Separates? Nah. Arcam AVR850 Proves You Don't Need No Stinkin' Separates.

Top marks for sound quality, no need for separates, claims reviewer Mark Vignola of Reference Home Theater.

When the Arcam AVR850 hit the market last year it reset the bar for what could be accomplished with a top-flight audio video receiver. Now, those of you who know Arcam won't be surprised by this. They have been producing the best sounding AVRs for twenty years. But the AVR850 is special, even amongst such august company. Every cinemaphile and music lover should give this new model a listen. With powerful Class G amplification, Dirac room correction, and 40 years of audio design wrapped up into an elegant single box, it'll have you questioning the need for any multi-box separates solution from those "other guys". $6000 US retail price. Find an Arcam retailer near you. 

Keep reading for excerpts from the review.

The Arcam AVR850 is a refined and high performing AV Receiver – and at $6000, among the most costly available for purchase today. What does one get for that $6000? Easily the best amplifier performance I’ve ever experienced in a dedicated AV receiver, paired with cutting edge Dirac Live room correction. Together, these two attributes mean the AV850 performance rivals many separate processor/amp combinations, with the convenience and footprint of an “all-in-one” AV receiver. While lacking some bells and whistles present in more mainstream receivers, the AVR850 represents an exciting alternative to separates for someone who values sound quality and top notch room correction, with potentially little-to-no compromise in performance.
I am absolutely floored by both the sonic performance of the AVR850, as well as the improvements conveyed by Dirac. This is easily the best sounding AV receiver I have had the pleasure of using.

From an amplification standpoint, the AVR850 performs flawlessly. My current system consists of a pair of KEF Reference 1’s, a KEF Reference 2C and two KEF R100’s as surrounds. The AVR850 runs this system with ease. My first movie experience with the AVR850 was with 2016s Sully. Not only was this a fantastic movie, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is excellent. Beyond the obvious scenes of the actual plane “water landing” (not crash as Capt. Sullenberger reminds us), there are more intimate dialog heavy scenes to help evaluate the AVR850. Everything in the movie just sounds terrific. I never found myself wanting for extra dynamics – the AVR850 clearly has enough reserves to keep up with the swings we see in this movie. Everything is clean and tight.

Arcam AVR850 inside shot

Dirac easily outperforms the Audyssey XT32 / Audyssey Professional combination that I use in my room with a Marantz AV8801. In all regards, Dirac is clearly superior to this system. Everything sounds tighter and cleaner with Dirac. I hope this technology finds its way to more platforms because the results I achieve in my multi-use room are clearly superior to what I have been able to achieve previously.

The Dirac/Class G combination doesn’t just excel on movies but also sounds terrific with music. Whether rock or folks, I am consistently happy with the pairing. I will also note that the AVR850 was quite friendly to less pristine sources. The AVR850 isn’t too clinical sounding and preserved listenability with Spotify Connect (my wife’s listening mode of choice).

Arcam AVR850 rear panel

Who do we think is the right customer for the AVR850? If you are considering separates, but are concerned about the footprint, this is a terrific unit to take a look at. The $6000 you’ll spend on the AVR850 is similar to the cost for many pre-amp/processor combinations, and cheaper than other seven channel Dirac Live combinations. You might end up with more pure watts, but I can’t stress enough how impressed I was the Arcam Class G amplification – and I’m left wondering what system that this unit would struggle to power. It certainly didn’t struggle with my KEF system.

The AVR850 is an impressive AV receiver. The combination of high-end amplification with best-in-class room correction software means the AVR850 is an exceptional sonic performer. If you are interested in peak sonic performance but haven’t wanted to embrace separates, then the AVR850 deserves strong consideration. In use, the unit can be a little quirky, and it lacks some features that are standard in other units, but competent installation via a qualified AV dealer can easily alleviate these issues. The unit is undoubtedly expensive, but we think it is a very interesting option for the right user.
David Carr