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March 2012
Superior Audio Equipment Review

North American Premiere!
AVM Audio Inspiration C8 CD Receiver
A forerunner of what is to come.
Review By Ron Nagle

 

AVM Audio Inspiration C8 CD Receiver  As we look about, I see us moving more and more too digital and wireless connectivity. As an adjunct to this, there are Hi-End audio manufacturers making multi functional components in ways not see before. Consider there are preamplifiers with both analog and digital capability built into the same box. In addition, you can buy cordless Wi-Fi speakers with built in digital power amplifiers.

In the future, I can imagine multi functional audio components scaled down to the size of cigarette packs. More to the subject you could purchase the AVM Inspiration C8. This 100 Watt per channel amplifier has a stereo FM tuner along with a D to A processor and built in Phono Stage. Obviously, there are now so many more choices available to people who want music in their lives. Therefore, the question arises, does do everything Swiss Army Knife audio components compromise the quality of audio?

 

A Different Approach
The AVM Inspiration C8 CD Receiver is a new import from Germany that is making its American Debut. The AVM letters are the initials of the company name, Audio Video Manufaktur. The C8 as we shall call it packs an awful lot of functionality into a relatively compact space. I will have to admit I was fascinated when I first laid eyes on this device. That's because it represents almost my entire audio system and the thousands of dollars I spent on equipment. So now most of the separate components of my system were now contained in one box. Like any true audiophile nut, at my very first opportunity I plugged most of my audio system into the back of the C8, what came out was pretty darn good.

However, I was listening to a separate Sangean HDT-1 FM digital radio through a device that had a Digital FM radio inside. The sound of both tuners was a match. Additionally I was playing my CD's piped into the C8 that had a fine digital 24-bit/192kHz A/D and D/A processor. Consider then that some other purchaser would most probably use the Inspiration C8 with his or her own components plugged into it. In addition, they would most likely get very different results. Had to admit that I was totally missing the point along with it the market segment the C8 would appeal too.

The compact C8 would fit quite nicely into any limited space. Alternatively, it could serve as a complete second system, possibly in a vacation home. Additionally I believe it would have a very high Wife Acceptance Factor. The Operating Instructions that comes with the C8 is a 21-page tome that describes not only the features and operational functions but also details of the circuit design. Included in the same publication are instructions that pertains to one other AVM component, the Evolution C9, but at this time it is not relevant. The C8 table of contents is divided into ten major chapters. Each chapter is further divided into sections that are sub titled. For example the first chapter is titled, Basic information. Following that are Sub Sections numbered 1.1 to 1.5 after that and within the same chapter we find additional sub sections 1.5.1 ending with 1.5.4 D/A conversion. The owner's manual is something that definitely needs to be read more than once.

 

The Manifold Box
I am certain that the manufacturer can speak about the utility and the way you might employ the C8. However, for this aural evaluation we need talk only about this present reality. Since I cannot predict what any owner might connect to the C8 and what would be the quality of such a system. I think to be absolutely relevant I need to asses the Inspiration C8 as a stand-alone component. That is with the single exception of the Phono amplifier, which requires an external source. For the record: I did listen to CDs from my Marantz Universal DV8400 plugged into the C8 and it changed the Marantz sound. But as a stand-alone CD spinner the overall CD presentation was much better than the Marantz.

However, the impossibility of assessing all of the possible component combinations still does not get me off the hook. At the very least, you should know what and where you can connect things in and out of this device. Following that old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words", I give you...

 

Control & Operating Elements:  Insperation C8
The numbers below mark the location of the panel control elements.

 

Front Panel beginning at the left side
1 Power button (on / off)
2 Control LED
3 Display
4 Multifunctional button (soft key)
5 Multifunctional button (soft key)
6 Multifunctional button (soft key)
7 Multifunctional button (soft key)
8 Multifunctional button (soft key)
9 CD-slot
10 Source selector CD
11 Source selector FM (tuner)
12 Selector UP
13 Selector DOWN
14 Volume knob

Note: In the list above the Multifunction buttons perform two, four or more tasks modifying the you source you have selected.

Rear Panel Connections
15 Ground socket for turntable chassis
16 Antenna socket
17 Phono input
18 High level analogue inputs
19 Speaker terminals
20 Supply output for music players (USB)
21 Audio input for music player
22 Video in/out for music player
23 Output for recorder (fixed level)
24 Pre amplifier output
25 Power amplifier input
26 Digital input USB
27 RS 232 connector
28 Digital input RCA Cinch
29 Digital input optical
30 Connector for external IR-sensor
31 Digital output RCA Cinch
32 Trigger outputs

 

The Graphical User Interface (GUI, Pronounced ‘Gooey')
Within the scope of this report, it would be impossible to cover all the functions and adjustments detailed in the C8 Operating Instructions. The C8 Does have digital inputs and outputs. There are many ways could utilize this feature to include a digital feature that might accommodate a variety of processors applicable to a video system. By way of an explanation let me show you just one procedure that you can use to set up the FM Radio. There are two separate adjustment modes, Normal and Custom, let's enter the Normal mode. First, select the tuner, button #11. Next, tap the menu button #6.

