With a multitude of virtues and essentially no vices, the Statement D2v and P5 deliver the goods where it matters most--in your living room.
This is Part 2 of a two-part review. To read Part 1, click here.
Part 1 covers the following topics:
oConsider this controller/amp combo if…
oLook further if…
oStatement D2v Audio
oStatement D2v Room Correction
oStatement D2v Video
oStatement D2v Convenience
oStatement p5 Audio
ARC ROOM CORRECTION
In truth, the ARC Room Correction system probably deserves a separate review of its own, so that I will have to stick to highlight here. Unlike the widely used Audyssey systems found in many AVRs and A/V controllers, the ARC system requires a separate PC (or Mac) for setup and installation. You load ARC software to the PC (which must run Windows XP or higher) and then connect a calibrated USB Mic (which is included with the D2v along with a professional-type mic stand) and a roughly 14-15 foot-long “umbilical cord” that runs from a serial port on the PC to the D2v’s RS-232 port. Interestingly, the ARC software ROM contains calibration data specific to your test mic, so that the ROM and Mic must be used as a matched set.
Once you are ready to begin, the ARC software will prompt you to describe your speaker configuration (5.1-channel, 7.1-channel, etc.) and to indicate whether you wish to have separate “Movie” and “Music” speaker system configurations. Then, you place the test mic on its stand at the listening position at ear height, and begin taking room measurements. During the measurement process, the PC issues commands to the D2v causing a series of sweep tones to be played through each speaker in the system and through the sub, while the mic captures response data. Once the first set of measurements is complete, the PC will prompt you to reposition the mic in four more listening locations, which should be located symmetrically to the left and right of the central position, where additional measurements are taken.
When measurements are complete, ARC software calculates correction settings for each channel and the sub, and then asks if you want to save the calculated settings and to upload them to the D2v—a process that takes several minutes. One slightly unnerving aspect of the upload process is that the PC will, at various stages along the way, turn the D2v off and then back on again as it uploads and confirms various settings. Once correction settings are installed, they can be applied any or all the D2v’s inputs. The ARC system offers a detailed graphical interface that shows you (on the PC screen, not your home theater screen) “before” and “after” response graphs for each channel and for the sub.
ARC offers two basic room correction options: “Standard” and “Advanced”. With the “Standard” option, the system applies a well-defined “target curve” that offers flat response at mid and high frequencies, but that allows a gentle, natural-sound amount of room gain at lower frequencies. While this means the target curve is not, in a textbook sense, perfectly flat, Anthem argues that it is important to allow for room gain, since dialing in perfectly flat low-frequency curves yields bass response that sound overly “thin” or reticent. With the “Advanced” setting option, users can modify standard EQ curves by manually setting subwoofer crossover frequencies, adjusting the amount of room gain the system allows, and choosing the maximum frequency at which room EQ will be applied. ARC’s “Advanced” setting give user options and a level of control that few other room EQ systems can match.
I do have three small criticisms of the ARC system. First, the fact that the system requires an outboard PC to run measurements and calculate EQ settings is somewhat cumbersome. In an ideal world, it would be preferable to have the D2v be able run test procedures and calculate EQ settings on its own. Second, the fact that ARC requires a serial port connection between the PC and the D2v is problematic, given that most modern laptops no longer have serial ports. (True, you could use a USB-to-serial-port adapter, but Anthem’s manual makes it clear that this is not a recommended option.). Ideally, I’d like to see Anthem create an all-USB version of ARC. Third, I think the PC-to-D2v connection cable needs to be longer to allow for large or irregularly shaped rooms where D2v will be placed relatively far from listening position. These minor shortcomings really don’t undercut the excellence of the ARC system, but they are points I hope Anthem will address over time.
In practice, I found ARC gave excellent results, noticeably smoothing and tightening up low frequency response, yet without smearing mids and highs, and while allowing the fundamental character of the speaker system to shine through. There is very little (if any) of the “DSP haze” that you might hear with some room EQ systems, meaning that the effects of the system—at least when used with an already high-quality speaker system—are very subtle.
I evaluated the video performance of the D2v using IDT’s HQV Benchmark 2.0 discs (both the Standard Definition NTSC version 2.0 and the Blu-ray Disc version 2.0). With both disks, the D2v’s Sigma VXP video processor performance was simply exemplary, with results that looked as good as if not better than those achieved with any other video-processing device I’ve tried.
Several aspects of the D2v’s video performance really stood out for me. First, on the Standard Definition disc, it was impressive to see how the D2v handled the Multi-Cadence tests, offering consistently and almost eerily smooth motion on tracking shots that—as I’ve learned from past experiences—can and often do give other video processors fits. Second, the D2v’s performance on the Standard Definition disc’s Resolution Enhancement tests was spectacular. I would be misleading you if I said the D2v made DVDs look “just like” Blu-ray discs, but it certainly gave DVDs greater apparent resolution than I’m used to seeing—and this without introducing any unpleasant artifacts that I could see. Finally, the D2v gave breathtaking results on the Resolution Enhancement test from the Blu-ray discs. The best way for me to describe the visual results would be to say that, in a subjective sense, onscreen images reminded me a bit of demonstrations I’ve seen of ultra high-resolution 4k x 2k images.
