Sherwood RV-4050R AV-receiver
Today's A/V receivers provide tremendous benefits, but they also tend to be relatively large and expensive and are often too complex for most people to operate effectively. The inexpensive Sherwood RV-4050R takes a different course. It makes no attempt to simulate different hall environments or to dazzle (and often bewilder) us with an array of knobs, buttons, and multicolored displays, many of which would rarely, if ever, be used by the average buyer. But it does have an above-average AM/FM tuner, front-channel power amplifiers rated to deliver 60 watts per channel, and a Dolby Pro Logic decoder. In its Pro Logic mode, the power rating falls to 50 watts per front channel, but since it then operates in a three-channel mode (left, center, right), the total output capability across the front becomes a hefty 150 watts. In addition, the rated output of its surround (rear) channel in Pro Logic operation is 20 watts.
The Pro Logic system also provides the so-called "Dolby 3 Channel" mode, which extracts the center channel but leaves the surround channel folded into the front left and right - useful for those who have no practical way of placing surround speakers in their rooms. The Dolby Pro Logic system in the RV-4050R includes an automatic input-balance circuit and a random-noise test-signal generator to facilitate balancing the speaker levels.
The RV-4050R's front panel contains a single fairly large knob, resembling the tuning or volume control of a conventional receiver, and marked vol/tone/balance. Although not as densely populated as the front panels of some other A/V receivers, it also contains a number of pushbuttons of various sizes and shapes, all of whose functions are clearly identified.
Instead of the large and colorful display window found on most A/V receivers, however, the RV-4050R's operating readout consists of a 1 x 2.5-inch fluorescent display in the middle of the panel. The principal information shown is the frequency and channel-preset number of a selected AM or FM station or (in small characters) the name of any program source selected by one of the seven large rectangular buttons below the display. Other small characters appear as required to indicate functions that may be activated during operation of the receiver. A horizontal display of one to seven red squares appears below the frequency display. The inputs are identified as FM, AM, VCR1, VCR2, TAPE MONITOR, TV/AUX, and CD. The VCR2 input is through front-panel jacks intended for hooking up the audio and video outputs of a camcorder.
The left portion of the panel contains the power switch, a headphone jack (which silences the speaker outputs when phones are plugged in), up/down tuning buttons, and two buttons that select the tuning mode and store station frequencies in the channel-preset memory for instant recall. The RV-4050R can store as many as thirty AM and FM frequencies in any order. It also has a presetting feature that automatically sweeps up the FM band and stores the frequencies of the first thirty receivable channels.
Now for that single large knob. It can be rotated continuously through about thirty light detents but no stop. Its primary function is as a volume control. In normal operation, rotating the knob clockwise causes a -row of seven red lights to come on sequentially from left to right in the display to show the approximate volume setting.
To the left of the knob are three slender buttons, marked bass, treble, and balance. If you want to adjust low-frequency response, pressing the bass button turns the knob into a bass control. Normally, only the center dot of the display will light, showing that the response setting is flat. As you turn the knob clockwise, the dot moves sequentially to the right, over a maximum of three steps, indicating a bass boost. Similarly, a counterclockwise turn moves the dot to the left (and the bass response down). The actual number of different bass responses is six in either direction. A few seconds after a change is made, the display and the knob return to their normal functions. The treble and balance adjustments are made in the same manner. The bass control, by the way, produces responses reminiscent of those from a graphic-equalizer band centered at 100 Hz. It boosts or cuts frequencies near that point while leaving the deep bass relatively unaffected. The treble control is conventional, producing shelving responses.
At any time, you can check the bass, treble, or balance setting by pressing the associated button; a few seconds later, the display returns to its normal (volume) indication. Finally, successive operations of the surround button switch the receiver from its two-channel stereo mode to Dolby Pro Logic, to Dolby 3 Stereo, and back to conventional stereo.
Other than the VCR2 and headphone jacks, all the inputs and outputs are on the rear apron. Standard phono jacks are used for the signal inputs and outputs and for the DigiLink connectors, which can join the RV-4050R to other compatible Sherwood components for unified system operation. Spring clips, usable only with stripped wire ends, are provided for all speaker outputs as well as the antenna connections. Antenna inputs are provided for 300- and 75-ohm FM antennas and the furnished AM loop antenna. There is one switched AC outlet.
If you think that the front-panel controls offer insufficient operating flexibility, take a glance at the RV-4050R's remote control. It is actually a system control, also operating compatible Sherwood CD players and tape decks. Although many of its fifty-five buttons are for CD and tape functions, most are dedicated to the receiver.
The remote control is the only means of adjusting the levels of the surround and center channels and switching the level-balancing test signals on or off. It duplicates the functions of all the receiver's front-panel controls while adding such extra features as temporary muting of the audio outputs and a sleep timer, which automatically shuts off the receiver after an adjustable period of 10 to 90 minutes. My chief criticism of the remote control is that all its buttons are the same size and shape, and almost all are the same color (black).
The specifications for the RV-4050R are generally typical of today's receivers with respect to its tuner and preamplifier characteristics. Perhaps the most obvious distinction between its specified performance and that of more expensive receivers is that its power ratings are based on a 0.5-percent distortion level, but, as our measurements show, those ratings are quite conservative. Particularly noteworthy is the receiver's strong output into 4-ohm loads - up almost 50 percent from that measured into 8 ohms.
In addition to its very adequate performance and low price, the RV-4050R's most striking feature is its one-knob control. I consider simplicity without sacrifice of essential performance to be a cardinal virtue. To achieve it at a bargain price is a further indication of good engineering.
I recall testing one other product with a similar one-knob control system. The Swedish Audio Pro tuner/preamplifier of 1981 was a pioneering effort in this direction, and it worked very well indeed. It had no power amplifier, however, and its price was more than $1,000 (in 1981 dollars!). Compare that with the Sherwood RV-4050R and its $270 price, and you may better understand my enthusiasm for the Sherwood.