Arcam AV40 AV Processor Review & Comments

Krobar

Well-known Member
I would have liked to see that as well, particularly as he called it out as effectively broken.

But I do think the onus should be on manufacturers to engage with the community rather than the other way around. One has a PR department, the other is some guy testing kit in his front room.

Another manufacturer (Denon IIRC?) did the same after a poor set of measurements was published, worked through them and identified a firmware fix, for instance - not just put out a PDF saying "No you're wrong, look at our totally unbiased measurements" and then (again, allegedly) stonewalling the reviewer.

I'm not siding with anyone here - I respect ASRs reviews as much as I do the ones here, and if I were to consider an AV40 I'd respect my own in-home demo more than any of them.

And I would consider an AV40 if only for the reason that it would be trivial to take one home for a demo to see for myself - but the approach here by Arcam reminds me a lot of a broken NAD AVR I sent back eventually - i.e. "must be something about YOUR setup that's broken, because our AVR certainly couldn't be".

Manufacturers engaging with the community is a double edged sword but alot of people believe they should and doesn't seem unreasonable to me either.

Denon went to the trouble of pointing out the downmix issue to Amir and were effectively rewarded with an updated review. The SDP-55 review (Identical firmware sister unit to the AV40) effectively rights the mistakes and explains the ground issue that was referenced by Arcam. I suspect if Arcam had gone to the trouble of explaining how to correct the measurements the review might have been corrected.

Definitely still some bugs left but unlike NAD firmware updates have been actively addressing them (I know this because 5 of the IMS references in 1.46 release are for bugs I raised in Dec/Jan).
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
I would rather have a product that tests well, than not.

That's rather dependent on the product. Case in point, the PMC twenty5 21i and Neat Ministra. For the avoidance of doubt, neither of these speakers measures in any way 'badly' (I've seen traces created the same person on the same equipment in the same room for both) but the PMC has a more even in room response than the Neat does. If it were my money though to buy one to live with, I'd have the Neat. Used with the same low distortion, competently designed electronics, the Ministra is more engaging to listen to. Can I define what in the measurements is achieving that 'engagement'? Not easily but it seems to be fairly repeatable.

This should not be taken to mean I dismiss measurement as a valuable tool because it is and I don't want something that does extremely unwelcome things within the audible realm. Equally though, I reach a point where the idea I would choose one relatively competent product over another competent product if I preferred listening to the latter simply because the former measured better, is an anathema. I couldn't do that.

Just to make life more complicated, measured performance as a whole is dynamic in a way that periodically makes my teeth itch. One of the upcoming review products for here has come supplied with engineering information that would be a form of low grade pornography for measurement fans. Within the many (many) pages is the explicit statement that in designing it, absolute SNR was sacrificed in the pursuit of further elimination of distortion which, on the basis of measuring stuff to death for 32 years, they feel is more important. It's the first time I've seen it stated so clearly but it has to be a balance that many designers work to.
 
D

Deleted member 39241

Guest
I'd rather have a product that tests well, sounds great and is affordable. But if such a product doesn't exist, then sound quality and affordability trump's test results, in my view.
 

steve sph

Well-known Member
That's a bit rude calling Amir a trained seal :D
I thought he meant me, until I read the 'trained' bit - I'm bloody hopeless at balancing balls.

I just don't get what all this furore is about - so two folks who have road tested a piece of equipment in totally different rooms with totally different equipment have differing opinions - well colour me amazed.
Then folks who haven't heard said piece of equipment in any room at all take sides - it's so bonkers it makes religious wars look rational.
I've got a revolutionary idea which may sound wacky and 'out there', but here me out - what say folks actually road test said piece of equipment if they're considering buying and, like, form their own opinions?
I know it's a pretty outlandish suggestion, but that's me - always trying to think outside the box.
Especially if the box contains an Arcam.
 

DLxP

Well-known Member

Dorian

Active Member
Imagine a world in which it's okay to assess both measurements and opinions from a variety of sources and make your own informed decision about a product. Bliss!

...
Exactly. ASR is just one resource for product information, to be taken with the appropriate weight. I personally prefer the subjective opinions of reviewers and forum members over ASR's measurements, but I do look at ASR as well.

If a product I'm considering buying has a good ASR review, that adds to my confidence that it's a good product. If his review is negative, I don't pay too much attention to be honest. He's one guy, and his testing is not always completely accurate. And even if it was, ears are not oscilloscopes.

