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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Home Theater Review!
AudioControl AVR-6
7.1 Channel Receiver:
"The Audiophile A/V Combo"

Price: $3,950
Likes: audiophile 7.1 sound
Dislikes: no DSD decoding
Wow Factor: "the summit for HT receivers"
More info: AudioControl AVR-6

by John Gatski
  This is my third AudioControl home theater A/V product review. And as with the Maestro 3 pre/pro and AVR-4 receiver I tested a few years ago, the new AVR-6 receiver maintains the audiophile-caliber, multi-channel signal path design that I have come to expect from this longtime audio test and component manufacturer. In fact, their AVRs may be the best-sounding receivers out there. Where other companies hype receivers with Internet and a jillion other apps, AudioControl quietly pushes its emphasis on audio quality.

  Priced at $3,950 through specialty AV installers, the AVR-6 is 100-wpc with all channels driven into 8 ohm loads. The Class-H output receiver has just the right amount of features — including new UltraHD 4k scaling/pass-through, enhanced zone control/routing and Internet radio input. The AC AVR line also includes a second receiver, the $6,000 AVR-8, the successor to the AVR-4, which was formerly top of the AC line. The AVR-8 sports 20 additional watts per each channel, a beefier power supply and output configuration to handle 4 ohms loads (up to 200 wpc).  The AC A/V products have much of their assembly done in the USA, though many components are, of course, made offshore
  The AVR-6 contains seven HDMI inputs, two HDMI output paths, six analog stereo inputs, three component and four composite video inputs. There are also two zone output sections with composite video and stereo analog output. The AVR-6 includes optical and digital audio inputs, but has no digital audio output. Other ports include USB 2.0, Ethernet, trigger input and RS-232 for enhanced control of the receiver. It even has an 1/8th-inch headphone jack, though it is inconveniently located on the back. (AC defends the HP jack location, stating that a front-panel jack clutters up the unit clean appearance.)
  The inputs can be assigned to a specific video and audio input and they can be labeled via the software. The inputs already have preset names, but those can be changed via the set up. I usually name them for that particular component, i.e. Pioneer, Sony etc.

Plenty of I/O for the AVR-6

  The AudioControl AVR receivers also have 7.1 channel multichannel analog preamp outputs for those who want more power from a separate amp, or you could feed another room with the multichannel output while listening to the built-in channels in the main room. The AVR-6 has a single subwoofer output, instead of two that I normally see in receivers. Alas, the AudioControl receivers no longer have multichannel analog inputs. According to AC's Chris Kane, there are fewer multichannel output Blu-ray players that necessitate multichannel inputs on the preamp and receivers. And, he noted, the converters are so good in the AVR-6 that you are not likely to hear an improvement by using on-board BD player converters. Still, I miss the analog multichannel-in feature; I often use my reference Pioneer BDP-09FD Elite's analog output.
  As with the acclaimed AVR-4 that was on the market for about a year in 2012-2013, the AVR-6 and AVR-8 receivers are for quality-obsessed fanatics who want the same kind of audio that audiophiles here from esoteric two-channel systems. The heart of the system its 32-bit DSP engine with Cirrus D/A converters and Class H power supply, bi-polar output amp section.
  The AVR-6‘s specs are impressive; AC says it can deliver 100-wpc into 8 ohms into all seven channels. In fact, you can tell by the power consumption rating at full power (1,500 watts), this baby can crank out the watts. The noise spec also is impressive — 100 dB in the input and output stages. The AVR-8 has a bit more oomph in its output; it is similar to the AVR-4, which I had on hand during the review. Sonic-wise, the AVR-4 and AVR-6 were about equal at normal listening levels in my A/V room.
  The AVR-6 on-screen set up menus and features are vast, but fairly intuitive. The menus are broken down into several sub menus including Input Configuration, General Setup, Auto Setup, Speaker Type, Speaker Distance, Video Inputs/Outputs, Audio Output Mode Zone Settings and Network. I like the fact that AVR-6 also can be operated via buttons on the front panel — as well as the included remote. If you lose the remote (or run out of batteries), you can still operate this receiver.
The AVR-6 delivered the 5.1 channels with audiophile precision. The sounds were clearly separated and with significant width and depth. This expansiveness is similar to what an audiophile playback system delivers — that extra space and depth that let's you hear more of the detail.