In short, when you watch TV or movies through the D2v, with both SD and HD content, you may have the sense that you are seeing subtle yet significant across the board improvements in resolution and overall picture quality.
Let me begin by saying that perhaps the defining characteristic of the Statement D2v is sonic transparency—a certain “see through” quality that is highly prized in high-end audio components, but is all too rarely heard in home theater electronics. The D2v doesn’t merely sound “somewhat like” an audiophile-grade component; it is an audiophile-grade component. Does it sound as open and as resolving as today’s very best stereo preamplifiers? No, though it is not too far off from those levels. But bear in mind that some of today’s finest stereo preamps cost more than the Statement D2v and P5 combined (gulp!). I think it is fair to say, however, that the D2v is entirely competitive with purist-oriented stereo preamps in the $2k - $3k range, and maybe with models even further up the food chain. This is pretty remarkable when you consider that the D2v must support eight high-quality output channels—not just two—and that it incorporates tons of other onboard video, room correction, and input-switching technologies as well.
In practice, the D2v makes it easy to hear the sonic effects of even very subtle changes in associated system components, so that it is—in a very good way—a sonic chameleon that faithfully shows the characteristics both of the program material you play and of the equipment that you use. This speaks volumes for the D2v’s fundament neutrality. More so than most components, the D2v does a great job of capturing low-level information that presents spatial and reverberant cues in soundtracks and in music, and as a result one of its greatest strengths is it ability to create believable, 3D surround soundstages.
The P5, like the D2v, is highly transparent, so that at first you may find yourself drawn to its effortless clarity and ability to retrieve layer upon layer of information from soundtracks and music records. It’s signature sound is at once crisply defined, yet also rich, vibrant, and full of tonal colors (this is not, happily, one of those amps that gives you transparency, but at the expense of a bleached, cold, and sterile sound). But one thing that words can’t adequately convey is how take-no-prisoners powerful the P5 really is. Some multichannel amps sound good to a point, but—when push comes to shove—run out of steam when the going gets rough, especially at low frequencies. But not so with the P5; it fears no loudspeaker load (at least not any that I have found) and offers stupendous dynamic clout that just won’t quit. The cool part, though, is that despite its enormous output capabilities the P5 never sounds muscle-bound or sluggish; on the contrary, it offers a fast, agile sound that few genuinely powerful amps can match.
In many respects, great home theater electronics are in the business of creating vivid and believable sonic contrasts on demand, and that is exactly what the Statement D2v and P5 do when playing the soundtrack for chapter 16 of The Hurt Locker (a film that is becomes one of my most frequently used surround sound test discs). The chapter in question shows the film’s protagonists bomb disposal expert James and his partner Sanborn as they are called in to tackle a nightmarish scenario where an Iraqi citizen has—very much against his will—been fitted with a suicide bomb that he desperately wants to have disarmed. The sheer chaos and threat potential of the scene are conveyed by a swirl of load, frantic voices all seeming to shout warnings, commands to take cover and the like at once.
But in the midst of the chaos, there are also telling sonic details that ratchet tension levels higher and higher, such as the distinctly metallic, electronic sound of James’ voice from within the helmet of his bomb disposal suit, or the terrified voice of the citizen-turned-bomber begging for the bomb to me removed. The pace quickens as James realizes the bomb is fitted with a timer set for detonation in just two minutes, and requests Sanborn’s help to try and disarm the bomb. As time runs down, interchanges between James and Sanborn become louder, more terse, and more intense until James—realizing that he has finally encountered a bomb he cannot disable—vigorously orders Sanborn to flee the scene, promising “I’ll be right behind you.” After mounting one last, futile attempt to save the Iraqi citizen, James apologize (“I’m sorry,” he shouts) and then tries to run to safety in the massive bomb suit.
And then, as we know it must, the bomb detonates—creating one of the loudest moments I think I’ve ever heard in any film soundtrack. But this isn’t just random loudness; it is detailed and explicit loudness, where you not only hear the blast of the bomb, but also—a split second later—the awful “thwacking” and “clunking” of rocks and other chunks of debris smashing into the padding and the thick visor of James’ theoretically “bombproof” suit. It’s a stunning cinematic moment, made all the more effective by the terrible silence that follows the explosion. For a moment, we’re not certain if James is alive or dead, but he slowly opens the visor of his helmets and stares skyward, drinking in the strangely peaceful sound of a kite tossed on the breeze overhead.
What made the Statement components so impressive in this passage was their ability to convey chaos and small but vitally important sonic details at the same time. No less impressive was their ability to handle the immense explosion (at which the P5 did not even blink), but then to shift gears to nail down the delicate sound of the kite’s tail fluttering in the wind.
