|Anthem AVM 30 AV Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Friday, 01 April 2005|
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To me, if a preamp/processor can pass the two-channel listening test with CDs, it can be said that almost everything tends to sonically follow suit. It is an important benchmark in my mind, because a good portion of my listening is with two-channel material, whether it be CDs or stereo SACDs and DVD-Audio software. I like working up the sonic ladder, because it reminds me how far digital music playback has come in just a few years and it also tunes my ears up to the task at hand.
I started off with English prog rocker Marillion (Intact Records) and their latest effort Marbles to explore the AVM30’s portrayal of ethereal sonic textural landscapes. “Angelina” opens with whispery synthesizers and deep textured bass line that paints an aural landscape by which Steve Hogarth’s voice hangs suspended within it. Steve Rothery’s soulful and tasteful guitar interweaves with a detailed and delicate accompaniment of Pete Trewavas bass line. The AVM30’s transparency is duly noted on this tune. I did not discern much character that the AVM30 imparted to the music.
Switching over to DVD-Audio, I put in a gem I ran across recently, Pat Travers From The Front Row…Live (Silverline Records). Silverline is notoriously skimpy on information regarding when any artist recorded a particular concert or at what venue it was recorded. However, if you are a fan, you must own this disc. Recorded in 5.1 DVD-Audio at 24-bit/96 kHz and Dolby Digital 5.1 at 24 bit/48 kHz, Travers sounds better than I’ve ever heard him. The transfer captures the live experience with heart-thumping energy. Travers’ blues and rock style of playing and is topnotch. Screaming sustained guitar notes with their associated feedback sound incredibly detailed and have great presence on “Stevie.” The thundering bass lines have a wonderful midrange and lower register with a slight echo in the surrounds that gives you a feel for the venue where it’s being played. Travers’ voice is locked dead center and is crystal clear. “Getting Betta” highlights Travers’ crunchy and funky guitar riffs and unique vocal style. The AVM30 allows this recording to carry you away to another era in rock, when guitar gods ruled the airwaves and rock ‘n’ roll reigned supreme.
I tested the AVM30 for video switching to see if an additional link in the signal path caused any degradation to the image. I currently run my Direct TV satellite and Denon 2800 universal player though a Faroudja NRS video processor and scaler. For a video switching unit, you would be hard-pressed to beat the performance of the Faroudja and the benefit of up-converting to 720P caps the deal. So, with a little trepidation, I introduced the AVM30 to the signal path via a set of Cardas Precision Video component video cables. I ran the Denon player and the satellite directly to the AVM30, then to the Faroudja, which feeds the signals to my seven-inch CRT projector. Surprisingly, I could not identify reduction in performance induced by the AVM30. I intuitively feel like an additional link in the chain is not the best approach, but the AVM30 put up a stiff argument against that train of thought by supplying simplicity and system integration.
Multi-channel DVD video concerts are one of my favorites of the format. A good mix can put you right there in the twentieth row. Dream Theater’s “Live at Budokan” (Atlantic Records) is such a disc. Most of the band’s sound comes from the front three speakers and crowd noises and the venue’s ambience come through the rear channels, making you feel a part of the audience cheering on some of the most amazing musicians you’ll ever hear or see. The sound is very detailed and the dynamics are crisp, bombastic and articulate. “Beyond This Life” displays the musical prowess, speed and finesse these guys are known for. Mike Portnoy’s double kick bass drums are thundering and detailed, while the cymbal work shimmers and is well defined. The initial snap of the drumstick hitting a tom or snare drum is conveyed quite well, considering that a typical concert recording does not pay particular attention to mike placement of this part of the drum kit. The AVM30 seems to get all of that put together right, which makes this DVD very enjoyable. John Petrucci’s fretwork is blistering and very articulate and the AVM30 sorts out all of this information with nary a congested note and it sounds effortless. “New Millennium” is another favorite that has Jordan Rudess’ subtle synth highlighting Portnoy’s cymbal and bell work, with Petrucci overlaying soaring guitar work that compliments James Labrie’s vocals. The AVM30 recreates the concert experience very convincingly with great resolution and control.
“Alien Vs. Predator” (20th Century Fox) offers some nice effects. In Chapter Nine, the exploratory team is just starting their descent into the borehole leading down to the underground pyramid. The Predator spaceship silently passes over the crew, leaving only a subsonic signature in its wake. The effect produced through the AVM30 suggests a large presence with subtle cues that outline the immensity of the craft and passes those cues seamlessly from the left front channel through the center and over to the right without changing the spatial presence much, if at all. The sub frequencies really make this effect impressive. In Chapter 14, the inside of the pyramid starts to rearrange itself, much to the chagrin of the research team. The closing of heavy stone gates and slabs of rock reorienting themselves is very impressive through the AVM30. It characterizes the echo of a large space with every nuance you would expect to hear. The movement conveys the heavy nature of the stone through a detailed and layered grinding and crunch that the AVM handles well.