  The on-screen display is easy enough to understand to activate the various setup and functions. The black lettering on white screen is not easy to see in a brightly-lit room, so I dimmed the lights a bit to make the words more legible. The system setup for level matching, delay and EQ can be manually set up, my preferred method, or by use of an onboard auto setup mode.
  There are numerous parameters for adjusting audio and video, including bypassing the scaler for source-direct video connection. The scaler quality is excellent, and I did not visibly see any degradation when switching between bypass and the scaler with 1080P-source Blu-ray players. I did not have a 4K LCD on hand to check out the highest-res conversion. But I am confident it is exemplary, based on the 1090P performance.
  Besides the excellent decoding of lossless hi-res music formats (Dolby TruHD, DTS Master HD, linear PCM) and multi-channel digital, you also can engage additional processing for two-channel audio including Dolby Pro-Logic II and DTS Neo. The USB networking feature allows various options, including hi-res stereo playback from a sources such as Windows Media Player, and HD video distribution. The AVR-6 is also equipped with an Internet radio input.
  The large analog volume control is substantial in its appearance, just like the previous AVR-4, but its mechanical action is no longer continuous rotation. You click the knob to the right to raise the volume — one dB at a time. The display indicates the gain from 0 to 99 in 1 dB steps.
  Speaking of volume level, the AVR-6’s onscreen display, as well as other system info, is turned off when the video bypass is enabled. Additional volume options are available in the setup, including switchable Dolby Volume and Dolby Leveler to provide consistent level when the gain is changed.
  The AVR-6 is am impressive-looking receiver — with its large black chassis, blue LED display lighting and that big volume knob. The specs say it weighs only 35 pounds, but it feels heavier than that. My AVR-4 weighs a whopping 60 pounds with its huge power transformer; I guess the AVR-6's weight savings comes from a smaller, more-efficient power supply.

The set up
  I installed the AVR-6 in my primary home cinema room. The system is based around a 2011 Sony LX-929 full-array backlight LED TV. This HT system consists of Westlake loudspeakers comprised of  two LC8.1 (L+R), LC2.65 (center) and a pair of the NHT Ones for the rear surrounds. A Paradigm Sub 15 subwoofer handles the low/LFE duties. Sources included an Oppo BDP-105, Pioneer BDP-09FD and Sony BD-1570 Blu-ray players, as well  Verizon Fios digital cable receiver with HDMI 1080Pi and Dolby Digital 5.1 output.
  I had my reference AudioControl AVR-4 receiver on hand for comparison and last year’s Pioneer SC-79 7.1 receiver — with onboard ESS Sabre DAC decoding. The entire system was wired up with Wireworld's premium speaker cables, HDMI cables and analog and digital conduits. Essential Sound Products' Essence II power cords and power strip provided the power connections.
  I did an auto setup with the internal software and included measurement microphone and found that it did a pretty good job, but it EQ’d in bit more midbass then I liked for my room. My tile-over-concrete floor solid pine panel panel with some acoustic treatment for reflections is actually fairly flat in its measurement, and does not need any bass boost. Thus, I ultimately chose a manual set up, which was rather easy. I keyed in the same distances and speaker settings that were used with the AVR-4.
Die-hard audiophiles may cover their eyes when they read this, but I put the AVR-6 in my main audiophile system — with a pair of high-end $13,000 MartinLogan Montis electrostatic loudspeakers.

