AudioControl Concert AVR-8 AV receiver review

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posted on Sunday, 31st August 2014 by Steve May

home cinema  Invision UK 

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You won't find AudioControl hardware on the high street. The brand is available only through the custom install channel. Based out of Mountlake Terrace Washington State, it specialises in high performance audio components, such as distributed audio amplifiers and home theatre receivers. The Concert AVR-8 featured here is self evidently one of the latter. Stablemate to the only slightly less well spec'd (7 x 100w) Concert AVR-6, it's a substantial, beautifully engineered receiver with a specification befitting premium private cinemas. Distribution is via Invision UK.

AudioControl Concert AVR-8: specification
The Concert AVR-8 offers a classic home cinema spec sheet and boasts a high level of connectivity, all located on the rear panel. There are seven HDMI inputs, one of which is nostalgically labelled VCR, alongside twin HDMI outputs, both of which support ARC (Audio Return Channel), a largely unheralded boon when it comes to system configuration. ARC allows any compatible screen to be used as a hub for AV sources, routing whatever audio's onscreen back to the receiver. Forward looking, the Concert AVR-8 also supports 4K upscaling, useful if it's being specified with a UHD screen. Legacy video support comes in the guise of three component inputs and a quartet of composites, all of which are automatically upconverted for HDMI distribution. The receiver does not offer HDMI pass-through when in Standby.

Sonically there are six phono stereo inputs, four coaxial digital audio outputs and two digital optical inputs. While there's no onboard Wi-Fi support, you do get an Ethernet port for network access, along with USB and a full set of channel preouts. Control options include twin IR, two 12v triggers for system control and RS232. There's also a headphone minijack amid the rear jack pack, but we can't imagine it'll get much use.

Rear Panel

HDMI Out

All the standard multichannel codecs are catered for, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio, as well as Pro Logic IIx, Dolby EX, DTS Neo post processing and Dolby Volume modes. The amplifier is a 7.1 design (so height channels are not part of the mix.), but it can either be run full bore or in 5.1 mode with the remaining channels allocated to stereo duties in a second zone.

AudioControl AVR-8: design and features
The Concert AVR-8 is handsome enough in a hardcore AV kind of way. The glossy plastic fascia is dominated by a large blue LED window, offset by faux chromed volume control knob. The unit's no lightweight, tipping the scales at 16.8kg. It measures 432 x 419 x 178mm (w/d/h). 

The user interface will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used or configured an Arcam AVR. It's a clean, text-based GUI with a business-like demeanor. For the most part there's little that need be done to get up and running, apart from confirming the speaker configuration and preferred video output format. You can also make various video adjustments to individual inputs, including brightness, edge enhancement and so on.

While speaker distances and levels can be manually set, the receiver's Auto Setup system is an effective time saver. Connect the supplied microphone and it'll do a single 7.1 channel sweep of your listening room. Additional fine tuning is, of course, possible. The auto set-up actually does a reasonable job, and correctly assessed the distances and speaker sizes in our theatre. The LFE crossover frequency can manually adjusted between 40Hz and 150Hz, in 20Hz increments.

Control

AudioControl AVR-8: Performance
In full flight, the Concert AVR-8 proves deliciously dynamic. It hits its beats hard and fast, and is endlessly exciting to listen to. The unit employs Class H amplification, able to drive 8Ohm speakers to 120w per channel, but it seems to go much louder. It had no problem at all driving our Definitive Technology Reference in-walls.

The opening road race to Fast & Furious 6 (Blu-ray) is full of gutty gear changes and unfettered V8 fury. The AVR-8 delivers this high-revving cocktail with racy aplomb, tethering volume to adrenalin in the way only the best AVRs can seemingly manage.

There's no sense that the Concert AVR-8 is even raising a sweat when asked to handle big theatrics. When Little Hansel floors Robert Downey Jr in Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (Blu-ray) , the concussive force of the blast is powerful enough to pummel popcorn. Similarly, when aliens break water for the first time in Battleship, the scale and weight of their ships is impressively drawn. Despite the AudioControl's posh nomenclature, the AVR-8 has no problem at all with blockbuster movies.

The Concert AVR-8 also shines with two channel fare. USB playback of a FLAC rip of Rush's seminal 2112, positively bounds with energy. Chomping guitar riffs, luxurious melodies and Geddy's Lee's tweeter-tastic vocals, confirm this big beast can be light on its isolating feet when needs be. Spatial imaging is excellent. Admiral Fallow's The Paper Trench, a FLAC download from Linn Records, is distinguished by clear Scottish burr and multi-layered instrumentation.

Network functionality is somewhat Spartan, offering up only Internet radio and a media player. The former features the familiar selection of local, international and genre filtered channels, while the onboard Music Player interrogates the LAN for DLNA compatible servers. Audio file compatibility covers MP3, FLAC, M4a, WAV and WMA.

Broader high res file support would have be nice. One solution is to use physical media. The Rolling Stones Grrr! (Blu-ray Audio) compilation is a trove of 24-bit/96khz treasures, and the Concert AVR-8 has a ball with it. The pronounced stereo mix of You Can't Always Get What You Want allows the receiver to strut with audiophile precision.

Set Up Menu

AudioControl AVR-8: verdict
This AudioControl receiver doesn't disappoint. Those looking to specify something altogether more exclusive for their next high-end home theatre would do well to focus in on the Concert AVR-8. In terms of sonic sophistication it cuts it with the best, build quality is reassuringly high, and it's great with both movies and music. In short, we think this flagship is seriously fabulous.

The AudioControl Concert AVR-8 is available now
Retail price: £6,995

AudioControl is distributed by Invision UK. For more on Invision's expansive line of products and services, visit our partner page here.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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