Price: $1,800 At A Glance: First A/V receiver to include Trinnov Optimizer • HQV Reon-VX video processor • Big beefy chassis Say Hi to Trinnov The Sherwood Newcastle R-972 A/V receiver is the first to include a new player in auto setup and room correction technology. Say hello to the Trinnov Optimizer. Nearly two years after it was first announced, the R-972 has arrived. After endless behind-the-scenes tweaking, this product will surely trigger debate and discussion among surround enthusiasts. The beefy R-972 brings another round of rivalry between two major licensed technologies. Home theater buffs should be used to this by now. Trinnov’s debut sets the stage for a struggle with Audyssey for control of the auto setup and room correction technologies that are licensed to AVR manufacturers. Unlike the competition between Dolby and DTS—which coexist in most mainstream surround products—Trinnov and Audyssey are mutually exclusive. Manufacturers will license one, the other, or neither. Some companies may prefer their own proprietary auto setup and room correction technologies, such as Pioneer’s MCACC, Harman Kardon’s EzSet/EQ, or Sherwood’s own Sherwood Newcastle Automatic Parametric (SNAP) EQ, which it still uses in lower models. Only a few manufacturers dispense with these features altogether. Auto setup and room correction are now mainstream attractions in the majority of AVR lines. Big Fella The R-972 has the size and heft that you’d expect in an $1,800 AVR. Two knobs dominate the front panel, with volume at right and a Multi Control at left. The latter’s default function cycles among surround modes, and it can also navigate menus. A row of tiny buttons runs across the front panel. These include a Video button that cycles through video inputs and a similarly functional Audio button. Other buttons—labeled Stereo, Surround, and Pure Audio—cycle among the listening modes. There’s also a Remastering button that doubles the sampling rate of incoming PCM digital signals. According to the manual, this provides “more detailed sound reproduction.” A flip-down door at the bottom holds enough buttons to ensure that anything you can do with the remote, you can also do at the front panel. The learning remote doesn’t look fancy, but it includes both IR and more robust RF operation. This lets you beam signals anywhere within an average home. The graphic user interface (GUI) is a step above monochrome, but it won’t win any awards for fancy graphics. However, the back panel is extremely well organized, with most things arranged in orderly columns. The four HDMI inputs are sufficient, but like all 2009 and early 2010 A/V receivers we’re aware of, this one is not 3D compatible. The R-972 includes seven pair of speaker terminals for a basic 7.1-channel system. Plus, it provides an additional pair that’s dedicated to second-zone use. The front-panel USB input is a nice touch. It can access MP3 and WMA files from flash drives and flash players. The Trinnov Difference This brings us to the Trinnov Optimizer. Trinnov has been in the works since 2000, and it made its professional debut in 2006 in 20th Century Fox’s mixing facility. The Sherwood R-972 marks its first use in an AVR. What makes Trinnov different? At its most basic, room correction is just a glorified tone control that sets different equalization for each speaker and presumably flattens irregularities in frequency response. Better systems also measure in the time domain. This lets them perceive and correct room and system characteristics such as distances, dimensions, and reflections. The Trinnov Optimizer does that and claims to go one step beyond. It also measures and compensates for the room’s 3D spatial characteristics. To accomplish this, it uses a four-capsule setup microphone, which has three pieces at one height and a fourth piece at a greater height, so it measures in both the horizontal and vertical planes.