The new An­them STR In­te­grated Am­pli­fier

SoundMag - - Review / Anthem - By Thomas J. Nor­ton, Stereophile Mag­a­zine

There’s much to be said for in­te­grated amplifiers and while sep­a­rates have long dom­i­nated high-end au­dio, an in­creas­ing num­ber of au­dio brands are now de­liv­er­ing in­te­grated prod­ucts that bun­dle a preamp and power amp, but some­times add dig­i­tal in­puts of var­i­ous flavours, phono stages, bass and tre­ble con­trols (long on life sup­port in au­dio­phile gear), and more into one of­fer­ing.

The new An­them STR which is now avail­able in all black or all sil­ver is one prod­uct that is am­pli­fier that is prov­ing pop­u­lar.

At 18 kilo, it’s mod­er­ately light and cool-run­ning for a class-AB am­pli­fier spec­i­fied to out­put 200Wpc into 8 ohms, 400Wpc into 4 ohms, or 550Wpc into 2 ohms across the en­tire au­dioband at less than 1% to­tal har­monic dis­tor­tion (THD).

The STR’s power-amp stage is built around a sin­gle large, toroidal trans­former, with over­size fil­ter ca­pac­i­tors and load-mon­i­tor­ing cir­cuitry for op­ti­mal per­for­mance. Its 2-ohm rat­ing should al­low the STR to work with­out break­ing a sweat with vir­tu­ally any mod­ern speaker, some of which have im­ped­ances that can dip that low— or even lower—in at least a nar­row part of their fre­quency range.

Apart from ARC, the An­them STR of­fers more than the usual com­ple­ment of fea­tures for an in­te­grated amp. There are five ana­logue in­puts (four sets un­bal­anced, one set bal­anced); dig­i­tal con­ver­sion and pro­cess­ing can be by­passed with each of them. The six dig­i­tal in­puts in­clude two TosLink op­ti­cal, two coax­ial, and one AES/EBU, all of which sup­port in­puts of up to 24-bit/192kHz. An asyn­chro­nous USB Type B dig­i­tal in­put ac­cepts PCM up to 32/384, and DSD at 2.8 or 5.6MHz. All in­ter­nal dig­i­tal pro­cess­ing is per­formed in PCM at 32/192, so all dig­i­tal in­puts are con­verted to that res­o­lu­tion, in­clud­ing DSD and, if de­sired, the ana­logue in­puts.

There’s also a pair of un­bal­anced, fixed-level RCA preamp out­puts for con­nec­tion to a head­phone amp, plus sep­a­rate, vari­able-level, un­bal­anced preamp out­puts, in the un­likely event that you choose to later add an out­board amp.

The STR has two phono in­puts, one each for mov­ing-mag­net and mov­ing-coil car­tridges. There’s an Eth­er­net port for con­fig­ur­ing ARC (the STR it­self is not Wi-Fi-ca­pa­ble); al­ter­na­tively, a mini USB B port can be used to set up ARC via a PC con­fig­ured with the down­load­able

ARC soft­ware.

An RS-232 in­put, a re­mote IR in­put, a 12V trig­ger, a sin­gle pair of high-qual­ity L/R speaker ter­mi­nals, and the ubiq­ui­tous IEC port for the de­tach­able power cord fill out the spa­cious rear panel, which isn’t nearly as crowded as this de­scrip­tion makes it sound.

The large dis­play on the STR’s front panel shows the vol­ume set­ting in nu­mer­als large enough to be read from across the room. When Info is se­lected, ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion ap­pears: the oper­at­ing in­put, ARC sta­tus (on or off), source res­o­lu­tion, and whether the out­put is in stereo or mono.

A sin­gle large knob to the right of the dis­play can be used to ad­just the vol­ume in steps of 0.5dB, or to nav­i­gate the setup menus. There are also but­tons for Power, Mute, and ad­di­tional setup ac­tions: Menu/Se­lect, Pre­vi­ous, and Next. I rarely used any of the front-panel con­trols, pre­fer­ring An­them’s small, wire­less, IR re­mote­con­trol hand­set, which can be used to per­form the iden­ti­cal func­tions. But some things, such as giv­ing the in­puts cus­tom names, might be eas­ier to do via the front panel.

