Sherwood Newcastle R-965 AV Surround Receiver

by | May 13, 2006 | Component Reviews | 0 comments

Sherwood Newcastle R-965 AV Surround Receiver
S.R.P.: $1,999.00

   

 
                                                    Specifications

   Power output, stereo mode, 8 ohms, THD 0.05%, 20 Hz~20kHz: 120W; RMS x 2
    Power output, surround mode, 1 channel driven, 8 ohms, THD 0.7%, 1kHz: 140W RMS x 7
    Decoding: DTS-ES Matrix and Discrete, DTS, DTS 96/24, DTS Neo 6, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Virtual Speaker, Dolby Headphone, MPEG Multi-channel, Stereo, 13 DSP modes
    Digital audio inputs: 2 coaxial, 5 optical, 1 USB
    Digital audio outputs: 1 coaxial, 1 optical
    Analog audio inputs: 9 L/R, 1 phono
    8-channel analog input, 9 channel pre-amp output
    Video inputs: 7 S-Video, 7 composite video, 3 component video
    Multi-room capability
    LCD display remote control
    Dimensions: 7.8”H x 17.4”W x 17.8”D
    Weight: 51.8 pounds
    Warranty: 3 years 

rear view   
 
Sherwood America
2346 East Walnut Avenue, Fullerton CA 92831
1-800-962-3203; www.sherwoodusa.com

Reference Equipment Used: Acoustech HT-75 Tower mains, HT-65 center, H-100 12” powered subwoofer, HT-63 bookshelf surrounds, BIC America Adatto DV52si rear back surrounds, Oppo Digital OPDV971H DVD player, Sony MDP-455 CD player, Studio Experience 17SF DLP projector, Vutec 103” Silverstar projection screen, BetterCables.com cables.

 

Intro: 
 
Beginning with its ground-breaking R-945 (the first AV receiver to carry on-board Dolby Digital and DTS decoding), and continuing through today with its current product offerings, Sherwood Newcastle (“Sherwood”) has established itself as a well-respected manufacturer in the high-end home theater market.  Its latest AV receiver, the R-965, aims to package the technology and features of its separate amplifier and processor (A-965 and P-965, respectively) into a single chassis while maintaining the performance of the separates. 
 
Connections/ Setup:
 
Speaker Connections:  All speaker connections are heavy duty binding posts that accept single banana plugs or bare speaker wire.  In addition to the pair of surround back connections, there are ‘A’ and ‘B’ sets of rear surround connections.  This additional set of surround connections is useful for employing different surround speaker locations for music versus movie applications.  If only a 6.1 channel speaker system is desired (i.e. wherein only the Surround Back Left connection is used), the Surround Back Right connection can be used to power a passive subwoofer.  Alternatively, the Surround Back Left and Right connections can be used to feed speaker level audio to a second room.  Two subwoofer connections are available through single RCA pre-out jacks. For this review, I connected a 7.1 channel speaker system consisting of the following speaker connections: Center, Front L/R, Surround ‘A’ L/R, and Surround Back L/R.  I connected a single powered subwoofer to the SW1 pre-out jack.
 
Audio Connections:  In addition to a vast array of analog stereo audio-in jacks for phono, CD, tape monitor, auxiliary and the various video inputs, there is one digital optical-out plus five assignable digital optical-in connections, and one digital coaxial-in plus two assignable digital coaxial-in connections.  For this review, I connected the DVD player to the coaxial digital input 1 jack and the CD player to the CD stereo analog-in jacks.

Video Connections:   The R-965 offers a universal video switching feature.  The unit has the ability to up-convert composite video or S-Video signals to a component video signal or down-convert S-Video signals to a composite video signal.  With three choices of monitor out video connections (composite, S-Video, and component), home theater enthusiasts have great flexibility in intermixing video signals from audio/visual components (such as DVD players, video game systems, and cable/satellite receivers) and outputting the signals through a single connection to the video monitor.  The end result of this universal output is that video inputs on a video monitor no longer need to be switched to watch a different AV source.  The receiver’s three component video inputs are HDTV-ready and switched by relays that do not impose any bandwidth limitations.  For this review, I connected the component monitor out jacks to the component/VGA input on my reference projector.  I did not see any decline in the video quality by running the video connections through the R-965 as compared with a direct connection between the DVD player and projector. [Side note: for those AV enthusiasts interested in HDMI switching, beginning this month, Sherwood Newcastle will offer a stand-alone HSB-600 unit (MSP $299.95) that provides switching for two HDMI inputs plus the ability to convert a single component video input into an HDCP-compliant HDMI output].

