Technics SH-AC500D Surround Processor

      Date posted: March 17, 2000

Yamaha DSP-A1
Sugg. Retail: $499
Distributor: Panasonic Canada Inc.,
5770 Ambler Drive, Mississauga,
Ontario. L4W 2T3
(905) 624-5010
FAX 624-9880

(Reprinted from the Winter/Spring 2000 Audio Ideas Guide)

      A couple of years ago I reviewed the Technics SH-AC300 surround processor, and liked its value and ease of use. It’s been in and out of my home theatre system since, serving as a stopgap between the often-more-expensive components that come in for review. The 300 sounded good, but always took second place to processors by such makers as Linn or Sunfire, or more elaborate components and receivers from such companies as Yamaha or Pioneer.

      Well, I’m delighted to report that its successor, the SH- AC500D, sounds quite a bit better, has added some very useful features, and fits into my home theatre system even better than the 300. The 500 has 3 digital inputs instead of 2, and also provides full 6-channel throughput. It decodes DTS and Dolby Digital, as well as offering Pro Logic.

      The extra input allowed direct digital connection from Star Choice, while the other two inputs were used with the LD/DVD player direct and through an RF decoder for Dolby Digital laserdiscs. The extra analog inputs will come in handy for passing through signals from the coming DVD Audio players, as well as accommodating players like the Toshiba SD-4109X that have built-in Dolby Digital. There’s a lot of versatility and value for $500 in the SH-AC500D.

      It looks pretty much identical to its predecessor, and uses almost exactly the same remote control, but with a slightly different button array to deal with DTS and the 3d input; eliminated on the 500 is Cinema Re-EQ, which I hardly ever used, anyway. Easy control is provided of Volume and Muting at bottom, and just above are simple buttons for settings levels and delays. There are no gooey menus except that for initial speaker setup for size and subs. There’s even a Balance control. Ergonomically and sonically, this processor is to me just about the best value in home theatre around, though it is now challenged by such receivers as the TEAC AG-D9320 reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

      Using the digital output from the Star Choice satellite dish (my ExpressVu box has no digital output) direct into the Technics processor quite noticeably improved the surround sound from the movie channels. This is probably a result of the Pro Logic decoding being done in the digital domain. So far, I haven’t encountered any Dolby Digital signals coming down from the bird, but it’s gotta happen sooner or later, and may already be occurring on the PPV channels I don’t get.

      I’ve been using the SH-AC500 for several weeks now, and have come to very much like its ease of use and good sound. And not only is it not gooey (you surely know I mean GUI, as in Graphic User Interface, which translates into too many button pushes to get anything useful done; how many button pushes does it take to screw in a virtual lightbulb?), but it allows changing of any parameter…level, balance, delays, whatever, without either the sound being interrupted or the screen being overlaid with a bloody menu. Why, I’ve seen receivers where, when you hit the button to make picture adjustments, the menu left so little picture on the screen that it was virtually impossible to set brightness, contrast, or anything else. Let’s call the process virtual adjustment of virtual reality caused by virtual stupidity in the design process.

      Not here. This processor does what it’s supposed to, and has no frustrating little quirks. The sound quality is much better than that of the 300, as I noted, something that’s become more apparent with use. It’s a pity, then, that the 500 doesn’t play back 24/96 discs, but you can’t have everything for $499. If you’re looking for an outboard Dolby Digital/DTS processor, you’ll want to check out this one from Technics. I did, and ended up buying it.

Andrew Marshall

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AIG Back Issues: Winter 2000

10 Responses to “Technics SH-AC500D Surround Processor”

  1. kenneth mcallister c-unknown Says:

    I bought on e of these thing’s at a thrift store.They didn’t seem to know what it was.i gave $4.95 for it.Did I get my moneys worth?(ac-500d,that is

  2. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    I dare say you did! I still have one in my HT system, and just haven’t bothered to remove it. If yours works, it’s a great value, and sounds pretty good.

  3. rune iversen c-no Says:

    hello my name is rune iversen from norway i want one but i cant seem to get one for my sterio so im asking here for help to get one sh-ac500d dts processor
    if you got one you can call on my fone in norway 92837136

  4. mks c-ca Says:

    u still looking for one(SHAC500D),i have one almost new,boxed.

