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Product Review
 

Sherwood Newcastle R-765 7.1 Surround Sound Receiver

January, 2005

Matthew Abel

 

Specifications:

 

● Power: 100 Watts x 6 (7th Channel
    Requires an Outboard Amplifier)
● Digital Inputs: 2 Optical, 2 Coaxial
● Digital Outputs: One Optical
● Two Component Video Inputs
● 7.1 Channel Discrete Input Set
● Dimensions: 5.5" H x 17.4" W x 13" D
● Weight: 21.8 Pounds
● MSRP $399.95 USA

 

Sherwood

 

www.sherwoodusa.com

Introduction:

Regardless of the price, the receiver is the central component of most home theater systems. With all of the important duties that a receiver is required to perform, it is one of the key purchases for both the beginning and experienced home theater enthusiast.

In an effort to try to make sense of one of the key price points in the home theater receiver market, Secrets will be looking at a host of the currently available models for our “Budget Receiver Roundup”. The defined budget price point is an MSRP between $300 and $600 which encompasses a range of very attractive models from all of the major manufacturers. Models in this range have accumulated more features in recent years, but in this price range one still has to deal with tradeoffs in inputs and processing. To begin the “Budget Receiver Roundup” I looked at the $400 R-765 from Sherwood’s premium Newcastle line.

Features

Right out of the box, the R-765 looked impressive in a handsome silver finish. I generally like the appearance of silver components, even though they take away from the monolithic presentation of my all black stack. Looking over the specs, the R-765 is a six-channel receiver with an equal 100 watts into each channel (not necessarily driven at the same time) and all of the standard decoding facilities (DTS, DTS-ES, DD, DD-EX and DPL-II). Internally, the R-765 is based on a Cirrus Logic CS-493264 DSP and an AKM AK4529 multi-channel 96/24 DAC.

 

Front Panel

The R-765 has a very clean front panel, with two primary rows of buttons and a good size volume knob positioned to the right. The upper row of buttons controls input selection, DSP mode, DPL-II music parameters, and the selection of digital inputs. The input buttons do not directly select the inputs, but rather are grouped into the general categories of audio, video and 7-CH. Pressing the respective button multiple times toggles through the list of inputs assigned to this button, which is not as convenient as direct selection, but not particularly cumbersome either.

The surround fields are selected with a left and right arrow that scrolls through the options. There are also buttons that turn on Auto Sound mode detection and toggle to a stereo mode. The smaller row of buttons controls system setup, tone controls, and tuning for the radio. I’m pleased to say that one can do a full system setup directly from the R-765’s front panel. One of my pet peeves in the world of modern electronics is the dumbed down front panel that one sees on some products. I recently experienced the utter frustration of trying to watch a DVD on a modern slim-line DVD player without the remote control. Needless to say, trying to watch is all I could do with that DVD as one could not even execute basic menu functions without the remote control. Finally, the front of the R-765 has a standard composite video and stereo audio input set that is neatly covered by a removable gray cap (you might use this if you were feeding the signal out of your video camera to the receiver).

Connections

The back panel of the R-765 is well laid out, with connections grouped by functionality. The audio inputs are grouped into blocks of digital inputs, analog stereo inputs, and a multi-channel (7.1) input. The video inputs are also logically broken down into component video inputs, S-Video inputs, and composite video inputs. This is an interesting departure from the more standard layout that puts analog audio, composite video, and S-Video all inline for each input. Personally, I think this works for the R-765, primarily because it only has two true A/V inputs on the back panel. Thus, since there is less of a problem with confusing the inputs, it's better that things are spaced farther apart, causing fewer problems getting your cables connected.

The RCA inputs are gold plated which is a nice touch and a set above most receivers in this price range. All binding posts are five-way. My banana plugs fit snugly and securely in the binding posts, and overall they seemed to be quite sturdy. The binding posts are color-coded, which should help during setup. It should be noted that there are no secondary (“B”) connections for main speakers. Since most people will be placing a receiver like this in a simple one room theater I don’t find this omission troubling.

Remote Control

The remote is a very large black unit and with mostly black buttons. It is comfortable for me to hold, but it may seem a bit large for those with smaller hands. The remote is programmable for seven other devices and features both volume punch through and the ability to program macros, both of which are nice additions. My primary problem with the remote is the placement of the input selection buttons which share space with the numeric keypad portion of the remote. I found this a bit awkward, and I also found that the input names were hard to read in a dimmed room. This led to some frustration until I memorized the buttons' positions. One of the primary functions of a receiver’s remote should be input switching, and I would have preferred to have seen this implemented better.