I'm on the fence about whether manufacturers should be engaging with a single individual doing their own testing of devices - it's a double-edged sword as already said above.
 

symphara

Active Member
but the approach here by Arcam reminds me a lot of a broken NAD AVR I sent back eventually - i.e. "must be something about YOUR setup that's broken, because our AVR certainly couldn't be".
What amused me the most in Arcam's reply was their complaint that the test was done with 4V (although they admit it isn't clipping) when it should have been done, according to them, with 2V, which would have produced better measurements.

The product specification sheet states 4.5V on the input.

It reminded me of a guy who bought an extraordinarily expensive car from a very famous British performance car manufacturer, then discovered that when exceeding 120mph there was a strong vibration. The car in question was rated with a top speed well in excess of that. When contacted, the manufacturer declared that the speed limit in the UK is no more than 70mph and decided that the product was just dandy.
 

nimman

Standard Member
I own the JBL Synthesis SDP-55.
Best pre-amp under 10 000$ hands down.
(My opinion)

So I can only suspect the Arcam is pretty darn close!

Trinnovs beats the JBL but I could not afford it...

Start listening guys, believe in measurements but start to listen aswell :).
Its freaking crazy, the race scene in ready player one, this is one of the pre-amps that is able to put every detail in the correct position. It awesome, couldnt be more happy :).
 

vkvedam

Active Member
I've got a revolutionary idea which may sound wacky and 'out there', but here me out - what say folks actually road test said piece of equipment if they're considering buying and, like, form their own opinions?
Right, here's the thing. Why do Phil go to the lengths of pain staking to try and measure TVs for anomalies? What HiFi reviews the TVs the same way as they review the audio gear. Fine having a read and to know about the product's existence but to make a purchase decision, I would look for Phil's findings here and then go on to make that purchase. I would like to make a purchase based on the facts and figures putting my love for Arcam (Once a fanboy) aside. Feature set, aesthetics, product support and service are a different argument altogether.

Speakers and Headphones are a different segment altogether, I can at least understand the subjective aspect in those
 
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DLxP

Well-known Member
On the whole ASR debate, my view is:
  • objective measurements are very useful, so I'm glad he's doing it
  • he's fairly rigorous and the people who post on ASR know their onions, so provide a good check on Amir, identifying measurement errors - unfortunately he doesn't always update the review when an error's identified
  • Amir is massively dogmatic and often combative, and takes an approach to measuring equipment that bears little resemblance to how the product is used
  • the biggest problem with ASR measurements is they're not contextualised appropriately such that readers could be lulled into thinking they relate to sound quality - in most cases what's being analysed is performance below the threshold of audibility.
On the AV40 specifically, just because Amir panned it, I wouldn't take that as meaning it's a bad product or that much of what he identified would translate to sound quality.

Often subjective reviews can be more enlightening. I take views on sound quality with a pinch of salt personally - not because I don't trust subjective reviewers, but because humans suffer from all sorts of biases that are difficult to eliminate, and audio memory is poor. So unless a product is reviewed side-by-side with another, preferably in the blind, I don't trust subjective comparisons. I do however generally trust views on functionality and user experience, which are big parts of the ownership experience.

I owned the AV40, and it was basically broken. It could barely turn on without falling over itself and generally felt like it hadn't received any quality assurance before being released to customers. I also didn't rate its sound quality. I gather the latest firmware has improved things, but my experience with the AV40 was so bad I looked elsewhere (very glad I did too!).
 

Krobar

Well-known Member
On the whole ASR debate, my view is:
  • objective measurements are very useful, so I'm glad he's doing it
  • he's fairly rigorous and the people who post on ASR know their onions, so provide a good check on Amir, identifying measurement errors - unfortunately he doesn't always update the review when an error's identified
  • Amir is massively dogmatic and often combative, and takes an approach to measuring equipment that bears little resemblance to how the product is used
  • the biggest problem with ASR measurements is they're not contextualised appropriately such that readers could be lulled into thinking they relate to sound quality - in most cases what's being analysed is performance below the threshold of audibility.
On the AV40 specifically, just because Amir panned it, I wouldn't take that as meaning it's a bad product or that much of what he identified would translate to sound quality.

Often subjective reviews can be more enlightening. I take views on sound quality with a pinch of salt personally - not because I don't trust subjective reviewers, but because humans suffer from all sorts of biases that are difficult to eliminate, and audio memory is poor. So unless a product is reviewed side-by-side with another, preferably in the blind, I don't trust subjective comparisons. I do however generally trust views on functionality and user experience, which are big parts of the ownership experience.

I owned the AV40, and it was basically broken. It could barely turn on without falling over itself and generally felt like it hadn't received any quality assurance before being released to customers. I also didn't rate its sound quality. I gather the latest firmware has improved things, but my experience with the AV40 was so bad I looked elsewhere (very glad I did too!).

