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Arcam AVR10 Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Arcam AVR10 7.2 channel Audio/Video Receiver (AVR). It was purchased by a member and kindly drop shipped to me. AVR10 costs US $2,500.

Notes: our company Madrona Digital is a dealer for Harman which owns Arcam so feel free to read any level of bias in my review. As a courtesy, I sent a copy of my measurements to Harman/Arcam engineering a week ago. Alas, I have received no feedback. Meanwhile I had to return the unit to its owner.

The AVR10 has a solid and attractive look like rest of the line:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Audio Review.jpg


A large, informative display lets you easily navigate the user interface. Sadly the same is not replicated on the display output of the unit which is strange. Usually the AV receiver is less accessible in a home theater application so it is highly desirable to be able to navigate its menu on TV/Projector.

The back panel is as you expect with only modern inputs and outputs:
Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Back Panel Connectors Inputs Outputs ...jpg


As you see there is a fan in the back. Inside there are actually two fans but I don't recall either one of them turning on even under load.

DAC Audio Measurements
As usual we start by feeding the AV receiver a 1 kHz tone (digitally over HDMI) to see how well it converts that to analog (Front Right and Front Left pre-out):

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Audio Measurements.png


I had set the volume control to output 2 volts per CD standard and what every 2-channel DAC provides. Unfortunately at this level we have quite high distortion. This is typical of most of AVRs which allow their amp to clip and drag the performance of DAC with it. It makes no sense to do this as in this scenario the internal amplifier is not used (user would be using an external amp). Power is wasted and performance is reduced for no good reason or benefit.

In addition to clipping, we see elevated low frequency noise which seems to have a strange correlated signature (multiples of 10 Hz). An internal counter of sorts is causing noise to bleed into the output of the DAC. Needless to say, the AVR10 doesn't win any awards for distortion and noise:

best audio video receiver AVR review 2020.png


To see where performance drops, I ran a sweep, varying the digital input and measuring output SINAD:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI THD+N vs Level Audio Measurements.png


This test is volume control sensitive so I tested it at a couple of settings (made no difference). Basically best performance is achieved at just 0.9 volts. Unless your amplifier has unusually high gain, power will be limited in external amplification at 0.9 volt. You would need to turn up the volume and with it, lose the fidelity of pre-amp outputs as you see in the sharp drop above 0.9 volt. As a way of random example, here is the spec for Emotiva XPA-3 amplifier:

1590730059078.png


Intermodulation+noise versus input level nicely shows this clipping behavior:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI IMD Audio Measurements.png


32-tone signal emulating "music" shows the same clipping behavior we have seen in other Arcam products:
Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Multitone Audio Measurements.png


I building digital signal processing chain it is very important to check to make sure that there is no overflow condition for full amplitude signal. As some of you know, due to "loudness wars," a lot of music is mastered with peaks near or at 0 dBFS. It is important that then audio chain doesn't add its own massive distortion on top of an already bad situation in creation of the music. I have run this test on literally hundred of products and only Arcam AV products create this level of distortion. A firmware fix should remedy this if the will is there to fix it.

Linearity test shows that noise takes over and randomizes the output despite the heavy filtering that linearity test already includes:
Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Linearity Audio Measurements.png


If this were a $99 DAC, I would complain bitterly but AV products as a rule do so poorly on this test that I take this for "good enough" measurement result.

Test of jitter, noise and spurious signals shows fair bit of problems as we could have guessed from the noisy output in our dashboard earlier:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Nothing other than a single peak at 12 kHz should be there. We know this is interference as running the test twice created slightly different output (blue vs red). The wide "skirt" around the 12 kHz tone indicates random but low frequency noise in the DAC clock. Mass of spikes at 18 kHz can easily be traced to some activity inside the AVR at that frequency (networking, video, DSP, etc.). People are not running in streets fortunately because levels are too low to be very audible. Bad engineering "fixed" by the poor discrimination of our hearing.

A sweep of THD+N versus frequency using a much wider bandwidth than our dashboard shows quite high levels:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI THD+N vs freq Audio Measurements.png


To see what is going on, I usually follow this test with a spectrum analysis of one sample frequency point at 10 kHz:


Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI 1 kHz FFT Audio Measurements.png


A perfect system would produce just one spike at 10 kHz and nothing else. Instead, we have all kinds of unwanted signals here. Yes, most are ultrasonic so "not audible" but show poor engineering and design hygiene. Part of the problem is the reconstruction filter in the DAC:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Filter Audio Measurements.png


The filter setting Arcam has selected has poor out of band rejection. This means that mirror images of our signal relative to sample rate wind up showing in ultrasonic range. Arcam should allow the user to select the right filter already available in the DAC chip they use by the user. Or else, pick a more sensible one than this. Should take a couple of hours of development time to provide this capability to the user (setting a register in the DAC chip).

