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Nakamichi AV-10Nakamichi AV-10 A/V Receiver

Great Sound in a Flexible Package

It may not be the prettiest component around, but Nakamichi's AV-10 receiver is lovely in ways other than skin deep. It's a terrific performer that offers great sound, all-in-one convenience, and Nakamichi's reputation for quality.

While audio purists may laugh at receivers as "compromises in a box," receivers are the easiest, most flexible, and most affordable way to achieve good sound in a modest package, and most ordinary consumers will be perfectly happy to live with such a compromise.

Especially if they spend a little extra for a receiver that's a little higher end than average - like this Nakamichi.

The AV-10 is Nakamichi's top of the line receiver, and it won't ask you to compromise very much. It's positively bristling with features, including Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel decoding capability (and, naturally, Pro-Logic as well), enough I/O's to choke a horse, and an almost "no brainer" setup that'll have you up and running in practically no time.

About the only downside is a poorly designed remote control that has tiny little buttons and even tinier labels that are hard to read in a darkened room - and a couple of other minor criticisms we'll mention later..

On the upside, which is substantial, you get a continuous 100 watts x 5 in surround mode, 120 watts in stereo, with 20 amp peak current (complete manufacturer's specs are listed below). What this means is that the AV-10 has enough "oomph" (and quality oomph at that) to drive the majority of mainstream home theaters.

Overall sound quality of the AV-10 is terrific, for the price, and listening to it is a very pleasurable experience indeed - one we'll miss. It's clean and natural, and never shrill or muddy unless the source material was (in which case you can't blame the messenger!).

Nakamichi uses "advanced 24-bit digital signal processing" and "highly linear 20-bit digital to analog converters", which helps ensure that what goes in as signal comes out again as sound. And it does: from subtle strings and gentle breezes to crashing timpani and exploding spaceships, the AV-10 does a really nice job.

Nakamichi says its power amplifiers use the company's "Harmonic Time Alignment (HTA) technology," (a method it says maintains the correct timing relationship between a signal and its distortion components) to achieve natural, "untiring" musical reproduction. We don't know about that technical stuff, but will attest to the "untiring" aspect: our ears never tired of listening to music or watching movies played through this unit.

The AV-10 also uses "discrete components" in its amplifier section, as opposed to an "all-in-one" approach that may be cheaper to build but which can also be "cheaper" to hear. The best amplification comes from so-called "mono blocks" (separate mono amplifiers, one for each channel of sound - in this case five), so Nakamichi's approach makes sonic sense - and explains why this receiver costs more than most (though, to be fair, it also costs less than some).

We used a DVD player for the most part to provide the AV-10 with its audio and video signals, using three of its four audio input methods (conventional analog stereo RCA patch cords, as well as coaxial and optical digital inputs).

We don't know if it was the combination of digital output from the DVD player and the digital input of the AV-10, but we noticed that on some audio compact discs, the first half second or so of the first note played would be cut off. If you pressed "Stop" and started again it was fine. Analog input signals were fine as well - we only noticed the problem with the digital input, and only on some discs. When it happened, it was annoying - but it didn't happen on the majority of discs.

We tried the same discs on other players and with other receivers, and the problem only exhibited itself on the AV-10. It was strange and disconcerting, but not enough to cool our love for the Nakamichi much.

Getting back to the abundance of I/O's, you can also hook in S-Video or composite video outputs, and operating them is quite easy. You merely choose the digital input via the remote control, scrolling through the choices via the receiver's front panel display; in all, setup is easy and once you've done it the AV-10 automatically senses the type of signal coming in (Dolby Digital, DTS, Pro-Logic) and adjusts itself accordingly - though it didn't do as good a job of sensing Dolby Pro-Logic signals coming from our satellite system as another receiver we tried.

But, again, one doesn't buy the AV-10 for its bells and whistles; you buy it for its sound.

The remote, while being the weakest link of the AV-10, is thoughtfully of the "learning" variety, and programming it to accept your other components' signals is easy and quick - with the "point and teach" method in which you input the signal from another remote into the Nakamichi's, and it memorizes whatever code you're using. This isn't as easy and quick as some other remotes, in which you merely punch in a code, but it works - and you generally only have to do it once.

We'd prefer to see a backlit remote - especially an LCD-based one - but would rather live with this rather chintzy design than give up the outstanding audio of the AV-10. And, to be fair, such an LCD remote would definitely add to the price.

The AV-10's reproduction of digital surround was outstanding, with sounds placed accurately around the room and excellent "discrimination" from channel to channel. Nakamichi's Dolby Pro-Logic circuitry is enhanced ("ambient synthesis") as well so, while it ain't digital stereo surround, it's still very good - and you get "natural" and "hall" modes that let you "tweak" the sound to your taste (or room). Again, there aren't as many digital toys - like innumerable synthesized surround modes - as on some more mainstream components, but chances are you won't miss them.

The Tuner section includes 30 AM/FM radio station presets (probably more than you'll ever need), and performs well. The AV-10 also comes with heavy duty binding post speaker terminals that accept "banana plugs" or conventional wire, and a System Remote interface for operating Nakamichi CD players and cassette decks from the AV-10's remote control.

About the only thing the AV-10, with its abundance of inputs and outputs, doesn't handle is the old fashioned turntable (remember them?). This may be a small oversight - and if you're going to dump one feature this is probably the one to dump - but we were disappointed that it wasn't there, especially in a component that prides itself on its higher end audio capabilites.

So if you're pining for a way to play your old records one more time, if only to burn them onto CD, forget it.

