Posted by: Dungassin on 04 May 2016
Well, after several cancelled appointments, the dealer finally arrived to complete the Dirac setup of the AVR850 which I bought in December 2015.
I bought it to replace my ageing Naim AV2. I had decided that the time had come to retire it due to lack of HDMI inputs, and the fact that I was fed up of having to use multiple SPDIF and HDMI switching boxes, and having to play my Oppo blurays using the AV2 Multi input. The AV2 was being used in conjunction with Naim 552DR, NAP 250.2, NAP200, NAP 145 and Naim n-System. So I had also decided that I would try it without the NAP 200 and 145, just using the 250 for front channel.
I have NOT done direct comparisons of the Naim 552/250 and AVR850 as a stereo amp, but have only compared it on music with AVR805 preamp into 250 (via 552 unity gain input), against the 552/250.
Pros : fewer boxes, no loss of quality with 5.1 movie sources that I can detect. I have tried it with stereo CDs (using Oppo as CD player) and find it to be a very capable stereo preamp (using 250 as power amp). Obviously not in the same league as the 552, but eminently listenable. I have tried a couple of live music DVDs, and its performance is very pleasant and unfatiguing. The obvious difference being that the 850 is too 'polite'. I find the AV850 poweramp section perfectly adequate for DVD/Bluray use when watching films, and don't miss the AV2 or the Naim 200/145 for this purpose, and hence have not bothered to reinsert them to see if they improved performance.
Cons : I don't like the fact that the input selection on the Arcam has all it's sources labelled, and that I can't change the labels. Although it has Optical and Coaxial digital inputs, these can only be used in conjunction with defined inputs as set by the Arcam remote. I think the Anthem approach (if I read their manual correctly) is probably better, whereby different activities can be set up, using the inputs in various combinations.
Conclusion : Not cheap, but a wholly adequate replacement for the Naim AV2. The Dirac setup does improve the movie sound quality.
The AV2/NAP200/NAP145 have been passed on to one of my sons-in-law.
Sorry if this isn't a magazine type review, but I was far more concerned with whether I felt deprived by the lack of my AV2. Perfectly happy with my purchase.