Trinnov EQ on the Sherwood Newcastle R-972 Receiver
One of the most exciting new technologies exhibited at this year's Disney State of the CE Union event was a live demonstration of the upcoming Sherwood Newcastle R-972 receiver featuring the new integrated Trinnov Optimizer room EQ system. But could too much emphasis on a new technology be a gamble for Sherwood?
We've been waiting since wayyy back at CES 2007 for this unit to materialize. And materialize it finally has! At its $1799 MSRP the Sherwood Newcastle R-972 is poised to be a flagship receiver when it's released by the end of this year. For the price you get a competent A/V receiver fully ready for the rigors of the HDMI 1.3 world. It has four HDMI inputs and seven analog video inputs that it can convert to HDMI, scaling video to 1080p thanks to a Silicon Optix Reon VX processor.
As a whole-house A/V solution it can support up to 2 zones and a third zone with audio only. Sherwood Newcastle’s R-972 supports deep color and all the new lossless audio codecs found on your Blu-ray discs including DTS Master Audio HD and Dolby True HD.
The real sales pitch for the Sherwood Newcastle R-972 is its Trinnov Optimizer. Sherwood is banking that this gadget will set it apart in an A/V receiver market that’s as competitive as a bloodthirsty school of hammerhead sharks.
For the uninitiated, the Trinnov Optimizer is a "three dimensional" room EQ system that has previously only existed as a professional-grade $13,000 system. As a high-end room equalization system it flattens frequency response and adjusts level, phase and time for total sound-field control.
As we learned during the recent Audioholics-sponsored Home Theater 101 class provided by John Dahl from THX, room acoustics is more about making it suck-less by working with the hand you're dealt rather than seeking perfection. We all compensate with less than ideal speaker placement in our home theater. A decent room EQ system is a shortcut to dealing with a room's shortcomings.
Sherwood Newcastle R-972 Highlights
- HDMI 1.3
- Video Scaling to 1080p
- Converts analogue video to HDMI
- GUI OSD
- DTS Master Audio HD
- Dolby TrueHD
- RF Remote Control
- Automatic Audio Set-up
- Trinnov Optimization
- RS-232 Control / Upgrade
- Multi Source, Multi Zone
- A/V Sync Delay by Input
- XM Connect & Play
- Installer Memory
- Built in bi-amp capability
The Trinnov system repositions acoustic locations of every channel in the room. Using the most powerful room EQ processing power available it can create a three-dimensional acoustic space to envelope the listener anywhere in the room. The Trinnov solution claims to be able to apply the precise multi-channel mix required to recreate the exact acoustic waveforms the mixing engineer created on the original dubbing stage.
That’s fine for a $13,000 piece of equipment used by professional studios like 20th Century Fox. But how will this translate when it's scaled down to fit Sherwood Newcastle’s consumer-grade receiver?
You may have used similar systems like Audyssey Pro which is built into many of today’s A/V receivers. It’s a popular multi-step configuration system that lets you place an acoustic probe in and around your prime listening area while your receiver builds a sound-field around it. Needless to say - results may vary.
The first thing that struck me was that the Trinnov Probe is a multi-pronged apparatus apparently used to glean a sampling of acoustic information dynamically in three-dimensions rather than via one single microphone. We're not sure exactly why several microphones closely spaced together makes this system more effective than a single calibrated microphone placed in several distinct locations, but it's certainly different.
The room EQ effect was suitably impressive. As we switched from a standard setting to fully processed, the Trinnov processing suddenly made dialogue more articulate and bumped up the fine acoustic effects that are easy to miss in any soundtrack. The results of the room EQ process were remarkable. The feature will be perfect for anyone who doesn’t care for long acoustic tweak sessions while adjusting timing and distance of speakers manually. That you can setup three separate room positions is also a nice touch.
But let’s remember that this is still a room EQ process. When it comes down to it, we should trust our ears first and feel free to tweak surround and speaker settings no matter what room EQ process you’ve used. For many advanced Home Theater connoisseurs Trinnov Optimization is likely not much more than an audio-gimmick. But for HT-newbies it’s a great way to jump into a competent surround setup.
Sound Quality of the Sherwood Newcastle R-972
Audioholics’ State of the Union 2008 demonstrated some of the best acoustic setups I’ve ever heard. The rooms were huge and mostly isolated enough to prevent too much audio spillage from the next room. Unfortunately Sherwood Newcastle didn’t bring speakers that were up for the job of generating much excitement about sound quality. The anemic Hsu Research HB-1 speakers might have sounded better in a much smaller room. But inside the extravagant demo-rooms of the Disney Dolphin hotel they sounded as frail as a poor old grandma asking for her prescriptions at the drug store.
To be fair I’ve never bought into amplifier’s coloration of audio quality. The Sherwood Newcastle R-972 has seven amplifiers built into it rated at a beefy 100 Watts RMS apiece, typical for A/V receivers in this price category. Absolutely nothing heard in the demo warranted red-flags about the amplifier’s power. When it came to pre-amp/processing duties the R-972 did a fine job of creating a lifelike soundstage out of clips from Pearl Harbor, even if the bombs lacked the boom of the real thing. If anything, the limiting factor was simply the speaker selection.
In closing, it was truly an honor to get to be one of the few in North America to put the R-972 through its paces at the 2008 Audioholics Expo. The Sherwood name is a familiar brand for which I’ve always had a soft-spot. It’s nice to see the company is still alive and well with its own high-end line dubbed – Newcastle. Sherwood Newcastle has a competitor on its hands in the R-972 and anyone building a home theater should take note. But if you’re looking at setting up a Home Theater with unusual speaker placement or other room hurdles its unique Trinnov Optimizer features might just be a deciding factor.
For more information, visit Sherwood.