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AudioControl Concert AVR-1 Home Theater AV Receiver Review Print E-mail
Monday, 08 November 2010
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AudioControl Concert AVR-1 Home Theater AV Receiver Review
In Action and Conclusion

ImageI like movies but dislike the movie theater experience. I'll never understand the connection between attending the cinema and stuffing one's face with as much popcorn, candy and soda as possible in a 2-hour swipe. Inevitably, I'm surrounded by groups of folks more intent on demonstrating how loudly they can masticate than actually watching the film. Thus, I've acquired a reputation as something of a movie theater Scrooge and would rather do the whole movie thing at home. My critics counter, “But you can't get the same big-screen experience at home. And what about the special effects and the sound?” Granted, I can't drop a 30- or 40-foot screen into my living room without calling my insurance agent; however, you want movie theater special effects and sound? Really great sound? That's where AudioControl's Concert AVR-1 comes in to save the day. (At least mine.)

If AudioControl doesn't fall off the tongue like some of the better known brands, it's not because the company just emerged. AudioControl has been in business for 30 years, designing audio equipment for the automobile and home stereo markets, catering to what it calls, “enthusiasts who generally take a little more than average time to learn what equipment is available.” From its twin operation bases in Mount Lake Terrace and Spokane, Washington, AudioControl manufactures and distributes its products through specialty dealers.


The AVR-1 was designed to meet the demands of home theater installers, while its functionality and performance will find favor with “do-it-yourself”A/V enthusiasts. In short, the AVR-1 struts the line between consumer and professional and does it very well - for a price. At $5,500, it's for the serious hobbyist looking for serious home theater sound and video processing. At 5K+, one should expect plenty of bells and whistles, and the AVR-1 positively dangles with them. It's imminently flexible and customizable, thanks to an array of 120 different audio and video inputs and outputs. The receiver sports a 32-bit DSP processor capable of decoding all the current discrete digital surround formats for 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 channels.

AVR-1 front plate

It can also process two-channel signals for multi-channel outputs via Dolby Pro Logic II, Pro Logic Iix and DTS Neo. Want to use the AVR-1 as a bridge across rooms? Zone 2 audio/video outputs make it easy to listen to and view a source independently of the main system. The receiver can also feed an additional amp through its Zone 3 audio outputs, providing independent volume control while maintaining the Zone 2 video source. The AVR-1 is radio ready: compatible with Sirius satellite radio, comprising an AM/FM receiver and can also be networked to play Internet radio and audio formats via Ethernet or a USB storage device including MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, AAC, and Ogg Vorbis.

The AVR-1 is powered by a 120-watts per channel Class H amplifier. A Class H design makes it possible to build amps of higher power without needing to increase the chassis size or overall weight of the unit. The AVR-1 is still beastly, at 60 pounds, but its physical dimensions are no larger than other A/V receivers. Class H amps operate in a manner similar to Class G amplifiers. With Class G designs, the power supply voltage is boosted when higher output shifts are needed. Basically, the amp relies on two power supplies: one operates in lower output mode, accounting for the majority of sound signals; the higher supply kicks in when more power is needed to drive more demanding signals. Class H amps take the Class G design a step further by modulating the input signal in real time. The AVR-1 basically “responds” to the input signals as needed, generating only enough power as required. As a result, far less heat is generated as is the demand for power.

Set Up

A sense of humor is a good thing to have when setting up a home theater system, and I like how AudioControl keeps things light with its AVR-1 manual. For example: On page 16, under the “Connection Tips” section, the final bullet point suggests, “Don't stand in a bucket of water when working with electricity.” And under the “Warranty” disclaimers, AudioControl describes unwarranted abuse as including “sadistic things. This is the best product we know how to build, but if you strap it to the front bumper of your Range Rover, something will break.” Few electronics instruction manuals are worth reading for their entertainment value, but this 70-page guide does have its share of zingers. Beyond the comedy bits, users will find detailed, but not overwhelming, information to personalize the AVR-1 to their liking. Considering the receiver's numerous input and output options, there's little left to chance or leave out of the system.

The front panel features a well-lit and easy-to-read blue LCD along with a series of 10 buttons and a polished volume control dial. When powered on, the AVR-1's blue LEDs have a cool blue glow that contrasts nicely with its black face panel and silver volume ring. The overall look brings to mind the venerable McIntosh Laboratory line. That's a roundabout compliment – the AVR-1 is a great-looking component.

I really like the AVR-1's back panel layout. All the zones” and input/output types (digital, analog, multi-channel, etc.) are arranged in vertical columns that make connecting easy and intuitive. A row of six HDMI inputs/outputs populate the bottom of the panel. The 5-way speaker binding posts are segregated at the edge of the rear panel and arranged vertically, too. This is particularly handy if a wire accidentally comes loose or you just want to add another speaker, etc. Instead of having to pull the entire receiver out to access the back panel's center area – where many A/V receivers house speaker posts – you can simply slide one corner of the AVR-1 out at an angle and have complete access. It's a logical arrangement that I wish other manufacturers would employ. 


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