Arcam AVR850: REVIEW | Secrets of Home Theater

The first review of Arcam's flagship AVR850 receiver, and it's a doozy...

 Arcam of Cambridge: PREVIEW: AVR850 Dolby Atmos 7.1 Channel Receiver. Hugely powerul Class G Amplification. Word-class 4K AV performance and the unprecedented ability in this field to play music properly.

Blending understated aesthetics with world-class performance and hot new tech, the Arcam AVR850 is a serious contender for the best audio video receiver ever built. It features technologies mastered by Arcam over the last 40 years, and adds some new tricks to its bag. Class G amplifiers ensure masterful control of even the most difficult speakers. Dirac Live offers up best in class DSP room correction, taming even the most challenging listening spaces. De-jittering circuits lead to vanishing low distortion on all digital sources, even HDMI. And a true, honest to goodness, real deal resistive ladder volume control means that the sound is always right, no matter the setting. Add in all the necessary connectors, including HDMI2.0a w/ HDCP2.2 and True 4K60/HDR, you'll always have room to hookup more gear.

Whether you are enjoying the latest thriller in immersive Dolby Atmos surround, or stretching out with a glass of single malt and spinning the newest tunes, the Arcam AVR850 delivers the very best sound and picture. Period. $6000 US retail from a cheerful Arcam retailer near you.

Keeping reading to find out what Secret's of Home Theater has to say, or click here to find a local dealer.

The Arcam AVR850 stands out as one of the best sounding receivers that I have ever had in my system.
It is compatible with the latest audio and video formats while it includes one of the best room correction packages on the market. The built-in amplification provides plenty of power for most any system. The independent bench tests I conducted indicated that the unit was very conservatively rated and the distortion profiles are incredibly good for a surround receiver. All this adds up to excellent performance with surround sources as well as with two-channel music!
 Arcam of Cambridge: AVR850 Dolby Atmos 7.1 Channel Receiver. Hugely powerul Class-G amp. Word-class 4K AV performance, DIRAC Room Correction and the unprecedented ability in this field to play music properly
Another major benefit of the AVR850 is that it comes complete with Dirac Live room correction. Dirac Live is a high end room correction system that not only corrects for proper frequency balance but it also manages to correct certain impulse response anomalies. The Arcam AVR850 is the second product I have tested that has Dirac Live and Dirac has proven to be in the same class as Anthem’s “Anthem Room Correction (ARC)” system.
The set up for Dirac Live is very similar to the way you set up a system with many of the other high end room correction packages. The unit comes with a USB soundcard and analog mic that you connect to a laptop on which you have downloaded the Dirac Live for Arcam software. You then connect the receiver to the same network via its Ethernet connection. The laptop and receiver need to be on the same network. Once all the connections were made, I launched the software on the laptop and was pleased with how simple and straight forward the calibration process was.
The AVR850 delivered a scintillating performance throughout this scene. The growl of the engines was very satisfying for sure. The engine noises were fleshy but realistic sounding – the Arcam passing these effects just the way they were intended; strongly, powerfully and with vanishingly low distortion.
The AVR850 also offered up a clean presentation with lots of space between individual sounds. In many ways, it brought me very close to what I heard in the Datasat RS20i which is a product that costs over $25,000 and has no included amplification. I would estimate that on a movie like Genisys, the AVR850 provided over 90% of what was heard with the incredible Datasat in the system. The Arcam simply is that good.
So the movie watching was pretty awesome with the AVR850 in my system. A lot of surround receivers do well with movies but fall woefully short on music. But this is not the case with Arcam’s AVR850. I found its ability for musical playback to rival many of the best 2-channel receivers I have heard....the AVR850 let this work shine unlike anything I would have ever expected from a surround receiver. The sound is warm and rich which was truthfully conveyed via the Arcam’s excellent response characteristics in the mid bass. Also, the singers’ voices were uncannily real and let me feel I was right there enjoying this amazing performance side by side with the audience.
One more point – the unit makes it easy to toggle the Dirac Live on and off. When I would turn it off while listening to vinyl, the soundstage collapsed dramatically. When on, the Dirac spread the stage as wide as possible and opened up the top end in a way that I cannot fully explain with just words. It is something you must experience for yourself.
When it came to vinyl, the Arcam once again impressed with an incredible performance. One record I enjoyed was Ryan Adams “Heartbreaker” special anniversary edition on vinyl. Listening to this record proved to be a major high point in my review of the AVR850. Despite all the nice things I’ve said about this receiver heretofore, this proved to be a major high point so not sure how to describe what I heard other than to say it was singularly the very best reproduction of a 2-channel source than I have ever heard from a surround receiver.
 Arcam of Cambridge: AVR550 Dolby Atmos 7.1 Channel Receiver. Massively powerul amplification. Word-class 4K AV performance, DIRAC Room Correction and the unprecedented ability in this field to play music properly
Let me break it down a little more. The AVR850 is on the cutting edge of today’s technology with the most up to date audio processing available for the consumer market. It also has Dirac Live, one of my favorite room correction systems out there. It has an easy to follow, script-based set up routine that virtually anybody can successfully implement. It has robust and clean sounding amplifiers on board. I never had one single reliability issue with the unit throughout a very long evaluation period. Lastly, the AVR850 is very well put together and I see no reason why it wouldn’t be a reliable performer year after year.
Some may think the price of the AVR850 is a little high and I get that. There are a lot of cheaper receivers on the market that, on paper, may seem to offer better value. But I can attest through my hands-on experience with the AVR850, there are substantial benefits that the Arcam has over the competition. It reminds me of the old adage, “You get what you pay for”... When you buy an Arcam AVR850, you get the best circuit designs, the best componentry and the best build quality available in any mainstream receiver. You owe it to yourself to give the AVR850 receiver a try before you invest in a new receiver.