Pitting the NuForce AVP 16 against the Anthem AVM 20, which at $3399 costs almost three-and-a-half times as much, can't be considered fair in anybody's playbook, but that's just what I did. What made the comparison all the more interesting was that these two surround processors are the results of two radically different design philosophies. The relatively simple and inexpensive NuForce seems to have been designed with the assumption that when new audio standards are established, you can keep your existing power amps and buy a new processor as needed. With the AVM 20, on the other hand, Anthem has tried to provide everything any customer could possibly want, as well as an upgrade path to accommodate any future developments.
But even in such an unfair fight, the NuForce held up surprisingly well. Playing two-channel recordings, the AVP 16 was every bit the AVM 20's sonic equal, which I found a bit shocking. Musically, the NuForce is one of the better surround processors I've heard in a while. When it came to surround sound, the more flexible Anthem began to pull ahead, if only for its ability to let the user fine-tune a system by optimally adjusting a large number of parameters. Many of the Anthem's features are designed to accommodate various unusual circumstances -- something the NuForce doesn't even attempt. Some will find these special features useful, others will not. If you fall into the latter camp, then the NuForce AVP 16 may be all the surround-sound processor you'll ever need.
The NuForce AVP 16 is a well-designed processor with only a few, relatively minor operational quirks to detract from its otherwise stellar performance -- quirks that can be easily overcome or mostly ignored. The tradeoff is an exceptionally musical surround-sound processor at an extremely reasonable price. While there are certainly more flexible products on the market, none that I know of sounds this good at anywhere near this price. The AVP 16 would be an extraordinarily good choice for the music lover who needs a reasonably priced preamplifier that can also act as a surround-sound processor when the need arises. All in all, the AVP 16 is quite a deal.