The functions are then selected using buttons (4, 5). The settings are entered using the <Value> buttons (7, 8).  Scroll too Sensitivity, and choose either Local for cable or Distant for antenna. Move to Bandwidth, select either narrow or wide. Next, the RDS Display, select station identification, either Text or Frequency. Next, select tuner mode, Mono or Stereo, this has an effect on station threshold sensitivity. Next, Scan mode, choose either Auto or Manual. This function is like the radio in most automobiles. When you reach a favorite station you can place it in memory by hitting Enter. The radios memory allows you enter and hold five different station presets. A second tap on button #6 and you can return to normal operation.

Of course there are many more Custom choices and adjustments available. In this example, the adjustments still pertain to FM radio. There exists a Tone Control setting that can independently boost or lower treble and bass. Or you might opt to alter the tonal balance for all sources by selecting, the Global application. Additionally you can adjust the stereo balance between stereo speakers. Finally yet importantly, you can set a source loudness/gain value for any separate input but in this example it would be for the FM Radio. And finally you can use the preamplifier or the power amplifier sections separately

 

Small Nits
My demonstration sample came with a 50 Ohms rear panel antenna connector. Specified IEC 162-2 "PAL" designed in 1922 for a radio antenna that is not U.S.A. standard. The distributor did send a female adapter to fit a 75 Ohm coaxial ‘F' connector. As of now the distributor has informed me that they will change the antenna connection specification for all future C8 units. The Dot Matrix front panel display consists of small blue pixels on a darker background and even though the display contrast is adjustable it is still difficult to see especially in daylight. It would be much easier to read if the Matrix Display pixels were a bright white. On the crowded rear panel the RCA jacks are spaced close together. Some interconnect cables with large diameter RCA plugs may be a tight fit. One last consideration: The rear panel connectors will only except  speaker cables terminated with banana plugs.

 

Aural Ear Full

Ok. I know that sounds like a no brainer, after all they all pass through some of the same amplifier circuits. However. in my experience with other combinational components this is not always the case. I should qualify that statement by saying; yes some tonal characteristic will usually imprint itself on the sound but not to the extent that it does with the C8.

 

Summary
So what am I talking about? The sound you would hear is very precisely controlled, clean and clear and highly detailed with lightening fast transient response. I have listened to CD recordings at various sampling rates all the way up to 24/768 kHz (Cary CD 306). And I do agree with AVM that the C8 D/A processor at 24-bit/192kHz offers the very best sound. Consequently the sound quality of the C8 recorded CD playback is very near the state of the art. The sound the Digital FM Radio captures from the airwaves when adjusted properly is crystal clear. With my roof mounted antenna the FM tuner locks on and the sound is first class, absolutely dead quiet FM reception.

 

The C8 Phono Stage a& A State Of Mind
Let me remind you that my Turntable was the only analog source plugged into the Inspiration C8. Now I own six phonograph cartridges. The C8 literature tells us the phono stage is suitable for High output Moving Magnet cartridges or medium output Moving Coil. One of my cartridges should be a perfect match for the 47k Ohm specification given for the C8. The remaining five have either very different loading requirements, some less than 100 Ohms. And the remaining few are low output moving coil designs, which generate less than 1 mV. I selected the very high output 2.5 mV Sumiko Blue Point Special cartridge, which can handle the fixed input loading of 47k Ohms.

One of my really good vinyl recordings is, Another Page, Christopher Cross [Warner Brothers 9-23757-1]. Specifically the cut is All Right, an up-tempo studio recording with studio sound effects. It is as I said Crisp, clean and highly detailed. The detail was such that the treble frequencies seemed to float in the air just above the speakers adding an extra dimension to the performance. Next up a vintage recording, Judy Garland In Person, Live at Carnegie Hall, Recorded April 23, 1961 [Capitol Stereo ECS-40207-08].  Carnegie Hall has a subtle warm and intimate quality that envelopes the audience.  And that is why this is one of my favorite vinyl recordings. My listening notes say: "Nice clear bass transients, good channel separation, positively even frequency response from top to bottom".

There are scholarly books written about the acoustic qualities of famous music halls. Many are scientific inquiries detailing the venues interior size and shape, materials absorption and reverberation time delays. One of these is Carnegie Hall I have listened to many performances there.