  On manual set up, I found the AVR-6 to be intuitive, but when using the remote, setting the distance (delay) takes a bit longer than I am used to with other A/V receivers and preamps. You start at "O" and have to push the button 1-inch at a time to get to the requisite distance. The numbers advance 1 inch at a time — even if you hold the button.
  There is an iPad app that allows setup and calibration; maybe that is faster, but the included remote takes a bit longer to reach the correct distance. The Maestro M3 preamp and AVR-4 distance settings operate in the same fashion.
  The rest of the setup was as smooth as silk, and easy to master. As stated previously, the white background with black lettering was a little hard to read at 10 feet with lights up; a little dimming of the master lighting fixed that. Of note, the AVR-6 gives wide flexibility in customizing the input to the source — including name, lip sync, room EQ, input Trim, Dolby Volume and Leveler and decoding mode for analog stereo or multichannel. I love the individual input lip sync adjustment option because different players often have differing amounts needed to sync the video and audio.
  During the evaluation, I tried out most of the sonic features, such as the Dolby Volume and Leveler as well as the digital inputs. Although there is a USB2.0 input, the AVR-6 does not have an on-board digital player. And the unit will only decode 24/96 USB digital input from players, such as Windows Media Player.
  The AVR-6 does decode up to 24/192 via HDMI and SPDIF inputs. I played a number of HD Tracks downloads from the BDP-105 via the HDMI and SPDIF. The AVR-6 will not pass hi-res audio from its digital output beyond 48 kHz.

The audition

  I started the subjective testing with a batch of Blu-rays. To ascertain its ability to squeeze out quality HT multitrack detail, I popped in the animated Bolt movie. The first ten minutes contains a very dynamic cascade of chase scenes — with missile shots, explosions and constantly panned effects. Couple those sounds with an aggressive soundtrack, a receiver has its work cut out to delineate those spatial cues and relay the music — without creating sonic mush.

Click here to enter Giveaway!

  As with the older AVR-4, the AVR-6 delivered the 5.1 channels with audiophile precision. The sounds were clearly separated and with significant width and depth. This expansiveness is similar to what an audiophile playback system delivers — that extra space and depth that let's you hear more of the detail.
  With all this abundant energy being delivered, the AVR-6 does not get harsh. The output is smooth at even loud levels with never a hint of clipping at 94 dB+ levels. Lesser receivers get harsh real fast with this Bolt Blu-ray.
  The first Thor Blu-ray also gives an AV system a work out, yet the AVR-6 receiver never flinched. From the pounding of the subwoofer to the multitudes of steered effects and high-energy score, the AVR-6 kicked butt! Ditto, for the John Carter and Monsters vs. Aliens BD discs.
  Turning to Blu-ray music, my Woodstock and Who — Live at the Isle of White 1970 concert movies showcased the raw liveness of those1960s-70s music styles, while more modern music, such as the AIX's 24/96 live performance of country star Mark Chestnut, revealed the AVR-6’s ability to handle the intricate transients of drum cymbals, fiddle and steel guitar and piano. Plus, the mini-concert was filmed in 1080P so it looks great as well.
  On two channel hi-res music, the AVR-6 did not flinch. Though it does not decode DSD from SACD, it did justice to numerous SACDs via the Oppo BDP-105’s analog output. And I played numerous HD Tracks selections up to 24/192. The Phil Collins - Face Value and James Taylor - Sweet Baby James got the royal treatment from the AVR-6, via its internal Cirrus DAC, preamp and amplifier sections. Even versus separates, the quality holds up.
  The Cirrus DAC’s neutral top-end presence timbre and tight bass open up a mix to reveal those subtle layers of detailed audio, such as cymbal reverb and piano reverb decay. In comparing the AVR-6‘s internal DAC versus a Benchmark DAC2-D, with ESS Sabre DAC chip, the separate DAC had a tinge more smoothing on the high-frequencies, but for an all in-one decoder/preamp/amplifier, the AVR-6 is firmly on the audiophile side of the spectrum.
As other receiver manufacturers load up their products with spiffy control and Internet features, AudioControl continues to invest in its audiophile-caliber, multichannel signal path across its home theater pre/pro and receiver lines.

