|Sunfire Theater Grand Processor V|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Thursday, 01 March 2007|
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Music And Movies
I first tested the Sunfire TGP-5 with Mission: Impossible III (Paramount Home Entertainment) on HD DVD, which impressed me. The TGP-5 was able to reproduce the subtlety of details and the ever-present background music, while easily handling the dynamics of guns and explosions throughout the movie. Voices were well-articulated and the helicopter scene demonstrated excellent transitions between speakers, while background music filled the room when the intense explosions and the deep bass rumble of chopper blades and turbines didn’t overpower the score. The effects when Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is held outside the flying jet shook my room, yet kept the sounds of the small items bouncing around the cabin distinct. The TGP-5 really made an exciting experience of this film. Video looked great when run through the TGP-5’s HDMI switcher, and to test it further, I compared the video run through the TGP-5 to the performance of running the HDMI output of my Toshiba HD-XA1 directly to my Samsung DLP and could see no difference. The TGP-5’s HDMI output retained all of the film’s beautifully saturated color palettes, as well as maintaining the appropriate amounts of texture and depth, in many of the film’s more historic locales. Skin tones looked natural with appropriate amounts of pop and sharpness, without becoming overly glossy in the way they can on some processors. The TGP-5’s HDMI switcher essentially takes itself out of the equation by passing the signal along with zero added and nothing taken away; more importantly, the TGP-5 had zero handshake issues with the infamous HD-XA1, allowing me to always enjoy the show instead of cursing it.
I so enjoyed the presence the Sunfire TGP-5 gave to the helicopters on this HD DVD that I moved on to Apocalypse Now Redux (Paramount Home Entertainment) to further test its abilities, and once again was impressed. The TGP-5 gave an enveloping surround field and seamless transitions. The rumble of arc light when Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen) team meets the Air Cavalry shook the walls of my room. Helicopters flew around me while the subtle details of the dirt falling back to the ground from explosions remained. Later, in the interrogation scene, the chirping crickets came from all around me while Kurtz (Marlon Brando) scratching his head seemed so real; it felt as though I had just scratched my own stubble. Again, the TGP-5 rendered the video portion of the performance faithfully, with no signs of editorializing.
To test the TGP-5’s musical ability, I cued up Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral (Interscope Records) on SACD. Trent Reznor is known for making music out of chaos, so his albums can be difficult to reproduce. The ambient sound of “Piggy” pulled me into the music, the blowing wind was eerie and the drums kicked in with force. The final song of the album, and my favorite, “Hurt” makes for a great test of audio gear. The typical NIN bass is present, but the tamed-down vocals and guitars are contrasted with explosions of sound. The TGP-5 did a great job handling the loud passages as easily as the quiet ones and the intensity of the drums kept good separation from the quieter passages, while the wind flowed effortlessly and made for excellent reproduction of this song.
To test the TGP-5 on something a little softer, I moved on to the DVD-Audio disk of the Grateful Dead Workingman’s Dead (Rhino Records). Though I am not a huge Deadhead, I like this album, and they did a great job remixing it for DVD-Audio. During the opening track “Uncle John’s Band,” the echoes during the harmony were lifelike. Once again, the Sunfire gear easily handled the transitions. “Cumberland Blues” is my favorite song on this album, and the Sunfire TGP-5 did great justice to the fast and fun pace of it. The bouncing bass lines easily came through and I was able to distinguish the individual voices within the harmonies, while the guitar stayed off to the left of the soundstage.
On the title track of Yes’ classic Close to the Edge (Elektra), the bass shone, while the complexity of this piece was clearly reproduced and imaging was so good that I actually checked that my surrounds weren’t on. Bass was punchy and highs were sharp. “And You and I” had a smooth ease to the intro and individual notes remained clear, allowing the background to easily come through. As the rhythm of the song increased, nothing was lost, and the ringing bells seemed to chime from behind me. “Siberian Khatru” showed all the punch and liveliness it’s known for, while the vocals seemed to hover in the middle of my room.
The tuner section of the TGP-5 also performed very well, easily pulling in the more problematic stations in my area. The Dynamic Tuner Noise Reduction did a great job of lowering the noise floor of my Saturday afternoon radio sessions, making them even more enjoyable.