Other Connections:  The R-965 offers a USB connector through which a personal computer can be connected to play 2-channel PCM audio as well as to upgrade the receiver’s operating software.  The software upgrade can also be done through an included RS-232C terminal.  There are nine pre-outs (Center, Front L/R, Surround L/R, Surround Back L/R, and SW1/SW2) and an 8-channel direct analog input for connection of an external decoder.  (With the new surround sound formats possible with HD-DVD and Blu-ray DVD, the 8-channel direct input may prove very valuable in the coming months).  There is a digi-link jack for remote control of compatible Sherwood components, a pair of DC trigger out jacks for raising/lowering items such as projector screens, an infrared multi-system jack, two switched AC outlets, a 75-ohm FM antenna connection, and an AM loop antenna connection.  For this review, I connected the supplied indoor FM antenna to the 75-ohm FM input and both the DVD and CD players to the switched AC outlets.
Surround and Speaker Setup:  The R-965 offers setup for the speakers and surround sound decoding via its on-screen display (“OSD”).  The use of a monitor is necessary for this initial setup procedure.  Under the OSD main menu, there are six main menus with the first menu being POWER AMP ASSIGN.  This menu choice permits one to choose between allocating power amp usage to the surround back channels in the main room, or to a pair of speakers in a second room application.  SPEAKER SETUP is the second menu option and speaker configuration choices here include setting speaker sizes to large, small or none, as well as selecting the number of subwoofers and rear back channel speakers connected.  A ‘large’ speaker is defined as one with the ability to fully reproduce sounds below the crossover frequency.  When the ‘small’ speaker designation is selected, sounds below the selected crossover frequency cut-off are sent to the subwoofer (or to front speakers that are set to ‘large’ in the event no subwoofer is connected).  For this review, I set my front L/R speakers to ‘large’ and all other speakers to ‘small’.  I also selected that I was using a single subwoofer and both surround back channels.
Remaining options under the SPEAKER SETUP menu include: SPEAKER DISTANCE (distances are displayed in both meters and feet and are adjustable in 0.3 meter/1.0 foot increments); VIRTUAL SPEAKER SETUP; SUBWOOFER (active or passive); SUBWOOFER MODE (subwoofer is sent LFE information only or LFE plus analog stereo bass); CROSSOVER FREQUENCY and AUTO SPEAKER SETUP.  The CROSSOVER FREQUENCY is selectable among a range of 40~120Hz in 20Hz intervals with the default setting at 80Hz.  For this review, I set the crossover frequency to 80Hz.
For those who are not experts, or who do not want to manually set the speaker distance and channel level, the AUTO SPEAKER SETUP with SNAP EQ is a cool feature.  The feature, Sherwood Newcastle Automatic Parametric (“SNAP”) EQ, adds 7 bands of parametric EQ to each of the channels, including the subwoofer channel.  SNAP measures the frequency response of each of the 7.1 channels using sophisticated 1/12 octave amplitude mapping.  All that is required to utilize the setup feature is to connect a tiny microphone (which is supplied) to the rear of the R-965 via an input jack and then place the microphone in the listener’s preferred listening position in the room.  A series of loud test tones then enable the receiver to calculate and set the optimum distance and decibel level of each of the speakers. The feature was very simple to use and the end results achieved closely mirrored the settings that I had manually set previously.


 
Continuing the Setup:
 
 
The third OSD main menu option is SYSTEM SETUP and this is where, among other things, one can assign the digital inputs of the receiver, set tone controls, assign component video, and activate the digital re-mastering mode.  SURROUND SETUP is the fourth OSD main menu option and this is where the preferred decoding and surround modes are chosen (i.e. Dolby Digital, DTS, MPEG, PCM or Auto).  The last two options under the OSD main menu are CHANNEL LEVEL SETUP (sound level adjustments for each of the 7.1 channels) and ROOM 2 FEED SETUP (selection of volume and sources for Room 2).

Direct Access and Decoding Modes:
  There is not direct access to all of the surround modes either by remote control or on the face of the receiver.  In certain instances, one must cycle through the available choices for an input signal to make a selection, and as there can be as many as 18 different surround modes for an input signal on the R-965, this can be a little inconvenient.  Once a surround mode is chosen, the receiver’s front panel displays both the surround mode and the speakers that are in operation for that mode.
Remote Controls:  Two remote control units are included with the R-965.  The main remote control is the RNC-510.  It is a backlit IR remote with LCD screen, learning capabilities, macro operations, memory backup, and the ability to control up to 10 devices.  While there are, at times, several sub-menus to navigate, the remote is fairly easy to navigate and operate.  The second remote for the R-965 is the RM-116 and it is used in Room 2 applications.  It is a breeze to operate, but because this is not an RF remote, a Xantech multiroom IR repeater kit must be purchased to enable the RM-116 to work from a remote room.  The RM-116 is not a universal remote.