Would be interesting to compare after Covid restrictions allow. I think I live just down the road from you and have Hypex 252 and 502 based poweramps which you might be interested in hearing. I nearly went HTP-1 over a year ago and thought the RS20I I had was good.
 

Jonesthegas

Active Member
I thought he meant me, until I read the 'trained' bit - I'm bloody hopeless at balancing balls.

I just don't get what all this furore is about - so two folks who have road tested a piece of equipment in totally different rooms with totally different equipment have differing opinions - well colour me amazed.
Then folks who haven't heard said piece of equipment in any room at all take sides - it's so bonkers it makes religious wars look rational.
I've got a revolutionary idea which may sound wacky and 'out there', but here me out - what say folks actually road test said piece of equipment if they're considering buying and, like, form their own opinions?
I know it's a pretty outlandish suggestion, but that's me - always trying to think outside the box.
Especially if the box contains an Arcam.

Excellent post thanks. My thoughts exactly
 

Jonesthegas

Active Member
Don't valve amplifiers and electrostatic speakers generally test poorly but sound beguiling? I'd rather trust my ears than graphs.
 

Mister_Tad

Well-known Member
I'm on the fence about whether manufacturers should be engaging with a single individual doing their own testing of devices - it's a double-edged sword as already said above.

Depends on the size of the mouthpiece - either ignore it entirely or engage in discussion IMO. If there's enough of a reason to issue a rebuttal, there's enough of a reason to engage in a discussion.

  • the biggest problem with ASR measurements is they're not contextualised appropriately such that readers could be lulled into thinking they relate to sound quality - in most cases what's being analysed is performance below the threshold of audibility.

I think most of them are sprinkled with caveats... "beyond the threshold of hearing", "whether or not this was audible" and the like - but just like some people might skip to the end of Phil's AV40 write-up to see scores out of 10, people will look at the graphs and draw a conclusion that "bigger/smaller numbers = better". And few are more militant than a wronged audiophile, from either end of the spectrum :D

Honestly, I think scores should be binned for subjective reviews entirely (not just here). If you were to look at historical scores of non-film reviews on AVF you would reasonably conclude that there has never been a bad AV product released, ever - or it's on a scale of 7-10.

For quick answers - what else could you buy for the same money? What about more? What about less? The comparisons and experience are the value seasoned reviewers bring for me TBH, not descriptors of intangible things like how it sounds.
 

DLxP

Well-known Member
Would be interesting to compare after Covid restrictions allow. I think I live just down the road from you and have Hypex 252 and 502 based poweramps which you might be interested in hearing. I nearly went HTP-1 over a year ago and thought the RS20I I had was good.
Sounds good to me! I bet the Hypex amps sound superb - I very nearly bought some recently, but ended up going another route.
 

symphara

Active Member
Depends on the size of the mouthpiece - either ignore it entirely or engage in discussion IMO. If there's enough of a reason to issue a rebuttal, there's enough of a reason to engage in a discussion.



I think most of them are sprinkled with caveats... "beyond the threshold of hearing", "whether or not this was audible" and the like - but just like some people might skip to the end of Phil's AV40 write-up to see scores out of 10, people will look at the graphs and draw a conclusion that "bigger/smaller numbers = better". And few are more militant than a wronged audiophile, from either end of the spectrum :D

Honestly, I think scores should be binned for subjective reviews entirely (not just here). If you were to look at historical scores of non-film reviews on AVF you would reasonably conclude that there has never been a bad AV product released, ever - or it's on a scale of 7-10.

For quick answers - what else could you buy for the same money? What about more? What about less? The comparisons and experience are the value seasoned reviewers bring for me TBH, not descriptors of intangible things like how it sounds.
Excellent post. Not only are the measurements heavily caveated, but it's extraordinarily revealing when a device under test is advertised by the manufacturer as having high resolution, some amazing 24/192 DAC or whatever, when the cold, astonishing reality is that it cannot clear the plain old CD 16-bit dynamic range.

Whether we can hear 16 or 15 is tangential. The snake oil involved is not.
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
Don't valve amplifiers and electrostatic speakers generally test poorly but sound beguiling? I'd rather trust my ears than graphs.

Electrostatics generally measure very well but they do so within a more restricted frequency response simply because they don't move the sort of air that a conventional driver can. Valve amps are a completely different ballgame. Some can indeed present terrible measurements and- depending on the what's going on in there, they can sound dreadful with it. Then, as you note, competently designed valve amps can sound very pleasant while presenting measurements that are still some way adrift of solid state.