Setup: Ba­sic

The STR can be ad­justed in a num­ber of ways, with or with­out EQ. You can ap­ply high- and low-pass fil­ters for the main speaker and sub­woofer(s) out­puts at any fre­quency from 20 to 160Hz, and ad­just the sub’s po­lar­ity and level, and the lis­ten­ing po­si­tion.

You can choose to con­vert the ana­logue in­puts to dig­i­tal 32/192 or turn the con­ver­sion off and pass the ana­logue sig­nal along to the amp sec­tion with no dig­i­tal con­ver­sion.

Be­cause I eval­u­ated the STR full range, with­out a sub­woofer, and only with a dig­i­tal in­put, my setup was far sim­pler.

But with its abil­ity to set up dif­fer­ent in­puts sep­a­rately, use more than one setup for any in­put, pass along an ana­logue in­put un­al­tered or con­vert it to dig­i­tal for pro­cess­ing, and more, the STR is ex­cep­tion­ally flex­i­ble.

All lis­ten­ing was done with my Mon­i­tor Au­dio Sil­ver 10 speak­ers, and with­out sub­woofer(s).

The Sil­ver 10s were po­si­tioned about 6’ out from one of the short, bay-shaped walls of my room, spaced about 9’ apart and just slightly more than that from the main lis­ten­ing seat, and toed in so that their axes crossed just in front of the lis­tener. I did all of my early lis­ten­ing with­out EQ, to eval­u­ate the STR’s per­for­mance. I didn’t test the ana­logue in­puts.

Lis­ten­ing: With­out ARC

One of my favourite things about au­dio shows is dis­cov­er­ing record­ings that I might want to own for en­joy­ment, test­ing, or both. And de­spite the car­cass that was the high-end au­dio por­tion of the 2018 Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show, I did hear at least one such record­ing, in the Har­man-Levin­son-Revel room: Mar­cus Miller’s M2 (CD, 3 Deuces/Te­larc CD-83534). It’s not the style of mu­sic I’d nor­mally choose (jazz fu­sion, fea­tur­ing Miller’s work on bass gui­tar and other in­stru­ments) but I or­dered it when I got home. My en­joy­ment of it through the STR and my sys­tem was enor­mously helped by its su­perbly clean record­ing qual­ity, with a smooth, silky, un­ex­ag­ger­ated top end and solid imag­ing.

Lis­ten­ing: With ARC

I chose a ceil­ing of 500Hz; with ARC leav­ing un­touched ev­ery­thing above that fre­quency, the speak­ers should still sound rea­son­ably close to the speak­ers I use ev­ery day be­cause I like them, mi­nus most of the bass boom, tub­bi­ness, and bloat that any room can cause. I sus­pect that most buy­ers of an STR will make a sim­i­lar choice.

ARC is used in many other An­them prod­ucts, but the ver­sion in­cluded in the STR and An­them’s new STR preamp is the most ad­vanced, with some 50% more cor­rec­tion ca­pa­bil­ity than even the best of them.

I set up ARC us­ing An­them’s rec­om­men­da­tions, plac­ing the mike at eight or nine dif­fer­ent po­si­tions.

The dif­fer­ences I heard ranged from sub­tle to strik­ing, de­pend­ing on the record­ing played, and were only rarely in­con­se­quen­tial. Record­ings with strong bass con­tent saw the great­est im­prove­ment. Drums were tighter; closely spaced drum rolls, in par­tic­u­lar, sounded more pre­cise, each stroke more cleanly dif­fer­en­ti­ated.


Most well-de­signed in­te­grated amplifiers on to­day’s mar­ket go about their jobs as such prod­ucts al­ways have, with­out al­ter­ing a sys­tem’s re­sponse in any sig­nif­i­cant way. That’s fine, and one of them might be just right for your sys­tem and room.

But de­spite the cur­rent pop­u­lar­ity of ana­logue, par­tic­u­larly vinyl, there are things that can be done with dig­i­tal pro­cess­ing, par­tic­u­larly when per­formed at high enough bit and sam­pling rates to sat­isfy the never-CDers, that we’ve never been able to ac­com­plish in the ana­logue do­main. In that re­gard, the An­them STR is a wa­ter­shed prod­uct worth se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion.

Highly rec­om­mended.

For the full in-depth re­view go to:­tent/an­them­elec­tron­ics-str-da-in­te­grated-am­pli­fier

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