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michaelharvey

Arcam AVR550 vs. Anthem MRX1120

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Well, a bit of background to kick things off. I upgraded my speakers to Kef Rs about 2 years ago, and had intended to buy a new AVR once Atmos came out. Between that, my wife and I had our first child, so it was a bit pointless upgrading for the sake of it!

We now find we are able to sneak in the odd movie and I thought we may as well upgrade to Atmos too!

The shortlist was always the Anthem 1120, then came along Arcam with the 550 and Dirac, so it got added to the shortlist too.

After demoing both, they were both very similar in sound quality with the Arcam having a slight edge. Considering it had Dirac, that ended up being my choice (despite effectively being $2k more once you get extra amps for Atmos).

At home with the Arcam......

Once I got it home, that is where all the problems started. The idiots at Arcam put out a dodgy version of the Dirac software on the website, which failed to work with my calibrated Umik-1. Additionally, the rubbish microphone Arcam provide failed to work too. I wasn't too happy.

After some sleep, I was kindly sent the previous version of the Dirac software. This at least worked with my Umik-1, although it isn't the easiest software to get running. Basic TV viewing was sounding great, so it was time to get onto some demo material.

I immediately got out the Dolby Atmos demo disc and played a few clips which went well, until I got to the Horizon Demo. This is where the next round of trouble started. The Arcam kept shutting down at the same point in the demo clip at reference volume. I was a bit puzzled, surely the Arcam would have enough grunt for this? Well, the answer is a bit more complicated. Checking the Dirac filter, it applies a 10db boost around 150hz, about the same spot my 8ohm rated speakers drop to around 3.2ohm on their impedance curve. Basically, the Arcam (550 at least) cannot handle difficult loads very well, which is why it was shutting down. Testing with Dirac off it passed this same test, and it also passed with Dirac on at 10db less volume.

Ok, well I figured that would be solved by a power amp, so I could live with it for the time being. Some more viewing (via Plex on XboxOne), saw the Arcam flick between a 5.1PCM and 7.1PCM source, despite the XboxOne being set on 5.1PCM. This was something minor that I could live with, but Arcam just dismissed this blaming the source.

I also had been reading all the issues with Dirac on AVS, which seemed to blow up during my period of ownership. Testing on my end using REW, easily replicated the same issue. Basically, the correction filter for one speaker (i.e. Left Front), was still being applied on content sent to the sub. Playing a few more familiar clips, the bass disappeared from my room (7db reduction between 35hz to 65hz), so much so even my wife noticed. Arcam technically firstly dismissed this complaint, then commented that the filter at a certain frequency is correcting the room, so it shouldn't matter what speaker it was sent to. Obviously this is total BS! I said to Arcam technical, that if they were intending to solve the issues I would be happy to keep the product, otherwise I would seek a full refund. Anyway, they maintained there was no problem so I got a refund.

Arcam Summary

+ Great sound quality (just ahead on Anthem)

+ Great build quality

+ Dirac very effective above the crossover, especially at low listening levels

- Dirac implementation is (currently) incorrect (unless you have genuine full range speakers)

- AMP cannot handle difficult loads

- Some HDMI issues

- Rubbish included microphone

- Very expensive in Australia, even more expensive once you had amps for Atmos

- Likely needs power amps with difficult speakers

At home with the Anthem......

Well, with the Arcam gone I could immediately notice the difference going back to the Denon, but thankfully it was only for a few days. Setting the Anthem up was extremely easy, it was all just very logical. First impressions are good. I quickly had everything plugged in, all the inputs renamed and was ready to run ARC (although not at midnight). Waiting until the next morning, I was very impressed with ARC. The microphone is very impressive, and the software is also very impressive. This is a very polished product! A minor issue with running ARC, it was misinterpreting the 150hz null in my room as the speaker roll-off, so I just manually adjusted that, which was again very simple!

Ok, straight into it. Can it handle the Dolby Horizon demo clip? Yes, it certainly could, and it was even louder than when the Arcam shut down! I was impressed, but how did it handle bass? Straight onto a few demo clips and the room came alive. I was a very happy camper!

Just to double check, I measured with REW and the hole the incorrect Dirac implementation created was virtually gone. A few tweaks with ARC quick measure improved things even further, so I did another calibration which improved things a little further.

Anthem Summary

+ Great sound quality (just behind Arcam)

+ Good build quality

+ Excellent amplification, it seems effortless and no need for power amps

+ Quality included microphone

+ ARC is a very polished product and very simple to use

+ 11amp channels on board

+ Great pricing in Australia

- Looks a bit cheap

- Display not the easiest to read (I'm nitpicking)

Overall

Well, to be honest they are both outstanding products, but the Arcam is particularly let down by their incorrect implementation of Dirac (which they are only now starting to investigate). I would give Anthem the win, but (ignoring cost) if Arcam do fix Dirac, I would give it the edge overall.