Amplifier Performance: 
The R-965 has discrete amplifiers for each of its 7 channels.  In 2-channel stereo mode, the operating manual states that it delivers 120 watts per channel RMS at 8 ohms with a 0.05% THD from 20Hz~20kHz.  In surround mode with only one channel driven, the R-965 is stated to deliver 140 watts per channel RMS at 8 ohms with a 0.7% THD at 1kHz.  It is a little curious why the surround mode measurement was not made at the same 20Hz~20kHz interval (this leads me to believe that the wattage would not be as high or the THD as low).  The numbers not withstanding, the R-965 performed like a champ in my review in terms of amplifier power.  Whether set to 2-channel or multichannel mode, the receiver never clipped, distorted and always pumped out clean and powerful sound.
Tuner Performance:  Using only the supplied FM dipole antenna, I would rate the R-965’s ability to receive local radio stations as satisfactory.  I was able to receive all of the local broadcast stations although the reception for some stations was better than others.  I am confident that a separate outdoor antenna or an amplified indoor antenna would have eliminated any reception issues.  I did not listen to any AM broadcasts.
Music CD Performance:  For my evaluation of some of the different decoding modes available for 2.0 channel music, I chose The Rippingtons’ ‘Curves Ahead’ and Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Cieli Di Toscana’ as my two test CDs.  In Pure Audio mode, the music was faithfully recreated with reduced background noise.  The Rippingtons’ dynamic saxophone, guitar and percussion sounds were clearly identifiable, while Bocelli’s powerful vocals soared.  In the digital re-mastering mode (whereby 16-bit/44.1kHz audio is upconverted to 24-bit/192kHz resolution), both CDs sounded a little smoother and fuller than in Pure Audio.  Lastly, I sampled these CDs in the various other modes and discovered that DPL IIx Music was my overwhelming favorite.  DPL IIx Music expanded the music to the full 7.1 channels and created a rich, enveloping experience.  It was a seamless blending of the channels that sounded surprisingly natural.
For my evaluation of multichannel music, I chose Sting’s ‘Brand New Day’ CD recorded in DTS 24-bit, 5.1 channel audio.  Opting for the DTS surround mode, the music was super crisp and accurate.  All 5.1 channels during playback were active and robust.  The R-965 really shined here demonstrating that it can provide clean power to all channels even when the music is of the demanding multichannel variety.
 
DVD Movie Soundtrack Performance:  I chose the following titles as my test DVDs: ‘Octopussy’ (Dolby Digital 2.0 audio), ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ (DTS-ES audio) and ‘Star Wars Episode 3’ (Dolby Digital-EX audio).  The Dolby 2.0 material was best decoded in DPL IIx Movie mode as it did a good job of creating a near-Dolby Digital-EX type of audio environment.  Dialogue was properly positioned in the center channel, but unlike the original Dolby Pro-Logic, the rest of the soundtrack did not seem to collapse into the center channel.  The surround rear channels were pronounced and had a fair amount of information directed to them.
With both the Dolby Digital-EX and DTS-ES soundtracks, the R-965 performed exceptionally.  Dialogue was recreated intelligibly and securely positioned in the center channel.  When directional channel effects were present in the mix, the receiver relayed the information correctly, and when subtle ambient effects were required, the R-965 did not miss a beat.  Despite being required to drive two tower speakers as the mains in my reference system, the R-965 had plenty of power to fuel the demanding explosions in the source materials. 
Conclusions: 
 
The R-965 amplifier component, while falling a little short of the specs of the A-965 stand-alone amplifier, is nevertheless clean and more than able to power the vast majority of home theater setups out there today.  The R-965’s processor component, along with all of its connections, is top-notch and appears the equal of P-965 stand-alone processor.  If you consider that the R-965 receiver lists for around $1,000 less than the two separates combined, I have concluded that Sherwood has accomplished its goal of packaging the technology and features of its separate amplifier and processor into a single chassis while maintaining the performance of the separates.  Strictly compared to other receivers in its price class, the R-965 has a lot going for it:  7 discrete amplifiers, all major decoding functions, component video switching, universal video output, 8-channel external decoder capability, 9 pre-out jacks, multi-room capability, future software upgradeability, and a three-year parts and labor warranty.  I highly recommend the Sherwood R-965 as a top choice in the sub-$2,000 receiver category.
 
— Calvin Harding Jr.

 

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