Anthem's lineup of similar AVM processors has been covered in these pages before, most recently in October 2006 with a report on the still-current (though updated) AVM 50 (the review is available on our Web site). So I'll simply state that the D2's sound quality in all its modes - stereo, Dolby, DTS, and Anthem's own Anthem Logic surround-from-2-channel - is Grade A high-end, soup to nuts. This is as good as it gets, from a preamplifier that also doubles as a very capable video processor and an insanely flexible A/V control center.
On the whole, the ARC-1 room-correction system worked very well. It can be engaged individually by input, so that, for instance, it turns on automatically when you're listening to a DVD or CD but not to an LP. As mentioned, the effects in my room were subtle but clear. Voices were distinctly better defined and a bit less warm (this was especially evident on male vocals), and both the high mids and low treble sounded smoother, making elements like dense orchestral strings both less overtly bright and more open, airy, and detailed. The impact seemed impressively consistent over a wide range of listening positions in my setup about 10 feet from the plane of the front speakers. All in all, ARC is a keeper; in my long-term setup, I believe I'd leave it turned on all the time.
On the video side, the D2 can upscale any incoming NTSC (or PAL) format from 480i right up to 1080i and 1080p/24 or 1080p/60, with results that were very impressive. For example, I viewed the first 20 minutes or so of Master and Commander - a torture test for fine picture and shadow detail and for subtle color gradations - from my Oppo DV-980H upscaling DVD player, one of the few sources capable of serving up 480i over HDMI. (This required the D2 to do all the heavy lifting for video.) The images were simply the best I've seen them on my TV, with no trace of the banding, or "false contouring," effects that these foggy scenes induce from every lesser processor I've tried. They also displayed jump-up-and-cheer consistency in noise reduction, deep-shadow detail, and color accuracy.
Despite all this praise, I have to point out that the Anthem is an HDMI 1.1 design, which means that it can't pass Deep Color (not exactly an issue with current video software) or be upgraded to decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreams. That said, it does upsample to 192/24 all incoming PCM digital audio, such as the 5.1-channel tracks that arrived via HDMI from the above mentioned Oppo. On a great recording like Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's Telarc SACD featuring Stravinsky's Petrouchka and the Firebird Suite, the hall sound and stage detail on Scherzo à la Russe were stunning - indistinguishable from the player-decoded DSD coming out of the Oppo's multichannel analog audio outputs.
The Anthem's powerfully flexible design also makes it difficult to configure. Yet its programmability allows a tech-savvy (and patient) owner or custom installer to set up a given system for just-press-play usability, with no sacrifice in its potential performance. Many buyers of a $7,500 processor will likely be using a fancy touchscreen remote or similar custom controller. Nevertheless, the Anthem's multicomponent, hard-button remote, while distinctly old-fashioned, does the job quite adequately. And in a nice touch, the D2 comes with two such remotes, for main and remote rooms (or more likely in my case, to keep as a spare in case I lose the first).
It's true that for the cost of the Statement D2 and a suitable amplifier, you could buy a flagship-model A/V receiver, appropriate speakers, and a 50-inch flat-panel TV and Blu-ray player - with something left over to start that Blu-ray Disc collection. But leaving money aside (and don't we all just wish we could?), the D2 is one of the all-around best A/V products I've evaluated across more years of doing this than I care to admit to. The day when Anthem's representatives show up to retrieve it will be a very sad one here at S&V's subpolar satellite lab. And they'd better be carrying sidearms when they do.
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