What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 28 Sep 2011, 12:01pm

Arcam AV888

Tested at £4699

Deeply impressive, although Arcam needs to work harder to iron out those flaws

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  • Excellent sound quality in both stereo and surround sound
  • good spec by class standards


  • Some usability concerns that don’t belong in a product of this calibre

It’s been some time since we last tested a two-box Arcam AV combination, but the AV888 processor and P777 seven-channel amplifier have been worth the wait.

The AV888 is amply endowed, with Analogue Devices DSP processing, 24-bit/192kHz Wolfson 8741 DACs, Pixelworks video processing with 1080p upscaling and an extensive range of inputs and outputs.

When first released, the ‘888’s five HDMI inputs couldn’t handle 3D switching, but we were able to take a sneak peek at Arcam’s newly developed upgrade board – to be offered as a cost-option soon  – and can confirm that it works, which will doubtless reassure buyers anxious to ensure they’re proofed against the future.

The power amplifier, meanwhile, is a meaty 37kg, and includes twin toroidal transformers plus four heavy duty bipolar output transistors per channel.

You can connect it using either RCA phono or XLR cables (we used the latter) and it’ll output 150w per channel, rising to 230wpc into 4ohm speakers, such as our reference Monitor Audios. If you need more power than this, we really hope you never move in next door to us…

Formidable in stereo and surround
In action, the good news continues. The AV888’s ability to decode complex mixes and place sounds in their relevant places within the room is little short of uncanny: it steers heavy steering effects expertly, peels back the layers from dense action and sci-fi scores to reveal the vocal textures buried within and, most especially with music, is as lucid and transparent to the rhythms as anything we’ve heard.

The P777 power amplifier, meanwhile, is positively awesome. It bludgeons its way through dynamic peaks, laughs aside the strains of explosions and impacts and yet, when the occasion demands, can render instruments with a natural, realistic touch.

So why only four stars? Simply beacuse some niggles linger – unexpected pops and cracks, an inistent speaker hum – that have no place in kit costing this much. Fix them, and Arcam could be on to a world-beater.

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