Review based on the following prices:
BDP100: £999.00 (inc VAT) - www.hificorner.co.uk
AVR400: £1,699.00 (inc VAT) - www.hifigear.co.uk
Revered UK manufacturer Arcam has a reputation for putting performance first, regardless of how pricey the end product. This high-end Blu-ray player and AV receiver pairing continues in that tradition, boasting a sensational spec with the potential to send audio and videophiles to home cinema heaven. The BDP100 is Arcam's first ever Blu-ray player, coming some ten years after the company launched its first DVD player, while the AV400 is the company's latest 'entry-level' receiver, a 7.1-channel design that offers 90W per channel and features tech filtered down from the company's AVR600 and AVR888.
The two are designed to work in tandem, not only technologically but also aesthetically. Both components are beautifully styled in a matching black or silver finish, and blend seamlessly when stacked on top of each other. Thankfully, they're not plastered in buttons and flashing lights - their clutter-free fascias give off an esoteric, sophisticated air. The BDP100 features a single row of bullet-like buttons for up-close playback control and a large green-lit LED display.
It's mirrored on the AVR400 with a large display panel - which gives the full name of the audio format, volume level and input - and a tidy row of 12 buttons for input switching, sound mode selection and menu controls. Volume is controlled using two of these keys, which are less satisfying than a dial but visually much cleaner. You also get two inputs on the front - one of these is a multi-purpose 3.5mm aux jack, acting as an input for line-level analogue audio, digital audio (optical) and the supplied setup microphone. The other is a headphone jack.
As you'd expect at this price, build quality is incredible, which can only mean good things from a performance perspective. The BDP100's inert chassis and damped cover aim to reduce performance-harming microphonic vibration, and at 100mm high it's chunkier than your average Blu-ray deck, although high-grade AV circuitry of the type used here needs room to breathe.
These internal electronics have been carefully arranged to avoid cross-chassis interference - there are discreet sub-regulated power supplies for the drive, audio and DAC boards, while Arcam's unique 'Mask of Silence' shielding techniques protect key signal paths from meddlesome radio frequencies.
Arcam also likens the player's CD performance to that of an audiophile CD player, as it counts a Wolfson 8741 audio DAC and a linear-phase Bessel output filter among its audio electronics.
The AVR400 boasts similarly heavyweight bodywork, and on the inside there's a heavyweight toroidal transformer, multiple power supplies for the internal building blocks and a multichannel Class A/B power amp that's been optimised for low distortion.