Now that we have sufficiently depressed ourselves, let's see how the amplifier section performs.

AVR Amplifier Measurements
As usual, we start with our 1 kHz Dashboard, producing 5 watts into 4 ohm load:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD CD Input Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


For this test I am using analog input in special "CD direct" mode. Large amount of noise is taking the performance way down. Harmonic distortion is actually low but noise is the problem for low SINAD of just 68 dB. Switching to HDMI input improves performance good bit:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Input Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


The rankings for each input relative to other AVRs looks like this:
Best AVR Amplifier Review Measured 2020.png


This is quite a bit worse than Arcam's own AVR390. In the larger context of all amplifiers tested to date (91 amps), performance is average with HDMI and far worse with analog input:
Best stereo amplifier reviewed.png



Poor noise performance bits us on the behind in signal to noise ratio at both 5 watts and full power:
Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD CD Input Dynamic Range Amplifier Audio Mea...png


These are embarrassingly poor numbers for analog input.

Crosstalk is decent:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD CD Input Amplifier Crosstalk Audio Measure...png


CD direct input provides wide bandwidth indicating it is not digitized:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD CD Input Frequency Response Amplifier Audi...png


Once processed though, sample rate appears to be just 44.1 kHz with some odd ball antialiasing filter causing that strange response prior to 20 kHz. Really, in this day and age we better get full transparency for CD content. Why not sample higher so in-band response is dead flat?

Anyway, let's measure power vs distortion using the better digital input:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Input Amplifier Power into 4 ohm Audi...png



Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD HDMI Input Amplifier Power into 8 ohm Audi...png


Spec is conservative which is good. This is not a lot of power though for a home theater application. Which may prompt you to use external amplification only to run into the distortion problem with the pre-out!

Streaming Audio Measurements
Streaming from Roon player is nicely supported allowing me to measure both our dashboard performance and jitter:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD Roon streaming Audio Measurements.png


Performance is the same as local playback as it should be. Jitter however, gets a bit worse:

Arcam AVR10 AV Receiver Home Theater Doly Atmos UHD Roon streaming Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Proof positive that we are dealing with internal interference which varies with what the AVR10 is doing.

Conclusions
After seeing rather poor performance form many AV products, many of us were holding hope that Arcam would do better. Company has a great heritage of caring about measurements and superb performance. Alas, whatever pedigree was there, is no longer found. Maybe they and us are victim of one million logos on these devices, forcing the project to be mostly software/firmware development and hardware execution has become an afterthought. Regardless, for a multi-thousand dollar device, our expectation should be very well engineered AVR but we don't remotely get that.

In some sense, the AVR10 is worse than the last generation AVR390 which had great amplification stage. Seems like Arcam took the only thing that was good there and messed that up too.

Needless to say, I cannot recommend Arcam AVR10.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Given the shortage of masks, I am thinking of planting an N95 mask tree. Someone is selling the transplants online. I understand all you have to do is water the thing and fertilize it and you get a bunch of certified masks!!! Help me get there by funding the seedlings by using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #4
The real question is going to be the X8500H and X6700H
The X8500 is 51 pounds! Heaven help me if someone sends it to me and I have to lug it upstairs to test it! :)
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #5
These AVR's have digital S/N ratios that hardly beat 1960's FM tuners, or 1980's cassette decks. Embarrassingly bad.
My thought exactly as I was writing the review....
 

GXAlan

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#7
Can you review any of those Thx certified receivers? Curious to see if the logo meets any intentions beyond marketing.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds/onkyo-pr-rz5100-av-processor-review.12910/

THX Ultra2 = Didn't do well by audio standards. SINAD 83 dB. Maybe good enough since THX spec is 85 dB nominal with 105 dB peaks.
Better than this Arcam.

The real winner in the AVR tests has been Denon. You get the reliability and compatibility WITH excellent performance. The Marantz equivalents haven't done as well partly because they don't seem to offer extra performance.

The X8500 is 51 pounds! Heaven help me if someone sends it to me and I have to lug it upstairs to test it! :)
Denon's Youtube channel accidentally leaked out their 8K lineup. The X6700H will have Atmos Height Virtualization. There will probably be an X8500HA with the 8K upgrade built in.
 

3125b

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#9
Embarrassingly bad.
For 2500$ no less, a 9$ phone dongle beats it out by a long shot. Sure, this thing has a lot of functionalities, but there is no excuse for that kind of performance.

What I'd also be interested in is the headphone output impedance of some of these AVRs and integrated amps with how that's implemented.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #10
Is the reconstruction filter really that bad? This measurement looks like filter overload. Could you do it with a source signal turned down a few dBs?
I don't have the unit anymore to do that. Arcam did respond (for the review of AV40) that they are using a minimum phase filter and that is its response.

