|Anthem Statement D2 w Room Correction|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Sunday, 01 June 2008|
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Included with the new Anthem statement D1 or D2 processors and theARC-1 add-on for existing processors are a software disc, individuallycalibrated microphone, a long USB cable and a stand. The stand is astraight bar with a weighted base and adjustable headpiece that allowsyou to angle the microphone, which is recommended to be vertical duringmeasurements. I might have liked an extension to allow me to moreeasily position the microphone where my ears would be for the differentseating positions, but I was able to get it there without difficulty.You won’t be doing these measurements very often, so the included standis more than adequate.
I have had the privilege of using an Anthem Statement D2 in my home fora year now. It is a favorite of this magazine’s reviewers, and for goodreason. The Anthem Statement D2 AV preamp is an amazing unit, offeringincredible flexibility, sound and video scaling. It is widely known asthe most reliable HDMI-based AV preamp currently on the market. I won’tdwell too much on the basics of this unit, as they have already beendocumented in a prior review. I will instead focus on the ARC roomcorrection.
I placed the new D2 with ARC into my reference rig, which currently hasthe Definitive Technology Mythos ST speaker system powered by a MarkLevinson 433 amp for the fronts, a Proceed HPA-2 for the rears and aParadigm Servo 15v2 subwoofer. For sources, I used my ScientificAtlanta SA8300 HD DVR, Toshiba HD-XA2 and Teac Esoteric DV-50s. I usedTransparent Reference balanced interconnects to my amps and also usedtheir reference speaker wires.
Connecting the D2 was a snap, thanks to the simplicity HDMI offers witha single connection for both digital audio and video. I also rancoaxial digital cables from my sources, as I had some TransparentReference digital cables on hand, so I could use either the HDMI orcoaxial cable for the digital audio feed. I wired the DV-50s using sixanalog cables for multi-channel audio playback and ran the D2’s HDMIout to my Sony KDS-R70XBR2 TV through a Meridian HDMaxx 121 extender,all wired with Monster M1000 and AudioQuest HDMI cables.
I managed to get all the connections done in about 20 minutes, partlybecause it was pretty simple and partly because I have torn this systemapart so many times I could do it in my sleep. Once all the connectionswere made and my remote updated, I turned the system on and set thespeaker distances and levels as I normally would, using an analog SPLmeter. I was now ready for the room correction. I made sure obviousextraneous noises would not interfere, such as the grandfather clock orthe dogs, and loaded the software that Anthem includes onto my PC. Iconnected Anthem’s microphone and long included USB cable to thelaptop. In a minute, the microphone was recognized and the softwareprompted me to connect the PC via an RS-232 cable to the D2 processor. Once the pre/pro was recognized, I was ready to go.
The Anthem software allows for five to 10 test points, and for separatemeasurements for both movies and music. A fully automated system isrecommended, but advanced options are available to custom-tailor thecorrection filters and crossover points. Once everything was connected,I again made sure all was quiet and started the software, which sent afull-frequency sweep tone through each of my speakers for each of thefive points I used.
Many of you familiar with other room correction will see similarities,though the test tones used by Anthem are very different than any I’dheard before. One thing that concerned me was that the test tonesstarted immediately after I clicked the start icon. I would havepreferred a little time to escape the room so that I couldn't affect themeasurements. One time when I ran out of the room, and the sound Icreated registered the reading as erred. The program warned me thereading needed to be redone. Standing away from the mic and out of speaker array is adequate. I repeated the measurements withoutincident, but was glad to see the system could pick up on extraneousnoises so accurately. Once all the measurements were done, a fewmoments of calculations occurred, the profile was uploaded to theprocessor and it was ready for use.
The Statement D2 allows massive flexibility in its control of roomcorrection, and each source can be set up independently. You can usedifferent room correction profiles based on your seating position, forexample, if you lie down for movies but sit up in a different area whenjamming tunes. It also takes into account varying room issues, such asclosed drapes that deaden a glass during movies. You can even turn theroom correction on or off for each source. I found this feature to beparamount in my reviewing of the ARC, as it allowed me to immediatelyA-B the processor with and without the room correction in effect.
Music and Movies
I started out with Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company (Monster Music). This is one of the best-recorded albums I’ve heard in years and, sinceit first came out, has been something I have used to demo systems. Fromthe first track of “Here We Go Again” featuring Norah Jones, I wastotally amazed by how much of an improvement the ARC made. I switchedit on and off several times and the difference was huge. The soundstageopened up, getting much wider and giving a more open feel to the music,almost as if my system was just having an easier time reproducing it.This song is full of stand-up bass and, while I personally feel thisinstrument is overused in demoing audio gear, the bass tones camethrough smoother and clearer than without the ARC. Norah Jones’ voicewas better placed and truer to life. “Sorry Seems to be the HardestWord” adds Elton John into the mix. The vocals of the two men were morerealistic with the ARC, and there was better separation. On my favoritetrack of the album, “Fever,” the bass really shone. I know my room hasa node at 50 Hz, and this can readily be heard on this song, but notonce I engaged the ARC. The bottom end tightened up and any rumble thatwas present without the room correction was gone. I listened to thissong several times in awe of how much improved it was with the ARC.Several times, I tried to leave the room and switch it on and off fromafar so that when I came back in I would not know its state, but eachtime I immediately could tell accurately if the ARC was on or off – thedifferences were that easy to appreciate.
To test out the multi-channel experience, I cued up the Grateful Dead’sWorkingman’s Dead (Rhino) on DVD-Audio. “Uncle John’s Band” had betterdefinition in the bottom end, while also showing a livelier and moreopen nature to the midrange and highs. I was impressed at how muchbetter the surround speakers sounded with the ARC on, especially in asystem that has identical front and rear speakers. The front-to-backtransitions were more balanced and timbre-matched than before. I hadn’tnoticed the imbalance before, but once you A-B the ARC on and off, itwas clear that the ARC really improved the surround speakers’ output aswell. “Casey Jones” was so much more lifelike with the ARC on that Istopped comparing and just sat back and listened to the rest of thedisc. The benefits of the room correction were so apparent that I hadno need to test it further on this disc.
For movies, I put in the HD DVD of Dragonheart (Universal Studios HomeVideo) with Sean Connery as the voice of the last dragon on the planet.The movie is dated and a little weak, but it has some excellent audio.Sounds such as the breath of the dragon, the splashing of water andwaterfalls were better placed and more detailed. Again, the soundstagewas markedly wider than without the ARC and the bass was bettercontrolled without being subdued. Voices were easier to discern andthere seemed to even be better dynamics to the soundtrack. The balancebetween the five speakers was better as well, making transitionssmoother than without the room correction on. Sonically intense scenes,such as those of the dragon rising, were handled as well as the subtledetails of breaking twigs in the forest and hooves of horses strikingthe ground. Changes the ARC made to the sound were so significant thatit was tough not to see the difference.