Then, there's the measurement usage case which amuses me the most. In the bulk of modern systems- multichannel and stereo- the majority of distortion is a function of the speakers rather than the electronics. This means that if you use something like a multiway horn system- which is huge, ugly, expensive and wildly impractical but both sensitive and extremely low distortion in the manner it operates, you can run it on something like a single ended 845 amp with a signal trace like an earthquake and the cumulative distortion as the listening position will still be lower than something feted on ASR running into more conventional speakers. As an engineering friend of mine never stops pointing out to me, we didn't stop using horns because dynamic speakers were better. It was because us plebs couldn't afford them.
 

DLxP

Well-known Member
the majority of distortion is a function of the speakers
This isn't highlighted often enough but is such an important point. By comparison, SINAD measurements of amps and similar are like angels dancing on the head of a pin.
 

Mister_Tad

Well-known Member
This isn't highlighted often enough but is such an important point. By comparison, SINAD measurements of amps and similar are like angels dancing on the head of a pin.

So much this. I never really grasped all the fanfare around the Purifi modules and about to order a handful of NC500s given that anything from the left half of ASR's comparison chart is going to sound way better than my crappy speakers (as in their ability to produce a waveform versus an amp's, I actually rather like my speakers) will ever be able to do justice.

But then I'm also the sort of philistine that adjusted my TV to be as "correct" as it could possibly be, and then proceeded to ruin it by adjusting a few things more to my personal preference.
 
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rccarguy2

Well-known Member
I thought he meant me, until I read the 'trained' bit - I'm bloody hopeless at balancing balls.

I just don't get what all this furore is about - so two folks who have road tested a piece of equipment in totally different rooms with totally different equipment have differing opinions - well colour me amazed.
Then folks who haven't heard said piece of equipment in any room at all take sides - it's so bonkers it makes religious wars look rational.
I've got a revolutionary idea which may sound wacky and 'out there', but here me out - what say folks actually road test said piece of equipment if they're considering buying and, like, form their own opinions?
I know it's a pretty outlandish suggestion, but that's me - always trying to think outside the box.
Especially if the box contains an Arcam.

My opinion is a Yugo will outperform a Bugatti veyron along a five mile straight.

I'm not interested in scientific tests or numbers but clearly the Yugo is superior in speed, that's my opinion which is valid and invalidates any silly times.

If that is your idea of opinions versus tested data?
 

Dorian

Active Member
Excellent post. Not only are the measurements heavily caveated, but it's extraordinarily revealing when a device under test is advertised by the manufacturer as having high resolution, some amazing 24/192 DAC or whatever, when the cold, astonishing reality is that it cannot clear the plain old CD 16-bit dynamic range.

Whether we can hear 16 or 15 is tangential. The snake oil involved is not.
Just to clarify this 24bit/16bit issue. I have not trawled the entire web on it but I believe only ASR is saying this and it's been disputed by Arcam. I would be careful of saying it's cold astonishing reality.

The AV40 has an ESS 9026PRO DAC, the datasheet for this DAC clearly mentions 24-bit and 32-bit modes. I suppose it's possible that Arcam has somehow implemented it incorrectly, but they've been putting DAC's in audio equipment for a while now and I think they know what they're doing.

Is the AV40 bug/issue free? No. I'm not saying I think it's a flawless product, but are you not wording things a little to strongly here?
 

rccarguy2

Well-known Member
Just to clarify this 24bit/16bit issue. I have not trawled the entire web on it but I believe only ASR is saying this and it's been disputed by Arcam. I would be careful of saying it's cold astonishing reality.

The AV40 has an ESS 9026PRO DAC, the datasheet for this DAC clearly mentions 24-bit and 32-bit modes. I suppose it's possible that Arcam has somehow implemented it incorrectly, but they've been putting DAC's in audio equipment for a while now and I think they know what they're doing.

Is the AV40 bug/issue free? No. I'm not saying I think it's a flawless product, but are you not wording things a little to strongly here?

Quite a few of the arcam tests result in "broken product" such as avr large speaker mode...when all products have issues in digital system think paints a good picture of arcam.

The analogue side of arcam tests well, but who uses avr in analogue / pass through mode for movies?
 

Mister_Tad

Well-known Member
My opinion is a Yugo will outperform a Bugatti veyron along a five mile straight.

I'm not interested in scientific tests or numbers but clearly the Yugo is superior in speed, that's my opinion which is valid and invalidates any silly times.

If that is your idea of opinions versus tested data?

If we're doing the car analogies though, it would be more like you saying that in spite of some fancy measurements saying the Veyron is objectively the best, you prefer driving the Yugo.

Which would be fair enough.

I have two vehicles hailed by most of the motoring press as amongst the best driver's cars that exist, yet if push came to shove and I had to pick my favourite to drive, I'd probably go for my truck.
 
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