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ModelAVR850Inputs6x HDMI 2.0a, 1x HDMI w/ MHL, 4x Coaxial, 2x Optical, 6x RCA Stereo, 1x EthernetOutputs3x HDMI 2.0a, 7.1.4 PreampAmplifier Section7x 120 WPC, 1kHz, 0.2% THDRoomEQYesSize17.1" x 6.7" x 16.7"Weight36.8 lbs.Review DateMay 2, 2017Price$6000
Arcam AVR850 Receiver Review
ModelAVR850Inputs6x HDMI 2.0a, 1x HDMI w/ MHL, 4x Coaxial, 2x Optical, 6x RCA Stereo, 1x EthernetOutputs3x HDMI 2.0a, 7.1.4 PreampAmplifier Section7x 100 WPC, 1kHz, 0.2% THDRoomEQYesSize17.1" x 6.7" x 16.7"Weight36.8 lbs.Review DateMay 2, 2017Price$6000
Arcam AVR850 is a refined and high performing AV Receiver – and at
$6000, among the most costly available for purchase today. What does one
get for that $6000? Easily the best amplifier performance I’ve ever
experienced in a dedicated AV receiver, paired with cutting edge Dirac
Live room correction. Together, these two attributes mean the AV850
performance rivals many separate processor/amp combinations, with the
convenience and footprint of an “all-in-one” AV receiver. While lacking
some bells and whistles present in more mainstream receivers, the AVR850
represents an exciting alternative to separates for someone who values
sound quality and top notch room correction, with potentially
little-to-no compromise in performance.
Cutting Edge Features
states that the AVR850 is built from the ground-up for audio
performance. The AVR850 uses their own implementation of Class G
amplification.While it is beyond the scope of this review to dive into
the technicals, Class G operates very similar to traditional Class A/B
amplifiers but is more efficient especially with higher output levels.
It is more expensive to build than Class A/B, which is why you see it
restricted to higher-end components and bigger amplifiers, but it can
provide more power with less energy use than a Class A/B amplifier can.
D/A conversion is handled by Cirrus CS42528 chips, which are nicer than
you’ll find in more mainstream units.
The other key feature in the
Arcam AVR850 is the presence of Dirac Live. The AVR850 is the only AV
receiver to incorporate this advanced room correction platform. Again,
while it is beyond the scope of this article to dive into the details of
Dirac – at RHT we are big fans of room correction, and Dirac is among
the best systems available today. Prior to the AVR850, Dirac was only
available in a handful of AV processors – so the addition of this to an
“all-in-one” solution is, to us, an important feature.
aspects of the AVR850 are pretty standard. The unit is capable of
handling all typical sound formats, including Atmos – though, with only 7
amplified channels, you’ll be stuck making choices as to what to use
the extra two channels for (Atmos, rear-surrounds, etc). There are a
plethora of HDMI 2.0a inputs and dual HDMI outputs.
remote for the AVR850 is well laid out and is backlit. It is a bit
quirky in use – and even after I learn the logic of how the remote
works, I still struggle from time to time. We anticipate that most users
will use this with a universal remote of some sort, which will make the
remote superfluous, so we don’t think this is a big issue for most
users. There is a remote control app available – it’s reasonably
functional and better than some other receiver control apps we’ve used –
but that bar isn’t necessarily all that high. The app does allow for
UPnP / NAS streaming but we didn’t test these features.
AVR850’s only streaming platform is Spotify Connect. If you want
anything else you’ll need to employ some sort of external streaming
solution. This isn’t necessarily a big deal, but worth noting – if you
like other platforms, like Tidal, your system will need to be
incrementally more complex.
I am disappointed to see that the
AVR850 lacks wireless internet connectivity – a feature that has become
fairly standard in AVR’s. Given the AVR850 requires internet
connectivity for proper set-up – and the fact that I don’t have wired
ethernet near my equipment stand in my apartment – I had to remedy the
problem with the purchase of a wifi access point. This all worked fine
in the end – but we still would like to see wifi in an AVR of this cost.
Arcam tells us that they opted for wired ethernet only as they like the
more stable connection and believe wifi negatively impacts sound
quality. We understand the choice, but we’ve used wifi in other products
Best left to the pro’s: Set-Up of the AVR850
RHT we’ve praised guided setups from the likes of Denon and Marantz –
unfortunately, there is nothing similar here to help users from a
software standpoint, and the manual isn’t geared towards providing
detailed instructions. Along with that, the addition of Dirac to this
unit essentially means there are multiple work streams required to get
the AVR850 up and running correctly.
The simplest thing we can say
about the AVR850 set-up is: it’s a bit quirky, so either be prepared to
roll up your sleeves or, preferably, just leave it to your dealer to
Astonishing amplification & room correction
am absolutely floored by both the sonic performance of the AVR850, as
well as the improvements conveyed by Dirac. This is easily the best
sounding AV receiver I have had the pleasure of using.
