Top End An­them Re­ceiver Sup­ports Dolby At­mos

SoundMag - - Review - Writ­ten by Steve May

An­them may not be as well known a brand as Denon, Yamaha or Pioneer when it comes to home the­atre re­ceivers, but it’s rep­u­ta­tion amongst en­thu­si­asts and pro­fes­sional AV in­stall­ers is con­sid­er­able.

El­e­gantly de­signed, with high-grade com­po­nents and a se­cret sauce able to ex­pertly tune the AVR to your lis­ten­ing room, it can slug it out with the best of them at the high-end of home cin­ema.

The MRX 1120 is the brand’s cur­rent flag­ship. It’s a Dolby At­mos equipped model with eleven chan­nels of am­pli­fi­ca­tion on­board (still some­thing of a rar­ity). Con­se­quently, the re­ceiver sup­ports a full 7.2.4 At­mos speaker con­fig­u­ra­tion. Al­ter­na­tively, you di­vide power for sec­ond zone du­ties. Per­haps re­mark­ably, it’s still rather com­pact.

The MRX 1120 leads a four strong An­them line-up. The MRX 720, of­fers 11 chan­nel de­cod­ing but only has seven chan­nels of am­pli­fi­ca­tion on­board. There’s also an en­try-level model, the 5.1 MRX 520 and a pro­ces­sor ver­sion, the AVM 60, which adds a bal­anced au­dio out­put board to fill larger spaces.

At­mos ri­val DTS:X is a planned firmware up­date for the MRX 1120 - in­ci­den­tally, there’s no user op­tion to down­load firmware from the In­ter­net. An­them has man­dated that all firmware up­dates be man­u­ally down­loaded from the An­them web­site - but un­til then there’s DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio sup­port (and its de­riv­a­tives) on hand, as well as An­them Logic Cin­ema if you want spread stereo around the sound­stage, and Dolby Sur­round, which can up­mix legacy sound for­mats into the heights chan­nels for im­mer­sive ef­fect.

The re­ceiver is beau­ti­fully built, with good con­nec­tiv­ity. It has seven rear-placed HDMIs, plus one front fac­ing, with two out­puts. All sup­port HDMI 2160/60 with HDCP 2.2 – es­sen­tial for 4K UHD source com­po­nents. There’s HDMI by­pass, so that the sys­tem doesn’t need to be firedup to just catch up on the news.

There are also five dig­i­tal in­puts (two op­ti­cal, three coax­ial), plus one op­ti­cal out­put, and five ana­logue stereo in­puts.

That fas­cia flap con­ceals a head­phone jack and USB – but the lat­ter is only for soft­ware up­dates, not me­dia play­back. The same with the USB on the rear. There are two sub out­puts, along with a full set of pre-outs. Nat­u­rally the MRX 1120 also has Wi-Fi, but if you’re un­able to hard­wire to a net­work a pair of aeri­als can be screwed to the rear.

Also in­cluded in the box is a com­plete An­them Room Cor­rec­tion kit. This in­cludes in­di­vid­u­ally se­rial num­bered and cal­i­brated USB mi­cro­phone; the num­ber on the mic tal­lies up with the An­them Room Cor­rec­tion soft­ware sup­plied on the en­closed CD Rom. If your lap­top doesn’t have a disc drive, you can just down­load the spe­cific cal­i­bra­tion file from the An­them web­site. The pack also in­cludes a proper tri­pod and USB ca­ble.

An­them says that a cal­i­brated mi­cro­phone will al­ways be more ac­cu­rate than a generic one, and clev­erly leaves all the EQ to the PC. The pro­ces­sor in an av­er­age AV re­ceiver will never have com­pa­ra­ble num­ber crunch­ing chops.

When first launched, ARC was an ex­pen­sive sep­a­rate up­grade kit. Now it’s bun­dled free.

In­put set up is dif­fer­ent from the norm. Out of the box, you’ll find just three in­puts as­signed, plus FM ra­dio and DTS Play Fi mul­ti­room. Ad­di­tional HDMI and au­dio in­puts can be cre­ated and as­signed, as re­quired, up to 29. Th­ese are not so much phys­i­cal in­puts, as Pro­files build around con­nected hard­ware, your cho­sen de­code mode and room set­tings.

