Arcam AVR850

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.

Impressions?

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.

 

Posted on: 05 May 2016 by tonym

Thanks for your review Dungassin. It's a bit sad when we finally move on from the AV2 and a big step, which is a testament to how good it is. There are too many of these A/V multichannel receivers on the market to do lots of comparisons, which are only of relevance in our own systems, but from my experiences the latest big boxes are remarkably good and astonishing value for money.

Posted on: 05 May 2016 by Dungassin

I'm steeling myself to dismantle the left Sound Organisation rack in the study to sort out the lead tangle behind the Arcam following the dealer's visit to do the Dirac setup.

At the moment I am using 3 lengths of NAC A5 terminated with ordinary (soldered) banana plugs and joined onto my original NAC A5 cables (with banana plug couplers) for centre/rear nSat/nCent.   Not ideal, but I may keep it that way, because the thought of getting new centre/rear cables and threading them through the ducting behind the LP rack does NOT appeal!

I was pleased to discover that my initial disappointment at not seeing banana plug sockets on the back of the Arcam was unwarranted.  I hadn't realised that you can just pull the plastic insert out of the back of the screw connectors and ... voila ... banana sockets.  Not in the Arcam manual, but I suppose there are legal reasons for that.

I was going to buy the Anthem, but decided to 'stay British'.   

Posted on: 06 May 2016 by Eloise
Dungassin posted:

 

I was going to buy the Anthem, but decided to 'stay British'.   

Ironically iirc Anthem and Arcam are now both using the same Vietnamese factory (both are made in Vietnam certainly and I think I read the manufacturing facilities used are the same); and Arcam is now owned by a Canadian company...

Posted on: 06 May 2016 by Mr Underhill

Arcam probably add more in terms of employment and tax to the UK than Anthem.

Well done Dun.

Just bought an EAR pre rather than a Modwright on the same basis ....at least partly!

M

Posted on: 06 May 2016 by Eloise
Mr Underhill posted:

Arcam probably add more in terms of employment and tax to the UK than Anthem.

 

I do agree :-)

Posted on: 07 May 2016 by blythe

Many thanks for your review - this is a route I'm contemplating for my second TV system. I have an Anthem for my main "cinema" system and am thinking it might be time to move on the AV2/145/150.

I can't really warrant spending "Anthem money" on the amp but also have no idea how much the Arcam is, or could I simply get by with a "good" Yamaha or Denon?

I'm planning on retaining N-Sats, N-Cent and N-Sub as speakers. Any thoughts?

 

Edit: I just looked up the price of the Arcam and certainly the one to which you refer is "pricey" although their lesser amps are more reasonable! Also, I see Anthem produce some "more reasonable" receivers!

Posted on: 07 May 2016 by Dungassin

All I can say is, go and listen for yourself.  The Arcam AVR850 cost 4200 if that is any help to you.  The n-System is very good, and I have no intention of changing mine for something else!  Don't know which Anthem you have, but TonyM (on these forums) used to have the Anthem 700, and he moved from the Naim AV2, NAP175 to that, and found the Anthem's poweramps adequate for his purposes.

Alas, the AV2, good as it is, is now very old in AV terms : no HDMI inputs being the main problem, and if you want the HiDef audio formats from bluray, then you have to have a bluray player with an onboard decoder and send the uncompressed audio direct to the AV2's analogue inputs (what you do is combine 2 of the analogue inputs on the AV2 into a configuration called 'multi').   That involves all the faff of RCA Phono to DIN leads, and (in my case) involved a little bit of trial and error as to how you actually connect them up to get the correct channels to the correct speakers.

Personally, I'd be inclined to stick with your Anthem, using your Naim pre/power (or integrated) for the front L/R channels.  If you really want to get the 145 and 150, then just use them as connected to the appropriate preamp output sockets on your Anthem.

Posted on: 07 May 2016 by MDS

 

blythe posted:

Many thanks for your review - this is a route I'm contemplating for my second TV system. I have an Anthem for my main "cinema" system and am thinking it might be time to move on the AV2/145/150.

I can't really warrant spending "Anthem money" on the amp but also have no idea how much the Arcam is, or could I simply get by with a "good" Yamaha or Denon?

I'm planning on retaining N-Sats, N-Cent and N-Sub as speakers. Any thoughts?

 

Edit: I just looked up the price of the Arcam and certainly the one to which you refer is "pricey" although their lesser amps are more reasonable! Also, I see Anthem produce some "more reasonable" receivers!

When my n-Vi died I contemplated an Oppo/3 x Naim 100 set-up but on simplicity grounds ended up going for an ARCAM AVR 750, then at the top end of the range but I believe since replaced by the AVR850.  After trade-in the AVR750 was cheaper at about 3250 from memory.  I'd say the n-Vi had a bit more presence at lowish volumes but when turning the wick-up for movies the ARCAM has a lot more oomph.  So I'd be happy to commend ARCAM AVRs. 

Posted on: 12 May 2016 by blythe

Thanks for the help.

I should add that I meant NAP175 - typo when I wrote NAP145......