Set-Up

Setting up the R-765 was relatively easy, using either the remote or the front panel. One simply presses the speaker setup button and then uses the up or down arrow to adjust the desired parameter, be it speaker size or position. Pressing the speaker setup again takes one to the next parameter and ultimately to the next speaker. Finally in this setup routine one can select crossover frequency at either 80, 100, or 120 Hz. I like the fact that R-765 has an 80 Hz crossover frequency option, as many receivers in the budget group only offer 100 Hz as their lowest setting, which I find too high.

Setting channel level can either be accomplished by using a test tone that cycles through the channels automatically while playing a test tone or by using the channel selector button that toggles through all of the channels. In both cases, channel level is simply adjusted using the up or down arrow on either the receiver itself or the remote. One thing I liked about setting up the R-765 was that it was very easy to tune channel levels and settings on the fly. I don’t end up doing this much, once I have everything dialed in, but it’s a nice option to have.

Input setup is equally simple. Just select an input and press the input button until you have the desired input. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

General Use

The R-765 was used to control an abridged version of my home theater, playing CDs, DVDs, and an Xbox. Throughout this time, I had no problems whatsoever in the operation of the unit. Using the R-765 was the model of ease and simplicity for me. This is exactly what I want from a well-designed receiver. Simply put, I really enjoyed using the R-765.

Sound

I started my evaluation of the R-765 by using it for audio with my Xbox and a digital input. At the time, I was playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and I have to say, the R-765 effectively contributed to this very enveloping gaming experience. In- game dialog was very clean, and sound effects worked very well.

Moving to more serious material, I began with my favorite wind band track from Gustav Holst’s "Second Suite in F" Fantasia on the Dargason (Telarc CD-80038) played back using one of the digital inputs. I really liked the way things sounded tonally, with clarinets and other reed instruments exhibiting full harmonics. The dynamics also seemed to work really well, with the crescendo’s fully developing and decrescendo’s appropriately falling away. Brass instruments had a nice edge to them that represents their live sound.

Switching things over to 7-Ch in and letting my DVD player’s D/A do the decoding, showed me that the R-765 was missing a bit of detail and air on the high end, but not much. Moving back to the digital coaxial input, I played track 12 of Reference Recordings Arnold for Band (RR 66). This lively track features lots of well recorded brass instruments, and I really felt that the R-765 was producing a very correct sound for the brass. Next, I put in the DVD-A of Queen’s A Night at the Opera, which yielded a very full and tonally neutral sound. Continuing with rock, I ran the Who’s Tommy on SACD through the 7-Ch analog input. While I felt that R-765 could have been stronger in the bass range, its overall presentation of the disc was very good. I wrapped up my music listening with the DVD-A of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. This was perhaps my favorite disc I played on the Sherwood. I felt the receiver’s midrange clarity and appealing tonal balance really complemented Fleetwood’s sound and particularly Stevie Nick’s vocals.

I watched a number of movies using the R-765, and overall I felt the sound was quite good. Dialogue was clean and clear, and the sound was more than sufficiently detailed. To really see what the receiver could do on some tough material, I put in a DTS demo disc. I started with the “Battle” scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. I found that spatially, the receiver was creating a good and convincing sound field. Dynamically, on this track, I felt like I could push the receiver to its limits. This is a challenging scene, and although I felt the R-765 went plenty loud, I would have liked a little more headroom for the system. Overall, this dynamic performance is similar to the other budget receivers I have heard. Next I moved on to the “Marshes” scene from The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers. I felt the detail in this scene was very good, and it was able to effectively convey the complexity of sounds. Like its performance with the music tracks, I really appreciated the R-765’s balanced tonal presentation. I finished up my evaluation with more Pirates of the Caribbean, this time the “Storm” scene. Looking back at my notes all I have written for this scene is “sounds excellent”, which I think is an appropriate way to sum up how I feel about the R-765.

Conclusions

The Sherwood Newcastle R-765 is a very good receiver that will appeal to the user with relatively light input requirements. In my system, this limited me to only using the receiver with my DVD player and my Xbox as I did not want to string cables around to the front A/V input. Now this won’t be a deal breaker for many, but for me it meant leaving my TiVo and my PS2 unhooked while I was reviewing the unit. The flip side to this simplicity is that it made setting up the R-765 a breeze.

Ultimately, while I had some issues with the R-765’s remote control, I found operating the R-765 a painless and quite enjoyable experience. The R-765 also performed very well for me on both music and movies, with an appealing sound. I can’t help but like the Sherwood Newcastle R-765, and if you can work around its input requirements, I highly recommend it.


- Matthew Abel -
 

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