|Sunfire Theater Grand IV AV Preamplifier/Processor|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Friday, 01 October 2004|
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As I mentioned earlier in the review, there are a few things that didn’t appear to add to the benefit of owning the Theater Grand IV. One was the inclusion of one IEEE-1394 Firewire port. This has dubious use for anything other than maybe updating the software in the TGIV, which already has the ability to do that via a CD. I would have preferred HDMI and DVI video-switching, but in Sunfire’s defense, HDMI was likely not the format du jour when they were working up the TGIV. Nevertheless, having digital video-switching would make an easy to use AV preamp even easier to use. Now you’ve got to hope your HDTV has enough inputs for your HD-DVR, D-VHS and other HD sources. If not, you’ll need a switcher or you can run your HD sources through the TGIV via component video without noticeable video degradation.
The lack of bass management when you’re in direct analog mode for DVD-Audio and SACD is still an issue, but the TGIV isn’t the only product that lacks this ability.
The OSD is mandatory if you want to make configuration changes to the TGIV. The display on the front panel will give you an idea of where you are at in the menu structure, but some words are abbreviated and I soon became lost without the ability to see the OSD. And it would be nice if you could call up the OSD while watching a movie and have it overlay the image. A small LCD screen in your rack can help alleviate this problem at a few hundred dollars’ cost.
The TGIV component-sensing feature didn’t work for me as well as I thought it would. It would sense my Denon universal player, but could not tell the difference between CD, DVD-Audio or SACD, which I had to manually select. Also, it would not sense my turntable, which leads me to believe that the TGIV will only respond to a digital signal.
The level of performance that the TGIV gives its owner is staggering. The sonic characteristics alone are worth the price of admission. The TGIV’s transparent music presentation and neutrality will win over even a jaded audiophile, and to get this performance with movie soundtracks puts the TGIV up at the top of its peer group. The fact that it decodes all of the current formats and is easy to set up speaks leagues about the engineering involved to make a product interact with the user in this way. The remote gives you a nice interface for interacting with your TGIV, with a nice look and feel that gives the owner a feeling that the money was well spent. Despite the few issues I mentioned earlier, like the lack of bass management for DVD-Audio and SACD, the OSD requirement, component sensing and the side axis channels, the TGIV performed very well and was a snap to integrate into my system.
The real endorsement for the Sunfire TGIV comes from dealers who sell not just Sunfire but other more high-end brands of AV preamps. While the Sunfire can cut it with the big boys in terms of audio chops, it is Sunfire’s reliability that makes it the installer’s choice. The TGIV is a rock solid, great-sounding AV preamp that can hang with the best of the best for a fraction of the cost. Mark another one up for Bob Carver – this preamp rocks.
The current MSRP for the Sunfire Theater Grand IV is $4000.