Arcam FMJ SR250 stereo A/V receiver A Fly in the Ointment?

Sidebar 1: A Fly in the Ointment?

I decided to use the same music files to compare the sound of the Arcam FMJ SR250 with Dirac Live room correction to the Dirac Live filtering in my server. It was a fair fight, as long as I set the server to downsample to 24/96 and used the same target curves for both implementations. In this face-off, the Dirac Suite on my server seemed marginally but consistently more successful than did the Arcam implementation. Yeah, the microphone positions couldn't possibly have been exactly the same, but the purpose of the multiple positions is to create a statistically representative sample. The two sets of Dirac graphs looked quite similar, except for the region below 100Hz. Even there, I could find no meaningful differences.

Via my server, Dirac Live's filters are applied to the main speakers and subs after application of bass management—but Arcam puts Dirac Live measurements and correction into the signal-processing path before the application of bass management. I came across a similar arrangement in miniDSP's original nanoAVR 8x8, where, as I said in this column in the November 2014 issue, it "meant that the bass being rerouted from each of the main channels was equalized as if it were being reproduced by that speaker. In fact, after the subsequent bass management, it was actually being reproduced by a subwoofer—a quite different speaker in a different position in the room. As a result, the wrong filters were imposed on all the rerouted bass, and that compromised the success of the entire EQ effort."

Arcam told me that their arrangement can work as well as or better than the standard arrangement if all measurements are made with proper bass management in place. I agree, in theory, but there's nothing in the FMJ SR250's manual or in their notes for the Dirac Live app that tells you how to do this. In fact, when I tried to do it on my own, I found that, even when I turned on bass management before taking measurements, the test signals for the main channels did not affect the subs or change the results.

For me, this was a teeny-tiny issue. Had I not had the opportunity to compare it with my other implementation of Dirac Live, and had I not stumbled on a discussion of this matter online, I would not have criticized the sound I got from the FMJ SR250. Arcam is aware of all this, and is preparing a software update that is now in Beta testing (footnote 1).—Kalman Rubinson

Footnote 1: Now that I've finished this review, packed up the FMJ SR250, and sent it on to be measured by John Atkinson, I see that, to resolve these issues, Arcam has released new software for both the SR250 and Dirac Live (v.4.17). Apparently, Dirac Live processing still precedes bass management, but the measurement configuration should account for that.
US distributor: The Sound Organisation
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hnickm's picture

"Stereophile seldom reviews A/V receivers."
Is that because they aren't esoteric enough or not expensive enough for the audiophile cache?

JoeinNC's picture

I imagine that's much of it, yeah. Also, maybe they're too convenient, there are more than a handful of boutique dealers/sources for them, and they mean less opportunity for outboard DACs, uber-expensive interconnects. Oh, and you don't get to explain them to your friends and guests.

Anon2's picture

We should see how A/V receivers stack up. Why aren't more A/V receivers being reviewed from time to time? Does one have to cost more than one (two or three in cheaper communities) times of total monthly expenses of many people for it to be tested here?

I know there are time and budget constraints. I know you can't test everything. But then, what's the impediment? Many readers of this publication own A/V receivers; perhaps that's all they will ever own. Might it not be "revelatory" (an audiophile reserved word for components costing tens of thousands) to see how an A/V receiver stacks up, especially against integrateds.

I have a Marantz SR4023. It has an EI transformer, folded fins of stainless steel for heatsinks, a sheet metal exterior, non-Hemi V8 capacitors. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with the way it sounds; there's much less wrong with how it effortlessly drives my speakers from two brands. Indeed, per manufacturer's specifications, it's 4ohm rated at 100watts (continuous) per channel. I've seen lighter weight integrateds getting testing in this publication. I doubt that a venerable manufacturer like Marantz would trump-up these numbers.

I'm not an expert on measurements, but I've gotten a grounding in the basics from those in this publication (thank you, JA). If you scrounge around on the internet, there are measurements for A/V receivers out there; they are less comprehensive than those here, but they are out there nonetheless.