From an amplification standpoint, the AVR850 performs flawlessly. My current system consists of a pair of KEF Reference 1’s, a KEF Reference 2C and two KEF R100’s as surrounds. The AVR850 runs this system with ease. My first movie experience with the AVR850 was with 2016s Sully.
Not only was this a fantastic movie, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is
excellent. Beyond the obvious scenes of the actual plane “water landing”
(not crash as Capt. Sullenberger reminds us), there are more intimate
dialog heavy scenes to help evaluate the AVR850. Everything in the movie
just sounds terrific. I never found myself wanting for extra dynamics –
the AVR850 clearly has enough reserves to keep up with the swings we
see in this movie. Everything is clean and tight.
Dirac easily outperforms the Audyssey XT32 / Audyssey Professional combination that I use in my room with a Marantz AV8801.
In all regards, Dirac is clearly superior to this system. Everything
sounds tighter and cleaner with Dirac. I hope this technology finds its
way to more platforms because the results I achieve in my multi-use room
are clearly superior to what I have been able to achieve previously.
Dirac/Class G combination doesn’t just excel on movies but also sounds
terrific with music. Whether rock or folks, I am consistently happy with
the pairing. I will also note that the AVR850 was quite friendly to
less pristine sources. The AVR850 isn’t too clinical sounding and
preserved listenability with Spotify Connect (my wife’s listening mode
We were introduced to Courtney Barnett on Saturday Night Live’s
season finale last year. I am continually surprised at SNL’s ability to
mix artists more obscure artists with Top 40 acts. I had never heard of
Barnett before that show and am a big fan of her modern, punky sound.
These tracks are terrific on the AVR850, which easily kept up with the
driving and dynamic album. It is especially fun to experiment with Dirac
on and off. With Dirac engaged, every aspect of the tracks tightens
considerably. Vocals are more clear, and every instrument is easily
tighter, clearer and more distinguishable.
The AVR850 didn’t just
do well with harder punk/rock, but also handled the mellow side with
ease. I’ve had Brandi Carlile in rotation recently in anticipation of a
“tribute album” slated to come out this year with covers from the likes
of Pearl Jam. With more laid back tracks like “The Eye”, the AVR850 does
a brilliant job at resolving the subtleties in this track. Again,
toggling Dirac on and off produces a marked improvement – the guitar
riffs and vocals possess a tightness I’ve never before heard in my room.
Any improvements to the AVR850?
with set-up, there are few quirks with the AVR850 in use. Firstly, the
unit didn’t play well with my Roku 4. Audio takes quite a while to lock
in, and in some cases, I experience lip-sync issues with this source.
These type of issues were common years ago as companies worked to debug
HDMI, but are far less common now.
While the Arcam is internet
capable, and internet connectivity is required for Dirac software,
firmware installation happens via USB. Additionally, it doesn’t appear
that the AVR850 is capable of using the internet to tell users that a
new firmware exists – so you’re left to check on your own to see if any
firmware is available. We’d like to see at least some sort of notice be
pushed out to users as to when a new firmware is available but this is
the same situation as the Anthem receivers.
We mentioned earlier
in the review that the AVR850 only offers Spotify Connect. While we
don’t think this will be a big deal for most AVR850 users, we’d still
like to see support for a broader cross section of music services. Also
as mentioned earlier, we think that wireless internet should be
Lastly, I didn’t have success pairing the AVR850 as a pre-amp with my Parasound Halo A51.
The key reason for the lack of success was the 12-volt trigger – which
just didn’t play well with my A51. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t
get reliable pairing with the A51 – and at times the amp would pop on
and off due to the unreliable connection. I’m confident that as a
pre-amp the AVR850 will play well with amplifiers from Arcam (necessary
if you want to run a full 7.4 Atmos setup) – but it is worth testing
with you amp before committing to the AVR850.
Who is AVR850 for?
do we think is the right customer for the AVR850? If you are
considering separates, but are concerned about the footprint, this is a
terrific unit to take a look at. The $6000 you’ll spend on the AVR850 is
similar to the cost for many pre-amp/processor combinations, and
cheaper than other seven channel Dirac Live combinations. You might end
up with more pure watts, but I can’t stress enough how impressed I was
the Arcam Class G amplification – and I’m left wondering what system
that this unit would struggle to power. It certainly didn’t struggle
with my KEF system.
Additionally, if you’re looking to move beyond
Audyssey (or the various knock-offs that are present in other more
mainstream units), but don’t want the complication of a
pre-amp/processor in your system, this is definitely a unit to consider.
Every day I use the AVR850 I am surprised by how good Dirac sounds, and
the AVR850 is the only receiver that implements this unbelievable
Conclusions on the Arcam AVR850
The AVR850 is an
impressive AV receiver. The combination of high-end amplification with
best-in-class room correction software means the AVR850 is an
exceptional sonic performer. If you are interested in peak sonic
performance but haven’t wanted to embrace separates, then the AVR850
deserves strong consideration. In use, the unit can be a little quirky,
and it lacks some features that are standard in other units, but
competent installation via a qualified AV dealer can easily alleviate
these issues. The unit is undoubtedly expensive, but we think it is a
very interesting option for the right u