Anthem Statement D1 Preamp-Processor & Statement P5 Power Amplifier Page 3
The good listening continued when I added the D1 to the P5, and the combination—not surprisingly—functioned perfectly together. But I did have some problems with early versions of the D1's software. Version 1.0 frequently (though not always) produced a loud click when making menu selections or skipping chapters on DVDs. Version 1.05 would not image properly on 2-channel material; centrally placed vocalists were shifted to the right, and tweaking the balance control would not cure the problem. Version 1.10, however, had neither quirk, and all the observations that follow were made with that version of the software.
In my system, the Anthem combo proved quite sensitive to the balance between the main speakers and the subwoofer. It took only a couple of dB of excess subwoofer output to change the sound from open, punchy, and dynamic to a little too slow and fat. Fortunately, the D1 provides 0.5dB steps in all of its level adjustments; many competitors still offer only 1dB increments. While 1dB steps are adequate, I find them a little coarse for a high-resolution system. And I actually prefer the finer resolution of 0.1dB steps, but that's just a reviewer thing (for facilitating level matching and such). To my knowledge, only a few products in the marketplace (most of them from Mark Levinson) offer 0.1dB level adjustments, and not enough of them offer 0.5dB steps.
Once the system was dialed-in for best performance with a subwoofer, the Anthem combination sailed through 2-channel music. Voices had just the right degree of warmth, bass was startlingly powerful, the top end was silky sweet and detailed, and the overall timbre was nearly ideal. (Like all audiophiles, I still search for the perfect timbre and balance.) Depending on the program material, imaging and depth were equal to or better than the best I've yet heard in my current home theater room. The system wasn't always happy with overbright or edgy recordings, but with well-balanced sources, it sang.
Compared to the Sony STR-DA9000ES receiver, the Anthem combo's marginally richer, warmer midbass, together with its slightly sweeter top end, earned it the nod over the Sony overall. The Anthems also were slightly less forward, providing a subtly better rendition of depth. The differences were not immediately obvious, however, particularly on soundtracks, and the Sony remains an impressive performer overall.
I also tried the Anthem's multichannel simulation modes in my 5.1-channel setup, primarily Pro Logic IIx and AnthemLogic. I was particularly impressed by AnthemLogic. It added a subtle ambience without degrading the front two channels. Depending on the recording, I also sometimes preferred AnthemLogic Cinema to AnthemLogic Music. The primary difference between the two is that AnthemLogic Cinema engages the center channel, while the Music version does not. Your preference will depend not only on the program material, but also on the quality of your center-channel speaker and how well-matched it is to your left and right fronts. I actually preferred AnthemLogic Cinema to straight 2-channel playback on some material. It not only offered a more stable image but, surprisingly, a noticeably smoother, more fluid sound on centered voices and instruments.
Putting it All Together
Considering how well it performed on music, I wasn't surprised to find that the D1-P5 combination also did a spectacular job with 5.1-channel movie soundtracks. Or, I should say, it moved out of the way and let the soundtracks speak for themselves, limited only by the rest of the system. I've recently been making extensive use of the remake of Flight of the Phoenix as a reference for both audio and DVD picture quality. This truly awesome soundtrack was one of the best sound mixes of 2004, and the Anthems did not disappoint with it. The swirling sandstorm in the film's seminal crash sequence surrounded me, its low frequency rumble (combined with the roar of the plane's engines) certainly made me think twice about adding a flight over the Gobi desert in a decrepit C-119 to my vacation plans. And in the closing sequence, combining a roaring engine, gunfire, and music in a potent mix, the Anthems ramped up the excitement to a fever pitch.
Love his movies or hate them, Jerry Bruckheimer fills his soundtracks with effects and music. National Treasure may not be a treasure of a film, but it does have an intriguing, exciting soundtrack. Trevor Rabin's score occasionally lapses into mickey-mousing, but it nevertheless adds a lot to a film that can use the help. The Anthems kept up the thrills by capturing the cinematic sweep of a score that's more majestic than the film it supports. The dialog and effects are super, too. The only shortcoming of the soundtrack is a slightly ragged feel (there's a distinctive synthesized sound to much of the music); it isn't as smooth-sounding as the other films referenced here, but it's clear from the many other soundtracks I sampled that the D1 and P5 were simply doing their job and reproducing the source, warts and all.
On a quieter note, Kate and Leopold isn't an action film by any stretch, but its soundtrack does include at least one rousing, demo-worthy sequence along with sweetly recorded music and clean dialog throughout. Through the D1 and P5, the music behind the opening titles was warm and lyrical, with an open, airy quality that immediately prepared me to enjoy the film (which I did—it's a mixture of sci-fi time travel and romantic comedy). Early in the story, we're at a nineteenth-century ball accompanied by a nicely recorded ensemble. Soon the scene shifts outside to a heavy thunderstorm, with rain pouring all around and enough thunder and lightening to challenge your subwoofer, though not enough to break your lease. After we pass through a time portal (!), we end up in the present, where most of the film takes place.
From there to the end, there's little out of the ordinary on the soundtrack, but the score remains lush and sweet, the dialog is natural, and the ambience of the real-world environments is entirely believable.
As I remarked in the Focal-JMlab Diva Utopia Be speaker-system review, the latest generation of top-of-the-line receivers will get you a good way toward the best sound that separates have to offer. And I can't honestly say that that the Anthem duo does multichannel effects or ambience any better. Those things are handled by software processing or pre-programmed chips; they're performance parameters that most competent pre-pros and high-end receivers can pretty much do equally well without breaking a sweat. The D1-P5 combination certainly does do the job on the effects in soundtracks at least as well as any other pre-pro/amp combination I've had in my system.
More important, the Anthems' performance on music is superb, whether that music comes from a 2-channel source, a multichannel source, or any film soundtrack. The D1 and P5 are undeniably expensive, but not only do they execute all the obvious things correctly, they also excel at those refinements and subtleties that audiophiles can—and often do—spend a great deal more that this to get.
Addendum: As noted earlier, Anthem is planning an update to the D1 (and to their less-expensive AVM 20 and AVM 30 pre-pros as well). It will include HDMI switching (4 in, 1 out) with the ability to input DVD-A via HDMI and video transcoding of all sources to component and HDMI outputs. In addition, the D1 will also include a scaler for component and HDMI, user-selectable up to 1080p. (The decision has not yet been made about whether to include the scaler in the less-expensive AVM20 and AVM 30.) The upgrade will also add component-video switching to zone 2. Another possible update is the inclusion of IEEE 1394 inputs for DVD-A and SACD, but as of this writing, that decision is not final.
The exact release date of the update has not been announced, but it should be relatively soon. As applied to existing units, the upgrade will require extensive hardware changes, including a new back panel, but Anthem expects the cost of the current model plus the cost of the upgrade will equal the price of the new model. So it probably doesn't matter if you buy now and upgrade or wait and buy the new model. If you anticipate no need for those extra capabilities (which, as announced, do not suggest any alteration of the product's already fine sound quality), now might be a good time to snap up the current D1 at a good price.
Highs and Lows
• Superb sound quality
• Effective multichannel simulation from 2-channel sources
• Bags of power
• Powering (P5) by 2 separate electrical circuits is recommended
• No HDMI or DVI switching as yet
• Could use a better remote