  5. Steve c-ca Says:

    mks: I am looking for one… do you still have it by chance??? I am also in Canada.
    - Steve

  6. Kevin Kershner c-us Says:

    I Love my Technics full rack system that I purchased in the holiday season of the millennium when I was 16!!
    I received the SH-AC500D for” free” when I bought a bundled SU-G88 class H+ amp, 110+1 CD player (which broke years ago), SH-GE50 7-band graphic display EQ, RS-TR180 dual cassette deck, ST-K55 Tuner, and 5 channel speaker set. The only part I didn’t purchase then or ever after :-( was a amplified sub to top it all off… This rack set was amazing as a young teen and is still moderately impressive given its age and tests its endured throughout the past 13 years the worst thing about this set was the multi disc changer being a annoyance between design concept and and user end common sense which resulted in being unusable throughout the years. However, CD’s will soon become a old vocabulary word just as records, casettes, and 8 track tapes became as digital copy’s of media and cloud networking pushes through for all of our audio desires now in 2012… Cheer’s ;-)

  7. John c-unknown Says:

    Hi Steve

    I have a SH-AC500D Technics processor for sale, best pc of stereo equipment I’ve invested in for the money.I know longer use it as I have invested in a new Yamaha Aventage Series AV Receiver. I reside in the city of Barrie, ON.
    Anyone interested!

  8. Brett c-us Says:

    I, too, found this processor at a thrift shop, except I payed $20 bucks for it..still somewhat of a bargain right?! I thought so because this thing works amazingly and has very good separation, especially with blu rays. I use the Technics dsp with my old Adcom gfa6000 5 channel amp from 1994 along with KEF Uni-Q speakers from the same year. Im not sure if its because the amp and speakers are such high quality, but this has got to be one of the best sounding systems I’ve ever owned!! Very ironic because at the same time its by far the OLDEST setup I’ve ever owned (I’m only 25).

    The SH-AC500D fits the bill for a DSP/preamp with plenty of inputs to go with my Adcom amp that has been collecting dust for almost a decade. I have been looking for something like this for quite sometime so Im very pleased with my thrift shop purchase! The remote was missing so I ordered a generic one of amazon, but still would like to track down an offial Technics one, anybody have a spare sh-ac500d remote? let me know,

  9. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    Hi Brett,
    I don’t want to interrupt your current happiness, but I have to point out that the sound quality from Blu-rays is so good that your processor can hardly begin to reproduce it with old-style Dolby Digital processing. I have stuck with my Sunfire Theatre Grand because it does have 96kHz DACs that can provide the extra resolution from this newer disc format. That thought could perhaps inform your next upgrade path, though don’t worry about all the whiz-bang THX, dbx and other formats beyond higher resolution Dolby Digital.

    As far as your remote is concerned, you might want to look for a universal remote that can access the Technics codes, if you can find the correct numbers from one of the many sources for such things online. Try googling “Technics HT remote codes” as a start.

  10. Brett c-us Says:

    Thanks for your reply Andrew that’s very interesting, I really like learning about this stuff..

    How does the old style dolby digital processing differ from new? Given the actual media is encoded in the same DD(not dolby true hd, or cts hd or plIIx, ect) that’s been around for years. The reason I ask is have a few blu rays that are of older movies that have been remastered in regular DD and I cant tell as much of a difference with them as the newer movies that are made from the start in DTSHD for example.

    thanks for your time!

    ..out of curiosity, how many kHz is the Technics DAC? Another question out of curiousity: do those old processors work? I have read something about it being a chrystal DSP or something?? not sure what that means..

    As far as Blu Ray sound I totally agree- I can tell a huge difference between my much newer Sony blu ray/hometheater combo in the other room (even though it is by no means audiophile quality either) and the old technics unit.

    Luckily the technics has good enough ssound to warrant keeping it for now. Games with regular dolby digital like Call of duty for the PS3 hardly sound any different on the two systems as far as separation goes(maybe im crazy).

    Before I found the techincs in the thrift store, I had looked numerous times for a good pre amp (because I wanted to utilize my old adcom amp) that had all the lastest surround processing technologies/codecs…problem is I couldn’t find anything even close to a decent price plus most companies don’t even make stand alone pre amps anymore it seems. Any ideas for something around $200 or less?

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