Sherwood Newcastle P-965 A/V Preamplifier

P-965

P-965 Dolby digital EX/DTS ES Tuner/ Preamp/Processor

  • DTS-ES Discrete and Matrix
  • DTS-96/24; DTS NEO-6
  • Dolby Digital EX
  • Digitally Re-Masters PCM to 192 /24
  • 192 kHz 24-bit DAC’s for all channels
  • Pure Analog Mode; Pure Digital Mode
  • Selectable Bass Crossover frequencies
  • Upgradeable operating system
  • Universal Video upconverts composite and S-Video to Component Video
  • Automatic Speaker Set-up
  • Programmable Video Input Labeling
  • 7.1 channel direct input with bass management
  • Room 2 A/V Output with fixed/variable audio level, S-Video and coaxial digital
  • IR control with 2 inputs and 1 output
  • Dedicated Room 2 Remote
  • 5 Rear Panel Audio/Video Inputs
  • 6 Audio Inputs with Phono
  • Tone Defeat
  • Aluminum Front Panel

User Reviews (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7  
Rebos12367   AudioPhile [Feb 04, 2010]

Very inpressed. Replaced Outlaw 990. Never reviewed any products on line before. Is this the end all for processors No. For price best deal I've had. Give it a try. You won't be dissapointed!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Bondmanp   AudioPhile [Apr 26, 2006]
Strength:

Sonics, build-quality, value, customer support

Weakness:

ergonomics, questionable purity of "Pure Analog" mode

Here is a reprint of a review I originally posted on AVSForum in April of 2004. It is the 5th and final part of an extensive review. Follow-up notes are added at the end.

I have found the P-965 to be a well built, well designed pre-pro. It may indeed be a "de-amped" receiver, but to me, that just means that the R-965 ought to be one heck of an A/V receiver. The feature list is extensive, as is the connectivity. The only serious ommission feature-wise is a distance setting for the subwoofers. Frankly, I thought this was a standard feature for surround audio, as this is the first receiver or pre-pro without this feature that I've seen. Best of all, it appears that Sherwood is taking the upgradability of the P-965 seriously, as the first download of new features is already in the works. (Note to Jeff at Sherwood: How about a software upgrade allowing for distance settings of the subwoofers?) Sherwood seems to take customer satisfaction very seriously, too, as one issue I contacted them on involving the remote is being resolved with no hassles.

My only real complaints are in the areas of ergonomics. The user-interface is anything but intuitive. While I am more than happy to get used to the P-965's functionality, the "plug-and-play" crowd may feel otherwise. I felt the manual leaves a lot to be desired, and should be reworked. I know the P-965 can do an aweful lot of things, but I am still having trouble getting it to do what I want, when I want (kinda like marriage ).

What really makes this pre-pro special is the sound. Audiophiles are going to have to let go of some prejudice for a brand like Sherwood-Newcastle. Yes, they make some inexpensive gear, most of it A/V receivers, but the P-965 can absolutely play with the big boys. I am pretty familiar with the sound of the Anthem AVM-20, although not in my system. Does the P-965 best the AVM-20 in sonics? Not IMO. Nor does it have as many user-adjustable parameters. However, at less than half the MSRP, the Sherwood aquits itself better than many would assume. The sound is open, airy, super-clean and super-detailed. My tin ears (with tinnitus, too) heard amazing details in selection after selection. Stuff like sheet music pages being turned and fingers tapping on instrument keys. This level of sound was apparent in Pure Analog mode, and to only a very small degree less when using the P-965's internal converters. This is strong praise. I still have to deal with harsh sound on some recordings, but I have come to accept that this is due not to my gear as much as the recording itself. With well recorded sources, the P-965 is revealing, pure and dynamic.

Is the P-965 the last pre-pro I'll ever buy? I doubt it. But I will probably upgrade most of the rest of my system before I upgrade from this pre-pro. The P-965 is my ticket to the upgrade train; the train that has many stops, but no end-of-the-line. It is the first upgrade since my speakers to make a night-and-day difference in my system, both on audio and video. Separate amps, a new CD player and cable upgrades failed to make serious improvement. Now, I realize that this was because everything was being jammed through an A/V receiver that was not up to the upgrades I was making. As a value, this is going to be tough to beat. I may someday try an outboard phono preamp, if a new pickup still leaves LPs sounding a bit too bright. If you're a vinyl fanatic and will use the P-965 as your main LP playback preamp, I'd recommend it. With all the inputs on the P-965, I won't have any trouble finding room for an outboard phono stage.

