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....
New Anthem MRX Home Theater Receivers Review
Anthem MRX home theater receivers have been an Audio Advice favorite for the past few years. If you were to ask anyone in our stores what brand of receivers sounds the best for the money, you will hear Anthem, of course!
Anthem products are all about delivering the best possible sound. One critical part of great sound is the power amp, which is the part of a home theater receiver that actually drives your speakers. As a company, Anthem produces several different series of separate power amps. So you might say, they know quite a bit about how to make a high-performance amplifier. The tech they develop for their power amps works its way into their receivers, which is one reason they sound so fantastic.
We love the fact their receivers all use Class AB amplifiers with beefy power supplies. Anthem Room Correction or ARC for short is one of the very best room correction systems on the market and Anthem keeps improving it with free software updates. Input setup flexibility and the ability to recall multiple room correction setups for different seating configurations is another reason we like them.
We knew with 8K coming, it would be time for Anthem to refresh their great home theater lineup but we were blown away by all of the other things they did to make these amazing home theater receivers even better!
They already sounded so good, we could not imagine Anthem being able to make them even better for roughly the same cost, but they did. When they upgraded all of their separate power amps, they came up with some new circuit ideas they also applied to the new receivers. And not only that, they added some things we had been asking for from a software standpoint.
To say we were all grinning ear to ear after we finished up with the Anthem team on these new models would be an understatement, we were just super excited and could not wait to share the good news with all our fellow music and home theater fans.
The 2021 line up of Anthem home theater receivers consists of three models. In this overview, we will first talk about the technology the units share, then go over the differences to help you determine which new Anthem receiver is best for your system.
Anthem MRX Audio
Anthem kept the great AKM 32/768 DAC’s from the existing units. These are far superior to the DAC’s (digital to analog converter) found in most home theater receivers which is one reason they sound so good.
This year, Anthem is also upgrading all of their separate components, check out our overview of the Anthem MCA Gen.2 Amplifiers.
We have always felt their MCA amps sounded just great for the money and when they redid these, they found some improved output transistors and also updated the analog circuits. These same types of audio improvements were also applied to the new receivers. Anthem receivers have always had a sound similar to separate components with a full, rich, and warm sound with fantastic bass impact. The new models will just deliver even more of that classic Anthem sound.
Anthem MRX Power Amp Matrixing
This new feature is something we had been hoping for and were super happy to see. All three of the new receivers have more processing channels on board than they have amp channels. In the past, if you wanted to add a separate power amp to an Anthem receiver to better power your main speakers for two-channel listening, you had to just waste the existing amp channels for the left and right. With amp matrixing, you can assign unused channels to zone two, height, or surround channels. That is just super cool!
We see many people taking the middle Anthem MRX 740 receiver and adding a better amp for the front two or three channels. On each new receiver, you can re-assign any of the channels except the center channel.
Anthem Room Correction
To appreciate room correction, we would like to first explain to you why it is so important. If you ask any recording engineer what affects the sound more than anything else, they will tell you it is room! Sound propagates from your speakers much like a pebble hitting a pool of water. The sound waves bounce off the walls and they bounce around differently based upon the actual frequency of the sound. This means some frequencies get built up at some locations in your room and canceled out in other places. Also, materials in the room affect this as well. Some rooms are more prone to big dips and peaks than others. The worst sounding room would be a glass cube as it would be super reflective and a cube which is the worst for odd build-ups and dips of frequencies.
Decades ago, people tried to correct room issues through equalizers. These allowed you to boost or cut a certain frequency. However, this was very unscientific without a pile of test gear and usually resulted in the sound quality going down.
Early, automated forms of room correction did not have the processing power to get everything right and caused big phase issues.
As software and horsepower for processing progressed, room correction finally was able to make things a lot better for most rooms.
Anthem, being in Canada, gets to benefit from using the National Research Center in Canada. This is a government-funded lab designed to help tech companies based in Canada. This facility has some of the best audio test equipment in the world and makes use of blind listening tests with average people off the street to confirm their findings.
Anthem Room Correction or ARC came out of research at the NRC and is one of our favorite ones on the market. The difference it can make in most systems is just stunning. After you run ARC on your system you will notice the dialog is much clearer and it is easier to pick up the subtle emotional details in the performers' voices. Bass is much tighter and more accurate. Plus every sound is much more separated from the others pulling you even closer to the soundtrack.
About a year ago, Anthem had a big free update to ARC and it is now called ARC Genesis. This year, ARC Genesis has been improved to allow you to send a full-range signal to your main speakers and subwoofer at the same time (only if you want to), but to us, the big deal is an upgrade to the microphone.
Every Anthem receiver comes with an ARC kit that includes a microphone, stand for the microphone, and connecting cables. We can tell you from experience with other room correction systems, the quality of the microphone can make a huge difference in the final outcome. Anthem worked with the NRC to completely redesign the microphone and ARC will work even better now to improve the sound of your room. The mic now even has a small dot you point towards the front of the room so the system knows how to pick up spatial information from the test tones.
Running ARC is pretty simple for most people. You simply position the microphone on the stand, point it straight up with the dot facing towards the front of your room, and follow the prompts. The software will have you move the microphone around your room as it takes each sweep. We do suggest before you start to run test tones to make sure you have all of your speakers properly wired.
