|Anthem Statement D2 AV Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Friday, 01 December 2006|
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With a preamp like the Anthem Statement D2, there will always be the do-it-yourselfer, but for the most part, you will want to have an Anthem dealer connect your system. While I did the project myself and was able to learn the onscreen display menus pretty quickly, there are many issues on today’s cutting edge that keep you from rocking your music and movies quickly.
Outside the scope of the Anthem Statement D2 are HDCP (the copy protection on HD DVD and Blu-ray) “handshake” concerns that are making even 25-year-old custom AV installers go bald from pulling out their hair. I am waiting a few more weeks to buy HD DVD and Blu-ray, since the generation two players will soon be on the street. My first foray into Blu-ray will be a Playstation 3, but there ain’t no way I am going to pay $3,000 to $5,000 for a unit just for Blu-ray. Other reviewers and some Anthem dealers I spoke with suggest the Anthem Statement D2 is one of the few, if not the only, AV preamp that successfully switches HDCP copy-protected HD material from HD DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately for me, this review couldn’t wait for me to buy new sources, upgrade my projector to a 1080p model and rewire my theater. This is something I will be doing in early 2007 as the HD format battle settles down a little. In the meantime, I suggest you make any connectivity issues into somebody else’s problem. If you are really motivated to do it yourself, then know that with the D2 you get some very well-informed and extraordinarily polite technical service reps at Anthem.
Much in the way the video is upsampled to your video display device’s native resolution, your audio is upconverted to 24-bit 192 audio. Just like the video, native 24-192 is better than scaled. However, you will always want your music scaled up by good DACs, as opposed to being left at lower resolution like a compact disc at 16-bit 44 kHz. George Benson’s The Greatest Hits of All (Rhino/WEA) is an example of modern jazz at its best. “Lady Love Me (One More Time)” begins with the strums of Benson’s guitar, which were sharply delivered to my ears and resulted in some serious toe-tapping on my listening room floor. Benson’s voice pleasantly danced harmoniously with the funky bass guitar towards the midpoint of the track. It is no small task for an audio system to capture this, given the broad range of Benson’s voice. These midrange demands were met calmly and were noticeably enhanced by the presence of the D2 in the system. Compared to the AVM30 that I previously used, there was more detail in high notes and a more three-dimensional image to them. In “Love All the Hurt Away,” some of the almost endlessly held notes did not waver or lose intensity during the duet with the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. There was a sweetness that I had not heard before to the emotional performance of both vocalists. Occasionally, graininess may be noticed when two singing greats try to outperform the other in such a duet, but the D2-enhanced system was nothing but clean to my ears.
Widespread Panic’s Don’t Tell the Band (Silverline) on DVD-Audio disc caters to both the mellow burnouts and mainstream rock fans in ways that only Phish and The Dead could do in years gone by. “Little Lilly” showcases the more tranquil theme of the band and features a gentle strumming of acoustic guitar with a transparent midrange that stood out from the rest of the track. The soundstage in this track was rich-sounding and deep, with many distinct instruments. The bongo drums were open and almost sounded as if they floated over the guitars and subtle keyboards. Besides excellent separation of instrument sounds, the soundstage seemed to engulf my listening position as if I were the conductor in an orchestra. “Give” was more of a hard rock adventure than the previously mentioned track. A heavier presence of electric guitar did not result in any harshness in the midrange with the D2. Bongos popped in and out of the soundstage with clarity, even amongst a crowded portfolio of drums, cymbals, keyboard and electric guitar.
The audio performance of the D2 was impressively close to what you should expect from stereo preamps costing as much as or more than the D2, yet I was getting anxious to start exploring the video improvements I would notice, thanks to the high-definition Gennum scaler and the other video goodies. My old AVM30 did not have HMDI or DVI switching. Now the use of digital outputs from my satellite and DVD player into my projector was finally possible, which was truly exciting. It didn’t take me too long to get an HDMI cable running from my DVD player to the D2 and another one from the video output of the D2 to my projector, complete with an adaptor to make the DVI work. I dropped in Constantine (Warner Home Video) on DVD to view the scene where Rachel Weisz’s character is kidnapped by demons. Walls collapsing rumbled the room and my couch with a ferocious crashing sound. This demonstration of bass reproduction was powerful yet never got to the boomy level and never felt taxing on my ears. Loud sounds can be convincingly higher in volume and not be harsh on the ears. You are supposed to be startled by the explosion effect, not rendered deaf as a result. The transportation of Constantine to Hell was spectacular with the whining of the winds and the doomed souls climbing over each other in the pits below. There was an abundance of fast-moving objects in this complex scene, and thankfully no visual artifacts were noticeable to my eyes. The bridge Constantine walks over has straight lines that merged together in the distance, yet did not have obvious jaggedness to their structure.
Next, I decided to switch to a sports program on the HDTV version of ESPN2. The Boston College vs. Wake Forest football game was as abundant in action as it was in staggering color saturation. The almost bluish-green hue of the artificial grass contrasted beautifully against the light pants of the players. Subjects not directly in front of the camera still appeared to be in focus, such as the faces of the coaches on the sidelines. Close-ups of players running to sidelines to rap with the coaches would often result in me being able to read what they had scribbled on their clipboards. It appears in the HD world that covering your mouth on the sidelines simply isn’t enough “security.” The edges of the players’ bodies were very smooth and the absence of jaggies yielded a more three-dimensional image. Darker scenes like the players coming out of the tunnel after halftime also exhibited great contrast, with the dark uniforms popping out of the mostly black background. Of course, there were a few bone-crushing hits that stood out, but the video really was the story here. If you are a sports fan, you will love watching football on Sundays and Saturdays with your inputs connected to the Anthem Statement D2.
Another example of HDTV programming was Eye of the Beholder with Serena Yang on Discovery HD. In this episode I saw, Serena explored traditions of tattoos around the globe. The trip to India to learn about mendhi or henna’s usage in wedding ceremonies was endless, with colors across the light spectrum. The blues in some of the costumes were well-saturated and easily got my attention when viewing that scene. I noticed individual stray hairs on the heads of the women during the interviews. Their flowing black hair against the light background did not appear artificially stair-stepped with jagged lines and was nearly smooth, even at several feet away on my 100-inch Stewart Studiotec 130 screen. The image looked smooth and gorgeous. To think, this is “compressed” HDTV at eight megabits per second, where HD DVD and Blu-ray are far less compressed at 25 mb/second.