Audiolab 8000AP/8000X7 Processor/Power Amp Review

8000X7 Multi-Channel Power Amplifier  $3999

8000AP Home Theatre Processor $3499

4.5 Stars

Eschewing the plethora of widgets built in to most of the competition proves a good move, and this Audiolab combo instead concentrates on simplicity and quality.

The world is full of paradoxes and ironies these days – take Dancing With The Stars for instance, quite possibly the most generous use of the word ‘star’ I have ever seen.

A couple of ex and current Shorty St cast members, an old rugby player with a dodgy knee and some guy off the morning telly, not to mention the Regaine enhanced Tom Jones replica from the ‘70s. Let’s face it, there’s no Angelina, Joaquin, Uma, or even our old favourite Sam Neill to brighten up the eerily starless television screen during the evening. Now those are real stars mate, not some has-been off a jam commercial or a weather presenter nobody actually watches as they rush off to work in the morning.

I’m quite capable of using the most slender of arguments to support my burgeoning debating skills, but at least in some circumstances less actually does mean more.

Take home theatre for instance. As 2 channel audio has become more and more Spartan and stripped-down in the pursuit of better sound quality, HT technology has raced off in the other direction with its THX, HDMI, DTS-HD and a plethora of other acronyms that seemingly force a reinvention of the technology every year or so.

Don’t you wish it would just stop?

Well, someone at Audiolab has done just that with the launch of the new 8000AP/X7 HT processor and power amplifier. This sophisticated but refreshingly straightforward amp combo has just 2 HDMI inputs and no other video switching (no component/s-video inputs for instance) apart from a simple composite output for the also refreshingly simple GUI.

There is no on-board high-resolution audio capability (True-HD), as Audiolab figured that discerning HT fans would have an upmarket Blu-ray player with on-board decoding.

Audiolab 8000AP rear view

It makes sense in that respect, but the 8000AP will decode a hi-res soundtrack as multi-channel PCM so those without players but with decoders built in will still be in for a bit of a treat sound wise.

There are plenty of digital inputs for Sky decoders/CD players, and those with 2 channel hi-fi are catered for with four pairs of RCA inputs.

Don’t go looking for microphone calibration though, Audiolab instead expects users of the gear to use their own brains and ears to set it up. It’s not hard!

The matching 8000X7 is even simpler, the 7 x 100w power amp doesn’t even have an on/off button – its rugged construction and beefy current output proving that sometimes keeping things simple and straightforward is perhaps the key, especially where audio performance and ease of use is concerned.

Audiolab 8000X7 rear view

Both products performed beautifully during my listening tests, PCM audio from Blu-ray disc proving to be a treat with discs such as Rambo (really), I Am Legend and Bladerunner.

My Pat Metheny Live Blu-ray disc really came alive as the clean resolving power of the Audiolabs made for excellent viewing and listening.

The 8000AP/X7 also sounded extremely good with my Raysonic CD128 CD player, the onboard HDCD capability providing aural thrills with Beck’s Seachange and Mirrorball by Neil Young.

Summing up, the ‘no frills’ approach of the 8000AP/X7 would appear to be a sound judgement call by Audiolab. In a home entertainment sector where ‘new’ technology is outdated as soon as it hits the shelves, the company has put its emphasis on the basics – ease of use, robust build and great sound quality.

Very impressive. GARY PEARCE

www.audiolab.co.nz

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