One of the best ways to house your gear is in a commercial-like equipment rack. These types of racks have been used for decades in data centers, studios, concert halls, and high performance home theaters. We like them because they are very easy to service and make changing things out as you upgrade super simple....
Anthem AVM 70 & AVM 90 Home Theater Surround Sound Processors Review
Anthem is one of our most favorite home theater brands at Audio Advice because their products just sound so good for the money and Anthem puts all of their emphasis on giving you the best possible home theater experience.
We were lucky enough to be part of the Anthem beta team to test out and have an advance look at their new products coming in late 2020.
If you are reading this, you are likely pretty serious about getting the best possible home theater sound. As you probably know, separate home theater components put the audio processing and switching in one component with the power to drive your speakers in either one or more amplifier boxes. This separates the low level signals from the high level signals giving you cleaner sound, plus the better amp sections found in separate power amps usually deliver far more performance than those in even the best receivers.
Their MCA series of power amps have always been outstanding audio values for the sound they can deliver for the money. With the new series 2 versions, Anthem has made some pretty big changes for even better sound. We will go over those in a separate review.
Anthem upgraded all the models to have the industrial look of their STR two-channel products. Now, all of the pieces look perfectly matched and you can even combine the power amps with any of their home theater receivers and they are an exact cosmetic fit.
Now, let’s take a look at the new processors and what they have in common.
More Channels for Immersive Audio
At Audio Advice, we just love immersive home theater audio. When Dolby Atmos and other object-based surround formats came on the scene a few years ago, we were just totally thrilled! Dolby Atmos for the home maxed out at 11 channels plus subwoofer(s) until just recently. You can now find 9.4 and even 9.6 Dolby Atmos configurations guides on the Dolby website.
For larger spaces, this is pretty cool as the 8th and 9th lower channels place speakers on the side walls in front of your between your side surround speakers and your left and right front speakers making the soundfield even more seamless! And with 6 Atmos height speakers, the height effects will go to a new level!
We were so happy to see the new Anthem home theater processors go all the way to 15 channels plus subwoofer outputs. This means you can take your home theater to new levels of audio immersion. Plus both models give you a complete set of both balanced audio and RCA outputs for every single channel!
New Streaming Platform
Anthem has removed DTS Play-Fi and gone with everything you will need for the best possible streaming experience. The new receivers all have Chromecast, Airplay 2, and Bluetooth. In a future software release, they will add Spotify Connect and Roon! We are big fans of Roon, which is an aftermarket piece of software for managing large libraries of music. With Roon, you will be able to stream Hi-Res music from your NAS drive.
Built-In Phono Preamp
Both the Anthem AVM70 and AVM90 now include a built-in moving magnet phono preamp. This is no afterthought either as the engineers spent some serious time developing a great moving magnet phono stage.
All the Formats
Both surround sound processors have decoding for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro, and IMAX Enhanced. These are somewhat competing formats for mixing the audio tracks of movies. Dolby Atmos is the most widely adopted and has clear guidance on where to place your speakers. IMAX enhanced uses DTS which can adapt to various speaker layouts. The great news is, no matter how that new movie was mastered or that classic one was remastered, the two new processors have you totally covered no matter how the soundtrack was produced.
Anthem Room Correction
This is one big reason we love Anthem gear. The room correction they developed called ARC is simply one of the best on the market. The room itself has a tremendous impact on the ultimate sound of your system. The problem is every room will cause certain frequencies to be too loud and others to be canceled out.
Anthem Room Correction takes measurements of the room and smooths out the response. It does it in such a way that it has no impact on the phase of the sound like some room correction does, and the result is extremely impressive.
Anthem’s latest version of their system is called ARC Genesis. We have found from using other room correction systems that the quality of the microphone can have a big effect on the end result. Anthem was totally aware of this as well and required you to download a config file from their site matching the calibration characteristics of the exact microphone you were going to use.
Luckily for all of us, they knew they could make things even better and set out to completely redesign the microphone they use for ARC. They even designed it to be directional so it would know better about sounds coming from every direction. The new microphone looks much beefier and has a little indicator you will need to point exactly towards the front of the room. This is just so cool the way they push the envelope!
