HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



July
2009

Reviewed by
Jeff Van Dyne

 


Sherwood
RD-6513
Audio/Video Receiver

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: RD-6513

Price: $249.95 USD
Dimensions: 17.33"W x 5"H x 13"D
Weight: 20.3 pounds

Warranty: Three years parts and labor

Features

  • 110Wx5 (manufacturer rated)
  • DTS, Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS 96/24

Features
  • One-touch automatic speaker setup
  • Calibration microphone included
  • Room-acoustic calibration with EQ
  • HDMI: 2 inputs, 1 output
  • Component video: 3 inputs, 1 output
  • Composite video
  • S-video
  • Bluetooth audio receiver input (compatible with BT-R7) for streaming from a compatible PC
  • 32-bit Crystal Devices DSP chip
  • 3 digital inputs (2 coaxial, 1 optical)
  • 3 DSP modes (Theater, Hall, Stadium)
  • 5.1-channel direct inputs

The Sherwood RD-6513 is an interesting and somewhat unusual A/V receiver. At a list price of $249.95, it’s one of the least-expensive home-theater receivers you’re likely to find. While you have to expect some compromises at such a price -- certainly the case with the RD-6513 -- there are also a few entirely unexpected touches. First among these is an automated setup routine that uses a microphone (included) and test tones to make all the speaker settings for you. I expected this feature to slowly work its way down the food chain, not see it so soon for a mere $250.

Nuts’n’bolts

The RD-6513’s front panel has all the basic controls you’d expect to find on a surround-sound receiver, as well as a mike input for the automated speaker-setup and an input for an optional Bluetooth receiver. The latter is something I’d never considered before, but with more and more people using Bluetooth-enabled phones as music players, it makes perfect sense. Expect to see this more often in the future.

The rear panel is pretty well populated for so inexpensive a receiver, with composite, S-video, component, and HDMI video inputs and outputs. The RD-6513 includes no video processing of its own, and thus no signal transcoding from one video format to another, but all other connections needed for a system of small to medium size are present. One place I wish they hadn’t cut costs was in the spring-clip speaker connectors, though I suspect this will be less of a concern for the RD-6513’s target market. The remote control isn’t the worst I’ve ever used, but it’s far from the best. Again, this falls under the heading of cost containment, but since most people in this price class are unlikely to spend money on a decent universal remote, what’s packed in the box is actually important. Although the RD-6513’s remote will work in a pinch, tactilely distinguishable volume buttons and backlighting would be great improvements.

A peek under the hood reveals that most of the RD-6513’s central space is occupied by a large, sparsely populated main circuit board. The amplifier’s circuit board is parallel to and just behind the front panel, with a simple stamped heatsink attached to it, and scattered across both boards are a number of discrete components. The power-supply and filter capacitors are also on the small side. This is pretty common in this price range; in fact, it would be unrealistic to expect much more.

The audio circuit board, one of the few in the RD-6513 that boasts surface-mount components, contains an AKM single-chip multichannel DAC, and a Crystal Devices audio processor to handle surround-decoding duties. The RD-6513 can’t decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, and accepts no digital audio signals of any sort from its HDMI input. If you want high-resolution audio from Blu-ray Discs, the decoding will have to be done in the BD player, then passed along as analog signals through the Sherwood’s multichannel audio inputs. Otherwise, for sound, you’ll need to connect a digital cable between the receiver and the Blu-ray or DVD player. That said, the RD-6513’s target market is probably not the average Blu-ray customer, so hi-def audio processing wasn’t a primary concern of its designers.

The automated speaker setup is about as simple as possible. The supplied measurement microphone is plugged into the RD-6513’s front panel and placed at the primary listening position. Once the setup routine begins, all you have to do is sit back and keep quiet while it runs. It will determine which speakers are active and their distances from the listening position, then set the speaker levels and the room equalizer. It’s not as sophisticated as multi-position Audyssey programs, but the speaker configurations were spot-on accurate, and the room EQ made a noticeable improvement in one of my less-well-configured listening spaces.

Sound

To get a clear picture of the RD-6513’s strengths and weaknesses, I hooked it up to speakers way out of its league: a 5.1-channel system of Paradigm Studios for surround sound, and a pair of Silverline Sonatinas for two-channel music-only recordings. The first thing I noticed was that when the Sherwood was on, with no input signal present, both front speakers emitted a light hiss -- but as soon as I fed the RD-6513 any input signal at all, the hiss faded to near nonexistence. In normal listening, I never heard anything that wasn’t supposed to be there.

For the audio portion of this review I went straight to Wanted, which I’d used in my review of the Sherwood BDP-5003 Blu-ray player. While I don’t think much of the film itself, there’s a reason it was nominated for two Academy Awards for sound. The soundtrack is pretty spectacular, and places an abnormally heavy load on a surround system. However, this track isn’t all about car crashes and explosions. One of my favorite effects is of looms clacking away in a textile mill -- a complex orchestration of clicks, clacks, clunks, and whirs that enveloped me and invaded my senses. Wanted’s sound engineers (Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño, Petr Forejt) and sound editor (Wylie Stateman) deserved their Oscar nominations. Surprisingly, the Sherwood did an amazing job of re-creating the film’s soundfield in three dimensions. Where it didn’t fare quite as well was during the loudest sequences at very high volume levels, during which the treble noticeably hardened and a little bit of distortion set in.

