Secrets Benchmark Product Review

Lexicon RV-8 7.1 A/V Receiver

Part I

August, 2005

John E. Johnson, Jr.




● Codecs: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby
    Pro Logic IIx, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS
    Neo:6, THX Ultra2, THX Surround EX

● 24/192 Differential DACs on Each Channel

● Power: 140 Watts RMS x 7 into 8 Ohms

● MFR: 20 Hz - 20 kHz 0.1 dB

● THD: < 0.02%

● THX Ultra 2 Certified
● Zones 2 and 3 in Addition to Main Output

● Dimensions: 7.8" W x 17.3" W x 21.2" D
● Weight 65 Pounds

● MSRP: $7,000 USA




The term "Mass Market Receiver" usually invokes images of something relatively inexpensive, with specs that are not very good.

However, there have always been expensive receivers one could choose if one wanted to.

I remember when surround sound first became a buzzword, and I looked at a few in our local stores.

In those days, the new receivers had five channels, but only Dolby Surround decoding, which then changed to Pro Logic. The two rear channels were mono, the rear channel amplifiers were actually just amplifiers on a chip, and the speaker binding posts were often of the spring clip variety.

The one I wanted was $2,000. Discrete amplifiers in all five channels and real binding posts for all channels. The power output was 75 watts to the front left and right, 50 watts to the center, and 35 watts to the rear left and right. It still only had Pro Logic decoding with its mono rear surround, but it had a bunch of "Modes" that simulated cathedrals, stadiums, and jazz clubs. It was big and heavy, as most of the new technology had not been incorporated in single chips yet. I was enthralled, but could not afford the $2,000 price tag.

Now, even the <$500 receivers have discrete amplifiers boasting 100 watts per channel, real binding posts, and will decode everything from Dolby Digital to DTS. Many of them are built in China, and are actually reasonable quality.

So, when a receiver now comes along that costs $7,000, is there any motivation to select that over one that costs $1,000, when the features seem to be the same?

The Lexicon RV-8

Lexicon has been around a long time, and has always stood for high quality. When someone said they had a Lexicon, it usually meant a processor, as they built one of the early surround decoders.

These days, they build preamp/processors, like the MC-12, as well as power amplifiers,  receivers like the RV-8, and DVD players like the RT-20.

All of the Lexicon products cost much more than most other brands. So, what do you get for your money?

Is it a proprietary design? No, all the manufacturers have their own special designs and processing techniques.

To me, it is in parts quality, which includes the materials they are made of along with the tolerance, and the power supply. I know that sounds simplistic, but it works.

An electronic circuit consists of capacitors, inductors, resistors, transistors, op amps, switches, and the conductors that connect them all. The circuit design depends on those components being certain values (farads, henries, and ohms). If a component's value is off by 5%, that can cause the signal to deteriorate. If a number of components are off by 5%, the signal can really deteriorate. Looking at a parts catalog, you will find that they are offered at various tolerances. Some are 5%, and others are 1%. The lower that tolerance number, the better the part, but the higher the cost. When you add up the cost of all the hundreds of parts, the sum total can be really high, and you multiply that x 4 to come up with what they have to charge on the dealer shelves.

So, basically, the $199 receiver may have similar "specs" to the $1,000 receiver, but its parts quality is lower, so the ultimate performance is not so good.

And, the power supply. This is probably the most expensive part of any receiver. Big, high quality capacitors, along with a heavy transformer, really drive up the price. The inexpensive receivers that tout 100 watts per channel output don't have big caps and transformers, so that 100 watt output will only work for a few milliseconds, and since action film special effects usually last much longer than a few milliseconds, the result is clipping, which sounds like mush.

The chassis is much heavier with this kind of product, which increases cost. Lastly, since high performance products - with their high price - are sold in smaller quantities, this adds an ironic number to the final selling price. They have to do this to make up for the R&D that went into designing it.

So, obviously, I am building up to stating that the Lexicon RV-8 has top notch parts and a big power supply (along with a massive chassis). That is what constitutes a first rate receiver. I would not call it a mass market receiver, because that masses can't afford one. That $2,000 receiver I oggled way back when was not mass market either. Too expensive for most of us, including me at the time.