 

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Welcome to the Anthem Club!  :D

3 hours ago, michaelharvey said:

Setting the Anthem up was extremely easy, it was all just very logical. First impressions are good. I quickly had everything plugged in, all the inputs renamed and was ready to run ARC (although not at midnight). Waiting until the next morning, I was very impressed with ARC. The microphone is very impressive, and the software is also very impressive. This is a very polished product!

Phew!  I said good things about ARC and thankfully your experience lived up to it!  :P

3 hours ago, michaelharvey said:

 A minor issue with running ARC, it was misinterpreting the 150hz null in my room as the speaker roll-off, so I just manually adjusted that, which was again very simple!

......

Just to double check, I measured with REW and the hole the incorrect Dirac implementation created was virtually gone. A few tweaks with ARC quick measure improved things even further, so I did another calibration which improved things a little further.

What did you do to manually adjust for the 150 hz null?   And what were the quick tweaks with ARC quick measure?

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How do you think the Anthem would compare to Onkyo's flagship RZ3100? Both are fully powered Atmos recievers... Are Anthem generally a better company to go for over Onkyo?

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Yes, Onkyo is the low end budget brand avoid it if possible.

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michael harvey

 

good report.

ARC quick measure is a great feature for those initial 'fiddles' with speaker location and subwoofer set-up/integration.

 

Benje

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22 hours ago, Snoopy8 said:

Welcome to the Anthem Club!  :D

Phew!  I said good things about ARC and thankfully your experience lived up to it!  :P

What did you do to manually adjust for the 150 hz null?   And what were the quick tweaks with ARC quick measure?

I used ARC in manual mode. So easy to use and set all the speaker crossovers where they make most sense.

There is still a null there, but it isn't that huge anymore.

Using ARC quick measure, I moved my speakers around slightly, as well as tested them with port bungs half in, fully in, and out. This helped take away some boominess the fronts were doing, due to from

21 hours ago, Dylan86.exe said:

How do you think the Anthem would compare to Onkyo's flagship RZ3100? Both are fully powered Atmos recievers... Are Anthem generally a better company to go for over Onkyo?

I'd say the weakness with Onkyo is their current room EQ. Having said that, I never looked or considered Onkyo in my search. The only thing I can say about the Anthem is it scared the absolute s*** out of me during War of the Worlds!

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9 minutes ago, michaelharvey said:

I used ARC in manual mode. So easy to use and set all the speaker crossovers where they make most sense.

There is still a null there, but it isn't that huge anymore.

Using ARC quick measure, I moved my speakers around slightly, as well as tested them with port bungs half in, fully in, and out. This helped take away some boominess the fronts were doing, due to from

I'd say the weakness with Onkyo is their current room EQ. Having said that, I never looked or considered Onkyo in my search. The only thing I can say about the Anthem is it scared the absolute s*** out of me during War of the Worlds!

That's pretty cool. I'd be using REW with my own mic anyway, so auto room calibration isn't high on my priority list. Looks like Anthem is back on my short-list.

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27 minutes ago, Dylan86.exe said:

That's pretty cool. I'd be using REW with my own mic anyway, so auto room calibration isn't high on my priority list. Looks like Anthem is back on my short-list.

You don't have any flexibility to change the ARC target curves, so if you want that flexibility I don't think the Anthem is right for you.

With my experience with all of this, I would agree a manual eq would be the best way to get the absolute best performance. I don't know what is the best product for that though.

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9 minutes ago, michaelharvey said:

You don't have any flexibility to change the ARC target curves, so if you want that flexibility I don't think the Anthem is right for you.

With my experience with all of this, I would agree a manual eq would be the best way to get the absolute best performance. I don't know what is the best product for that though.

I'd be adding a mini-DSP. They're designed exactly for this and aren't expensive at all. Although they only do bass (as far as I know) I'd most likely add on another for the mid/high frequencies down the track.

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You don't have any flexibility to change the ARC target curves, so if you want that flexibility I don't think the Anthem is right for you.
With my experience with all of this, I would agree a manual eq would be the best way to get the absolute best performance. I don't know what is the best product for that though.


You have room gain which allows you to add or cut gain in the bass region, so that means you can tweak a bit there an add a house curve if you want.

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1 hour ago, Dylan86.exe said:

I'd be adding a mini-DSP. They're designed exactly for this and aren't expensive at all. Although they only do bass (as far as I know) I'd most likely add on another for the mid/high frequencies down the track.

Ah great - are you getting the 88A? 1 or 2?

In the case of the Anthem, I guess you could just get the MRX720 and use it as a processor (and a zone 2 amp).

I felt in that situation, the Yamaha CX5100 or the Marantz 7702 would be very worthy choices too.

Edited by michaelharvey

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2 minutes ago, michaelharvey said:

Ah great - are you getting the 88A? 1 or 2?

In the case of the Anthem, I guess you could just get the MRX720 and use it as a processor (and a zone 2 amp).

I'll most likely go the 2.
I'm going 7.2.4 so I'll need the full 11.2 powered amps the 1120 can give me. I guess I could always go the 720 and get a power amp to drive the heights. $1500 saving or I could get the all in one unit the 1120 provides..

