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? ...
Anthem MCA Gen 2 Amplifiers Overview
If you are serious about your home theater or music system, you probably know that separate components are the way to go when you want the best possible audio quality. Each piece is designed for one thing only without having to design in the ability to handle multiple aspects of the signal path. Separate preamps and surround sound processors cover the low level digital and analog signal processing and then feed that signal out to a power amp whose only job is to drive your speakers.
Yes, separate components cost more, but their long term value is something to think about. It is pretty clear the world of video and surround sound changes quite often. However, most power amps can last for decades. This means if a new format comes out, you can keep all of your power amps and simply change out the processor, keeping the wonderful sound separate components can provide.
For decades, Anthem, a Canadian based audio company, has offered quite a variety of power amplifiers for all different types of applications. Their MCA series is our favorite model lineup of Anthem amps at Audio Advice and we were happy to see Anthem decided to apply some new technology and other updates to this great line of power amps. These are called the MCA Generation 2 models.
There are three amplifiers in the MCA Gen 2 series consisting of 2,3, and 5 channel amplifiers. When choosing the best one for your system, it really comes down to how many channels you want to upgrade. For some people, adding a 2 channel model to a home theater receiver for better stereo listening may be all they need. Others may want to make the front three speakers in their home theater be the best possible, and some will want to simply go all the way with separate amplifiers.
When you look at the market for home theater power amps, you will see a good variety of 5 channel products. Most of them share the same power transformer for all five channels. With the Anthem MCA525 Gen 2, you are basically getting an MCA225 and MCA325 all rolled into one big, heavy box as the MCA525 has not one, but two huge toroidal power transformers.
This means you can mix and max to get the combination of channels you need and not worry about compromising performance by going with models that have multiple channels.
Let’s take a look at what makes these amplifiers such a great value.
Any audio lover knows it takes lots of current to get some speakers to stand up and pay attention. We find unless your speakers are a horn type and are super-efficient where a low powered tube amp might work, the more current you have available, the more controlled the speaker sounds. Bass gets deeper, tighter, and faster too. With lots of current, you do not have to worry about things sounding strained on complex passages when you are cranking the music or movie up to a realistic level.
The new Anthem MCA amps all have identical amp boards for every channel. These make use of 8 high-current bipolar output transistors per channel! These boards have the backup of advanced power supply regulators with large, high-quality filter capacitors. When you combine all this tech, you get current to burn! These guys sound far more powerful than their rating of 225 watts per channel.
No Problem Driving Difficult Loads
One big reason the new MCA amps sound so effortless is the fact they have no issue at all when the speaker impedance drops below 8 ohms. Some speakers can have pretty wildly varying impedances; they present the power amp at different frequencies. The MCA amps just eat this up, delivering 400 watts into 4 ohms and 600 watts into 2 ohms. That is something you expect out of a $10,000 two-channel power amp, but to see this for the price of the MCA is pretty special.
Low Noise Floor
The signal to noise ratio on the MCA amps is 120db. That is just super quiet. This means your music will sound like it is coming from a totally black background.
Short Signal Path
With the new models, Anthem looked for a way to make the signal path even shorter. They did this by eliminating a lot of the internal wiring. If you pop the cover on one of these amps, you will not see many wires at all, as a matter of fact, we observed almost all of the wiring being in the power supply section.
Advanced Load Monitoring™
While you will never hear the benefit of this technology, it can do a lot to ensure your Anthem MCA power amp stays in perfect condition for its long lifespan. Unlike a fuse, ALM™ is a system that stays completely out of the signal path. It keeps an eye on the temperature of critical components, along with current and voltage draws. If ALM™ sees anything out of spec, it will instantly shut down that channel and give you an indication of this on the front panel.
Granted, you may never have ALM™ engage on your amp the entire time you own it. But it is nice to know, should a speaker driver fail or maybe the fan in your rack dies, ALM™ will keep anything bad from happening.
Very Solid Connections
All of these amps offer balanced and RCA audio inputs. The speaker terminals are very heavy duty and should accommodate just about any high-quality speaker wire. We do wish Anthem had used a chassis mount more solid RCA connector though, rather than the board mounted ones they picked. But, most people will probably use the balanced connector anyway, so it is not a huge deal.
Green In Standby
The MCA amps can be turned on with the front panel switch, a trigger input, or can sense a signal. When they are sitting in standby, they now only consume under 2 watts of power making them very green while they are waiting to rock out your music or theater room.
We like to use the trigger inputs coupled with the trigger outs on an Anthem or other surround sound processor. They will turn on and off with the processor.
Crafted In Canada
It is hard to believe that for what these sell for they are made in North American at Anthem’s Canadian facility. Normally you would expect products made in this part of the world to be far more expensive. Anthem leverages their huge factory to make it possible to have these great amps made by Canadian craftsmen.
For 2021, Anthem has made all of their home theater receivers, processors, and power amps have the same external appearance. You can add a power amp to your Anthem receiver or put together an entire stack of separate components, and stack them all up with a great consistent look.
Anthem MCA Overall Recommendation
With all of these great qualities, it is easy to see why the MCA amps are an Audio Advice favorite. But as always, a great list of features and technologies does not mean anything unless the product sounds musical.
When you consider the MCA 225 Gen 2 is under $2,000 for 225 watts per channel with the ability to hit 600 watts into a 2-ohm load and weighs in over 40 pounds, that is pretty spectacular as most other separate power amplifiers on the market with similar specs, sell for a lot more money.
The best part is the MCA amps are high power amps that have an extremely musical sound. They deliver an effortless presentation with great separation of instruments. When you take an MCA 225 and connect up your main speakers to it and bypass your home theater receiver, you will think you bought a new set of speakers! It is that good.
The best way we know how to explain the feeling you will get with Anthem separate components is to compare them to a high-performance car. When you pull out to pass, you don’t have to worry about running out of horsepower. There is that sensation of power that just feels good. This is the same experience you get with separates. You feel the raw power and sense of effortless reproduction even as you turn things up that makes it all worth it!
We hope this overview has helped you understand the advantages of separate components in a home theater or two-channel audio system. If you have any questions please feel free to reach us via phone, email, chat, or drop into our Raleigh or Charlotte showrooms.
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