I then fired up Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I don’t mind watching the Harry Potter films over and over -- their soundtracks are outstanding, and this one is positively fabulous, providing an active soundfield that keeps my head swiveling. As with Wanted, the placement of effects within a three-dimensional soundfield was stunningly accurate through the Sherwood. The background soundtrack was also presented with excellent detail and clarity.

Nor do I ever tire of The Dark Knight. While Batman Begins rewrote the rules for the Batman franchise, it’s The Dark Knight that forever redefined the level of quality we expect from movies based on comic-book heroes. The soundtrack makes use of every decibel of dynamic range available to Dolby TrueHD. But while I applaud the sound engineers’ technical abilities, it’s not always such a great thing if you’re battling any kind of background noise. It also puts more strain on the amplifier section during passages of peak volume. Surprisingly, while there was still some distortion in the loudest passages of The Dark Knight, I found these not nearly as noticeable as I had with Wanted -- and in all other aspects of its sonic performance, the Sherwood was well up to the task.

When I listened to music at high volumes, I noticed the treble glare more. I like Feist, but on "Gatekeeper," from her Let It Die (CD, Interscope 04442), there’s an element of her voice that can cut steel, and driving this track to very high volume levels pushed the Sherwood into an unhappy place. At more sane levels, however, I had no complaint about the RD-6513’s sound. Its very top octave seemed a little laid-back, and there wasn’t much air around women’s voices, but the rest of the range sounded very natural and detailed. In other areas, the RD-6513 did much better than expected. There was excellent separation of the backing voices on Feist’s "Leisure Suite," and precise placement of the various percussion instruments.

Four80East, one of today’s more original groups, plays around the fringes of urban music, funk, and acid jazz. I think their first effort, titled simply The Album (CD, Higher Octave 84203), is still their best. The interplay of the contemporary backbeat, electronic organ, and saxophone is appealing to me on many levels. The tight backbeat on "Eastside" is what caught my ear right off the bat. My Silverline Sonatinas like an amp with a little better control; otherwise, the lower bass tends to sound thick and muddy. I expected this to be a challenge for the Sherwood’s smallish power supply, but was pleasantly surprised that the lower bass remained reasonably tight and well controlled at all times. The sounds of the car chase in "Skip Tracer" extended well past the plane of the front speakers, and even had decent soundstage depth. My wife was in the room sitting next to an open window, and commented on how odd it was to be able to hear sirens from the stereo and sirens from outside at the same time. I was thinking the same thing -- until I backed up the track about 30 seconds and replayed the same clip. The sirens were all coming from inside our family room. How’s that for realism?

Normally, I compare the device under test with another, similar device, but this time I had nothing on hand that would provide any meaningful information about the RD-6513. After all, pitting it against a much larger, more complex, more expensive receiver would hardly be fair. Instead, I think it’s more useful to focus on what can be done to mitigate the Sherwood’s shortcomings. The main problem is that, while the RD-6513 is rated at 110Wpc, its power supply isn’t big enough to handle heavy loads for any length of time before distortion sets in and the treble hardens. The simple solution is to not use it with particularly inefficient or difficult-to-drive speakers. The Sherwood probably shouldn’t be your first choice to provide power for a very large space, but letting a subwoofer do a lot of the heavy lifting will significantly reduce the load on the receiver. The other thing to keep in mind is that because the RD-6513 is a bit laid-back in the upper octaves, you shouldn’t pair it with speakers that are themselves laid-back.

Conclusion

I’ve reviewed my share of inexpensive components over the years, but this is new territory for me. Designing an A/V receiver to sell for $249.95 would normally entail making many serious compromises that I think most engineers would find hard to accept. In this price class, every penny counts -- there’s little that can be done to improve a design without driving up its retail price. I don’t have a clue how Sherwood can build a receiver with the RD-6513’s feature set, sell it for $250, and still make a profit.

And yet the Sherwood RD-6513 is a fine-sounding receiver. Yes, it has weaknesses, but it sounds far better than the sum of its parts suggest it might. Pairing it with a decent set of small speakers and a subwoofer might be just the ticket for a bedroom system, or a family room of small to medium size. In this tight economy, many people are looking to spice up their home-theater experience for not much money. The Sherwood RD-6513 is a great place to start.

Review System
Speakers -- Paradigm Reference Studio 100 v.3 (mains), Paradigm Reference Studio CC-470 (center), Infinity Primus 150 (surrounds); Silverline Sonatina (stereo)
Sources -- Panasonic DMP-BD10a Blu-ray player; DirecTV HR22 HD DVR
Cables -- Analysis Plus, Monster Cable
Display device -- Panasonic TH-50PZ77U 50" 1080p plasma TV
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Sherwood America
13101 Moore Street
Cerritos, CA 90703
Phone: (800) 962-3203
Fax: (562) 741-0968

E-mail: service@sherwoodamerica.com
Website: www.sherwoodusa.com


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