  Die-hard audiophiles may cover their eyes when they read this, but I put the AVR-6 in my main audiophile system — with a pair of $13,000 MartinLogan Montis electrostatic loudspeakers and numerous player/high-end DACs through the analog input. The AVR-6 sounded terrific through the Montis; much of the detail that I hear with my expensive preamp/amps came through with a spacious sound stage. Versus my Pass Labs MOSFET amps, the AVR-6 was a tad more shimmer in the treble — whereas the Pass was smoother. Still, the AVR-6 did not leave me wanting.
  The negatives? A few complaints — no DSD decoding via the HDMI input, and the headphone jack on the rear panel is not too handy. Every once in a while, I would get software freeze from the AVR; mostly when I switched it to standby and back to on. I had to unplug and re-plug the AC cord to reactivate. But that happens with other A/V and audio components as well. Almost all of my BD players have experienced operational freeze on occasion. They are, after all, computers.
  As for price, yes, it is expensive — “$3,950 for a receiver,” one home theater buff said to me. In this world of $300 7.1 channel (or higher), nearly $4,000 is a lot of money, but what you get from the AVR-6 is audio quality that is way above any cheap receiver. In the $3,000 range, there are receivers that get close, such as the Pioneer SC-79 and the Onkyo TX-NR3030, but in the end, the AudioControl AVR-6’s power amp section wins out.

The verdict

  As other receiver manufacturers load up their products with spiffy control and Internet features, AudioControl continues to invest in its audiophile-caliber multichannel signal path across its home theater pre/pro and receiver line. The new AVR-6 exemplifies that trait with exquisite audio performance and plenty of power for all but the largest listening/viewing rooms.
  Throw in some new bells and whistles, such as 4K scaling/pass-through and enhanced zone-routing, and you got yourself one of the top-performing receivers on the home cinema market (the AVR-8 is sure to be the other one). Sure, it costs more than 99 percent of the receivers out there, but it is worth it. I did not want to give it back; at least I still have my AVR-4. As with all other AudioControl receivers and preamps I have reviewed, the AVR-6 receives a very enthusiastic Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.
John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Audiophile Headphone Review!
Shure SRH1540 Closed-Back HP:
“More Bass, Maximum Comfort”

Price: $499
Likes: comfy fit, controlled bass boost
Dislikes: not much noise isolation
Wow Factor: good bass boost HP
More info: Shure SRH1540

by John Gatski
  Since 2009, Shure has been making really good headphones for the hi-fi and professional recording niches. In fact, I use the SRH1840 as one of my reference headphones for accuracy and detail. The ‘1840‘s bass response rolls off naturally below 60 Hz, but it has a gorgeous top end. Recently, Shure sent me its new closed-back headphone that sits just under the $699 SRH1840 in price, the SRH1540. This new headphone offers a nice, open, detailed top end and a bit of mid-bass boost for those who like a slightly fatter tone.

  Priced at $499, the SRH1540 features 40-mm neodymium drivers and uses an APTIV™ film diaphragm and a steel driver frame — with vented center pole piece — said to improve linearity and lessen internal resonance for consistent performance at all listening levels with lower THD (total harmonic distortion).
  The closed-back drivers are rated for 10 Hz to 25 kHz frequency response, with no tolerances listed. (Although you need special mics and a dummy head to precisely measure headphone frequency response, I did run some bass tones and measured through an AudioControl RTA to see how the headphone performed in the low end. I measured ample bass down to 60 Hz, with reference to a 1 kHz tone).

  I enjoyed the SRH1540‘s sonics, listening to several pop recordings such as the HD Tracks-delivered, hi-res versions of Chicago Transit Authority and Linda Ronstadt - Heart Like a Wheel. The extra oomph in the bass filled out the golden oldies just fine. On jazz music, the enhanced mid/upper bass added weight to numerous recordings. 

