Receivers

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

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

For my listening tests, I was using a 7.1 speaker configuration from Definitive Technology including a pair of BP-3000TL speakers with powered subwoofers for the front mains, a CLR 2002 speaker for the center channel, and four Definitive Technology UIW 94/A speakers for the surrounds and rear channels. My normal reference processor is an Anthem Statement D2, and I'm normally listening to my room and these speakers using Anthem's ARC-1 Room Correction System. With the R-972, I started with two of my standard receiver listening tests – Gladiator and Master and Commander. Both of these movies offer some incredible sound effects and are a good test of any system. I started off listening with the "Trinnov Room EQ" and "Trinnov Spatial Mode" settings both set at "None". In this configuration, I was hearing my speakers and my room without any processing.

While the system sounded good, it completely lacked the wow factor that this setup is usually capable of. The center channel dialog was not as crisp, and bass response was nowhere near as precise as I'm used to hearing. I set the "Trinnov Room EQ" to "Natural" and started to notice a huge difference. The speakers sounded more accurate and the bass was dramatically improved. The system still sounded a bit off and the center channel seemed louder than normal. I set the "Trinnov Spatial Mode" to "DLY + LVL" and things really started to sound good again, to the point that I was getting wrapped up in the movies. Dialog was exceptionally clear and bass response was excellent. I turned on the 2D Remap spatial mode, and didn't really notice any significant change in the sound. My speakers are positioned well for this room, so I really wasn't expecting a major improvement.

I turned on the 3D Remap and did notice a subtle improvement in the surround effects. Everything seemed so much smoother, and transitions between the surround and rear channels were effortless. I was amazed at just how good the R-972 was sounding. Listening became really easy and very addictive. For Gladiator, the R-972 did a superb job reproducing the combat scenes and the noise of the crowds and chariots in the coliseum. Bass response during the fight scenes was very precise, with the clash of weapons on shields seeming to be positioned exactly at the point of impact. The sound of the mace being circled overhead in the "Battle in Chains" scene was perfectly seamless as it transitioned across the speakers. In Master and Commander, the sounds of the ship and the footsteps of the crew running along the decks of the ship were immersive. When the ship was being hit with cannon fire, I was amazed at just how precise some of the surround effects seemed. I really noticed the track of the cannon fire as it passed through the room or ship as it may be. In my testing, I found that I really preferred the "Natural" setting for the "Trinnov Room EQ". It really reminded me of the tonal quality that I've been able to achieve with the Anthem ARC-1 Room Correction System. Changing the EQ setting to "Flat" resulted in a less satisfying bass response from my configuration. The R-972 also supports the loading of additional target curves via the front USB input, which can further increase bass response if desired.

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 A/V Receiver with Trinnov

Another great surround sound example is the latest Blu-ray disc of Sherlock Holmes. The R-972 and its Trinnov processing did a fabulous job rendering the amazing soundtrack from this film. In the creepy meat processing facility, the villain Lord Blackwood torments Holmes and Watson by projecting his voice around the room. When you first hear the voice, it sounds like Lord Blackwood is standing right behind you. The character's voice then proceeds to move around the room. The 3D Remap functionality did an amazing job with this scene. I tried turning off the 3D Remap functionality, but quickly discovered that I preferred it. While the differences may have been subtle, I consistently felt that my surrounds were more effective with the 3D Remap functionality enabled.

The R-972 makes modifying the Trinnov parameters quite simple.

Off of the main system menu, there is a final menu selection called "Quick Audio Ref. / Adjust". Selecting this menu option brings up a quick adjust menu which lets you confirm and change the Trinnov settings.

This menu lets you easily adjust the Trinnov position, spatial mode, remapping, and EQ settings to suit your preferences. While the changes do take a couple of seconds for the R-972 to apply, the quick adjust menu is a much faster solution for changing your preferences as compared to navigating all the way through the input setup menus.

As for music listening, I frequently use the soundtrack from City of Angels as a good sampler to evaluate a receiver.

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 A/V Receiver with Trinnov

This soundtrack contains tracks from artists like U2, Sarah McLachlan, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton, Alanis Morissette, and Gabriel Yared and provides an excellent sampler of voices and styles. One of the characteristics of this disc is that the music offers a wide dynamic range which gives you an opportunity to see how well a receiver behaves. Examples of this are track 6, Sarah McLachlan's Angel and track 8, Peter Gabriel's I Grieve. Both of these tracks allow you to experience the full vocal range of the artists. What I listen for in these tracks is how well the receiver gets out of the way of the music. I want to hear the nuances of their voices, enjoy the quiet transitions, and feel the passion in their voices. With the Trinnov processing engaged, the R-972 did exceeding well at this. In stereo mode, the soundstage was wide and enveloping. I was amazed at the amount of depth I was hearing from the speakers. The piano in Angel sounded like it was right in the center of the room. The vocals were crisp and detailed, and I was pleased at the amount of texture that I heard in the artists' voices.