All in­puts can be man­u­ally la­belled – and as I dis­cov­ered af­ter set­ting up the sys­tem, you don’t need to la­bo­ri­ously fin­ger the re­mote, you can use the ro­tary volume dial to re­name.

The MRX1120 doesn’t try and of­fer ev­ery bell and whis­tle. The em­pha­sis here is on the de­cod­ing and am­pli­fi­ca­tion. The AVR is tai­lored heav­ily for the cus­tom in­stall mar­ket. If you’re pro­gram­ming a Con­trol4 sys­tem, the An­them has SDDP (Sim­ple De­vice Dis­cov­ery Pro­to­col) en­gaged, so it will au­to­mat­i­cally ap­pear on the net­work.

The key fea­ture at­trac­tion of any An­them re­ceiver is ARC (aka An­them Room Cor­rec­tion). When it comes to EQ and fine tun­ing, this is a league re­moved from the likes of Audyssey and Yamaha’s YPAO.

ARC mea­sures the room, cap­tur­ing all the data with that cal­i­brated mi­cro­phone.

Once you’ve an­a­lysed the speak­ers in the room, you’ll see an un­cor­rected trace of ev­ery chan­nel, com­par­ing live data against a tar­get curve. This re­veals just what’s hap­pen­ing in the space, in­clud­ing room nodes and nas­ties. ARC au­to­mat­i­cally cal­cu­lates where to put crossovers. One click tai­lors ev­ery chan­nel to a tar­get curve.

Once cal­i­brated, the set­tings are up­loaded into the AVR’s pro­ces­sor. The en­tire set up can saved as an ex­ten­sive PDF doc­u­ment.

Duly tuned, the MRX1120 sounds sen­sa­tional. Dia­logue is clear and un­coloured, front sound­stage beau­ti­fully pre­cise. Steer­age around and within an At­mos sound­stage is seam­less and to­tally im­mer­sive.

There are four com­pletely sep­a­rate speaker pro­files avail­able. This means one speaker pro­file could be a full-blown sur­round sys­tem, while an­other could just be for two-chan­nel.

In­ci­den­tally, you can opt to by­pass au­dio (per­haps from a cher­ished two chan­nel source) from room cor­rec­tion, al­though I’d cer­tainly not want to do that.

Mad Max Fury Road boasts a blis­ter­ing sound mix, and the MRX 1120 is more than up to the job. The re­ceiver bris­tles with power, LFE hit­ting faster and harder than UFC champ Conor McGre­gor in a strop, but ARC EQ keeps dia­logue crisp and fo­cussed.

Imag­ing is con­sis­tently ac­cu­rate. When Pi first meets Richard Parker, in Life of Pi (Blu-ray, DTS-HD MA 7.1), the lion pads around the front sound­stage, and eyes closed you sense ex­actly where he is.

Stereo mu­sic sounds ex­cel­lent too. DSD tracks, ripped from vinyl on Sony’s PS-HX500, are sub­lime. This isn’t just a mus­cle amp, there’s se­ri­ous mu­si­cal­ity here.

There’s a mas­sive amount of power on tap – more than enough to fill larger home cin­e­mas. In­ter­est­ingly, the four height chan­nels are all driven by Class D mod­ules, while the main speaker layer ben­e­fits from Class A/B am­pli­fi­ca­tion. An­them rates the power out­put of the MRX1120 at 140W p/c into 8 ohms, with 60W go­ing to the height and back chan­nels. If you need more, there’s al­ways a bank of pre-outs.

With the MRX 1120, An­them has set a new bench­mark for home the­atre sound. It of­fers a fan­tas­tic level of per­for­mance en­hanced by to a stun­ningly ef­fec­tive cal­i­bra­tion and room EQ so­lu­tion, in the form of AN­THEM Room Cor­rec­tion. This is the kind of re­ceiver that re­stores your faith in high-end home cin­ema.

An­them have launched the free ARC Mo­bile app for easy and ac­cu­rate op­ti­mi­sa­tion of ARC-en­abled speak­ers. The app is avail­able now on the Ap­ple App Store.

Rat­ing

4.5/5

The An­them MRX 1120 is avail­able now for RRP $4999.

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