run any other variation within the limit of the 20 channels, plus utilise any spare channels for additional subwoofers. As the name might suggest, the Altitude16 original processed up to 16 channels, but the most recent firmware release has added for extra channels of processing via the clever application of the optical and coaxial digital outputs. How this is achieved will be explained in the next section.
Processing aside, the other big feature of the Altitude16 is the inclusion of Trinnov's Speaker/Room Optimizer. This bespoke system uses a dedicated 3D measurement microphone which allows for highly accurate equalisation of the room, as well as the speakers themselves, to ensure tonal balance.
The Dolby Atmos Object Viewer shows graphically which speakers are being used in a specific Atmos soundtrack and where the object-based audio is being placed in your room. It's a cool feature and makes it easy to see how active a soundtrack is, particularly when it comes to the overhead channels, and how many objects are being used. Obviously I'm not recommending you stare at your laptop screen while watching a movie, but it's a fun toy and I've found it very useful when reviewing Atmos discs.
Despite the inherent sophistication and complexity of the Altitude16, Trinnov includes a handy set-up and calibration wizard that takes you through the entire process. As already mentioned, there is VNC remote control and software-based upgrades over the internet. If you get really stuck, someone from Trinnov can even remotely access your Altitude16 and help address any issues you may have.
Other features include 24-bit/96kHz native processing, and high performance AD/DA converters. There's a UPnP/DLNA renderer, and the Altitude16 is also Roon ready for high performance streaming.
Set-up and Operation
Thanks to this method of remotely controlling the processor, I didn't even need to be in the room whilst setting it up and running the EQ measurements; so there was no chance of me getting in the way of a measurement or accidentally adversely affecting the acoustics of the room.
The user interface is actually surprisingly easy to follow considering the complexity of the Altitude16, with plenty of helpful sidebars that explain what to do and why. There's also the set-up wizard, that takes you through the entire process, although I suspect in most cases the dealer will install and set-up this processor.
Of course for the purposes of this review I set up the Altitude16 myself, and once I'd got used to a few GUI idiosyncrasies the processor is surprisingly straightforward. Of course, such is the nature of the Trinnov that you can quickly go down a rabbit hole, but for the majority of systems all the settings you need are based on the default options, with you choosing the speaker layout and relevant crossovers.
My dedicated home cinema has a 9.2.6-channel speaker layout (sadly I don't have room to install four subwoofers), but I was using nearly its full capabilities to evaluate the Altitude16. I partnered it with the Storm Audio PA16 Mk2 16-channel Class D power amplifier using balanced XLR connections. The system is based around three MK Sound S150 monitors at the front (behind an acoustically transparent screen), four MK Sound S150T surround speakers at rear, a pair of MK Sound LCR750 speakers for the widths, and six JBL Control Ones on the ceiling. The bass is handled by two MK Sound V12 subwoofers split off the LFE channel.
To add the extra +4 channels you need the latest firmware and one or two stereo DACs. You can select the +4 option when setting up the new configuration in in the Optimiser, and you'll need to to apply it to all sources at the end, which overwrites any previous selections. You add the extra channels own the speaker declaration page, with channels 17 and 18 using the coaxial outfit, and 19 and 20 using the optical output. You need to change Output Connector in Source Config to Analogue EXT for every source including Mic Input. You then save and recalibrate the new speaker layout. In my case it was 9.2.6 channels, so I added two more channels by connecting a stereo DAC to the Altitude16 via an optical digital cable, and then connecting my subwoofers to the left and right analogue outputs of the DAC.
Once you've done that, you input the actual measurements of your room, which the processor shows as a three dimensional image with speaker and sub placements. You can then set the crossovers using Trinnov's comprehensive bass management system, which allows separate crossovers for each individual speaker.
After that you just run the Optimizer, which takes spatial measurements of your speakers, subs and the room itself using the 3D microphone. After you've taken the measurements at the reference point, you move the mic to a different position, ensuring that it remains level and is still aimed at the centre speaker. You then take a second set of measurements and so on. The more measurements you take, the more accurate a spatial representation of your system the Trinnov can calculate.
The strength of Trinnov's Optimizer is its ability to create a seamless 3D sound field, where the speakers are well-matched in terms of their amplitude and time domains. The Optimizer ensures that the effect of the room and any acoustical quirks in the speaker have been completely removed from the system. As a result the bass should be perfectly integrated and the speakers tonally-balanced.
The Altitude16 can also re-map your speakers by virtually placing them in their ideal positions, which means that you don't necessarily have to compromise because of other factors like an inconvenient door. It also means you can use a speaker layout designed for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro or IMAX Enhanced, and re-map it for Auro-3D.
The Optimizer shows all the results graphically, including three-dimensional representations of the positions and heights of all the speakers and subs in the system. There are also graphs showing the response, amplitude, reflections, phase and impulse measurements. You can create different presets for different speaker configurations, seating positions and audio formats, and you can save up to 29 presets.
It's quite simply the most sophisticated and flexible room correction system currently on the market. Overall the Altitude16 amazed me with its ability to create a transparent and utterly cohesive soundstage. Putting the power and precision of the Storm Audio PA16 Mk2 into the hands of the Altitude16 often produced breathaking results.
In fact I didn't even have to turn on the Optimizer to realise this processor is a cut above the rest. There was already a precision to the steering of the 16 channels that made effects come alive. Once the Optimizer was engaged, the results were astonishing as the speakers blended into a seamless hemisphere of sound.
I always like to start a Dolby Atmos test with the company's Amaze trailer, partly because I'm very familiar with it and partly because I've actually heard it in Dolby's own screening rooms in London and San Francisco. The Altitude16 did an amazing job (pun intended) of rendering all the carefully layered effects – with birds flying around the room, thunder rolling overhead, and rain falling down all around me. The room had gone and I was simply immersed in the deluge. As far as I could remember, the experience was identical to the one I had in Dolby's screening rooms... yes it's that good.