Yes, I'd agree with what the last writer posited. What's there to hide with putting an A/V receiver, even an older one, on the test bench? After all, we had an article this month about rehabbing a speaker that was around before many of us were born.

Are the "better" component makers worried that people might find out that, with proper speaker placement, good digital sources, good recordings, a receiver (with comparably budget-minded speakers) might make people question the thousands of dollars (that we don't have) to buy something "better" for multiples of what an A/V or stereo receiver might cost?

I accuse none of subterfuge, but we should ask the question.

Patrick Butler's picture

A hint as to why "Stereophile seldom reviews A/V receivers"- it's in the name of the publication.

John Atkinson's picture
Patrick Butler wrote:
A hint as to why "Stereophile seldom reviews A/V receivers"- it's in the name of the publication.

We have a sister publication that reviews A/V receivers - and all kinds of home theater products - Sound & Vision magazine.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Jeff Davis's picture

Oh, I don't think something necessarily has to be expensive for them to review it. I got my Outlaw RR2160 stereo receiver based upon their review of it. It proved helpful, since I couldn't audition an Internet-only (no showrooms) piece like the Outlaw myself. BTW - They were right in saying it was as good as it gets for the price.

Johan Bottema's picture

I use a NAD receiver and 4 KEF speakers XQ20 ans XQ10 and a subwoofer. The UniQ drivers are the best in terms of imaging and using the NAD settings for 4 point stereo with careful tuning of distance/delay, attenuation and adjustment of subwoofer XO frequency results in true High End sound. I find it ridiculous to have only 2 speakers because it is missing a trick. Sounds is coming from all sides people!

HammerSandwich's picture

The downward slope of the trace in fig.4 indicates that actual distortion lies below the noise floor; the broken curve in fig.5 suggests that it reveals the effect of the class-G voltage-rail switching. I don't know why this wasn't apparent in the 8 ohm graph.

There's less distortion at 8 ohms, so it's obscured by noise, right?

Also, figures 6 & 7 are flipped.

John Atkinson's picture
HammerSandwich wrote:
figures 6 & 7 are flipped.


John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Shangri-La's picture

In a new product review, can you include where it's ranked on Stereophile recommended component list (Class A/B/etc) if it makes it to the list? The reason the recommended list is so great is that consumers can compare different products in widely different price ranges. An individual product review is great and all but without knowing how it compares to its peers the review is less helpful than it otherwise could have been.

The recommended component list is updated every 6 months. If you can include where the reviewed product is on the list, it would help consumers a lot making informed audition/purchase, without waiting for 6 months.

Kal Rubinson's picture

It generally is not possible to include the rating in a review because the voting only takes place twice a year in preparation for. Recommended Components issues.

findcount's picture

USD3600 for this receiver ??!!.......just look at the internals......LOL

Arcam should rename itself as......ArCON.....or......ArSCAM....LOL

johnnythunder's picture

The comments sections on the major audio magazine sites are just loaded with the worst kind of cynics, snarks and opinionated types. Your comment could have been constructive and may have deserved a response from the reviewer. But in this case, a surface judgement with insults based on a photograph is a little beneath the response level.

findcount's picture

yes.....on hindsight, you're right........i should just ask people to stay as far away from this product as possible.........

Glotz's picture

YOU should stay away as far as possible, as I presume you have no one to 'ask' to stay away from a product such as this.

Write your own publication if you don't like the prices or coverage or blah blah blah..

You haven't even heard, seen or touched the product... I am sure every one will ignore you anyways, as what substantive opinion about this product do you have??


justinfaulkner's picture

At least to me, this sounds like a very similar product to the Classe Sigma 2200i integrated amplifier you guys reviewed 2 months ago. It would be interesting to compare the two products (and similar ones) by feature and sound.

SpecialAero's picture

I connect the arcam with a rotel rdd dac always I get a pcm input signal. I wanted to sell the dac but the sound gets hearable better if I connect it instead of the arcam sr250 digital inputs.

The remote is not annoying me. Its a programmable remote.