Receivers

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 7.1 A/V Receiver with Trinnov Room Optimizer Technology

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

After unpacking the R-972 and placing the receiver in my cabinet, I couldn't wait to get everything connected. I started with the speaker cables first since they tend to be the most time consuming. The speaker binding posts on the R-972 are three-way posts which allow cable to be inserted from the top, bottom, or directly into the post via banana connectors. It is tedious to hook up bare wire to 14 binding posts in a 7.1 system, so I would always recommend that you take the time to terminate your speaker cable with banana connectors. This greatly simplifies the process should you have the need to move or change the equipment in the future. One note about the R-972 speaker connectors is that they don't accept spade connectors.

Moving on to the HDMI connections was a breeze. The R-972 has 4 HDMI inputs, which I immediately filled with my satellite DVR, PS3, and two Blu-ray players that I was testing. I ran a single HDMI output cable from the R-972 to my HDTV. I connected my media server to the R-972 via component video. The R-972 is able to up-convert the video signal from Composite video, S-video, and component video to HDMI, so this really simplifies system configuration and minimizes your video cables.

I powered on the unit and made sure that I had basic functionality, and then started working with Trinnov. The first place to start is with unpacking the microphone.

The Trinnov microphone is really a collection of four individual microphone capsules arranged into a special configuration that Trinnov calls an acoustic probe. We'll just call it a microphone from here on. The microphone is just shy of four inches tall and rests on a circular base which is approximately 2-1/8" in diameter. The underside of the microphone is fitted for a tripod mount. On the front of the microphone is a very small red dot which is to be aimed at the center of the acoustic image that you are trying to measure.

Looking down from the top of the microphone you can see the arrangement of the individual microphone capsules. In the top left corner of the image, you will see the Cat 5e network patch cable that is hardwired into the microphone. The other end of the cable is a standard network connector which must be connected to the back of the R-972. I went to plug in the cable and very quickly realized that the cable was too short to reach my listening position. The microphone needs to be positioned at ear level in your desired seating location. Sherwood really needs to consider putting the connector for the Trinnov microphone on the front of the receiver since you lose almost 2 feet of cable trying to get to the back of the R-972. The cable that is connected to the microphone is only 5 meters (16.4 feet) in length, but thankfully you can extend the cable by using another network cable and a standard in-line coupler which is not included with the R-972. So, after a trip to the store, I was finally ready to start making some measurements.

The first thing you run into with the Trinnov microphone is that it is very challenging to get the microphone to not move. The network cable attached to the microphone is tightly packed during shipping and has a natural curve and tension to it that easily pulls the microphone at an angle. This is further complicated by the fact that the microphone itself is very light in weight, and easily moves at the slightest movement in the cable. The small red dot on the front of the microphone is hard to see when looking down from above the microphone. I found that it was much more straightforward to use the three outside microphone capsules to create an imaginary triangle to orient the microphone.

Keeping the two rear microphone capsules parallel to the center channel allowed me to align the microphone much more accurately. The other recommendation is to use a tripod. This helps keep the microphone from moving and really aids in keeping things level.

After orienting the microphone, the next thing to do is select the "AUTO SETUP Optimizer" menu which can be found in the "Speaker / Listening Setup" menu.

You can select up to three independent listening positions for calibration.

The Trinnov system as implemented in the R-972 only takes one set of samples at a given listening position. You can't sample the room at multiple locations and use the average of those samples. I highly recommend recording where the microphone was placed if you are calibrating more than one seating position in your room. In my testing, I used position one as the sweet spot in the room and the other two positions at various other seating locations in the room. After selecting the calibration position, you come to the start page of the Trinnov process.

This screen reminds you to position the microphone. Select "Start Calibration" to begin the process. What follows next is a series of screens which indicate which speaker is being measured.

It's quite obvious which speaker is being measured since the R-972 is producing an approximately 80 dB test tone from each speaker during this process. It is very loud and you probably don't want other people or pets around when you are doing this.

Once the last speaker in your configuration has been measured, you will see a summary screen.

This screen will show you every speaker that the Trinnov system identified, its horizontal and vertical angle with respect to the microphone, and the distance from the microphone. The distances are only displayed in units of meter which was extremely frustrating, but this does give you a chance to brush up on your conversions (1 m = 3.28 feet). If a speaker is missing, which is indicated by dashed lines in the display, then you should stop here and fix the problems before continuing. The distances and angles as measured by Trinnov were amazingly precise and accurate for my room. The beauty of the Trinnov system is that it allows you to stop at this point and adjust the speaker and microphone placement to your liking. My listening room allows for a symmetrical speaker arrangement surrounding the primary listening position. I chose to spend the time to align the microphone to accurately reflect the angles that were appropriate for my room. It was especially difficult for me to arrive at a zero degree horizontal angle for the center channel, but I finally got it. In my testing, I found that pursuing that last bit of precision made no perceptible difference on the results in the room, but Trinnov will certainly allow you to make the tweaks depending on your level of enthusiasm for the task.

