Audiolab 8000AP Preamplifier/Processor



Once I got the 8000AP connected in my rack, set-up was a relatively straightforward, though manual, task. Hitting the Q-Set button on the remote takes you through the critical tasks of getting the unit up-and-running: speaker complement, sizes and distances. As a reminder that you are dealing with a non-US product, all of the distances are in meters, so be prepared to do a little conversion if your tape measure doesn't have metric markings.

One nice feature of the unit that shows its focus on audio is the flexibility in setting the crossover points for bass management. Gone are the days of being limited to "small" and "large", though "small" is still used to indicate bass management is needed for a speaker. Instead, you can set each speaker's crossover point from 40 Hz to 120 Hz in 10 Hz increments, using 4th order (24dB/octave) slopes. This is good if your surround speakers need a little more protection from over-excursion than your main left, right and center channels, but where it shines is in the ability to fine-tune the hand-off between the left and right channels versus a subwoofer. In our living room, we have a small subwoofer that sits just behind our couch. At a 120 Hz crossover point, it is easily located since it is still putting out significant volume well into the mid-bass frequencies. Setting the front channels to a 50 Hz crossover point significantly reduced the localizability of the subwoofer and pulled more of the soundstage towards our front projection screen. A big plus.

Audiolab 8000AP Preamplifier/Processor

Note: since the 5.1 analog bypass is a true analog bypass, there is no bass management (neither an A/D nor a D/A conversion) in this mode; all other inputs have active bass management, including the analog stereo inputs.

For those who are interested in the On Screen Display, I did play with it a bit, but given the relative simplicity of the unit, there isn't much there that would have compelled me to fish out a long composite video cable and go hunting for an appropriate input on my TV (or video processor) when used with a video processor/switcher. However, people who like to tweak may want to play with things like the PLII/PLIIx parameters or some of the various DAC filtration modes. I left these at their factory defaults.

Where set-up got a bit tedious was in setting the volume gain or cut for each speaker. Most competitive products include a set-up or calibration microphone that largely automates this entire process (though they tend to be limited to only a few crossover points). For the 8000AP, I had to break out my SPL meter to set the relative volume for each speaker to ensure the appropriate sound stage. If you have an SPL meter, then this only adds a few minutes to the process, but if you don't have one, then you are most likely in for a trip to your local Radio Shack or are going to take a detour through an online retailer to get one.

This leads to the most obvious omission for a high-performing home theater preamp: no room optimization. While people can debate the relative merits of different types of signal processing and room optimization, my personal experience indicates that there is merit to their use. A simple parametric EQ can help smooth out some rough patches in the in-room frequency response while something like Audyssey's MultEQ XT and MultEQ Pro can provide fairly dramatic improvements in bass response. Given that such technologies are available in competing products at this price point, consumers who want to gain the benefits of such technologies will need to weigh the costs and complexities of add-on solutions carefully.