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Sherwood Newcastle R-972 Home Theater Receiver With The Trinnov Audio Optimizer

The Sherwood Newcastle R-972 Review - Video Performance - Final Take

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

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Sherwood Newcastle R-972 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front View with Panel Open

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Front View with Panel Open

Photo (C) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Video Performance

To start off my comments about the video features and performance of the R-972, I have to say I was extremely disappointed, especially after my relatively positive impression of the R-972's Trinnov Optimizer on the audio side.

In bypass mode, the R-972 was able to pass through any video source at that source's incoming native resolution. However, the main problem I had with the R-972's video performance is that I couldn't get it to scale up to full 1080p from composite, s-video, or component video input signals outputting a 480i signal.

The R-972's scaler worked at the 480p, 720p, and 1080i settings, but when I switched to 1080p or Auto resolution output, I got only an intermittent flickering signal, or at most, the menu of the source or the disc. When any content started playing the image flickered or went out completely to a blank screen.

Also, when setting to 720p scaling, the left and right side of the image was shape distorted. Specifically, using the HQV DVD Benchmark (original version) test disc with horizontal scrolling letters and on the Race Track test, lines of the stands are straight in the center of the image, but was bent on the sides.

To see these effects, click on the three photo links I have provided here. (photo 1 - note the letters "yp" on the left and "mig" on the right) (photo 2 - note the letters "mig") (photo 3 - note the bend in the line separating the yellow and blue portion of the seats). I must note that these effects did not occur when the source was using a different scaler than the R-972's scaler at a 720p setting.

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Rear View Sherwood R-972 - Rear

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver - Rear View Sherwood R-972 - Rear

Photo (C) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
These tests were run with R-972's HDMI monitor output straight to the HDMI input or when using an HDMI/DVI conversion cable on my video display. I also conducted the same tests using both standard and high-speed HDMI cables between the R-972 and the displays, as well as two different DVD players (Oppo Digital DV-980H., Helios H4000) set to 480i output via composite, S-video, or Component connections between the players and the R-972. I also had a DVDO EDGE on hand as a comparison video scaler.

The displays used in this portion of the review included a Westinghouse Digital LVM-37w3 1080p LCD Monitor, Hannspree HF-237HPB HDMI-equipped 1080p PC monitor, and Samsung T-260HD 1080p LCD Monitor/TV and the same symptoms occurred when the they were connected to the R-972, with the R-972 set to scale to either 1080p and 720p from 480i source content.

On the other hand, none of the "bad" effects occur when using these display devices with my source components, either using their own upscaling processors or when connected through the DVDO EDGE video scaler.

This doesn't sound like a typical HDMI or HDMI/DVI handshake issue, unless the HDMI firmware in the R-972 is not properly implemented. It would be unlikely that I would have the same problem across several brands and models of display devices.

My observation is that Sherwood has a definite problem with the video processing section of the R-972 that needs to be addressed.

What I Liked About the Sherwood Newcastle R-972

1. Very good build quality. At 46 pounds care should be given when lifting or moving.

2. Trinnov Optimizer provides accurate speaker setup measurements and soundfield processing options.

3. Firmware upgradable via USB and RS-232 connections.

4. Two remote controls provided for both main and 2nd/3rd zone operation.

5. Main Remote is both RF and IR compatible.

What I Didn't Like About the Sherwood Newcastle R-972

1. Video upscaling at the 1080p setting is not functional. As explained in detail in the video performance section of this review, Sherwood has a definite problem with the video processing section of this receiver that needs to be addressed.

2. No home network or internet connectivity. An increasing number of home theater receiver, especially in this price range, are incorporating features such as Internet Radio, audio streaming, and/or home network connectivity for retrieving audio, photo, and music files from a PC.

3. No Dedicated input for phono/turntable.

4. No front panel HDMI input. This in not a deal-breaker, but having adding an HDMI connection on the front panel would add convenience for temporary high definition sources.

5. User Manual is comprehensive, but not always clear. Not for the novice.

6. Main remote control sometimes difficult to use.

Final Take

In summing up the Sherwood Newcastle R-972 Home Theater Receiver, I must say that it has a definite case of split personality.

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 - Remote Controls

Sherwood Newcastle R-972 - Remote Controls

Photo (C) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
On one hand, the R-972 is a landmark product that offers the most comprehensive speaker setup system available on a home theater receiver up to this point, and the overall audio performance does not disappoint.

On the other hand, the R-972 fails in video performance. This, despite the fact that it features the very reputable IDT HQV Reon processor that is known for excellent video upscaling. I usually include a video performance photo gallery for products that feature video upscaling, but with not being able to access the 1080p scaling function on the R-972, it was not feasible for this review.

Taking the combination of features, audio performance, and video performance into consideration, I can only come up with a star rating of 2.5 out of 5.

To put it bluntly, the Sherwood Newcastle R-972 still needs more refinement to be considered an acceptable option as a complete audio/video home theater receiver. If the R-972 was a receiver that was not intended to include video upscaling capability, or if the included video processing would have worked properly, the star rating would have been higher.

However, that being said, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Sherwood assisted me in this review on a timely basis by providing a second R-972 sample to work with after encountering the video upscaling problems. Unfortunately, the second sample also exhibited similar video performance issues.

For an additional look at the physical features and the operation of the Sherwood Newcastle R-972, including the Trinnov Optimizer, check out my Photo Gallery.

Review Date: 2/19/10

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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