Another part we like about ARC is the fact it has 4 presets. This means you could set up one room correction for the best sound at your own favorite seat. You could do another for 2-4 people, another for a room full of guests, and another for late-night listening with your subwoofers turned down or off. And along with these 4 ARC presets, they also have full adjustments for level, crossover, and distance for each one. That is just so great!
They recently added a requested feature to ARC Genesis that gives you the option to run your main speakers’ full range and send bass to a subwoofer at the same time for those audiophiles who prefer their smaller speakers to just roll off naturally.
30 Virtual Inputs
Both units have 7 HDMI inputs, 3 Toslink digital, 2 Coax Digital, 4 Analog, plus the MM phono preamp. There is also a new e-Arc HDMI connector so you could get a full Dolby Digital signal back from your TV if your like to use your TV apps. Both also have zone 2 audio and HDMI outputs.
Most home theater products lock you into using an HDMI input only once. Not so with Anthem. You can create up to 30 inputs using any combination you wish. Think about watching a sporting event and tuning into the local radio station. Or you could listen to music while casually watching the stock reports or a news feed. We really like the flexibility this offers.
Web Setup Interface
If typing in 30 names of your virtual inputs using the cursor makes you think that is going to be time-consuming, you’ll be super pleased to know about the great new web interface. All you have to do is download the free software from Anthem, look up the IP address of your processor, (which you can find by selecting the network display) then you have full access to every single part of the setup right from your laptop! This also means you can sit in your primary listening position and quickly fine-tune the settings to really dial in the audio if you wish.
Anthem says once every single standard is totally nailed down for 8K for the home theater receiver/processor world, they will have an optional hardware upgrade you could do for 8K. This will be a new board and we are not yet sure how much it will cost.
However, you probably would never need to do it with their addition of e-ARC- which stands for enhanced audio return channel. What this means is if your TV is e-ARC capable (and almost all recent ones are), the cable connecting the video feed from your Anthem to your TV can also get a full object-based surround signal back down that same cable.
Using e-ARC any 8K source connected to your TV could easily feed the audio back to the Anthem processor. This connection also makes it great for those of us who like to use the apps built into our smart TV.
Anthem took the great look of their STR two-channel separates and used it for all of the new receivers, amps, and processors this year. One big advantage we see, in addition to the fact everything perfectly matches and has a great look, is the fact the display is now 5 lines so you can actually do quite a bit of setup right from the front panel easily if need be.
Well, with all of these great features built into both units, you may be wondering why you would need the AVM90 over the Anthem AVM70. There is one simple reason: better sound!
Anthem AVM70 vs Anthem AVM90
The Anthem AVM70 gets an upgraded set of DACs over those used in the Anthem receivers. Coupled with the low noise toroidal transformer the AVM70 gives us a big improvement over the previous model. The DACs are AKM 32 bit/768kHz which is pretty impressive on its own.
The Anthem AVM90 goes to a much better set of DAC’s. They use AKM’s very best DAC, that while it has the same spec at 32bit/768kHz, they are far superior in sound. As a matter of fact, we looked up the price of the raw DAC’s and compared them, and found the ones used in the AVM90 cost 16 times as much as the already great ones in the AVM70. These DAC’s are normally used in ultra-high performance two-channel audio gear. This means your sound will be smoother and sweeter with deeper bass extension and a more effortless presentation. If you plan to use your home theater for music listening, you will definitely appreciate the great DAC’s in both of these units, but the AVM90 is another big jump up in audio.
The other difference between the two is subwoofer control. The AVM70 has two independent subwoofer outputs. These will be calibrated individually when you run ARC, which is fantastic. But there are those of us who love our bass but also want it to be super controlled. We live in the world of more than 2 subwoofers.
If you are like us, you will smile ear to ear when you hear the AVM90 has 4 independent subwoofer outputs! Yes, 4 you can calibrate individually! We can tell you from personal experience, watching a movie or concert using a system with 4 fine-tuned high-performance subwoofers is like nothing you have heard before. In the past, you had to go to $20,000+ processors to find something that had individual control for 2 or more subwoofers. With the AVM90, you can now get this for way under $10,000 which is fantastic.
