|Sherwood Newcastle P-965 AV Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Monday, 01 May 2006|
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Music and Movies
After I got everything set up, I played a disc from a previous season of “Alias” (my wife controls the NetFlix list). I played the disc through the component video outputs of my Marantz DV-9500. I tried running the cables directly to my projector, as well as through the Sherwood. The video switching did not appear to degrade the picture at all. The audio track was fairly undemanding, but it gave me a chance to listen to familiar vocals, which I find to be a good indicator of a component’s performance. The vocals sounded correct and were very intelligible once I adjusted the center channel level up a bit from where the automatic set-up had set it.
I moved on to a more demanding audio track with “Master and Commander” (20th Century Fox) The Sherwood P-965 did a good job with the soundstage in the battle scene and provided a good sense of envelopment and detail with the individual effects. The vocals were easy to understand, a critical trait in an AV preamplifier. I found the bass to be fairly solid, but it had a bit of leanness in the midbass and midrange. I listened both with and without the EQ circuit engaged; I found I preferred the sound with the circuit engaged.
I then listened to the DTS track on “Kill Bill, Volume 2” (Miramax Home Entertainment). I played the scene in which Uma Thurman is placed in a coffin and buried alive. The nails were hammered in with authority; it sounded like there was actual construction going on inside my living room. The P-965 revealed the nuances of the sound effects and I could clearly differentiate between the sounds that were originating inside and outside of the coffin.
I wanted to check out some of unit’s audio features, such as the digital remastering and pure audio functions. I liked the pure audio feature; the difference it made was subtle but definite. I noticed a reduction in background noise and an increase in presence. The digital remastering was more hit or miss. The DACs in the Marantz disc player I was using as a source are quite good. If your source unit’s DACs are not as good, you may want to output the signal digitally and use the re-mastering feature.
I wanted to see how the P-965 fared with stereo music, so I listened to Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms (Warner Brothers), which I recently used in another review. The track “Your Latest Trick” had a clean midrange and did well with Mark Knopfler’s raspy voice. The high frequencies on cymbals were clean and clear, although there was not as much air and extension on the high end in comparison to the more expensive AV preamps I have tested, but there was never any harshness or excessive brightness. Imaging was solid but not pinpoint and the soundstage had good width.
Moving on to multi-channel music, I listened to Blue Man Group’s song “Sing Along with DM” from the Complex DVD-Audio release (DTS Entertainment). I found the sound to be very clean and accurate, with no signs of harshness. The Sherwood definitely performed well as a high-end separate when fed a 5.1 analog signal. While this sounds simple, many units fail to do it well. Overall, this was an exemplary performance from a preamp that performs well above its price.