Arcam DiVA AVR100 A/V Receiver Page 2
|The remote is an ergonomic disaster: no backlighting, tiny buttons, and no ability to control other manufacturers' gear.|
In addition to the standard Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Pro Logic, and stereo-bypass modes, there is one other DSP setting called hall, which I found to be quite effective with poorly separated stereo broadcasts. With shows like Saturday Night Live that are supposedly encoded for surround, the effect in the hall mode was particularly impressive, with much better surround extraction than in the Pro Logic setting.
I was initially concerned about the rather modest 70-watts-per-channel rating; however, in my room, using Snell AIII speakers, the Arcam never seemed to be in distress. Overall, the sound was quite warm and euphonic, but this characteristic remained even when the volume was low, so I doubt it was a case of the AVR100 running out of steam. Many soundtracks end up sounding quite bright on most home theater rigs because they were originally mixed for well-damped movie theaters with old, dull speakers. Take Tomorrow Never Dies, a demanding test of dynamics if ever there was one. Through the Arcam, the opening scene at the terrorist-arms market certainly got loud and raucous, but it was never irritating. The real strength of the Arcam, however, was much more evident during less-bombastic scenes, where qualities like the receiver's excellent dialogue clarity and transparency were clearly evident. Big, loud shoot-'em-ups are impressive at first, but many receivers that impress on the big stuff are disappointing when things quiet down. Not the Arcam. There was a bit of a hitch with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono movies: Without an appropriate DSP mode, you have to use an analog connection with Pro Logic decoding to get it to play through the center channel.
Since Arcam's strength has traditionally been making great-sounding gear for music, I spent extra time living with the AVR100 as the center of my two-channel-audio-only setup. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I didn't suffer any withdrawal symptoms, and the AVR100 never got in the way of my enjoyment. Open, fast recordings like Geri Allen's jazz-trio record Segments had fine pacing and excitement, although the bass became a bit slow and a little detached from the rest of the sound at times. The slightly soft nature of the Arcam's sound made it easy to listen to harder, more-congested recordings like Billy Joel's "River of Dreams," a track that features no less than three bass players.
It's easy for us reviewers to forget that most home theater equipment also serves as the user's music system, and a lot of reasonably priced home theater gear that will impress with movies fails to do so when you drop in a CD. The DiVA AVR100 flips those priorities around by performing even better with music than with movies. Whether this is the approach for you will, of course, depend on your own priorities. It certainly fits in well with mine.
• A fine receiver, especially for music lovers
• The receiver is easy to set up and use; the remote is less so
• Super-stylish design