Now, I'll let you in on something that I felt I had to keep quiet about until recently, for my own protection (awaiting a refund). I was able to compare the P-965 with a Rotel RSP-1068 in my home. The "shoot-out" was brief, but informative. Keep an eye on the thread started by Will regarding this comparison for my notes. I was fully prepared to return whichever pre-pro I liked less, and I have kept the Sherwood. Details in that other thread soon.

So, in conclusion, I'll use a 5 star rating (1=lowest, 5=highest) for some key areas of the P-965:

Build Quality: *****
Value: *****
Features: ****
Performance: ****
Ergonomics: ***

It may not be easy to find a dealer to demo the P-965 for you, but IMO, it is very much worth the effort. I would not buy a pre-pro under $3K without first hearing the P-965.

FOLLOW-UP, April, 2006: I continue to be impressed by the P-965, especially with regard to its surround performance. I also continue to be frustrated by ergonomic issues, particularly the remote, which has never worked well, despite having the remote swapped out by Sherwood and having the P-965 checked out when it was sent in for the SNAP upgrade in October, 2005.

The SNAP upgrade, which includes numerous interim software and firmware upgrades, added many features to the P-965, like lip-synch adjustments, auto-set up calibration and room EQ (SNAP). Unfortunately, Sherwood's engineers have a strong inclination to the home install market, which prefers "set it, forget it" operation and not users who like to tinker, like me. As such, the auto-calibration and room EQ features are not user-adjustable. In my case, the P-965 is not able to properly identify speaker size or distance, and these settings cannot be overriden without reverting back to manual speaker distance and level settings. Also, the speaker size detection is not accurate, and any attempt to correct the P-965's speaker size detection means you have to shut off the room EQ.

This was a real blunder. With 7 channels of multi-band digital parametric EQ, the P-965 could have offered incredible flexibility and a great way to smooth out bumpy subwoofer response. However, with no visible indication of before and after readings from SNAP EQ function, one has no way of knowing if it's really working or making adjustments based on preference. In the end, although I have yet to try Sherwood's complicated work-around for these issues, I have not used the SNAP or auto-calibration features.

Another issue with the P-965 was possibly revealed when I attempted to upgrade my CD player, currently a Rotel RCD-02. I had never heard a big difference between the Rotel's analog outputs and the P-965's DACs when fed by the Rotel's digital output, despite the two having completely different DAC chipsets and the P-965's upsampling. I chalked that up to my inability to hear more of a difference. However, when I home-auditioned a Jolida 100A tube-output CD player, I could detect no difference between the Jolida and the Rotel, using their analog outputs. According to the Jolida dealer and many web posters, there should have been a very audible difference between the two players. I was able to return the Jolida, but the likely conclusion is that the Pure Analog mode of the P-965 is not purely, well, pure. I resolved to try an outboard 2-channel preamp to test my theory. I purchased a used Conrad-Johnson tube preamp, and the results I am getting when feeding it directly with the Rotel supports my theory (the C-J also sounds terrific). I will post a review of this preamp in the future, but in spite of the excellent support offered by Sherwood America via Jeff Hipps, I am a bit dissollusioned at this point.

I have no desire to replace the P-965 as a surround pre-pro, but for those who wish to build a combo HT/2-channel audio system, I must recommend either a pre-pro with better 2-channel pass-through performance, or integrate a 2-channel preamp for your 2-channel analog sources with your P-965.

I do not know how the ergonomics of the Sherwood OEM'd prepro Outlaw Audio sells compared to the P-965, but at a lower price, one should compare the two before buying.

If you want to read all 5 parts of my very in-depth review of the P-965, use this link to the thread: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=160581&page=11&pp=30

Customer Service

Had remote exchanged, free of charge, and had firmware upgrade performed. Very good customer service and communications.