 

Epilogue
Lastly let me tell you about one of my favorite Demo CDs. It is, Aaron Copland's opening, Fanfare For The Common Man. This unauthorized CD was given to me under the table by a distributor at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. This test CD has amazing transient percussion and dynamic range. The opening has a startling powerful percussive sound of a Kettle Drum. The transient impact can make you leave your seat. Following this we hear the hard brassy blat of massed trumpets echoing from wall to wall within a vast Concert Hall, it sends a chill darting down the spine. On these musical passages we are transported to the concert hall and to the event. This is good as it gets here in my room and reference system. I can't possibly predict the kind of results you might get but any room larger than mine should respond in kind.

The C8 is modern technology imbued with lighting fast transient response. So what are your priorities? Are you still buying vinyl, maybe even some old vinyl, you could use the C8. So what is the greater market and whom would the C8 appeal to? Mostly everyone. What the Inspiration C8 does it does wonderfully well; I believe it is a forerunner of what is to come.

As Always, Semper Hi-Fi

 

Equipment Used During Review
Source components:
SOTA turntable with Grado Signature tone arm and Blue Point Special moving coil cartridge, Marantz 8400 Universal CD, Player, ART  DI/O Up sampling D/A and A/D processor,

Alternate Amplification:  Sanders ESL Power Amplifier.

Speakers:  Onix Rocket Strata Mini and Aurum Cantus Leisure 2 SE two-way monitors on 24-inch stands, Mark and Daniel Omni Harmonizers.

Speaker Cables: Kimber 12 TC

Various Interconnect Cables
Nordost Red Dawn, 1 meter
Wire World Eclipse-2, 3 meters
Audio Research Litzlink 2 pairs, 1.5 meter
Chord Silver Siren, 1 meter
Homemade Teflon 1 meter
Audiobhan 0.5-meter digital

AC Power
Islatrol Industrial 20 Ampere AC line conditioner
Richard Gray 20 Ampere Sub Station
Alpha Core Balanced Transformer Power Supply
Audio Power PE-1 power enhancer
Richard Gray 20 Ampere Sub Station
Alpha Core Balanced Transformer Power Supply
Audio Power PE-1 power enhancer

 

Specifications
Type: Solid-state stereo integrated amplifier with DAC.
Amplifier
Sensitivity line 12,5 mV – 125 mV
Sensitivity phono 40 μV – 400 μV
Input impedance line 6.8 Ohm
Input impedance phono 47 kOhm / 100 pF
SNR line 96 dB (A)
SNR phono 83 dB (A)
Channel separation 55 dB
Frequency range <5 Hz - > 50 kHz
Dist. 25 W/4 Ohm <0,1 %
Damping factor >400
Rated power into 4 Ohm 2 x 150 Watt
Rated power into 8 Ohm 2 x 100 Watt

Tuner
Frequency range 87.5 – 108 MHz
Trim Steps 50 kHz
Sensitivity (mono / stereo) 1,5μV / 50 μV
SNR (mono / stereo) 73 / 68 dB (A)

CD, Digital In/Out
Formats CD-Audio, CD-R
Upsampling 192 kHz / 24 Bit
Frequency range <5 Hz – 20 kHz
Deemphasis yes, automatically
Digital-Inputs 33–192 kHz / 16–24 Bit
(S/PDIF, TosLink)
USB-Input up to 48 kHz / 16 Bit
Digital-Output 44,1 kHz / 16 Bit
(S/PDIF, TosLink) or input format

Miscellaneous
Power consumption max. 450 W
Standby <1 W
Voltage 230V/50Hz
Dimensions 340 x 80 x 350 (WxHxD in mm)
Weight 18 lbs.
Warranty 3 years

Condensed Description• High Power output stages 100W/channel @ 8 Ohms
• Power supply with minimized leak-field and ultra low stand-by 
• PureCD drive with slot-in, suspended mounting
• FM-RDS-tuner
• 4 Line inputs
• 1 phono input (MM & MC)
• 1 processor In/Out
• 3 digital inputs (S/PDIF, optical, USB-Input operates without driver installation)
• Signal processing in all digital inputs applying 192 kHz / 24 Bit upsampling
• 2 digital outputs (S/PDIF, optical)
• Tone control and parametric loudness with bypass-mode
• Remote controllable, solid aluminum easy-to-use remote control included
• External control via RS 232, IR input via external optional receiver
• Numerous setup functions (i.e. adjustable input sensitivity, individual input naming etc.)
• Available finishes: Aluminum silver or black
• Streaming function as optional module

Price: $4100

 

Company Information
AVM Audio USA
8390 E Via De Ventura
F110-194
Scottsdale, Arizona 85258

Voice: (888) 593-8488
Website: www.avmaudiousa.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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