The Lexicon RV-8 is in a category we should call High Performance Receivers. High-end is the usual term, but that sounds a bit snooty. High Performance tells you what it is capable of, not the class of people who can buy it. Much more descriptive.

Click on the Photo Above to See a Larger Version.

Specifically . . .

The RV-8 is a 7.1 receiver. It has seven power amplifiers rated at 140 watts RMS per channel, all channels driven simultaneously. It weighs 65 pounds, which speaks to that heavy power supply.

The front panel looks more complicated than most, but it is actually not. The buttons that are usually hidden by a fold down door at the bottom in other receivers, are across the entire face of the RV-8.

In the photo, you can see four vertical sections. From the left are the Main, then Zone 2, followed by Zone 3, and the Tuner. So, you don't have to open any other panel doors. You just select what you want across the main panel face. The Main, Zone 2, and Zone 3 panels all allow you to select the input for that section. The Tuner panel lets you select the station.

At the bottom are seven LEDs that tell you all seven power amplifier channels are operating. If one goes out, time to see a service technician.

The fact that there are two zones besides the main one, is indicative that the RV-8 is designed to serve your entire house A/V needs. That is the trend in the big receivers these days. So, you can watch a movie in the den, and have music in the kitchen as well as on the patio, all at the same time, all served by the RV-8.

The rear panel has myriad inputs and outputs, like most modern receivers.

Click on the Photo Above to See a Larger Version.

The left and right ends are taken up by the seven sets of power amplifier output binding posts, four on the left and three on the right.

There are five composite and S-Video, and three sets of component video inputs along the top. Underneath that are eight stereo pairs of analog audio inputs, and one set of audio pre-outs for all channels. Some of the stereo analog audio pairs can be configured for a second set of pre-outs if you need two sets.

For outputs, there are two S-Video and one component video set for the main zone, two composite and two S-Video, along with two stereo analog audio outputs for Zone 2, and one composite video with one pair of stereo analog audio outputs for Zone 3.

Digital audio inputs include four RCA and four Toslink. There are no digital video inputs (DVI or HDMI), but I suspect the blank panel at the bottom might be used for this in a future upgrade. The two microphone inputs, also at the bottom, are listed for future use, I imagine for their Auto EQ functions that they have on the MC-12 Version IV.

The remote control is a standard one now included with a number of different manufacturers. It is a universal remote, with backlighting.

To access the RV-8, you simply press the right arrow button on the round dial in the middle.

This brings you to the Main menu, which has Mode Adjust, Audio Controls, Tuner Presets, and Setup as submenus.

Using the arrows, you scroll through the selections, which are shown on the RV-8 front panel, or on the OSD, which is is fed from one of the S-Video outputs marked on the rear panel.

The Setup menu has Inputs, Speakers, I/O Configuration, Displays, Volume Controls, Trigger, Tuner, and Lock Options.

The Inputs menu lets you assign which input jack should be connected to DVD 1, DVD 2, CD, TV, etc.

So, for example, in my tests, I assigned stereo analog audio pair 1 to the DVD 1 input, and Toslink digital input 1 to DVD 2. I connected the stereo analog audio outputs of a Yamaha Universal DVD Player to analog audio pair 1 and the Toslink output from the same player to Toslink 1. This allowed me to compare the decoding of the DVD player to the decoding done by the RV-8, in A/B form by just switching inputs during music playing.

Speaker set-up allows complete small increment time alignment and small increment volume control for each channel.

The I/O Configuration lets you assign some of the analog inputs to either stereo or 5.1 such as would be used with DVD-A and SACD. You can configure two complete sets of 5.1 analog inputs and still have several analog stereo pair inputs for other sources.

Volume Controls have such features as individual input level settings for each input, so that you don't get unpleasant surprises when switching inputs.

Most receivers have an AM/FM tuner, and the RV-8 has a good one, with great flexibility in setting up your favorite stations, Region (USA, Europe, Japan), Scan Sensitivity (so you won't waste time scanning through weak stations).

The RV-8 has a ton of options, so once you have everything the way you like it, you can lock it all down so no one can accidentally change the configuration.

Click HERE to go to Part II.

Copyright 2005 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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