Arcam AVR30 AV receiver review Page 2

With the Arcam running a 5.1.2-channel config at first, I popped in my trusty House of Flying Daggers Blu-ray. With the 'drum dance' sequence, the AVR30's soundstage felt incredibly tight, with exquisite timing.

All good, but it was time to get serious. This was my first opportunity to run a 9.2.6 setup in my theatre, and I was keen to discover if those extra speakers would actually make a noticeable difference.

As soon as I selected the Amaze trailer on Dolby's Atmos demo disc I had my answer, and it was a resounding yes. This object-based mix is designed to showcase the strengths of the format, and from bees buzzing around behind me to the bird that flies across the room, it proved deliciously immersive. Thunder rumbled overhead, and rain lashed down all around in a soundfield that was articulate and utterly believable, the Arcam AVR painting a sonic picture rather than simply throwing effects around. And the deep bass of the thunder was weighty and controlled, underscoring the rest of the system rather than swamping it.

Emboldened by this, I reached for Unbroken (Blu-ray), a film with remarkable sound design. I've watched the opening bombing run on numerous systems, and it was spot on here; an exercise in skill and precision from the sound of the propellor engines moving overhead, to the wind whistling around the crews in their rickety bombers.

And 16 channels results in a horizon-wide soundstage with dramatic sense of three-dimensional space. As the US bombers approached their target, flak ripped through the air and the AVR30 pinpointed each explosion, while the subs gave them an added kick. There was an equally rewarding sub-sonic rumble as the bombs hit their target. The Japanese Zero attack was a maelstrom of front-to-back and side-to-side effects steering.

It was a similar experience with the Atmos mix for Midway (4K Blu-ray). Planes swarm the soundfield during the titular battle, and the addition of further overhead and front wide speakers allowed the receiver to pan effects from channel to channel without missing a beat. It called to mind the performance of Lyngdorf's MP-60 processor [see HCC #311], and that costs three times as much.


The addition of Auro-3D to the Arcam playbook won't matter to most buyers, as the sound format utilises a different speaker layout to the 3D sound norm, and available native content is minimal. I still gave my Pixels Blu-ray a whirl, to check decoding, and it sounded sublime, even through my Atmos setup. The Caterpillar videogame fight scene makes frequent use of Auro-3D's top layer, and sounds often emanated from above, swirling around the room as alien attackers were blasted out of the sky.

Bad Boys for Life (UHD BD) has an IMAX Enhanced DTS:X soundtrack, and the AVR30 detected the correct audio format and got on with wowing me with yet another all-encompassing sonic experience. The soundstage is big and bold, the music suitably funky and the object-based mix is an amped-up paean to ballistic destruction.

This is an amp that's poised and precise, but doesn't mind getting its hands dirty. Adrenaline-junkies will be delighted. In the film's final shoot-out, which takes place in an abandoned hotel lobby circled by a staircase, gunfire blasted overhead, explosions echoed up the walls and as the stained-glass roof shattered, shards rained down from above. It was totally immersive and undeniably exciting.

Multichannel Magic
The AVR30 takes the AV receiver concept to the next level with a 16-channel processing performance that gives far costlier systems a run for their money. It might 'only' have seven channels of amplification, but its Class G power delivers the goods. Add the extra amps necessary to run a full 16-channel layout, and use Dirac to lock everything into place, and the results are simply spellbinding. The lack of HDMI 2.1 is disappointing for a high-end receiver with a five-year life-cycle, and there's no DTS:X Pro support, but otherwise this is hard to fault and an appealing upgrade on the FMJ range.

HCC Verdict

Arcam AVR30

Price: £5,000

We say: Seven channels of Class G amplification combined with 16 channels of processing results in a superior AVR; add eight more channels and you've got an insanely immersive system.

Overall: 5/5


Dolby Atmos: Yes
DTS:X: Yes
Multichannel input: No
Multichannel pre-out: Yes. 15-channel
Multichannel output (claimed): 7 x 100W (into 8 ohms)
Multiroom: Yes. Second AV zone
AV inputs: 7 x digital audio (3 x optical and 4 x coaxial); 6 x analogue stereo
HDMI: Yes. 7 x inputs; 3 x outputs
Video upscaling: No
Dimensions: 433(w) x 171(h) 425(d)mm
Weight: 18.1kg

Features: Class G amplifier; Auro-3D support; 2 x 8ch ESS 9026PRO DACs; built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; Chromecast and AirPlay 2 support; web-based setup and control; Dirac Live room correction; FM/DAB tuner; calibrated microphone; IR input; 12V trigger; Ethernet; USB port; RS232 serial connector; MusicLife iOS UPnP and control app; HDMI 2.0b; HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision passthrough