Sunfire Ultimate Receiver Reviewed

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When people are putting together a home theater system, one of the most important components has to be the audio/video controller/processor. This can either come in the form of a separates-based preamplifier with the necessary amplifier companion, or the much more common audio/video receiver.

The reason many more people choose an audio/video receiver is that it is generally less expensive, and it also comes in a single chassis, which takes up less space. Since the audio/video receiver combines surround sound processing, amplification, switching and control all in one box, it seems like a great value. However, traditionally many receivers have been a bit on the lower-performance skew, since it’s so hard to pack one piece of equipment with all of this performance and still have enough back panel space.

Additional Resources
• Read high end AV receiver reviews from the likes of Sunfire, Arcam, Cambridge Audio, NAD, Denon, Yamaha and many others here.
• Read more Sunfire reviews here.

Some manufacturers have figured out how to do this properly, as I’ve been seeing more and more better performing receivers over the past few years. Sunfire, maker of high-end amplifiers and surround sound preamplifiers (as well as kick ass subwoofers) recently released their interestingly named Ultimate Receiver.

Unique Features
Sunfire products traditionally offer plenty of whiz-bang for the money, and the Ultimate Receiver certainly lives up to its name in this regard. With features such as the ability to automatically turn the unit on, select your source and surround mode when you power up your DVD player or other source, things get really easy to live with. The Ultimate Receiver comes with 7.1 Channel Dolby Digital decoding, as well as processing for Dolby Digital EX, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS Neo:6, and Dolby Pro-Logic II decoding. The nice folks at Sunfire have even planned for outputs for 9.1 channels total playback (an additional stereo power amplifier is required for the use of all 9.1 channels). This allows for future upgrade-ability, as well as filling the sound of a very large room.

Also worth mentioning is designer Bob Carver’s Holographic Imaging that features noise-free digital signal processing for sound-stage enhancement of two-channel sources. Of course, there are a multitude of digital inputs and outputs, making for very diverse system compatibility. Of course, on a piece like this, SACD and DVD-Audio compatibility are to be expected, and this is in fact so. There are inputs on the back panel that allow for this connection in a simple, well-labeled manner. The seven built-in amplifiers offer 200 watts per channel, which is more than enough power for even the largest of residential theater rooms mated with traditional speakers.

Another noteworthy feature on the audio side of things is the ability to play sources (such as CD or tuner) independent of the main zone (such as a DVD movie) in a second zone such as outdoors or a master bedroom, offering nice multi-room capability. The built-in AM/FM tuner comes with a whopping 40 presets, making even the most diverse family’s tastes easily accessible at the touch of a button. On the video side, there are a bevy of S-video and component video connections, again making any videophile eager to enjoy.

Read much more on Page 2

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Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Setting up the Ultimate Receiver was very straightforward, mostly due to the new pre-programmed/learning remote control with LCD display. It makes things easier than past Sunfire offerings, and the onscreen menus really help things out. Setting up the speakers and calibrating the levels is straightforward, and otherwise this unit is plug and play. The back panel is well labeled, allowing for quick installation of all components. The included manual also makes anything that may seem unclear instantly straightforward.

Once the Ultimate Receiver was set up, I auditioned many different forms of software, from SACD to DVD-Audio to DVD video and regular CD. On the newly released Police Greatest Hits on SACD, I instantly found the sonic quality to be excellent, with a wide soundstage and a very lush, well-defined sound. Bass quality was very solid and resolute, making for a very pleasing presentation. On Queen’s A Night at the Opera DVD-Audio in DTS, my reactions were very much the same. The sound reminded me of a very good preamplifier/amplifier combination, as it should. On Peter Gabriel’s newly released Secret World Live DVD, both the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks offered an excellent presentation. The Ultimate Receiver instantly recognizes which surround format is required, and adjusts appropriately. On stereo music, I was very pleased with the sound quality as well. There was a wide soundstage that made for a high-end end listening experience.

Mated with my Definitive Technology PM-900 monitors with built-in powered subwoofers, I truly enjoyed every disc I threw at the system. On the video side, I found there to be little picture loss, which is always a good thing. The video components inside the Ultimate Receiver appear to be of a very high quality, as it never diminishes the pictures, as so many receivers do. I was very impressed, to say the least.

Final Take
In a world where “ultimate” anything is doubtful, it’s nice to see that Sunfire takes that moniker seriously. Usually when you hear the word “ultimate,” you think of something extremely cheesy and of no value to anybody aside from those who buy most of their household wares from the shopping channel. This is not one of those products.

If you are, indeed, in the market for a high-end receiver, preamplifier/amplifier combination, and/or have a medium to large home theater room that requires a good amount of power, definitely audition an Ultimate Receiver from Sunfire. It’s a great product that offers the compactness of one component with the performance of separate components. With all the bells and whistles that will make this as future-proof as they come, look no further than the Ultimate Receiver, as forethought is what was in mind when Bob Carver dreamt this one up.

Additional Resources
• Read high end AV receiver reviews from the likes of Sunfire, Arcam, Cambridge Audio, NAD, Denon, Yamaha and many others here.
• Read more Sunfire reviews here.

Sunfire Ultimate Receiver
7 channels of power amplification
200 watts RMS/channel; 8 ohms (20Hz-20kHz)
Preamp outputs, auto signal sensing input switching,
3100MHz+ HDTV compatible wide-bandwidth
component video inputs, 2 outputs, 6 audio/video
inputs; S-Video and composite video
3 audio-only inputs, Moving Magnet Phono input,
8-channel analog audio input using RCA connectors
for DVD-A or SACD
Digital audio (S/PDIF) inputs for 6 sources:
4 coax or optical, plus 2 coax only
Coaxial and optical digital (S/PDIF) outputs,
3 subwoofer outputs
24-bit analog to digital converter and 24-bit/192kHz
multi-bit digital to analog converters
Separate trigger outputs and infrared inputs
for both zones
IEEE-1394 Firewire port for future expansion
17″ W x 5.75″ H x 16.5″ D
Warranty: 2 years parts and labor
MSRP: $3,995

SOURCE:http://hometheaterreview.com/sunfire-ultimate-receiver-reviewed/