|B&K AVR307 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Friday, 01 February 2002|
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Music and Movies
I used my Toshiba SD-9100 for the front-end playing through the NHT home theater system, which is comprised of the ST4 main loudspeakers, the SB3 surround loudspeakers, the SC1 center channel and the SubOne I subwoofer. For music, I started off with a Classic Records Digital Audio Disc of Alan Parsons' I Robot. My first impression of the AVR307 was that this piece had the control and sound of separate audio components, lacking in some of the finer detail and layering of separates, but with the midrange bloom and transients you get from higher-priced pieces. The higher resolution on the DAD format was very alluring, with its analog-like presentation through the AVR307. Soundstaging, while not up to my reference two-channel rig, was good enough to offer an argument amongst my non-audiophile friends as to why you would really need anything better than the AVR307. Well, if you really want to know, the soundstaging was a bit forward, with the instruments rendered well, but not pinpoint accurate, and the higher frequencies were a tad rolled off. When stating these differences to one of my friends, I got looks that said perhaps I should seek professional help. All this is to say that the AVR307 provides high caliber entertainment without having to geek out over it. On the track "Breakdown," the resonant bass line and the opening note on the guitar can give you goosebumps, deftly handling all of the information in an enjoyable, engaging way.
On Sting’s Brand New Day (A&M Records), mastered in DTS 5.1, the AVR307 provided a nice soundscape on the track "A Thousand Years." This mix has the effects swirling around your heard in the 5.1 DTS format. Sting’s voice is resolute, albeit a bit rounded off in the upper octaves, compared to how he sounds on my reference system costing thousands more, but very good, with nice articulate bass and enjoyable midrange bloom. The high resolution of this recording is really an attention grabber. "After The Rain Has Fallen" snagged me by my ears as I was walking through the room, forcing me to sit down and tap my toes. This is a credit to the AVR307’s processing capability. It is musical, unlike many other receivers that have recently graced my listening environment. While not the end-all in bass authority, the AVR307 has a level of control that will satisfy anybody, myself included. I am, in a roundabout way, comparing the AVR307 to my Bryston 500 watt 7B-ST’s, which produces some of the best bass to be had. Having said that, it again is a credit to the AVR307 that I have to use my reference system to find flaws in the B&K’s character. I had to dig pretty hard.
For movies, I popped in the bootleg cut of "Almost Famous" (DreamWorks), Cameron Crowe’s ode to rock 'n' roll. The soundtrack of this DVD harkens back to the heyday of Peter Frampton, Led Zeppelin, the Who and Neil Young, to name a few. The fictitious band Stillwater, with shades of the '70s in their tunes, was a lot of fun to listen to. "Fever Dog" in the bootleg cut gets a little more playing time, allowing me to enjoy the soulful presentation that draws you into it immediately. In the scene on the bus where everybody starts singing Elton John’s "Tiny Dancer," the tune had a warm familiarity to it, although sounding a lot better than I remember it in its original form, with fairly liquid bass and sparkling highs that actually gave me goosebumps.
For dynamics, I love the opening to "Toy Story 2" (Disney), where Buzz Lightyear comes streaking down through the stratosphere, bobbing and weaving through the canyon of an alien planet. The sound moving from one channel to the other was seamless, matching the onscreen visual cues, with the thundering bass threatening the foundation. The laser blasts had a very electric sound to them, sounding very "real" (as if I have an actual reference for what lasers sound like). I’ll put it this way, they were the best laser blasts I’ve heard.
I wanted to see how the AVR307 handled two-channel information, so I turned to Alice In Chains (Columbia), one of my all-time favorite bands. I popped in Jar of Flies to see how well the AVR307 handled high-octane rock in the upper decibels. First up was "Rotten Apple" at some fairly insane volumes. At 86 dB, the NHT Super Audio loudspeakers are a pretty tough load to drive. The AVR did a capable job of breaking these speakers loose, allowing them to open up and show their stuff. They did start to run out of gas with the more bass-heavy track "Nutshell," sounding a bit congested and slightly compressed, but let me say these were very loud listening sessions.
I was not able to take advantage of the 6.1 and 7.1 capabilities of the AVR307 at the time of review, as I was unable to obtain additional speakers in time to meet the deadline. Based on what I heard with the Dolby Digital and DTS-formatted material, I really am sorry I didn’t get a chance to experience these other aspects, as I’m sure they will be crowd pleasers.
The setup for the AVR307 seems very involved at first. The logic is different from other receivers that I’ve set up recently. At first, it seemed a bit unorthodox in the way information was entered. However, as I got further into the structure, the more sense it made. You must be patient and the rewards will be well worth it. If you are mixing signals from your video source, such as S-Video to composite, you’ll have to settle on one, as the AVR307, like most receivers, will not convert between the two.
I found that the OSD was really the only way I felt I could change, add or edit information with the AVR307, although the front panel controls are said to offer the same interface. I never really made it work for me.
Although this isn’t a big deal, as there aren't but a handful of DVDs sporting this format, the AVR307 will not decode DTS-ES in discrete 6.1-channel mode. You can play in a matrixed DTS-ES mode, which I bet will get you close to the discrete channel presentation. I still wonder how many people will actually utilize these formats, they require the user to step up to the plate with additional speakers and the space to set them up, not to mention the lack of software. And it's not clear if these formats will stand the test of time. There will be a niche market, but I wonder if it will ever be widely accepted.
I find it difficult to find fault with the AVR307. It offers one of the most flexible architectures that I’ve had the pleasure to manipulate. It encompasses nearly all of the latest formats, like all of the Dolby Digital and DTS surround modes, plus decoding for a single matrixed back surround channel, which you can play through either one or two speakers, and the AVR gives you the flexibility of deciding how many speakers you want to use for each source, along with presets for each of those sources, such as volume, EQ settings, and much more. And don’t forget about DVD-Audio
The room equalization alone is an incredible tool to truly flatten your room response and curb those nasty room modes. The remote is easy to use and its functions are intuitive and powerful. With its audiophile design approach, the AVR307 endears itself to me in its simple yet powerful performance for music and movie playback with its solid 150 per channel amplifier section. If you are as particular about your sound as I am, you will appreciate the high power and performance levels, the versatility with just about any setup imaginable, and the build quality provided by B&K.