One of the key benefits of Trinnov's Optimizer is its ability to tonally match all your speakers, so that regardless of the brand, model or location, they all sound the same. There's no better disc to test this claim than the Dolby Atmos Blu-ray of Gravity. The sound design often steers voices and effects around the room, making this highly directional soundtrack ideal for checking the tonal balance of a system. The Altitude16 performed admirably in this test, precisely and seamlessly steering objects around the room with no difference as they moved from speaker to speaker.
Another area where the Optimizer promises to deliver is in terms of bass management, with a smooth low frequency response and precisely delivered crossovers. The 4K disc of Blade Runner 2049 is something of a low-end monster, with the bass in this film being quite exceptional. Lesser systems struggle to deliver this soundtrack with the kind of control needed, but Trinnov had no problems with the massive bass notes at the start of the film, delivering them with a controlled precision you could feel. The Altitude16 also marshals the 15.1 channels with unrivalled skill and poise.
The film Fury has a wonderful Dolby Atmos soundtrack that really delivers everything you would expect from a film about a tank crew in World War II. The rumble of the Tiger tank in the main battle is suitably subterranean, while the high frequency whiz of passing ordinance adds a realistic tone. The use of the overhead channels helps to immerse you inside the tank, giving you an idea of what it must have been like for the crews during combat. Gunfire, explosions and the general chaos of war are all delivered with a visceral sense of realism, but amongst all this the dialogue remains clear, except where the actors are deliberately mumbling.
The 4K disc of Apollo 13 has an awesome DTS:X soundtrack, and the Saturn V launch is a brilliant example of what the Trinnov is capable of doing in terms of transients and dynamic range. There's the silence as the astronauts await the countdown, the swoosh as the fuel lines are withdrawn outside the command module, and then the sudden explosion of energy as all the speakers and subs deliver the awesome sound of largest object man has ever lifted off the ground. Just like Gravity, the weightless environment of the story (much of which was actually done for real) allows the mixers to move audio objects around in a 360 degree hemisphere of sound. The Altitude16 delivered all this with an impressive ease, retaining a complex but completely cohesive soundstage.
There aren't many Auro-3D discs (I have three myself), but since the Altitude16 can decode the format I created a second preset that remapped my speakers to create an appropriate configuration for the format. Auro-3D uses height, rather than overhead speakers, but after some realignment and the application of the Optimizer's remapping feature, I was able to approximate the ideal Auro-3D set-up, with my middle overhead speakers being used for the 'Voice of God' channel. I put on the Blu-ray of Pixels and was immediately impressed by the processor's ability to use the height speakers to create a realistic feeling of layers to the audio. The same was true when using various test sequences on the Auro-3D demo disc.
The Altitude16 offers all three up-mixers: Dolby Surround, DTS Neural:X and the Auto-3D Auro-Matic. All are excellent, but for the purposes of testing I decided to use DTS Neural:X, in part because the recent DTS:X Pro upgrade now allows this up-mixer to use all 16 channels. I put the 4K Blu-ray of Dunkirk into my player, and was immediately impressed by the Trinnov's ability to create the sensation of overhead channels, even though I know the 5.1 soundtrack doesn't have any. Spitfires flew overhead, water came from all around during the sinking of the troop carrier, and the explosions and gunfire were wonderfully real.
The long-overdue inclusion of IMAX Enhanced is a welcome addition, even if there are that many DTS:X IMAX Enhanced soundtracks around at the moment. Watching Jumanji: The Next Level certainly delivers a thoroughly engaging immersive audio experience, with a serious amount of bass. And thanks to the expanded processing that bass is now delivered by two discrete subwoofers rather than me having to split the off the same LFE feed. The result is a more nuanced low-end performance, with The Altitude16 allocating the bass signal where necessary to create a more balanced and cohesive low frequency soundstage that perfectly ecnhances the other channels.
Trinnov Audio Altitude16 AV Processor Review
It's quite simply the most sophisticated and flexible processor I've ever experienced, and Trinnov's background in immersive 3D audio is very evident. The Altitude16 obviously isn't cheap but is definitely worth every penny, delivering a superb and completely seamless immersive audio experience thanks to its twenty channels of processing.
The processor also offers a host of features that are unique to Trinnov; whether it's the Optimizer room correction, the speaker re-mapping or the Dolby Atmos Object Viewer. This processor is a tweaker's dream, and you can easily spend days customising and optimising the setup and performance to suit your particular system and the room it's in.
The Altitude16 is a genuinely awesome AV processor, and in terms of setup, features, and performance is second to none. The fact that Trinnov was able to find a way of adding four extra channels for free just shows how far ahead of the game this manufacturer is when it comes to its AV processors.
What about alternatives? Having spent time with most of the high-end processors available, for me the Trinnov Altitude16's direct competitor is the Lyngdorf MP-60. This superb 16-channel AV processor is around the same price and also supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro and Auro-3D; plus Lyngdorf will be adding IMAX Enhanced at some point.
The MP-60 formed part of my reference system previously, so I feel I have a solid basis on which to compare the two processors. The minimalist Scandinavian styling is undeniably cool, the performance is exceptional, and RoomPerfect not only delivers the goods but is incredibly easy to use, making setup simple (although not quick when you're measuring 16 channels).
However I do feel the Altitude16 offers greater flexibility, superior updates, and more features that are useful to me as a reviewer, which is why it now replaces the MP-60 in my reference system. I feel that Trinnov is better suited to meet my specific needs, but I can also say from experience that whether you choose the Altitude16 or MP-60, you won't disappointed from an immersive audio perspective.
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