ARCAM AV40 home theatre processor test

What is Arcam AV40?

The Arcam AV40 is the British audio manufacturer’s latest high-end AV processor, boasting 16 channels of surround sound processing using the latest codecs, as well as Dirac Live 16-channel room optimisation. The new processor is part of the entry-level AVR10, mid-range AVR20 and AVR30 AV receiver series. As you would expect from a multichannel product line, the AV40 is capable of decoding Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, IMAX Enhanced and Auro-3D formats, but there is currently no option to decode DTS:X Pro format.
The latest version of Dirac Live 3.0 room correction software is also available, including support for the optional Bass Management add-on. Other multichannel formats are also supported, such as Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Digital; as well as DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete/Matrix, DTS 96/24, DTS 5.1 and DTS Virtual:X.
The AV40 is capable of handling 4K/60p 4:4:4 signals with HDR format support, including HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.

There are seven HDMI 2.0b inputs and three outputs on the rear panel. The only disappointment was the lack of HDMI 2.1 inputs and features, although the AV40 can handle eARC so this isn’t a big problem, but for a new market
for a new product, the lack of modern gaming features on HDMI 2.1 may discourage many users from buying the product.

Main product features

Arcam-AV40-receiver-review

Dolby Atmos, Auro-3D, IMAX Enhanced & DTS:X 9.1.6 decoding 4K (UHD) HDMI2.0b with HDCP2.2 support

  • 7 HDMI inputs, 3 HDMI outputs, eARC compatibility
  • Dirac Live® for Arcam room acoustics correction
  • ESS 9026PRO audiophile DAC
  • 16-channel professional XLR outputs
  • 16 channel RCA outputs
  • Can be paired with any PA240, PA720 or PA410 power amplifier
  • Ethernet, Wi-Fi, RS232 and IP-based control
  • Google Cast/UPnP compatibility for accessing music providers
  • Bluetooth
  • Free MusicLife iOS and Android UPnP and control app

Design, connections

The look is simple and minimalist, not really different from other Arcam amplifiers. The front panel features two 3.5mm jack headphone and aux inputs and a high quality brushed silver volume knob. The large, easy-to-read colour display has all the other menu and control buttons, as well as the power button. On the dark grey housing are the controls and the
buttons are silver, so there is a noticeable difference between each of them.
The top and sides of the amplifier are made of solid aluminium with no ventilation holes (the AVRs -k have top-side ventilation holes to allow cooling of the amplifiers), the build quality is excellent, with expensive and high quality components used in the manufacture. The connections are located on the rear side.
The rear panel is logically arranged, with 7 HDMI 2.0b inputs and 3 outputs on top. It also has two Wi-Fi and one Bluetooth antenna, as well as LAN and USB ports. The amplifier is also equipped with 6 RCA audio inputs, lineout and zone out, as well as four coaxial digital audio inputs, two optical digital audio inputs and one optical digital audio output. Two zone outputs and an RS-232 control port were also discovered on the processor.

All the HDMI inputs and outputs are HDMI 2.0b, not HDMI 2.1, which is a bit odd for a new processor that we think will still be a new device in the next 4-5 years. Arcam hasn’t promised any updates to HDMI 2.1, so if you’re looking for a newer gaming console, this processor probably won’t be the best choice. The eARC feature may help solve most problems that occur, but it won’t solve the problem for gamers.

The HDMI ports support HDCP 2.2 and 4K 4:4:4 60p video with HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR formats.

The included large, plastic remote control has well-placed buttons and a stylish design to match the processor’s exterior, and is also backlit for use in dedicated cinema rooms. We found that using the remote control was not always smooth, as there were times when the remote did not work at all when turning on the processor or making settings.
If you want to use a mobile phone or tablet to control the AV40, you can use the Arcam Control app, which gives you access to the processor and zone settings, or you can choose to use the MusicLife app. Again, using these apps has been smooth for the most part, but a few problems have arisen from time to time when we have been unable to communicate or locate the AV processor on the network. Control and settings on a laptop
or a computer, and of course the processor can also use the menu system on the display.

Arcam AV40 testing

The testing was carried out in a small cinema room where the owner had already started acoustic treatment of the room following acoustic measurements carried out by our company. The walls and ceiling were covered with deep sound absorbing membrane panels and diffuser front panels. Some wooden diffusers will also be needed for a more even sound, as well as acoustic curtains in front of the windows. Installation of the Arcam AV40 is easy and does not require much effort. We’ve paired the AV40 with
Arcam PA720 seven-channel amplifier. We tested the amp with Klipsch Forte III speakers and Polk Audio PSW10 subwoofers.
The Dirac Live software comes with a microphone and cable, but you’ll definitely need to download the EQ filter file for the microphone from the Arcam, and you can also download the Harman filters.

Arcam performance has always been stable and adequate. The AV40 produced accurate and impressive performances of everything from electronic classical orchestral music to classic pop and rock. Thanks to the precise filtering by Dirac, a truly optimal sound was achieved. To get the perfect sound, equalizer room correction programs are not enough. The acoustics of a room can have a significant impact on the sound of audio and hi-fi equipment.But the Arcam AV40 didn’t just perform well in the music arena. Movies and TV shows sounded great too, with excellent surround sound, dynamics and detail. The AV40 can create a large and expansive soundscape that fills the room. We experienced no distortion We heard a powerful, expansive midrange and intense bass.As both a two-channel and multichannel device, it delivered an impressive, accurate, crisp, detailed and nuanced product without any distortion.

Conclusion

The AV40 delivers symmetrical XLR outputs for all channels, providing the highest level of analogue connectivity to power amplifiers.The listening experience is optimised with full 16-channel Dirac calibration, phone control and support for AirPlay2 or Google Chromecast. Rich, powerful, clear sounds are possible with this
amplifier. It fills the room and performs brilliantly in the music and movie arenas.
What I didn’t like so much was the lack of HDMI 2.1 input and DTS:X Pro, not a big plus for those using a games console. The remote control didn’t always work properly, but it does have a backlight. But apart from these minor shortcomings, Arcam’s amp should be an ideal buy for anyone.

Written by Róbert Polgár