Home theater preamp/processor with 11.1-channel processing, Dolby Atmos®, and Dirac Live® room correction
Our take on the Arcam AV860 by Crutchfield's Steve Kindig
Arcam's highest-performing pre/pro ever
In my projector-based home theater, an Oppo BDP-105 pulls double duty as both a disc player and digital A/V preamp. It performs quite well, but lately I've been wishing for greater flexibility on the sound side, and a way to add Dolby Atmos® processing. Arcam's AV860 A/V preamp/processor grabbed my attention with its overall focus on sound and powerful Dirac Live® room correction. I've been impressed by every Arcam component I've ever heard, and I can't wait to check out their flagship pre/pro.
For video, the AV860 supports signals up to and including 4K and HDR. But it acts as a switcher only — it doesn't process or upconvert video. That's actually an advantage as far as I'm concerned. You're almost always better off letting your TV or projector handle the video processing. Plus, that means there's less circuitry to draw power and generate noise.
Room-filling sound, precisely placed
Combined with Arcam's legendary engineering, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X can place sound effects with pinpoint accuracy and move them all around you, including overhead. Whether you're listening to music, movies, TV shows, or playing your favorite video games, these 3D sound formats deliver high-impact entertainment.
Incoming digital audio signals first get Arcam's proprietary re-clocking, which reduces timing jitter to nearly unmeasurable levels. That's followed by state-of-the-art, DSP-based processing, and digital-to-analog conversion handled by a Cirrus Logic audiophile-grade DAC.
For sophisticated pre/pros like this one, the analog circuitry is as important as the digital when it comes to sound quality. Arcam has over forty years of analog audio expertise, and the AV860 even uses a fully analog volume control for ultimate clarity. Every circuit is fed by separate high-performance power supplies that ensure stability and maximize sound quality.
Dirac Live room correction can fix the deficiencies of your speakers and room for more accurate sound.
Calibrate your speakers and room with Dirac Live
Equipment makers can choose from a few different room correction technologies. For the AV860, Arcam chose Dirac Live, which is generally considered to be the most powerful and sophisticated system. Once you download the Dirac software to your Windows® or Mac® laptop, and connect the supplied microphone, it should take about 45 minutes to calibrate your room.
Dirac analyzes your room's acoustics by playing signals through each of your speakers and measuring key characteristics like frequency response, phase, and impulse response. You can take measurements from up to nine different positions — the more points you analyze, the better your eventual correction will be.
Next, Dirac crunches the numbers to create a correction curve that allows the AV860 to fine-tune your speakers' output based on your room's unique characteristics. Tuning includes subwoofer(s), too — especially helpful since subs can be tricky to get right. The corrected sound is more realistic and transparent, with tighter bass and reduced room effects.
The before and after measurements are presented in a graph, so you'll not only hear the effects of Dirac's corrections, you'll see them, too.
Music and video in multiple rooms
The flexible AV860 has 11-channel preamp outputs — both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA — and 11 channels of processing, for use with a variety of different amplifiers and speaker configurations. You can set up a 7.1.4-channel Atmos system in your home theater and experience sound more convincing and immersive than you'll hear in most movie theaters.
Two Zone 1 HDMI outputs let you connect a projector and flat-screen TV in the same room — a popular configuration for high-end systems. A separate Zone 2 HDMI output allows you to watch the same video source in your main zone and a second room. Start a movie in your living room and finish it in your bedroom or kitchen.
- Dolby® and DTS® surround sound decoding
- Dolby Atmos® processing for use with in-ceiling or "height" speakers for more enveloping surround sound; supports setups up to 7.1.4
- DTS:X™ for an immersive, 3-dimensional soundstage (will be enabled through a future firmware update)
- IMAX Enhanced certification for improved performance with IMAX Enhanced content (via future firmware update)
- Dirac Live® for Arcam room correction for smooth, well-balanced sound (calibration microphone included)
- Dirac Live software requires a Windows® or Mac® laptop
Digital and Streaming Music Options:
- streaming requires hardwired connection between the receiver and your home network
- includes support for vTuner and Spotify® Connect (subscription required for some services)
- plays high-resolution digital music files via USB storage device or a networked computer
- supports high-resolution playback (PCM files up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution)
- two-room/two-source output
- line-level output for Zone 2
- Zone 2 HDMI output for watching video content from different sources in two rooms simultaneously
- HDMI 2.0a audio/video switching: 7 in, 3 out (including 1 MHL-ready input)
- HDCP 2.2 technology ensures compatibility with 4K Ultra HD sources and TVs (6 in, 3 out)
- HDR-compatible for extended picture contrast and brightness with compatible 4K Ultra HD sources and TVs
- supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision™
- 11.1-channel balanced XLR outputs, including for a single powered subwoofer
- 11.2-channel unbalanced RCA outputs, including for 2 powered subs
- digital audio inputs: 2 Toslink optical and 4 coaxial
- 6 unbalanced stereo RCA audio inputs, plus front-panel 3.5mm minijack input
- no phono input to connect a turntable you'll need to add a phono preamp
- rear-panel USB port for audio playback from USB storage devices
- Ethernet port for a wired network connection
- RS-232, IR in, and 12-volt trigger connections for use with external controllers
- front-panel 3.5mm mini headphone output
- detachable power cord
Audio Performance Features:
- Cirrus Logic CS42528 8-channel (24-bit/192kHz) audiophile digital-to-analog converter for clear sound from stereo and surround sources
- Stereo Direct mode switches off all surround processing and DSP circuits for best stereo sound quality
- 4K/60p and 3D video pass-through
- free Arcam MusicLife UPnP and control app lets you use your iOS® device as a wireless remote
- built-in FM tuner with 50 presets
- backlit universal learning remote control
- designed in the UK
- 17"W x 6-3/4"H x 16-3/4"D
- weight: 22.6 lbs.
- warranty: 5 years
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee