|Anthem Statement D1 AV Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Christopher Zell, Ph.D.|
|Monday, 01 November 2004|
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There are a variety of corporate philosophies among audio component manufacturers, from the budget end with gobs of features and extras, usually at the expense of sonics, through those with bare bones features and somewhat utilitarian cosmetics, focusing on quality, sound and value. At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum are the manufacturers who design and offer components without cost as a primary concern. Anthem, which is part of Sonic Frontiers International under the Paradigm Corporation, has historically placed itself in an interesting position between these two philosophies. They have earned a reputation for excellent sonics at relatively affordable price points positioned well below the absolute high end. Typically, they have not reduced their feature set in the process and have gone one step further in their new Statement series of electronics. The Statement component line is designed to compete toe-to-toe with anything else on the market, regardless of price. In fact, Anthem welcomes direct comparisons. Far from the stratospheric price point that many flagship processors command today, the Statement components are slightly pricier than the still-offered standard Anthem line. The subject of this review is the new Statement D1 Preamplifier/Processor/Tuner, with a suggested retail price of $4,999.
Although the Statement D1 is built on the same platform as the proven, well-regarded AVM20, this is where the similarity ends, according to Anthem. The D1 contains custom-designed circuit boards as well as the highest-quality active and passive components, including AKM® AK5394A analog-to-digital converters capable of up to 24-bit 192-kHz resolution. Processing is provided by dual Motorola® DSP 56367 engines, and all digital inputs are converted to 192 kHz by the D1’s own built-in state-of-the-art up-sampler. The Anthem D1 is an extremely versatile and sophisticated component that therefore warrants a lengthy description to represent the multitude of features and functions. Cosmetically, the D1 is very elegant; the black faceplate features gently curved wings on both sides, with a liberal sprinkling of buttons and controls. The overall look is somewhat reminiscent of the Anthem AVM20 and AVM30 home theater preamplifiers, but with a touch more class and grace. When powered, the numerous indicator LEDs and the large, informative main display centered on the front panel glow a wonderful blue. The display can be turned off, set to four different intensity levels and briefly brightened after you make an adjustment, the amount of time variable between one and 15 seconds.
Most of the functionality of the Anthem D1 is controllable via the front panel, which is laid out in a very logical fashion. Despite this, the controls are numerous and the adequately contrasted white labels too small by necessity to make this convenient for my aging eyes, unless the panel is well illuminated and in very close proximity. I am sure the locations of key buttons could be easily recalled after repeated use, but why bother when you can adjust everything from the listening seat with the supplied remote control? I found the Statement D1 Universal Learning Remote to be much better than average, with its logical button placement, differing button shapes and sizes and backlighting. As with many remotes, secondary button functions are not visible even when backlit, but in general, it was easy and intuitive to use. Since my home theater system’s electronics component complement changes more rapidly than I am willing to re-program any remote, I cannot comment on the D1 remote’s abilities as a universal controller, other than to say that it can have nine “personalities” according to the Anthem manual.
As expected, the rear panel is quite full of inputs and outputs, starting with the IEC power cord connection at the lower left. The D1 has seven single-ended stereo analog inputs (selectable as direct or DSP), each with its own associated coaxial RCA digital audio, composite video and S-Video receptacles. Four sets of HDTV-compatible component video jacks are assignable to any input. As is usually the case, the D1 does not provide Onscreen Display (OSD) for the two sets of component video outputs, but it also does not perform any format translation between composite, S-Video and component video. I do not consider this a huge problem, but it is important to realize this rather than wonder why there is no video signal present at the composite output when only S-video and component connections are made from video sources. This happened to me and caused confusion for a few moments, but was quickly rectified by adding a single cable once I realized my error.
In addition to the seven coaxial digital audio inputs, the Anthem has three optical (TOS) inputs and one balanced AES/EBU-XLR jack, all of which are assignable. Stereo audio, as well as composite and S-video outputs, are provided for Zone 2, Zone 3 and two full audio/video tape loops. Two coaxial outputs can provide digital audio from any source set to “digital” or “analog DSP,” with adjustable bit depths (16 and 24) and sample frequencies (44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz and 96 kHz). The two-channel analog inputs, the balanced XLR input and the six-channel single-ended input (primarily intended for DVD-Audio and multi-channel SACD players) can be set to bypass all of the D1’s digital stages or to include DSP processing, such as bass management, time alignment, surround modes and bass/treble controls. When the six-channel input is selected, the video signal from the DVD input is routed to the video outputs. Both balanced XLR and single-ended RCA outputs are provided for 10 channels, with a default to a full 7.1 system, plus a second center channel and second subwoofer. The second subwoofer and center channel XLR outputs can be reconfigured as balanced outputs for Zone 2, which could come in handy to minimizing noise for longer runs often associated with auxiliary zones.
All of the control-related input/output is located near the right top portion of the rear panel. A bi-directional RS-232 port is provided for firmware upgrades, making the D1 upgrade friendly. Three powered Infrared (IR) receivers allow for remote control usage from other locations and a pair of IR emitters enables control of your source components from any location that has an IR repeater. Finally, any components that have trigger provisions can be automatically turned on and off with the D1 via three flexible relay triggers. Whew, that covers most of the D1, although I will not guarantee I have remembered everything, whether it is because of space constraints or unintentional omission. Later in the review, I will discuss details of the D1’s functionality and set-up, which clearly rivals almost anything on the market today.