Anthem processors have always done a fantastic job at spatial imaging. They can locate effects in precise positions with special effects panning across or around the room sounding totally natural. With the better DAC’s and improved power supplies on the new models, they are even better. The Anthem AVM60 was an amazing value and with everything you get now in the upgraded AVM70, it is an even better value.
The question comes down to, is the AVM90 worth double the price of the AVM70? For most people, the AVM70 will be a perfect fit and offer excellent sound and spatial imaging in a great home theater. But if you are really serious about music listening, the much better DAC’s in the AVM90 will offer a big upgrade for your two-channel listening.
Or, if you have always wanted more than two subwoofers but could not find a processor under $20K to handle them, you will be as happy as we were when we saw the AVM90 has 4 independent subwoofer channels.
And better yet, if you are a serious music listener and want 4 subwoofers for your ultimate theater, the AVM90 becomes a no brainer!
We hope this overview has given you some insight as to why we like Anthem so much at Audio Advice and helped you determine which of the new home theater processors would be the best fit for your system.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us via chat, email, phone, or drop into one of our locations in Raleigh or Charlotte NC.
|Independent Subwoofer Outputs||4||2|
|Subwoofer Phase Adjustment||✓||✓|
|Subwoofer Polarity Adjustment||✓||✓|
|DTS-HD Master Audio||✓||✓|
|Anthem Room Correction||✓||✓|
|Speaker Profile Memories||4||4|
|Crossover Settings||40-200 Hz||40-200 Hz|
|Digital Signal Processor (DSP)||Multi-core||Multi-core|
|Lip-Sync Adjustment Range||500ms||500ms|
|Speaker Distance Increments||2” / 5 cm||2” / 5 cm|
|Volume Adjustment||0.5 dB||0.5 dB|
|Stereo Analog Inputs||4||4|
|Phono Input (MM)||✓||✓|
|Analog Direct Mode||✓||✓|
|Analog Sampling Rate||32-bit / 768 kHz||32-bit / 768 kHz|
|Balanced XLR Pre-Out||✓||✓|
|Optical Output (pass-through of coax/optical)||✓||✓|
|Line-Out Stereo Down-Mix||✓||✓|
|Zone 2 Audio/Video||✓||✓|
|Spotify Connect (Coming soon!)||✓||✓|
|Roon (Coming soon!)||✓||✓|
|All Channel Stereo||✓||✓|
|All Channel Mono||✓||✓|
HDMI & VIDEO PROCESSING
|4:4:4 Chroma Subsampling @ 4K60 (18.2 Gbps)||✓||✓|
|High Dynamic Range||✓||✓|
|xvYCC, Adobe RGB, Adobe YCC601, sYCC601, Deep Color||✓||✓|
|Zone 2 Output||✓||✓|
|Consumer Electronic Control (CEC)||✓||✓|
|Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC)||✓||✓|
|Pre-made Control Drivers||✓||✓|
|12V Trigger Output (40mA) (configurable)||3||3|
|Rackmount Kit (sold separately)||✓||✓|
|Input Trim Adjustments||✓||✓|
|Power-On Input Assignment||✓||✓|
|Auto Power Off||✓||✓|
|Eco Mode (Standby)||✓||✓|
|Beta Update Options OTA||✓||✓|
|Backlit Remote Control||✓||✓|
|Anthem Web User Interface||✓||✓|
|Warranty (US/Canada)||3 Years||3 Years|
MORE VIDEOS & REVIEWS
Our CEO has created a Tips & Tricks: Anthem Processors & Receivers Setup Guide to help get you started with your new Anthem. As with most things that can offer far more performance than the competition, if you want to extract every ounce of great sound, you’ll want to go through a few steps. Will it sound great right out of the box? ...
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This is a great quick start guide for setting up an Anthem receiver, integrated amp, or processor. Learn some setup tips and how to run Anthem’s fabulous ARC Genesis software which greatly improves the sound of your room. Many of these same tips can apply to setting up any home theater receiver too!...