  Though closed back, the circumaural design is comfortable and lightweight (10.1 ounces), thanks to its design elements, such as aircraft-grade aluminum-alloy yoke, dual-frame, padded headband and carbon fiber cap. The closed-back ear cups help to reinforce the bass response, and they isolate, to a moderate degree, the sound from outside noise. However, the isolation is not as good as pro headphones designed for that task. The SRH1540 should be used where noise is at a minimum.
  The SRH1540 comes with a 12-ft. OFC cable with a kevlar-reinforced strain relief jacket. And it’s all housed in a hard, zippered case and includes a pair of replacement ear pads and a 1/8th-to-1/4th inch adapter.
  The headphones are lightweight and cushy — very comfortable on my ears, as I wear glasses. The light weight contributes to that comfy feel. Versus its big brother, the SRH1840, the ‘1540 was slightly more comfortable; the same ear pads seem softer.
  As opposed to the SRH1840's extended top end and naturally rolled-off bass response, the ‘1540 gives you a generous portion of the more-expensive Shure HP’s upper-end response, but has more mid and upper bass energy (50 Hz to 200 Hz). Few headphones have significant under 40-Hz bass because of the limited driver size and lack of a larger enclosure. Thus, most HP bass response is mid bass. and headphones are often tuned to pump up the bass in those frequencies. The SRH1540 is no exception.

The setup
  I listened to the Shure SRH1540 through several headphone amp/DACs, as well as two portable players. The various devices included a Benchmark DAC2 D, Mytek Stereo192-DSD and the new Oppo HA-1 — all hi-res headphone DACS. The Sony PCM-D100 and TASCAM DR100 Mk II portable player/recorders also got their turn with the ‘1540. Non-DAC headphone amps included the classy Bryston BHA-1, one of the best solo headphone amps on the market. Rack players included Oppo BDP-105 and the TASCAM DA-3000.
  After listening to numerous bits of hi-res music from all genres, the SRH1540 has a similar midrange and top end of the SRH1840, but as previously mentioned, there was more mid and upper bass. Those who find the natural roll-off of the ‘1840 to be bass shy will like the ‘1540. It’s a plumper bass that is not overly exaggerated.
as long as the recorded bass tones were not too hot. The Grant GreenGreen Streets SACD, and Flim and The BB’sTricycle SACD were relayed with much of the precision of other high-end headphones - but with that added bass boost.

SRH1540 is a fine mate for the TASCAM DR-100 Mk II 

  On bass heavy, Hip-Hop, the extra bass could be a bit over the top to my ears. But some younger listeners, who tried the SRH1540, said they liked the extra low-end. Everyone has an opinion. With an iPod, I just used the bass reduce EQ mode, if I found the bass too hot — usually with pop music.
  From a sensitivity and efficiency standpoint, I found the SRH1540 easy to drive. All of my portables had no problem driving the headphones. Speaking of portables, the SRH1540 is a great match with the TASCAM DR100 Mk II and the Sony PCM-D100 recorder/players. Musician and home recordists can use the Shure as a reasonably-priced monitor headphone that delivers quite a bit of accuracy along with bass assist.
  Although I have talked a lot about its bass delivery, the SRH1540‘s high-end is also quite good with an airiness and detailed separation in the layers of instruments — as long as bass is balanced in the recording. I still like the top end of the flagship SRH1840, but I do like the balance of the ‘1540. Overall, though, the balance is reasonable for a bass-emphasized headphone.
  I give the SRH1540 high marks for comfort. They could be worn for extended periods of listening — without any discomfort. As an eyeglass wearer, the ‘1540 did not apply any painful force against the glasses ear pieces. And there was no clamping pressure on my head during long listening sessions. This is an easy-to-wear headphone.

The verdict 
  As with the other Shure headphones I recently reviewed, the SRH1540 is a quality, closed-back headphone that is real comfy and gives audible bass additional weight. The high-end is reasonably detailed, smooth and the midrange clearly delineated. As much as I like the SRH1840’s sonics; there are times some extra headphone bass can come in handy. The Shure SRH1540 nicely fills that niche. It most certainly gets the EAN Stellar Sound Award

John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Home Theater Receiver Review!
Anthem MRX 510 7.1 Dishes Out
Delicious Sound, Features and Value

©Everything Audio Network

Price: $1,599
Likes: great sound, ARC
Dislikes: room correction PC Only
Wow Factor: "$2,500-sound for $1,600"
More info: Anthem MRX 510

by Russ Long
  The Canadian audio company Anthem has faithfully served the audio/video marketplace for 20+ years and they have yet to disappoint. Their components are elegantly designed, with first-class sonics, and they are packed with features. The well-priced, Anthem MRX 510 receiver, reviewed here, receivers exemplifies the company’s dedication to A/V quality.