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16 minutes ago, Dylan86.exe said:

I'll most likely go the 2.
I'm going 7.2.4 so I'll need the full 11.2 powered amps the 1120 can give me. I guess I could always go the 720 and get a power amp to drive the heights. $1500 saving or I could get the all in one unit the 1120 provides..

Hi Dylan,

I was pretty sure a 88a needs an external power amp, at least based on their diagrams.

If not, how does it work?

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Hi Dylan,
I was pretty sure a 88a needs an external power amp, at least based on their diagrams.
If not, how does it work?


No you're right. It takes analogue inputs and outputs. So i'll need an external amp to run it too. But again, that's something i can add-on down the track. At the moment, I'm interested in the Mini DSP for bass because its only about $400. And the 1120 can deal with the mid/highs with some wall treatment until i buy the 88a.

Sent from my LG-H815 using Tapatalk

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55 minutes ago, Dylan86.exe said:

No you're right. It takes analogue inputs and outputs. So i'll need an external amp to run it too. But again, that's something i can add-on down the track. At the moment, I'm interested in the Mini DSP for bass because its only about $400. And the 1120 can deal with the mid/highs with some wall treatment until i buy the 88a.

Sent from my LG-H815 using Tapatalk
 

 

If you didn't want atmos Dylan I would have suggested the new emo mc700 for your umik ; manual parametric equalisation to the max [ including the back surrounds soon ] and the modular hdmi pcb can be upgraded like all emo pre pro's ;) Gotta love hdmi ; its like a treadmill ..

btw Ide go the 720 if you have the room a 2ch amp isn't dear and use the savings for the room treatment ? or the 1120 which is what an all in one is all about .. :ahappy: The nice thing about the Anthems are there preset configurability and constantly improving ARC .. Enjoyed the review Michael.

Edited by cwt

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If you didn't want atmos Dylan I would have suggested the new emo mc700 for your umik ; manual parametric equalisation to the max [ including the back surrounds soon ] and the modular hdmi pcb can be upgraded like all emo pre pro's [emoji6] Gotta love hdmi ; its like a treadmill ..
btw Ide go the 720 if you have the room a 2ch amp isn't dear and use the savings for the room treatment ? or the 1120 which is what an all in one is all about .. invision_classic_ahappy.png The nice thing about the Anthems are there preset configurability and constantly improving ARC ..


Haha yeah but....Atmosssss! [emoji3]
Yeah I'll look into the 720 with a 4ch amp. Ill have a look now and see what anthem have got.

Sent from my LG-H815 using Tapatalk

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I thought I was having some tech issues but a binding post was just a bit loose. Thank goodness.

Edited by michaelharvey

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Looks like any 4ch amp to pair with the 720 is going to cost me about the same as the 1120 anyway!!...

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True, but remember the 1120 outputs only 60wrms to the remaining 6 channels, not full power as it does for the other 5 channels.

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On 06/02/2017 at 10:51 AM, michaelharvey said:

Overall

 

Well, to be honest they are both outstanding products, but the Arcam is particularly let down by their incorrect implementation of Dirac (which they are only now starting to investigate). I would give Anthem the win, but (ignoring cost) if Arcam do fix Dirac, I would give it the edge overall.

 

Dirac fixed on 4.17 version released cpl days ago.

Cheers

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On ‎1‎/‎03‎/‎2017 at 5:02 PM, nadyn1503565113 said:

Dirac fixed on 4.17 version released cpl days ago.

Cheers

I missed your post.

I would say, attempted fix, but user reports are still not very good.

Buy the Arcam at your own risk.

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They are the same few users that struggle with Dirac.  That piece of kit needs knowledge, understanding and fiddling time.  Dirac it's not for everyone.

I agree regarding the mic, 20 cents worth rubbish.

Edited by nadyn
adding more words

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Thanks for the review. I ended up going with an Anthem too after being in this same choice between that and the AVR 550.

I just opted for the MRX 720 because I didn't need the extra amp channels.

One of the main reasons I went Anthem is due to pricing. When I was calling around asking about the Arcam and price all I was quoted was the rrp

over and over (i'm guessing that's a dealer strategy) I couldn't be bothered with that and made a huge saving getting a good price on a 720.

 

Anyway I've had the MRX 720 for about a year now and can attest that it's a fantastic receiver for anyone looking to go the Atmos route.

(I had Marantz 8801 and Pioneer LX 87 before this)

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42 minutes ago, zakblue said:

One of the main reasons I went Anthem is due to pricing. When I was calling around asking about the Arcam and price all I was quoted was the rrp

over and over (i'm guessing that's a dealer strategy) I couldn't be bothered with that and made a huge saving getting a good price on a 720.

generally if just calling you often will just get rrp. dealer doesnt really know how you are. I have always found retailers more conducive in person. and especially if understand you are indeed keen to buy :)

 

in any case congrats with your purchase and good to hear you are happy with what ended up wiht :)

 

 

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