Similar Products Used: Pioneer VSX-24TX AVR
OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
4
Richard Evans   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 15, 2006]
Strength:

Read review - its very hard to fualt this duo at this price point
High ends pre/pro seperates best kept (bang for buck) secret

Weakness:

GUI set up interface could be improved
Zone 2 remote is below par for this level of high end gear

Huge headroom - the real world RMS per channel is much closer to 140 per channel, all channels driven simultaneously
Movies - Excellant
2 channel music - very good
DSP - very good - I actually use some
Build quality - Top notch, above its price point
Able to drive even the most demanding speakers comfortably
Brilliant value for money - to 'cheap' for our very brand consious audiofile cousins

Similar Products Used: Yamaha
NAD
JVC
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Stevizard   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 13, 2006]
Strength:

1. Huge soundstage
2. Very detailed, accurate sound
3. Superb 2-channel sound
4. Instruments sound "live"
5. Neutral character lets recording be themselves / not over-processed
6. Exceptional surround sound separation
6. Easy setup
7. A "must have" hand-held remote control is included

Weakness:

1. I'd like to see the large knobs on the faceplate recessed into the front panel to give it a FLAT appearance.
2. The Remote Control should have an "Auto" button on the LCD screen to select the auto-detect feature for surround sound modes. Although once auto is selected, it stays that way and detects the mode (but I like to play with different settings and that would make it easier for me).

Sherwood Newcastle P-965 Review

I was shopping for a high-end home theater system that would do justice to 2-channel stereo and 7.1 surround sound for my home theater system. I demo'ed quite a few systems (Yamaha, Denon, Marantz, Pioneer, Onkyo, Anthem, etc.) before deciding on the Sherwood Newcastle P-965 processor and A-965 amplifier.

Since I'm running RBH Sound's T1 speaker system (4 ohms), I needed an amp that had plenty of power and punch. The A-965 amp gives me more clean power than I'll ever use. I could probably drown out the 747s at the local airport without any distortion.

The P-965 processor/preamp has an understated Titanium (silver) finish. Its simple elegance and lack of all of those pasted-on certifications (THX, DTS, DD, etc.) gives it a more sophisticated appearance. Eight buttons adorn the faceplate below a large, well laid out info screen. There are another 18 buttons located behind a fold-down door on the front panel. Unlike most processors, whose appearance is marred by front AV connections placed directly on the faceplate, the P-965 neatly conceals these inputs for plugging in video games, cameras, or other devices behind the fold-down door on the front panel giving this receiver a definite edge in the sleek appearance category.

Auto-setup using the supplied microphone will automatically EQ your room and set up the speakers to audio perfection or you can use the On-screen setup to configure your settings manually. Either way, setup is a breeze.

The P-965 comes with an excellent hand-held remote that’s as easy for both right-handers and left-hander to use (That’s important to me since I’m a leftie). The Sherwood RNC 510 Remote can learn commands and control 10 separate devices, ending the remote control clutter that most of us suffer from. It has a large easy to read LCD screen and a well-conceived hard button layout, which makes configuration, switching devices, and overall control a delight. Its much better than the remotes that come with the Denon, Sony, Yamaha, Onkyo, etc. In fact, even if you own one of these other brands, you probably ought to buy the RNC-510 from Sherwood ($249.00 separately).

The soundstage and channel separation for DVD movies is absolutely top-notch. The P-965 handled the DTS soundtrack from War of the Worlds (with Tom Cruise) with precision and power. The blast of the lighting strikes near the beginning of the movie nearly knocked me out of my chair. The roar of the alien ships bursting out of the ground had me lifting me feet off the floor, and I’ve never heard and felt the breaking of the plate glass store windows so intensely as when played through the P-965. Sherwood decided to forego the THX certifications in order to keep the price down but they didn’t skimp on the DACs (they’re the same ones used in the much more expensive Krell units). If this was a magazine review, I could say much more but since its only on a website, I’ll try not to elaborate too much.

Music listening is just as enjoyable. My RBH Sound T1 speakers (left, right, and center) sparkled in 2-channel mode. Rock, R&B, classical guitar and piano, flutes, horns, all sound as though your sitting front-row center at a distance of 10 feet from the musicians. I pushed my speakers hard with no noticeable distortion or amplifier fatigue. In fact, the harder I pushed it, the better. The digital surround processing is truly a joy to hear (especially through my four SE-66 RBH Surround Sound speakers. The P-965 and A-965 provided superb detail, a huge soundstage, and handled it easily and without effort, The Sherwood Newcastle P-965 has a clean, neutral character that allows the color and ambiance of each instrument to sound as natural as if you wear playing it yourself.

I’ve had a lot of equipment over the years, everything from high-end AVRs to mid-level separates. Frankly, I don’t know how Sherwood offers such great mid-level separates at a price point that just begins to approach high-end integrated receivers. I highly recommend the P-965 and A-965 (You’ll have to spend at least $2000 more to anything as good).







