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Arcam AVR600 review

It's a flagship multichannel receiver from Arcam, and we think the AVR600 has much to commend it, despite some reliability issues Tested at £3500

Our Verdict

The AVR600 is a consummate performer, but some reliability issues lose it a star

For

  • Comprehensive specification
  • decodes all HD codecs
  • superb with music
  • punchy, detailed, dynamic movie sound

Against

  • Usability issues can be frustrating

Make no bones about it, Arcam is pinning plenty on the AVR600. This AV receiver leads the company's freshly reinvigorated FMJ range and aims to 'represent a tour-de-force of Arcam's design skill and technical prowess'. And retailing at £3500, there's no doubt it needs to deliver.

Initial impressions are certainly favourable, with no holes in the technical specification. It's a 7.1-channel amplifier capable of belting out 120 watts per channel of continuous power as well as decoding all those lovely HD audio codecs.

There are five HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, with complete video upconversion to HDMI. You'll also find a set of 7.1 analogue inputs for DVD-A or SACD.

Elsewhere there are competent AM, FM and DAB receivers, an Ethernet connection, USB input and support for two further zones.

No volume control knob
It's all controlled using a smart, backlit remote control – the attractiveness of the AVR600 itself proved something of a split decision, though the lack of a volume control knob in preference for buttons wasn't popular.

Down to business and the auto-set-up proves a little off kilter in our room but once we sort things out manually it's plain-sailing all the way.

We start with some music and we're blown away listening to 'John Legend - Live at the House of Blues' on Blu-ray.

The PCM 5.1-soundtrack is brought to life; the Arcam successfully conveying the energy and raw sound of live music at the same time as delivering punch, subtlety and rhythm.

It's a similar story with two-channel music – comparable AV amplifiers simply sound lightweight and unrefined.

Fast, powerful and punchy
Dealing so proficiently with music bodes well for movies and sure enough the Arcam gives a fast, powerful and punchy rendition of the thrilling if preposterous car chase scene in Eagle Eye.

The AVR600 partners detail and authority with dynamism and weight, all the while retaining a level of control Peter Crouch could only dream of.

Fargo's more intricate, spacious soundtrack shows the Arcam equally adept when more care and attention is required, shifting surround effects around the room with precision and delivering clear, authoritative dialogue with sufficient sparkle but no hint of edge or brightness.

Too many foibles
However, we do have a quibble. Prolonged use in our test rooms uncovered some inconsistencies – notably occasional issues with varying volume levels.

Longer term testing at home confirmed this. A second unit plus firmware fixes helped matters, but the AVR600 remained a highly strung creature – too many changes (unolugging a source; even changing a channel) could spook it into freezing up.

Amazing as the perfomance is – and when it works, it's wonderful – those foibles lose it a star. This is an AV amp that's simply too fussy to be the stunning all-rounder a five-star product needs to be.

Add the fact that its newer rivals offer stonking specs (though admittedly not that musicality) at a considerably lower price, and the Arcam looks even more niche.

To see more of the Arcam AVR600, watch our video review.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, New York and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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