Above, I mentioned the D2v and P5’s ability to deliver a presentation that is “rich, vibrant, and full of tonal colors.” To hear precisely what I meant by this, try the track “Country Roads” from jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton’s Like Minds [Concord Jazz, multichannel SACD]. Somewhat unusually, the album seeks to capture a “stage mix” that shows what it might sound like to stand in the midst of Burton and his fellow band member during a performance. And what an all-star team of musicians this recording features, with Chick Corea on piano, Pat Metheny on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. As the recording unfolds, not the remarkable purity and nuance the Anthem components bring to each instrument’s distinctive voice.
Burton’s vibes, for example, have a deep, shimmering, tubular tone that is highly realistic, with a voice that penetrates sharply when the instrument is first struck, but that then floats and lingers on the air, slowly decaying back to silence. Corea’s piano, in turn, sounds powerful, clear, and articulate, with a just-right attack at the leading edges of notes. On Corea’s most powerful chords, of which there are a few here, the P5 flexes its muscles, letting you both hear and feel the almost explosive emphasis Corea is giving certain phrase. Metheny’s guitar produces, as always, a sweet, lilting sound that is more or less the sonic equivalent of pure honey. Holland’s bass offers up a deep, earthy growl and—toward the end of Holland’s solo—the expressive but brief rattle of a vigorously plucked string vibrating against the surface of the bass’ finger board. Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is the silvery sound of Haynes’ delicate cymbal work, which is appropriately crisp on the attack and metallic, yet rich in sparkling overtones. Most home theater electronics reach for, but fail to attain, this kind of tonal and harmonic richness and realism.
But what is really breathtaking about Like Minds in general, and the track “Country Roads” in particular, are the spatial characteristics you’ll enjoy. Instead of hearing the musicians in front of you onstage, you hear them from up close as if surrounding you and standing only a few feet away. It’s a mesmerizing and pleasingly intimate experience, as though you’ve been allowed to share a moment that ordinarily would be available only to the musicians themselves. Here, the D2v’s ability to capture low-level spatial and reverberant cues really makes the stage mix concept work—brining it alive in a vivid way.
Anthem’s Statement D2v A/V controller and Statement P5 multichannel amplifier are extraordinary components—partly because they have been so carefully thought out, partly because they are both so well executed, and entirely because they can show you what true high-end home theater experiences are all about.
Whether you are a performance-minded audiophile, videophile, or a bit of both, Anthem’s Statement components belong on the short list of components you should see and hear before purchasing top-tier home theater electronics. Given the level of performance on offer here, Anthem’s admittedly expensive flagship models are, if anything, a bargain.
To read Part 1 of this review, please click here.
SPECS & PRICING
Anthem Statement D2v A/V Preamplifier/Processor/Tuner
Decoding formats: Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital and Digtal EX, Dolby Pro Logic II and IIx (Movie, Music, Matrix, Game), and Dolby Volume; DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, DTS, DTS-ES (Matrix, Discrete), DTS Neo: 6 (Cinema, Music); THX Ultra2 Cinema, THX Cinema, THX Surround EX, THX MusicMode, THX Games Mode; AnthemLogic Cinema and AnthemLogic Music; All Channel Stereo, All Channel Mono, Mono and Mono Academy; multichannel PCM (up to 7.1 channels at up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution with 128X oversampling and 24/196 upsampling for all inputs).
Video inputs/outputs: Composite video (7 in, 5 out—one main, two for remote zones, two for recording); S-Video (7 in, 5 out—one main, two for remote zones, two for recording), Component video (4 in, 2 out—one main and one assignable to remote zones), HDMI (8 in—2 out).
Audio inputs/outputs: stereo analog, single-ended (7 in, 4 out—two for remote zones, two for recording); stereo analog, balanced (1 in); multichannel analog, single-ended (1 x 5.1-channel in, 1 x 10-channel output—7.1 channel with dual center channel and dual subwoofer outputs), multichannel analog, balanced (1 x 10-channel output—7.1-channel with dual center channel and dual subwoofer outputs); digital audio (11 in—seven coaxial, three optical, one AES/EBU; 2 out), HDMI (8 in, 2 out), AM/FM tuner, headphone output
Special Features: 24-bit/196kHz DAC with 128x oversampling and 24/196 upsampling for all inputs, “broadcast grade” Sigma VXP video processor, proprietary Anthem ARC room correction system, extensive custom installation features.
Other: 50m-A triggers (2 out), 200-mA triggers (2 out), IR Emitter (2), powered IR Receiver (3), RS-232C (1)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 5.875" x 19.25" x 15.25"
Weight: 27 pounds
Warranty: Consult Anthem for details.
Anthem Statement P5 Multichannel Amplifier
Power Output: 5 x 325 Wpc @ 8 Ohms, 5 x
Inputs: Analog audio, single ended (5 in); analog audio, balanced (5 in)
Other: Relay trigger (1 in, 1 out)
Special Features: Three on/off modes (manual, auto, or trigger).
Dimensions (HxWxD): 9.375” x 19.25” x 22.5”
Weight: 130 lbs.
Warranty: Consult Anthem for details.
ANTHEM ELECTRONICS INC.