Customer Service

I haven't had any problems so I can't speak to this issue. However, I did call technical support to ask a few questions and had almost no wait time. So, they probably have enough people on staff if you should need help.

Similar Products Used: Pioneer AVR
Marantz AVR
Denon AVR
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Steve Henis   AudioPhile [Dec 09, 2005]
Strength:

Everything

Weakness:

None

One of the most underrated and overlooked high end oieces on the market. Uses the same DACS and processor as Lexicon and Meridian. Music is superb with a huge and enveloping soundstage and wonderful accuracy and movies are truly woderful. Replaced the Krell Showcase and Parasound C1 in my system and was superior to both. Also eclipsed the Anthem AVM30 in every way. A truly stipendous and groundbreaking preamp.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
studio hound   AudioPhile [Oct 11, 2005]
Strength:

2 Channel purity Not "over processed" sound Plenty-O-Connections (& a phono preamp!) Bass management, room & speaker setup Analog bypass mode $$$$ factor

Weakness:

"Plain Jane" appearance. No HDMI switching Need OSD for most advanced settings (I do not use it switch video & therefore have no direct video ouput to monitor)

I too have been on the Merry-Go-Round of choosing a Preamp/Processor that would be able to handle my 2 channel as well as 5.1 duties over the past year & was just about to revert back to my aging & slightly outdated Lexicon MC-1 based system when I began to read about & do some research into the Sherwood Newcastle Pre/pro. I had already eliminated any Outlaw variant or "cheapo" unit from my short list & was narrowing my list down to either the new Lexicon RV Series, A Bel Canto PrePro, Sherbourn PT-7010A or, God forbid, a Krell. Essentially I was ready to shell out a good deal of my $7K tax refund on one piece of equipment. Sherwood Newcastle came onto my radar when I was researching a new CD, DVD (any round shiny disc) universal player & instantly demo'd & subsequently purchased their SD-871 Faroudja equipped player. While initially put off by the "Plain Jane" almost cheap appearance of their P-965 I was shocked to read the spec's of the unit & almost immediately knew a demo was in order. My systems integration guy @ HT Electronics arranged an at-home demo & after a short time tweaking the input/output parameters & fiddling with it's bass management I slid my favorite demo CD, Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia, Prairie Wedding (track 8) & was instantly taken back by the vastly enhanced soundstage, imaging & detail that the P-965 produced in it's analog bypass mode. (I actually had to physically go & inspect my center channel speaker to confirm that I wasn't feeding it a multi channel signal) My JM Labs Cobalt 826's seemed to benefit from the absence of the additional digital processing that was overly evident in my old Lexicon box & for the first time in a long while came close to a truly analog experience. Next came the tried & true, Steely Dan, Gaucho SACD. The opening bass lines of "Babylon Sisters" had near perfect channel separation, centered vocals & generally linear response. I did have to set the output gain on the LFE output to -2 db. & turn down the gain on my James EMB-1200 down a tad as well to keep the bass levels at a sane level but otherwise the percussive elements were very, very well placed, tight concise & utterly clean at all levels. On to video... I have never been a huge "movie guy” Having grown up in the live sound, studio recording world of the late 80's & 90's & having spent numerous hours behind my share of sound boards I have come to view video as the perfect complement to good music. I could review a whole buncha concert/music DVD's but since this will undoubtedly be a "Surround Sound Processor" first & foremost I address it's merits in that regard. Insert my Superbit copy of The 5th Element into player, scroll to infamous "Diva Sequence" hit play, sit in awe. I have heard this particular piece played more times than I would care to recount on systems ranging from $500-$100,000+. For the first time MY system, my modest little 5.1 system gave me something to brag about. The operatic passage had always lacked somewhat in its ability to cover the extremely dynamic nature & frequency response requirements that it demands of any system. I heard more subtle detail, more of the instrumentation & especially the classical arrangement (strings to the left, horns to the right, percussion in the rear) that previously ever before & once things start blowing up, wow... Truly amazing in it's ability to track soundtrack, special effects, dialog & foley effects with dead on accuracy. CONCLUSION... At under $1500 I cannot understand Newcastle's marketing & sales strategy other than to assume that this might be their loss leader product, or just maybe they're happy selling a whole bunch of integrated receivers. Whatever their case may be I have finally found a Pre/Pro that will satisfy my inner-child vinyl, 2 ch. self, my SACD & DVD-A cravings & work extremely well on blowing things up for the big screen duties.