Once you are happy with the speaker angles, you can start the Trinnov computations.

It took on average 11 minutes to complete the computations for my 7.1 speaker configuration. The next screen in the process is a recap of the original speaker and angle summary that you saw prior to starting the computations.

The last step is a summary of the overall level for each speaker and the corresponding delay.

For all channels except the subwoofer, the -6 dB point is the optimum crossover frequency as measured by the Trinnov System. For the subwoofer, the -6 dB point is the actual, measured -6 dB point in the room. Selecting "Finish" saves all the settings and turns off the R-972.

With the measurements out of the way, let's take a look at some of the other configuration options that need to be considered with Trinnov and the R-972. The menu system of the R-972 is very straightforward and is easily accessed via the SETUP button on the remote or the front panel of the R-972.

The menus are well organized and provide convenient navigation links including forward, backward and home from each page. I recommend that you spend the time to configure each input based on the devices that you've connected to the R-972. To get started, select the "Input Setup" menu and select an input for configuration.

Page one of each input-setup menu allows you to name the input, and assign the appropriate connections for video and audio. HDMI setup is as simple as selecting the appropriate HDMI input (1-4) for the device you're connecting and assigning "Video Mode" to "HDMI". The default "Audio Mode" of "Auto" will process the audio in order of precedence starting with HDMI audio first, followed by digital audio, and finally analog audio. If you are using component video or one of the digital inputs, those settings are also made on this setup screen.

Page two of each input-setup menu allows you to adjust various audio options. The "Audio Remaster" menu lets you turn on upsampling for two channel PCM audio signals that are 88.2/96 kHz or lower. The "HD Audio" menu should be set to "On" if your source player supports high-resolution bitstream audio formats such as DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD. From page two of any input-setup menu, you can also enable the automatic selection of surround formats, adjust lip-sync and assign a DC trigger to the input.

Page three of each input-setup menu allows you to select the Trinnov setup options independently by input. We will take a look at each parameter in detail. The first menu item, "Trinnov Position", allows you to specify which set of calibration data to apply to this input. You select from positions 1, 2 or 3, which correspond directly to the positions which you've previously calibrated using the Trinnov Room Optimizer. This is where it comes in handy to have recorded the location of each calibration location as I mentioned earlier.

The second menu item is "Trinnov Room EQ". The five choices for this menu are "None", "Flat", "A.Phile 1", "A.Phile 2", and "Natural". The "None" selection turns off the Trinnov processing for the input. The "Flat" selection applies a flat frequency response from 20 Hz – 20 kHz. The "A.Phile 1" selection adjusts the frequency response of all speakers, other than the front mains (L/R), to match the characteristics of the front main speakers. Sherwood states that "this can be used for systems that use large, full-range, speakers as the main pair and speakers with different sizes and voicing for the center channel and surrounds." The "A.Phile 2" selection adjusts only the low frequency response (less than 300 Hz) of all channels in the system. The last selection, "Natural", adjusts the frequency response of all channels with a slight bass boost below 200 Hz and a slight high frequency roll-off above 9 kHz.

The third menu item is "Trinnov Spatial Mode". The five choices for this menu are "None", "DLY + LVL", "Autoroute", "2D Remap", and "3D Remap". The first selection of "None" turns off any spatial remapping. The "DLY + LVL" selection applies the appropriate delay and level adjustments so that each speaker appears to be the same distance from the listener and each will play at the same relative volume level. The "Autoroute" setting will send each input channel to the nearest speaker based on the direction of the calibration microphone. For example, if you calibrated the system with the microphone pointing at the left rear speaker, the system will automatically make the left rear speaker the center channel and assign the other channels accordingly. This allows for some very unusual room configurations. The "2D Remap" selection applies Trinnov processing to correct for any placement problems in the horizontal plane only.

For example, if your left and right main speakers are not symmetrical around the center listening position, the R-972 will apply Trinnov processing to make the speakers sound symmetrical during playback. The last selection of "3D Remap" takes this process one step further and adjusts for the placement of the speakers in the vertical plane as well. For example, if your center channel speaker is too low or too high, the Trinnov processing will apply a spatial correction to make sure that the center channel audio is located in the center of the sound field between the left and right speakers.

The fourth menu item is "Trinnov Remapping" and offers a choice of "Cinema" or "Music". When the "Cinema" selection is made, the R-972 will use Trinnov processing to position the front speakers to be +22.5° and -22.5° relative to the center of the listening position. This allows for a 45° width around the center listening position. The surround channels are placed in a cinema orientation. When the "Music" selection is made, the R-972 will use Trinnov processing to position the front speakers to be +30° and -30° relative to the center of the listening position. This allows for a 60° width around the center listening position. The surround channels are placed in a music mixing orientation.
The last menu item on page three of each input-setup menu is "Cinema EQ". This allows you to apply a high-resolution equalization based on your preferences. This equalization is part of the R-972's processing features and not specifically a Trinnov feature. With all the selections out of the way, let's see how the R-972 and Trinnov performed.