Receivers

Sherwood RD-7503 7.1 A/V Receiver and BT-R7 Bluetooth Adapter

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

After completing the setup, my first reaction to using the RD-7503 was how simple it was to use. The receiver did an excellent job switching between my three HDMI sources. Simply changing the input on the RD-7503 and playing the source device resulted in a seamless video display to my HDTV. The receiver had no problems passing 1080p video to my HDTV, and I never experienced any handshake problems between my devices.

Playing video from my media server was not so straightforward. One limitation of the RD-7503 is that you cannot arbitrarily assign a video source to any input. In my case, I would have preferred to assign the Component Video 1 input to an unused input such as Tape. Unfortunately, this can't be done so you end up sharing sources on the Video inputs. For example, Video 1 was handling the HDMI input from my DVD player and also the component video input from my media server. I also assigned the media server's audio from Digital Coax 1 to Video 1 as well. If I wanted to listen to my media server, I had to switch to Video 1 on the RD-7503 and make sure that the DVD player was turned off. This sort of configuration can be hard to troubleshoot, and is not particularly family friendly if you have to remember what device to turn on/off and when.

As for listening tests, I was very pleased with the RD-7503's ability to handle movie soundtracks. I played two of my standard listening tests – Gladiator and Master and Commander. Both of these movies offer some incredible sound effects and are a good test of any system. For Gladiator, the RD-7503 did an excellent job reproducing the combat scenes and the noise of the crowds and chariots in the coliseum. The sound of the mace being circled overhead in the "Battle in Chains" scene showcased the value of a 7.1 speaker system as the RD-7503 seamlessly moved the sound around the listener. In Master and Commander, the RD-7503 did an excellent job creating the sounds of the ship and the footsteps of the crew running along the decks of the ship. Overall I was very pleased with the ability of the RD-7503 to handle movie soundtracks and to just allow the listener to sit back and enjoy the show. I should mention that using the automatic speaker setup was crucial to obtaining this result with the RD-7503. I was not happy with the overall presentation of the movies until I completed the automatic setup process.

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

Sherwood RD-7503 A/V Receiver and BT-R7 Bluetooth Adapter

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 look for in listening to 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. While the RD-7503 reproduced the music, the overall effect was simply uninspired. The mid-range was dull and lifeless and many of the subtleties in the vocals were absent. To be fair though, while the RD-7503 didn't impress me for critical listening; it will be just fine for someone wanting to just kick back and enjoy their favorite tunes.

The remote for the RD-7503 is a no frills, basic remote that gets the job done.

Sherwood RD-7503 A/V Receiver and BT-R7 Bluetooth Adapter

The remote is not backlit and my biggest complaint is that the volume and channel buttons are right next to each other and are the exact same shape. The remote can provide basic control of other devices in your system. The only thing to remember is that any OSD messages generated from using the remote are only visible from the front panel of the RD-7503 or from the composite video output of the receiver. For example, you can only see a change in volume or surround mode by looking at the front panel or by leaving your HDTV on the composite video input. The latter being most unlikely for daily use since you will be using an HDMI connection to take full advantage of the RD-7503's capabilities.The BT-R7 Bluetooth Adapter is an add-on module that you can purchase for the RD-7503.

The inclusion of Bluetooth technology in the home theater environment just takes us one step closer to having all our devices talk to each other. To use the module, you need to pair the adapter with one or more Bluetooth enabled devices in your home. For my testing purposes, I used my Blackberry Curve 8900. After turning on the RD-7503, the blue LED on the BT-R7 adapter starts blinking indicating that it is not paired with a device. I initiating the pairing process on my phone and the BT-R7 module immediately appeared. I had to enter a password of "0000" to complete the process. The blue LED on the BT-R7 stayed on indicating a successful pairing. Changing the input on the receiver to "Bluetooth In" allowed the phone to transmit stereo audio to the receiver. I was surprised at just how enjoyable this feature really was. It was delightful to be able to play music from the phone seamlessly throughout the listening room. This feature allows you to just enjoy the music and removes the hassle of having to find the media for that great song you were just enjoying. We will hopefully be seeing the integration of Bluetooth technology in more and more products in the future.