The P5, like the D2v, is highly transparent, so that at first you may find yourself drawn to its effortless clarity and ability to retrieve layer upon layer of information from soundtracks and music records. It’s signature sound is at once crisply defined, yet also rich, vibrant, and full of tonal colors (this is not, happily, one of those amps that gives you transparency, but at the expense of a bleached, cold, and sterile sound). But one thing that words can’t adequately convey is how take-no-prisoners powerful the P5 really is. Some multichannel amps sound good to a point, but—when push comes to shove—run out of steam when the going gets rough, especially at low frequencies. But not so with the P5; it fears no loudspeaker load (at least not any that I have found) and offers stupendous dynamic clout that just won’t quit. The cool part, though, is that despite its enormous output capabilities the P5 never sounds muscle-bound or sluggish; on the contrary, it offers a fast, agile sound that few genuinely powerful amps can match.
In many respects, great home theater electronics are in the business of creating vivid and believable sonic contrasts on demand, and that is exactly what the Statement D2v and P5 do when playing the soundtrack for chapter 16 of The Hurt Locker (a film that is becomes one of my most frequently used surround sound test discs). The chapter in question shows the film’s protagonists bomb disposal expert James and his partner Sanborn as they are called in to tackle a nightmarish scenario where an Iraqi citizen has—very much against his will—been fitted with a suicide bomb that he desperately wants to have disarmed. The sheer chaos and threat potential of the scene are conveyed by a swirl of load, frantic voices all seeming to shout warnings, commands to take cover and the like at once.
But in the midst of the chaos, there are also telling sonic details that ratchet tension levels higher and higher, such as the distinctly metallic, electronic sound of James’ voice from within the helmet of his bomb disposal suit, or the terrified voice of the citizen-turned-bomber begging for the bomb to me removed. The pace quickens as James realizes the bomb is fitted with a timer set for detonation in just two minutes, and requests Sanborn’s help to try and disarm the bomb. As time runs down, interchanges between James and Sanborn become louder, more terse, and more intense until James—realizing that he has finally encountered a bomb he cannot disable—vigorously orders Sanborn to flee the scene, promising “I’ll be right behind you.” After mounting one last, futile attempt to save the Iraqi citizen, James apologize (“I’m sorry,” he shouts) and then tries to run to safety in the massive bomb suit.
And then, as we know it must, the bomb detonates—creating one of the loudest moments I think I’ve ever heard in any film soundtrack. But this isn’t just random loudness; it is detailed and explicit loudness, where you not only hear the blast of the bomb, but also—a split second later—the awful “thwacking” and “clunking” of rocks and other chunks of debris smashing into the padding and the thick visor of James’ theoretically “bombproof” suit. It’s a stunning cinematic moment, made all the more effective by the terrible silence that follows the explosion. For a moment, we’re not certain if James is alive or dead, but he slowly opens the visor of his helmets and stares skyward, drinking in the strangely peaceful sound of a kite tossed on the breeze overhead.
What made the Statement components so impressive in this passage was their ability to convey chaos and small but vitally important sonic details at the same time. No less impressive was their ability to handle the immense explosion (at which the P5 did not even blink), but then to shift gears to nail down the delicate sound of the kite’s tail fluttering in the wind.
Above, I mentioned the D2v and P5’s ability to deliver a presentation that is “rich, vibrant, and full of tonal colors.” To hear precisely what I meant by this, try the track “Country Roads” from jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton’s Like Minds [Concord Jazz, multichannel SACD]. Somewhat unusually, the album seeks to capture a “stage mix” that shows what it might sound like to stand in the midst of Burton and his fellow band member during a performance. And what an all-star team of musicians this recording features, with Chick Corea on piano, Pat Metheny on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. As the recording unfolds, not the remarkable purity and nuance the Anthem components bring to each instrument’s distinctive voice.