The SSP220 is Halcro's newest iteration of their surround sound processor. Halcro surround sound processors have quickly built a reputation for their ability to compete with anything on the market in terms of sound quality. This latest version, the SSP220 ($11,990), incorporates all of the latest firmware updates of its predecessor, the SSP200, and makes some hardware changes, primarily to increase the physical strength of the unit.
The Halcro SSP220 is a capable performer. The included features have been carefully chosen. Audio features include multi-channel linear PCM, 7.1 channels with both balanced and unbalanced inputs/outputs, auxiliary channel outputs, dual zone, advanced bass management, THX and adjustable lip-synch. On the video side of things are Oplus video processing, 1080P, 24fps capability, the ability to pass below black test signals, analog to digital conversion, scaling, de-interlacing and component bypass. Additionally, the attractive industrial design includes a front panel display above a drop-down door that hides an input and the microphone connection. The microphone is used to set speaker distance and level but any form of room correction is notably absent. Ten pairs of analog inputs, four HDMI, four component video, four coaxial digital and two optical digital inputs, among many other connections, help ensure that the SSP can handle even the most complex systems.
The sound quality of the SSP is absolutely outstanding on both surround music and movies. The auxiliary channels and advanced bass management let me tailor the sound processing to fit a variety of speaker systems. Uncompressed audio from Blu-ray or HD DVD via HDMI was a revelation and, in many instances, much superior to the traditional DTS or Dolby codecs. The video conversion is now extremely clean and the video processing has gotten much better in the latest units, but I still prefer the Gennum 9351 in my projector.Read about the high points and low points of the SSP220 on Page 2.
• Immediately upon unpacking the SSP, you will notice its striking industrial design, including the large LCD screen on the front panel. At $12,000, you should expect a badass AV preamp with all the bells and whistles. You get that with the Halcro SSP220, while other audiophile companies struggle to get you one single HDMI input.
• The SSP allows for a great amount of flexibility in set-up in terms of inputs, outputs and configurations. This compares favorably with Meridian's legendary 861. Note that Halcro has four HDMI inputs as opposed to zero on the 861, meaning you need an external switcher for the Meridian to switch HDMI video.
• The SSP's sound quality is simply excellent, even when compared to the likes of the best AV preamps on the market, including Meridian's G-Series, Lexicon, Krell and Mark Levinson's $35,000 No. 502.
• There are lots of inputs, which allow me to hook up all my gear directly, rather than going through a switcher. Switchers have been a necessary evil in the early days of Blu-ray, HD DVD and other HDMI sources, but for $12,000, I don't want excuses, I want connectivity. The Halcro delivers.
• The front panel LCD panel only displays 480i signals, requiring each non-480i source to run two video cables, assuming the source can output 480i simultaneously with the preferred signal.
• The Asian competitors on the market, notably Denon and Integra, have features like XM and Sirius radio, which are missing here. Anthem and Meridian have features like room correction software, which is also absent on this model. At these prices, nothing should be omitted.
• The SSP-220 cannot internally decode the new high bit rate codecs, the SSP-220 must be used with a source that can internally decode them and output the audio track via multi-channel PCM.
The Halcro SSP220 is among the best-sounding surround sound processors currently available today. Detractors will be quick to point out its lack of room correction and advanced surround sound codec support, and they would be right to do so. There were conscious decisions by Halcro to provide the best sound quality in a preamp that actually made it to market, while other audiophile companies sit with prototypes in the lab. Room correction is best done by physical room treatments and the advanced codecs can be enjoyed through the Halcro by pairing the SSP220 with a source that can internally decode and output them via PCM. This way, when the codec is further revised, one can again become current by the (relatively) inexpensive purchase of a new source, rather than having to replace the entire processor.
The SSP's performance with both film soundtracks and audiophile music is nothing short of excellent. Details are not lost in the background or veiled in lame faux surround sound modes. Voices and instruments sound natural and the whole package comes together to form a convincing and cohesive sonic continuum, with the listener in the middle. If you want a real-world solution to your modern home theater system's switching needs, without giving up audiophile quality sound, consider the Halcro SSP220 very seriously.