Even before the inception of Playback magazine, its forerunner, The Perfect Vision (TPV), had chosen to use Anthem’s excellent Statement D2 A/V controller and companion Statement P5 multichannel amplifier as its references. And, since Playback and The Perfect Vision shared a common audio lab, the Anthem pair effectively became Playback’s reference, too. We chose the Anthem units for several reasons. First, they gave equal emphasis to sound quality (always a primary concern for us) and to image quality, which the original D2 addressed through a remarkably powerful video processing engine then manufactured by Gennum. Second, we felt the overwhelming majority of our readers would regard the Anthem components as being “about as good as it gets,” as we said in our original TPV review of the Statement D2. While there are certainly more costly controllers and multichannel amplifier on the market, the Anthem Statement pair was so good that, in our view, it would lead most prospective buyers to at least question the wisdom (or value) of spending more.
As time progressed, though, several industry developments changed the game in ways that made the original Statement D2 controller feel, well, a little bit dated.
HDMI: First, the popular HDMI interface became almost ubiquitous, so that truly advanced A/V controllers needed more than the four HDMI inputs the original D2 provided.
Very High-Bandwidth Video Processing: Second, Blu-ray won the HD format war, ushering in a new era that is—as we speak—supplanting DVD as the “go to” standard for movie playback. The original D2’s Gennum video processor, though one of the best we’ve ever sampled, was really designed for an era where Blu-ray (and at the time, HD-DVD) were in their infancy and where most consumers were focusing on upscaling SD or DVD resolution-level signals to 1080p (something the Gennum did beautifully). But now that Blu-ray has established a beachhead, so to speak, new generation A/V controllers need video processors that can improve image quality for HD-level signals.
HD Audio Decoding: Third, with the advent of Blu-ray came lossless, high-resolution, multichannel audio codecs (namely, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) that the original D2 was now capable of decoding (except in cases where HD soundtracks were first converted to high bit-rate PCM format). Many would argue, and we would agree, that an advanced A/V controller should be expected to provide onboard decoding for all contemporary high-res audio codecs.
Room/Speaker EQ Systems: Finally, consumers have begun to recognize the—to our ears, undeniable—benefits of well thought out room/speaker equalization systems. At the time the original D2 was created, the norm was for high-end A/V controllers to forego such EQ systems, in part because high-end audio purists have long been suspicious of (and perhaps even hostile to) solutions that put any sort of digital signal processing (DSP) in the audio delivery path. So, the D2 had no onboard EQ system (apart from tone controls and a very clever system designed to compensate for center channel speaker output reflecting off of video screens). Over time, however, norms have changed so that prospective customers are much more receptive to room/speaker EQ systems now than they were two or three years ago.
Well aware of these trends, Anthem (which is a division of Paradigm Electronics) has created what is in essence a next-generation D2 controller, called the D2V. The D2V addresses all of the requirements we outlined above. Specifically, the D2V provides:
1) Eight HDMI inputs instead of four, with two HDMI outputs.
2) An updated VXP digital image processor said to provide “professional-grade, fully adaptive deinterlacing, adaptive 3D noise reduction, mosquito noise reduction, block artifact reductions, adaptive detail enhancement featuring sharpness and texture enhancement with overshoot control, and adaptive contrast enhancement.”
3) Two dual-core DSP engines delivering a combined 800 MIPS (million instructions per second) of processing power, provide onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master audio, plus support for 24-bit/192kHZ PCM audio inputs for up to 7.1 channels.
4) The proprietary Anthem Room Correction (ARC) system measures the speaker system’s in-room performance characteristics, and then calculates appropriate target response curves for each speaker to achieve optimal real-world sound.
Playback has just received its sample of Anthem Statement D2V controller ($7499), which will be used in conjunction with the Anthem Statement P5 amplifier we already have on hand. Expect a review to appear in Playback 25 (or perhaps Playback 26). In the interim, feel free to submit any questions you may have on the Anthem Statement D2V and I’ll do my best to answer them.