|Sunfire Theater Grand Processor II|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Kim Wilson|
|Thursday, 01 June 2000|
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The remote I received was essentially the same as the one that was included with the original Theater Grand. It wasn’t the most intuitive design, and moving from screen to screen got cumbersome and even confusing. Just before press time, I was informed by Sunfire that the remote they had sent with my TG II was being retired for a newly updated model that includes up to 12 macros with 10 sequences each, a far cry from the single macro available on my remote. I was also surprised that my remote didn’t have the ability to engage their proprietary Holographic Imaging circuit. It is my understanding that the newer remote will have that capability. Still, trying to A/B the circuit without it on the remote was a pain, and the non-processed soundfield was so terrific I didn’t even bother writing up test results on this version.
I found it awkward to use the front panel to make adjustments, due to the tiny round buttons and even tinier nomenclature, though the round recessed knob and giant vacuum florescent panel readout makes selecting inputs from the front panel a simple process.
While the TG II includes a tuner and phono stage, it does not provide a RF demodulator for playback of Dolby Digital-encoded laserdiscs. This is just another indication that laserdiscs really are dead - they didn’t even pass Sunfire’s litmus test that determines which of the older technologies deserve preservation for future use. Since there are few digital processors with this feature, excluding the demodulator doesn’t make this unit any less attractive or competitive. If you own a large laserdisc library, you just need to know that you’ll have to add an external demodulator.
Even with the release of the TG II, Sunfire’s engineers are not finished and plan to offer many more software and hardware changes, such as an improved onscreen display, enhanced bass management and many more DSP functions, including four-channel modes for music playback.
Sonically, this is a major improvement over the original model. Firmly placed in the middle ground of the high-end arena at $3,295, the TG II is positioned for that discriminating buyer who’s ready to spend a moderate amount of money on a preamp with all the trimmings. The Sunfire Theater Grand II is a real contender and belongs on your short list with its future-ready I/Os, continued inclusion of features that seem long forgotten and continuous upgrades to both the unit and the remote.
If you already have one of the original Theater Grands, don’t feel downhearted - there is an upgrade plan for you. An extra $1,000 plus a $25 shipping charge will get you a brand-new unit. Many of the currently planned upgrades will be free of charge to all TG II owners. However, future upgrades may incur a charge. Eventually, software changes will be downloadable off Sunfire’s website, but until then, they’ll just replace your unit.