  The MRX series of receivers, which includes the MRX 310, MRX 510 and MRX 710, exemplifies high-quality, robust craftsmanship. The build quality is sublime and the case’s textured finish and the black front panel’s brushed aluminum is offset by the two-line blue dot matrix display. The receivers measure 6-1/2 inches (16.4 cm) high (including feet) by 17-1/4 inches (43.9 cm) wide by14-5/8 inches (37.2 cm) deep. The MRX 310, MRX 510 and MRX 710 are priced at $1,199, $1,599 and $1,999.
  The MRX 510 and MRX 710 are 7-channel A/V receivers where the MRX 310 is a 5-channel unit. The MRX 710 provides 120 watts per channel (2 channels driven) or 90 watts per channel (5 channels driven) of continuous power into 8 ohms, the MRX 510, 100 watts (two channels driven) or 75 watts (5 channels driven) and the MRX 310, 80 watts (2 channels driven) or 60 watts (five channels driven)
  All three have similar features including HDMI 1.4a (3D compatible) inputs and output, the latest audio formats including Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio and High-Resolution Audio, AnthemLogic Cinema/Music, Dolby Pro Logic IIx Movie/Music, DTS Neo:6 Cinema/Music, and Dolby Volume. The DACs are 24-bit/192 kHz, and there is a built-in AM/FM tuner. The receivers include a three-year warranty.
The included-ARC package provides an easy yet effective way to configure a listening space, and the unit can easily power typical surround speaker setups — without any audible signs of strain. The resulting sound is smooth and natural with a clean defined bottom end and pristine, high-frequency shimmer.

  The MRX 510 can be fully controlled via the included backlit remote control (which has a rubberized coating to prevent it from slipping out of your hand). It can also be controlled via an Android app and the iOS app will likely already be available by the time you read this. The receiver weighs 30.2 pounds (13.7 kg) and includes eight HDMI inputs (seven rear, one front) and two HDMI outputs with 4K video upscaling and pass-through for use with the latest ultra-high-definition displays, two component and a composite video input, two coaxial and three optical digital audio inputs, coaxial and optical digital audio outputs, five pairs of analog audio inputs, seven speaker outputs, 7.1-channel preamp outputs and a headphone output. Non-audio/video connections include Ethernet for ARC and app control over network, USB for updates, RS232, 12V trigger, and an IEC power receptacle. The receiver supports dual-zone operation.

The Setup

  The bulk of my Anthem MRX 510 testing was done while utilizing the receiver along with a 5.1 set of Episode 700 Series speakers including 2 x ES-700-MON-6, 1 x EX-700-LCR-5, 2 x ES-500-SAT-4, and 1 x ES-SUB-12-300. My typical speaker configuration has the ES-700-MON-6 speakers placed on a pair of 18-inch**speaker stands with the ES-700-LCR-5 at the same height mounted just below a Sony KDL-46EX640 LCD TV. The ES-500-SAT-4’s are mounted slightly higher at 36-inches high. All five tweeters were focused at the listening position. The entire Episode speaker system, with the exception of the ES-SUB-12-300 powered sub, was powered with the Anthem MRX 510. Playback was primarily via a Pioneer Elite BDP-53FD Elite Blu-ray player. I also spent time auditioning the MRX 510 with a pair of Focal Spirit Professional headphones.