That, the remote, and few other quibbles aside, we give the Nakamichi AV-10 top marks as a relatively affordable way to get excellent sound quality - and isn't that what it's really all about? Add to that the convenience of having an audio/video surround sound receiver with little fuss and a small learning curve, andyou'll see why we recommend the AV-10 highly.

And miss it already...

Nakamichi AV-10 Audio/Video Receiver
MANUFACTUER'S SPECIFICATIONS:

Control Amplifier Section
Analog Audio Section Inputs: 7 (DVD,CD, Aux, Tape, Video, VCR 1, VCR 2)
Recording Outputs: 3 (Tape, VCR 1, VCR 2)
Output: Pre out: 6 channels (Front L/R, Center, Rear L/R, Subwoofer)
Input Sensitivity/Impedance: 150 mV/47 kohms
Rated Output Level/Impedance
Pre output: 1 V/1 kohm
Recording Output: 150 mV/1 kohm
Subwoofer Output: 1 V/1 kohm
Total Harmonic Distortion: Less than 0.01% (20 - 20,000 Hz)
Frequency Response: 10 - 50,000 Hz +0, -3 dB
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: Better than 80 dB (A-WTD, input shorted)
Channel Separation: Better than 60 dB (1 kHz, input shorted)
Tone Controls Bass/Treble: 20 Hz ± 10 dB/20 kHz ± 10 dB Loudness: 20 Hz + 10 dB, 20 kHz + 6 dB
Digital Audio Section
Inputs: Optical: 2 (Optical 1/Optical 2) Coaxial: 2 (Coaxial 1/Coaxial 2)
Digital Signal Supported Format: DTS/AC-3/PCM Quantization: 16-bit/20-bit/24-bit Sampling Frequency: 32 kHz/44.1 kHz/48 kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion: Less than 0.005% (1 kHz, at 0 dB)
Frequency Response: 10 - 20,000 Hz +0, -0.5 dB
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: Better than 90 dB
Dynamic Range: 95 dB
Channel Separation: Better than 90 dB
Video Section
Inputs: Composite video: 4 (DVD, Video, VCR 1, VCR 2), Coaxial S-Video (Y/C) : 4 (DVD, Video, VCR1, VCR2), S-Video jack
Outputs: Composite video: 3 (VCR 1, VCR 2, Monitor), S-Video (Y/C): 3 (VCR 1, VCR 2, Monitor)
Video Signal Level/Impedance: Composite video: 1 Vp-p/75 ohms S-Video: 1 Vp-p/75 ohms (Y-Signal) 0.286 Vp-p/75 ohms (C-Signal)
Frequency Response: Composite video: 5 Hz - 10 MHz +0, -3 dB S-Video: 5 Hz - 10 MHz +0, -3 dB
Surround Section
Surround Mode: 5 (DTS, Dolby Digital, Pro Logic, Natural, Hall)
Speaker / Subwoofer Mode Settings and Signal Characteristics
Front L/R Channels Speaker Mode: Large: Full range signal Small: High pass filter active (fc: 80 Hz, 12 dB/oct)
Center, Rear L/R Channels Speaker Mode: Large: Full range signal Small: High pass filter active (fc: 80 Hz, 12 dB/oct)
None: No center speaker
Subwoofer Channel SW Mode: Yes: Low pass filter active (fc: 80 Hz, 12 dB/oct) + LFE signal (DTS/Dolby Digital) No: No subwoofer Channel Level Calibration Range Center: -10 to +10 dB Rear L/R: -10 to +10 dB Subwoofer: -10 to +10 dB Delay Time Calibration Range Center: 0 to +5 ms (DTS/Dolby Digital/Pro Logic) Rear L/R: 0 to +15 ms (DTS/ Dolby Digital/Natural/Hall) +15 to +30 ms (Pro Logic)
Power Amplifier Section
Continuous Sine Wave Power Output Stereo: 120W x 2 (8 ohms, two channels driven, 20 - 20,000 Hz, 0.1% THD)
Surround: 100W x 5 (8 ohms, five channels driven, 20 - 20,000 Hz, 0.1% THD)
Dynamic Output Power: 150W x 5 (8 ohms, five channels driven)
Power Bandwidth: 10 - 40,000 Hz (Half rated power, 0.1% THD)
Total Harmonic Distortion: Less than 0.1% (Rated power, 20 - 20,000 Hz)
Intermodulation Distortion: Less than 0.1% (Rated Power, 60 Hz: 7 kHz, 4:1)
Output Current Capability: 20 A Peak (Per channel, two channels driven)
Tuner Section
FM Section (All RF levels in microvolts given re 75-ohm antenna input. Modulation: Mono 100%, Stereo Pilot: 10%, Stereo Audio Signal: 90%)
Frequency Range U.S.A./Canada: 87.5 - 107.9 MHz in 200-kHz steps Europe/Other Area: 87.5 - 108.0 MHz in 50-kHz steps
IHF Usable Sensitivity: 12 dBf/2.2 mV (Mono, IHF)
AM Section (Modulation: 400 Hz, 30%)
Frequency Range U.S.A./Canada: 530 - 1,710 kHz in 10-kHz steps Europe: 522 - 1,611 kHz in 9-kHz steps Other Area: 531 - 1,602 kHz in 9-kHz steps
General Power Source: AC 110 - 120 V or AC 220 - 240 V, 50/60 Hz (According to country of sale)
Power Consumption: 1100W max.
Dimensions*: 430 (W) x 140 (H) x 370 (D) mm 16-15/16 (W) x 5-1/2 (H) x 14-9/16 (D) inches
Weight: Approx. 16 kg/35 lbs. 3 oz.

 

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Updated May 13, 2006