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 A/V Receiver with Trinnov

For multi-channel music, I was equally impressed with the R-972. Using the DVD-Audio of Diana Krall's When I Look In Your Eyes, I was amazed at just how great the 3D spatial mode with music remapping handled the multi-channel mix from this disc. The room sounded like an intimate jazz club with Diana and her band clearly positioned in the front center of the room. Instrument placement was well defined and the surround mix just added to the intimacy of the performance. I was really delighted at how much benefit Trinnov was adding to the experience.

Additional Trinnov Tests

My experience so far with Trinnov was very satisfying, but I wanted to see just how much I could throw at it. The first test I performed was to move the center channel speaker from its comfortable perch above my television to the floor. This lowered the speaker by approximately 5.5 feet. I recalibrated the position, and started listening again with the "Trinnov Spatial Mode" set to "None". Needless to say, the system sounded horrible. The sound was very clearly coming from the floor, and this would never be acceptable. I engaged the 2D remap and didn't notice much difference. I had left the speaker in the center, but just lowered its position. I turned on the 3D remap, and was blown away at how good it sounded. The sound was clearly centered and did sound as if the speaker had been lifted off of the floor.

My next test involved leaving the center speaker on the floor, but moving it to the left. The system also sounded horrible in this configuration. I engaged the 2D remap and did notice a convincing shifting of the sound to the center of the listening position, although the sound was clearly still on the floor. It still didn't sound great, so I enabled the 3D remap. Once again, the speaker virtually moved up off of the floor and sounded fantastic.

My last two tests involved further complications. I left the center channel on the floor and moved the left speaker toward the wall. I expected this to further shift the sound to the left of the listening position.

As you can see from the Trinnov computations, the angles and distances changed, but the levels remained almost identical, which is what I expected. The system didn't sound great, as expected, and the sound was definitely left of center. Once again, turning on the 3D remap cleaned things up very well. I started wondering just how this was happening and grew suspicious of whether the center channel was actually doing anything. I carefully disconnected the center channel speaker wires and the system continued to play as if it had a great center channel. Trinnov had created a phantom center channel for my system! I was amazed at the simplicity of the solution and at the same time blown away by how advanced the Trinnov algorithms must be. To simply disregard a bad or poorly performing channel and fabricate a new one was much more than I expected.

I tried my last test one more time and recalibrated the system without the center channel connected at all.

The system happily computed the solution and left the center speaker completely out the configuration. The system sounded very good, but I definitely felt that the system sounded better with the real center channel performing in the mix.

My final test was to calibrate the system with the microphone pointing directly at the rear channel speakers. I changed my listening position to the newly calibrated position, and turned around in my chair. I was surprised to hear the R-972 attempting to play my test disc, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, from the wrong side of the room. While it was certainly not as effective with my ceiling mounted rear speakers acting as front channels, it was a very cool demo of the Trinnov routing capabilities.

Operational Notes

With the discussions of Trinnov behind us, we need to talk about a few more operational points. The R-972 was generally very good at switching between HDMI sources. The R-972 does have a problem with occasionally outputting static when playing digital bitstreams. The problem was intermittent and would generally happen when switching discs in a Blu-ray or DVD player. The problem was easy to correct by simply switching inputs and reselecting the offending input, but hearing the static coming from the speakers was very unsettling and fortunately was not loud enough to damage the speakers. I also noticed that the optical and digital inputs were much louder than the HDMI inputs.

The R-972 comes with a Silicon Optix Reon video processor which is capable of upscaling to 1080p resolution.

The "Video Scaling" menu allows you to specify the HDMI output resolution.

The "Advanced Config." menu allows for the selection of monitor aspect ratio and allows for the enabling of noise reduction and sharpness control. Other than these selections, there is no ability to adjust the video processing settings on a global or per input basis. The upscaling on the R-972 had a significant problem. When processing 480i analog or HDMI video sources, the video signal would intermittently flicker and would occasional result in momentary loss of the converted HDMI signal. The best solution was to let the source device process the signal and leave the upscaling off on the R-972.

From a usability perspective, I really wished that the R-972 would provide some type of on-screen status display for the user. While I felt that the menu system was well organized and easy to use, the R-972 provides no on-screen feedback on the type of signal it is receiving or how that audio / video signal is being processed. Status information is confined to the front panel display, which while very useful, is very hard to read unless you are on top of the receiver. There is also no user interface for USB music playback other than from the front panel display. As for the remote, it is very nice to have the RF capability, but I would have traded that in a second for a decent back light. The "Light" button on the remote only illuminates the LCD panel at the top of the remote, which only indicates which source component the remote is currently controlling. The remote is very hard to read in dim light.