The Audition

  Before doing any listening or viewing, I calibrated my system with the included Anthem Room Correction (ARC) system. The ARC system includes a high-quality USB electret condenser microphone, a telescopic boom mic stand with clip, USB & CAT5 cables and a CD containing the microphone calibration file and software installer. All that is required is a Windows PC (sorry Mac users) to run the software application.
  The mic connects directly to the computer via a USB connection and the computer connects to the MRX 510 via wired LAN (connecting the MRX 510 directly to your home’s router) or Direct Connection (connecting the computer directly to the MRX 510). Since my router is in a totally different place in my house than my theater, I used the Direct Connection option. This option does require setting a static IP address on the computer, but that is not a difficult process.
Plenty of connection options on MRX-510

  The ARC system automatically rectifies the effects of room boundaries and reflective surfaces on the audio quality by calculating the response of each speaker, relative to the listening area, and applying corrective equalization. I found the software to be straightforward and easy to use and the results were substantially better than what I’ve attained utilizing room connection systems that I’ve encountered with other receivers. After analyzing each speaker’s in-room response, the software sets output levels, crossover frequencies and correction parameters for each speaker. The system even provides for multiple microphone positions allowing for peaks and nulls to be identified resulting in more precise room alteration.
  All of the video images that I referenced through the MRX 510 were via HDMI and the quality was always exceptional. While I’m still uncertain if 3D is going to become a standard and I currently don’t have a way to test it, it’s nice that the unit is 3D-ready. I don’t listen to a lot of radio these days but I do still like to have the option and the MRX 510’s old-school analog AM/FM tuner works well. Missing is a phono stage so anyone who wants to have the option of listening to their vinyl collection (that’s a must in my world!) will need to by a stand-alone phono preamp. I love the flip-down panel that hides the front panel’s HDMI and headphone input, when not in use, keeping the unit looking clean and sleek.
  I began my testing by watching the Frozen Blu-ray, as I believe that I was one of only a dozen or so people in the country who still hadn’t watched the film. The BD version sounds and looks beautiful and was a perfect way to showcase the fidelity of the MRX 510. The dialog retained its clarity throughout and the music was rich, lush and powerful. I followed Frozen with my staple Blu-ray reference discs including: Hugo, Ratatouille and The Dark Knight and they all translated wonderfully through the Anthem receiver.
 While many receivers I’ve tested have a quality sound at lower volumes, few shine like the Anthem when listening at substantial levels. I was reminded of this,  again, when I cranked the Anthem during "A Hard Day’s Night" music tracks – beautiful!

  Thankfully, Criterion’s new Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release of A Hard Day’s Night shipped before the end of my review period, so I was able to include it in my listening tests. The film supports a new 1.75:1 aspect ratio black and white 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that has been fully approved by Richard Lester, the film’s original director. The new 4K scan was sourced from the original 35mm camera negative and two fine-grain master positives. The film includes the original mono track, as well as newly mixed stereo and 5.1 tracks.
  The HDN 5.1 track is wonderful allowing the music tracks to envelop the listener in full surround sound while remaining respectful to the original mono track. While many receivers I’ve tested have a quality sound at lower volumes, few shine like the Anthem when listening at substantial levels. I was reminded of this, again, when I cranked the Anthem during A Hard Day’s Night music tracks – beautiful!
  I concluded my critical listening with the James TaylorHourglass, Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon, and Elton John  - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road surround SACDs, plus two surround DVD-As: Beach Boys - Pet Sounds and the Beatles - Love, and I was continually impressed with the sound quality and sonic detail regardless of my monitoring level. Throughout my testing I found that the MRX 510 retained its definition, clarity and punch regardless of volume,  and I don’t believe my Episode speakers have ever sounded this good.

The verdict

  While easily fitting into the mid-priced receiver category, Anthem’s MRX 510 delivers the goods better than units costing at least a thousand dollars more. The included-ARC package provides an easy yet effective way to configure a listening space, and the unit can easily power typical surround speaker setups — without any audible signs of strain. The resulting sound is smooth and natural with a clean defined bottom end and pristine, high-frequency shimmer. Sonically, and feature wise, Anthem’s MRX 510 is a lot of receiver for the money. Definitely worthy of the Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.

  An avid home theater and audiophile listener, Russ Long makes his living as a Nashville-based professional audio engineer, who has recorded hundreds of albums for various artists, including Grammy Award winner Sixpence None The Richer. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.