I do have another Arcam AVR here and can test as you ask when I get to it.
 

TimoJ

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#11
For this test I am using analog input in special "CD direct" mode. Large amount of noise is taking the performance way down. Harmonic distortion is actually low but noise is the problem for low SINAD of just 68 dB. Switching to HDMI input improves performance good bit:

View attachment 66058
Feature of the Arcam or do you have a ground loop problem? 60/120/240Hz peaks.
 

vkvedam

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#12
Conclusions
After seeing rather poor performance form many AV products, many of us were holding hope that Arcam would do better. Company has a great heritage of caring about measurements and superb performance. Alas, whatever pedigree was there, is no longer found. Maybe they and us are victim of one million logos on these devices, forcing the project to be mostly software/firmware development and hardware execution has become an afterthought. Regardless, for a multi-thousand dollar device, our expectation should be very well engineered AVR but we don't remotely get that.

In some sense, the AVR10 is worse than the last generation AVR390 which had great amplification stage. Seems like Arcam took the only thing that was good there and messed that up too.

Needless to say, I cannot recommend Arcam AVR10.
:facepalm::facepalm::facepalm: Nothing to be said here. Thanks for making this clear and transparent for us @amirm

Super happy with my Marantz, no need to pay big bucks for AVRs :p
 
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#13
Can you review any of those Thx certified receivers? Curious to see if the logo meets any intentions beyond marketing.
I'm interested as well - was recently shopping subwoofers and the THX certified units offer impressive specs, but not really better than ID suppliers which makes me wonder how much of the cost is simply the THX logo.
 

simbloke

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#14
Very sad, loved the Arcam stuff I had decades ago. Whilst stereo DACs become amazing there seems to be no hope for AVRs. Luckily I no longer care about having a multi channel setup.
 
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#15
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds/onkyo-pr-rz5100-av-processor-review.12910/

THX Ultra2 = Didn't do well by audio standards. SINAD 83 dB. Maybe good enough since THX spec is 85 dB nominal with 105 dB peaks.
Better than this Arcam.

The real winner in the AVR tests has been Denon. You get the reliability and compatibility WITH excellent performance. The Marantz equivalents haven't done as well partly because they don't seem to offer extra performance.


Denon's Youtube channel accidentally leaked out their 8K lineup. The X6700H will have Atmos Height Virtualization. There will probably be an X8500HA with the 8K upgrade built in.
I'm surprised the preouts are so much worse than the AV40 which is part of the same family. That Onkyo is really bad too considering it is a dedicated prepro.
 

Objectivist01

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#16
Wish there was a box which takes hdmi input and then has few USB ports(say some 10 of them) in the back to connect our on dacs for channels we need. This way, the more channels we need, can add more two channels dacs to scale up. Processors like Atmos should come as cards. You want a new format buy a new card. By card I mean a card with Atmos chip like a pci card Now that we have dacs upto 768khz to handle any format that could come up. But money matters to companies so, this will never happen!
 

Blumlein 88

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#17
I'm beginning to think the whole AVR field is hampered by licensing requirements enough, and you get enough bad products we should all just say no. Why didn't this get the headless panther?

And for $2500..................just an insult of a product really.

More insulting is the entire Dolby and DTS monopoly on standards has helped cause this while promising ever higher audio delights. I've had several car audio units that beat this performance.

Maybe the next "big advance" in multi-channel formatting should be D(olby)FU. It requires 17.11.2.1 channels. 17 surround channels, 11 height channels, 2 sub channels, and one super low frequency channel for 10 hz and below. The .1 channel will be pitched to cause loss of bladder control with all official 17.11.2.1 content which is where the FU comes in. The competitor DTS-YU will have mono sound over 42.1 channels for the ultimate amorphous mono sound. The .1 will cover only the lowest 5 hz to give that ultimate illusion of a big space.
 

Tks

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#19
I'm beginning to think the whole AVR field is hampered by licensing requirements enough, and you get enough bad products we should all just say no. Why didn't this get the headless panther?

And for $2500..................just an insult of a product really.

More insulting is the entire Dolby and DTS monopoly on standards has helped cause this while promising ever higher audio delights. I've had several car audio units that beat this performance.

Maybe the next "big advance" in multi-channel formatting should be D(olby)FU. It requires 17.11.2.1 channels. 17 surround channels, 11 height channels, 2 sub channels, and one super low frequency channel for 10 hz and below. The .1 channel will be pitched to cause loss of bladder control with all official 17.11.2.1 content which is where the FU comes in. The competitor DTS-YU will have mono sound over 42.1 channels for the ultimate amorphous mono sound. The .1 will cover only the lowest 5 hz to give that ultimate illusion of a big space.
Should've gotten limbless panther as well perhaps
 

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