|Sunfire Ultimate Receiver II|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Wednesday, 01 March 2006|
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The Sunfire Ultimate Receiver II is the newest in a long line of high-end products made by the legendary Bob Carver, who has been making innovative audio gear since he founded Phase Linear in 1970. Carver has made numerous advances in amplification and power supply technology for the audio industry since he started in the business over 35 years ago, and this new receiver benefits from all his research and development. The Ultimate Receiver II is a complete 9.1-capable A/V receiver, designed to be the hub of a high-end home theater or multi-room system. In this newest version of the Ultimate Receiver, video transcoding and Dolby Pro Logic IIx have been added. The receiver is capable of producing 200 watts per channel into eight ohms and 400 watts per channel into four ohms into all seven channels, making it the most powerful receiver on the planet. Included are many of the bells and whistles one might expect in a receiver retailing for $4,995.
This receiver comes beautifully boxed and packed with high density foam rather than the styrofoam typical of lower-end products, safely securing the 32-pound receiver in the hands of all but the clumsiest of shipping companies. Included are the necessary power cord, AM and FM antennas and a great programmable universal remote (Home Theater Master MX-500), preprogrammed for the receiver and most other components, with the additional ability to learn unknown pieces. Something that surprised me was the inclusion of a glass pedestal, which Sunfire packages with the Ultimate Receiver and many of their high-end amplifiers. Being just slightly smaller than the 17-inch wide by five-and-three-quarters inches high and 16.5 inches deep dimensions of the receiver itself, the glass plate sits atop its own half-inch rubber feet and adds a stately look.
Sunfire deviated from the typical box-shape of components, giving the Ultimate Receiver II smooth rounded edges along the front and top, a sleek brushed aluminum finish with flush-mounted dial controls for volume and source selections and a slightly recessed blue LED display, with the remainder of the lights on the front being bright yellow.
Seemingly every digital format is covered, including Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES, DTS Neo:6, Dolby Pro Logic II and IIx, which allows this receiver a full 9.1 up-mixing of stereo inputs, a 7.1-channel analog input for DVD-A and SACD players, a tuner with 40 presets, active noise reduction and Bob Carver’s Sonic Holographic imaging. You can also independently control and power a second zone.
Full-time digital mixing of all multi-channel sources to stereo for tape, digital and second zone outputs is always active. Analog bypass exists for the two-channel audio purists who shudder at the concept of converting analog to digital and back again, as well as an MM phono input with turntable ground. The Ultimate Receiver utilizes 24-bit/192kHz digital to analog converters and provides one-eighth inch mini-jack remote IR inputs for both the main and secondary zones.
Video transcoding from composite to S-Video and S-Video to component allows you to use only the highest-level input on your display or projector for multiple different types of video sources. You can even set it to automatically select sources by sensing signals. The Ultimate receiver even offers an option to add an additional two speakers to your HT for a 9.1 set-up. These are side axis speakers used to compliment the other seven channels; if used, these would require an additional two-channel amplifier.
The Ultimate Receiver II provides a total of six A/V inputs and three outputs that have stereo analog inputs, as well as composite and S-video, three assignable component video inputs and two component video outputs for the main and secondary zones. There are 10 digital inputs, six coaxial and four optical inputs that are equipped with self-sealing doors, so you never have to worry about losing the plug covers for your optical inputs again. Optical and coaxial digital stereo outputs are present, as is a programmable 12v trigger capable of 500mA output.
Two stereo audio outputs exist for recording, and there are preamp outs for all channels, including three subwoofer outputs, for a total of 12 preamp outs. If that isn’t enough, a bi-directional RS-232 port is there to allow for home theater automation or outboard control, such as AMX, Crestron or Control 4. A Firewire port is also included for future upgrades. All inputs are via gold-plated RCA connectors. No balanced (XLR) inputs or outputs are present. The Ultimate Receiver II provides no DVI or HDMI connections.
The UR II comes with a HT master MX 500 remote that allows programmable control of multiple sources and functions as all your other remotes in one. While it can do macros, only three such macro buttons exist, and their programmability is somewhat limited. I did run into one small problem with this remote: the code listed in Sunfire’s manual for one of my cable boxes was wrong and the remote refused to accept it. A quick call to Sunfire gave me the correct code number. This points to another advantage of buying more high-end AV electronics – the customer service you can get quickly is often better than that of the lesser-priced gi-normo electronics companies.