Similar Products Used: Lexicon MC-1 (owned) Sherbourn PT-7010A (demo'd) Bel Canto PrePro (demo'd) Aragon Stage One (neighbors)
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
lrstevens421   AudioPhile [Feb 25, 2005]
Strength:

Superb two channel performace Excellent 5.1 playback Jaw dropping 7.1 playback 192/24 dacs Rock Solid build quality Extremely easy to use Auto-setup mic Upgradeable operating system Ample amounts of imputs

Weakness:

NONE!!!!!!!!!!

I'm glad to see that Audioreview has finally added this piece to there review lists. We all know how hard it is to find a processor that is both extremely musical and equally captivating for home theater, well the Sherwood Newcastle has gotten me as close as I've ever gotten. First let me tell you what I've owned over the last year alone. One year ago to date I owned a Rotel RSP-1066, which was very dynamic for home theater but lacked detail in the higher frequencies on the stereo side, I then upgraded to the Fosgate FAP-T1 processor, now this was an amazing piece. The Fosgate was a good performer on both sides of the fence, it just wasn't as revealing as I would like in stereo mode. I then moved to the Cary Cinema 6 pre/pro, this was one of the most musical processors I had ever heard, especially for $2500.00. Music seemed to just flow effortlessly from this processor, home theater is where it was lacking. All though the home theater sound from the cary was exceptable it just seemed uninvolving over a period of time, If on;y realized that now that I have the Sherwood. After the Cary, I moved on the B&K Reference 50, which was by far the most flexible pre/pro of the bunch. It was a movie powerhouse but sounded way too digital for music, even in it's direct mode it just sounded like that processor was doing to much work as supposed to just letting the music come through freely. Finally, at the end of last year I took the advice of a old school Audiophile buddy of mines mr. Darryl Allen who gave me a lesson on the Sherwood Newcastle brand, as it turns out this company designed HIGH performance recievers for a ton of manufactures (including some of todays big boys in the audio industry who shall remain nameless). I'm not going to spend time raving about how the Sherwood kicked the other processors butts (eventhough it did), instead I want to talk about how evenly balanced it is. I'm baffled as to how this piece only costs $1500.00, well who cares how they did but this baby rocks, music is effortless and movies are about as involving as one can possible get, by the way their 7 channel amp is just as good (check out my review on that also). When this baby arrived to my home I let it burn it for almost 72 hours continuosly and boy was I greatly rewarded. The first piece of music I listened to was 'wish you were here' by Pink Floyd, the airy highs of the opening track and solid bass line came through on this processor with an amazing broad and clear soundstage, it was honestly the best I've ever heard that track, my jaw dropped to the floor. I've been around the block a few times so I know alot about high end audio, Sherwood now has hig end audio's best kept secret. I'm shocked this piece isn't sold out everywhere, you people out there have no idea what you're missing. For my first movie audition I used the hallway/elevator werewolf attack scene from the movie 'Underworld' it sounded amazing in 5.1, right up there with the Fosgate (which is what I was hoping for), but when I switched to 7.1, but 7.1 is where the Sherwood excelled, I used both in a 7.1 setup and the Sherwood was again 'jaw dropping'. The menu was lenghty and easy to use, but not as flexible as the B&K reference 50, but the Sherwood had all the major tweaks and adjustments. The unit also has the auto setup mic, I have no need for that because I do all the adjusting myself, but it shows that Sherwood is up to date with the latest technologies. I could also take up another paragraph or so talking about the magnificant build quality, but you can tell that just by looking at it, it weighs almost 30 pounds. I'm not sure how Sherwood did it but they finally tamed me, this one's a keeper. Did I mention that it's completely upgradeable? Here's my system: Panasonic PT-50LC13 16:9 HTDV Bravo D2 DVD Player Sherwood Newcastle P965 Sherwood Newcastle A965 Pioneer DVR-520HS DVD recorder Sony SCD-C2000ES SACD Changer Monster Cable HTS-5100 Signature Series NHT SB3 (fronts) NHT SC2 (center) NHT SB2 (rears) NHT SuperzeruXU (back rears) Sony SA-WX700 Subwoofer (Another amazing value).

Similar Products Used: Rotel RSP-1066 Fosagte FAP-T1 Cary Audio Cinema 6 B&K Reference 50
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
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