|Sherwood Newcastle R-965 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Friday, 01 April 2005|
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Music and Movies
I put the R-965 to the listening test, using my Marantz DV9500 DVD player, Polk Audio LSi Series speakers and an Energy ES10 subwoofer. The self-titled Blues Traveler CD (A&M Records) is a classic example of pop-inspired blues. John Popper is a madman on the mouth harp and looks like a paramilitary musician with his vest of a dozen or so harmonicas. Mr. Popper is not too shabby a singer, either. “But Anyway” shows off the wailing talents of Mr. Popper on the harmonica and challenges the R-965 to keep up. The harmonica’s frequency range spans both the high and midrange, but when Popper plays, it jumps around the scale at light speed. Not only did the highs sound lush, but there also were no points in the song where I felt like my eyes were squinting from the harmonica being overly bright. Cymbal crashes throughout the song were subtle as they should have been and did not distract the listener from Popper’s voice or his harmonica playing. Popper’s voice has a pleasant waning to the end of the each sung verse, which is pleasantly recreated by this receiver. The fast-paced vocals and drumbeats of “Mulling It Over” repeatedly drew my foot into the air and back to the floor again. The quick snaps of the snare drums were crisp and had no obvious coloration. Remarkable for this price class, this receiver has a liquid sound that is effortless, an aspect heard in expensive separate preamps but rarely encountered in receivers in this price range.
After leaving Generation-X’s frontman position, Billy Idol became the superstar that we all know with his Rebel Yell (Chrysalis Records) album. “Rebel Yell” reveals the quick riffs of guitarist Steve Stevens and his ability to pump up the listener. The “chun-chun-chun” sounds of Stevens’ axe supports Idol’s vocals with smile-inspiring success. To me, his guitar solo flowed nicely to a more forward presentation than I remember noticing from playback on previous receivers. I really wanted to rip my sleeves off and spike my hair into a Mohawk within minutes of the track starting. The high screams to the low deep chants that Idol belts out puts his dynamic vocal range on display for all to witness. Never did the R-965 shy away from the task of reflecting Idol’s vocal genius back to the listener. “Eyes Without a Face” features a prominent bass line and gaggle of synthesized claps to remind you of the decade in which this song was written. The slow pace of the song elevates it from rock ballad to the head-banging standard of the rest of the album with Stevens’ guitar solo.
For movies, I began with “This is Spinal Tap” (MGM Home Entertainment). This cult classic Rob Reiner film is a spoof of British metal bands of the ‘80s. The laughs roll in as the band makes a rapid career decline from playing major stadiums to being booked as the opening act for a puppet show. The soundtrack alone is one of the greats of all time. Songs like “Hell Hole” demonstrate the creativity of the actors’ lyric-writing abilities (stars Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer collaborated on the numbers) and the surprisingly musical nature of the R-965 in reproducing the song. The clever riffs from the lead and rhythm guitars got my head rocking with ease. The highs and midranges of the guitars never sounded harsh or brittle, even after upping the volume substantially from less heavy metal listening volumes. The subtle pounding sounds of bassist Derek Smalls (Shearer) and his roadie, trying to break free of his plastic on-stage pod during “Rock and Roll Creation,” were frighteningly realistic as well as openly hilarious with this receiver in my home theater set-up. Talk about getting into the music in a movie!
“Baraka” (MPI Home Video) is a mind-numbing collection of bizarre customs, religious events and scenes of nature. The video in this film is amazingly rich in color and contrast. The strong contrast of the molten lava set against the dark background of the black lava rock in the volcano scene was impressively reminiscent of the last time I viewed this film through my Anthem AVM30 and was no less vibrant in color. The Balinese Monkey chant is the best part of this film for the sound alone. The rhythmic vocals of the lead chanter and the chorus of the other chanters seem surreal. These amazing chanters explore the limitless range of the human voice with this unique religious celebration. The red face paint and garments stand out well against the grey stone temple and no artifacts were noticeable to my eyes during this scene when using the near-broadcast quality video switching in this receiver. Throughout my audition of this receiver, I was impressed with its power; agility and sense of ease most often heard in higher-priced products. At no point during my audition did I feel a lack of excitement and enthusiasm. This receiver kept me rocking.
I am not a big fan of the front panel input selection buttons. In the quest to put lights around the buttons, Sherwood made the buttons a little too small for my taste and they are made of hard plastic, so they are uncomfortable to press. I actually get dents in my fingertips when I press the buttons.
I was lukewarm on the placement of some things – for instance, the headphone jack, which can only be accessed by flipping the hidden door down. It’s my opinion that this feature should be exposed on the front panel and not hidden. HDMI and/or DVI inputs and outputs are missing from this receiver, which makes harnessing your HDTV sources something you will need to do outside the switching of the 965.
The Sherwood Newcastle R-965 receiver is a complete package for those looking for some serious “wow” in their home theater system. Any great HDTV set deserves an engaging surround sound system to accompany it. With the high power of this receiver, most medium to large-sized rooms will not struggle to hear effects or music with the R-965 connected. All the possible multi-channel audio formats are supported and even CD playback is improved with the remastering feature of this receiver. Easy set-up and an intuitive remote add value to the list of already compelling R-965 features. Thoughtful planning in the selection of quality components and design should keep this unit in your home theater for years to come. This is a solid purchase and one that you will enjoy for years to come.