So if making your room sound a lot better was not great enough, Anthem gives you something even more special. There are four settings for ARC. Think about that for a minute. That means, if you like to listen to music by yourself in your favorite spot, you could limit the area you position the microphone in to just around your favorite seating position. You can store this as a single listener. Next, you may find that most of your movie viewing is with you and one other person. Widen your microphone positions and store this as couples listening. When you have a crowd over and your whole home theater is full, you’ll want everyone to have the best experience. For your next ARC pass, you would put the microphone in every seating position to even out the frequencies all over the room. With the new flexibility of ARC Genesis, you might decide the final position to be without a sub for late-night listening.
We just love not only how much better ARC Genesis will make your room sound, but the incredible flexibility it offers.
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.
If you are like us and really want to fine-tune all the input names and channel settings you will really appreciate the web interface for setup. Rather than having to use a cursor to fill in custom input names, you can simply type them. It will take a few minutes to link up to your new Anthem MRX receiver, but being able to type everything in and breeze through all the setup options is really great. We suggest you use the front panel, go to the network section, write down the IP address, then enter that into the web interface and you’ll be up and running. This also means with a laptop you can easily play around with sound settings to instantly hear the change.
The previous Anthem models required you to download software updates from the Anthem site, put them on a USB stick, then insert it into the unit. You also had to go from one update to the next in most cases, which could be a bit painful. All of the new units do updates over the web and it works seamlessly.
New Anthem MRX Industrial Design
Anthem pulled in the design from their award-winning STR series for the new receivers. One big plus of this design is they now have a multi-line front display which makes it super easy to even set things up right from the front panel.
Object-Based Surround Processing
This year, all of the receivers can process Dolby Atmos, plus DTS virtual X is included.
Anthem MRX Video Improvements
When the receivers first release they will be ready for HDMI 2.0b HDCP 2.2. This is not full 8K yet as according to Anthem there is some worry in the 8K chip space that things have not totally been standardized. What is great though is they will offer a hardware upgrade to an HDMI 2.1 (8K) board when it becomes available. We are not sure at this point of the cost of this upgrade but you actually may not even need it.
All of the receivers have a new HDMI e-ARC input/output. If you have an 8K TV, you can plug your 8K source into the TV and the TV will feed a full Dolby Atmos or whatever the object-based surround format is out through its e-ARC port to the Anthem receiver. To us, this means having an 8K board is really not that big of a deal. We were really happy to see the e-ARC input.
Every single receiver has 7 HDMI inputs for great flexibility and is compatible with Dolby Vision and supports IMAX Enhanced video. They all also have 5 analog inputs, 2 coax digital, and 3 Toslink digital inputs.
When you get into assigning video to audio inputs, the new receivers are just super flexible. Most home theater receivers do not allow you to assign more than one audio input to a video input. The Anthem models are totally flexible. You can assign the audio and video from an HDMI into a named input, but you can also mix and match to your heart's content with up to 30 “virtual” inputs. Imagine watching the game on TV and having the audio be the local radio station. Or having music playing while you are just catching up on the news.
You now probably see why we were so impressed with the new models. What is nice, with all of the receivers having the exact same super flexible input package, you can just decide how great you want your system to sound and how many channels you want to have in your dream home theater.
Let’s now take a look at what each one offers.
Anthem MRX540 A/V Receiver
7.2 Processor with 5 Amplifier Channels
The entry-level Anthem MRX540 delivers 100 watts per channel to 5 channels. However, it does have 7 channels of processing with Dolby Atmos so you could add a small power amp to get 5.2.2 or better yet, add the great new Anthem MCA225MKII for your main speakers and re-route the front channels to the Atmos height channels.
We have always felt for people who wanted the best value object-based surround, five main speakers with one pair of Atmos speakers offered the most bang for the buck. The fact you can do this now with an Anthem receiver (and a small amp) is just fantastic.
Anthem MRX740 A/V Receiver
11.2 Processor with 7 Amplifier Channels
This is the model we think will be our most popular one. It has seven powered channels built-in, offering 140 watts per channel. The amp section is a lot beefier than the Anthem MRX540 so you will get better dynamics and speaker control with the MRX740.
However, the processor in the MRX740 can decode 11.2 channels and has preamp outputs for all 11.2 channels. This means you could start out with a 5.2.2 system with the Anthem MRX740, then later add another pair of Atmos and a pair of rears for a super immersive Dolby Atmos surround sound system. We see a lot of people adding a great two-channel amp like the MCA225MKII to the MRX740 and doing a 5.4.2 system.
The MRX740 adds zone 2 audio and video outputs for sending both sound and picture over to another room.
When you consider how good the MRX740 sounds with its great features, this is probably the best audio value on the market for home theater. You’ll get sound that rivals a lot of separate components, 11.2 channels of processing which gives plenty of expansion room, and enough power to drive the heck out of most speakers.
We want to share a little story about the previous model, the MRX 720 which will give you an idea of just how good these units sound. In our Raleigh location, we have several home theater rooms set up. In one of them, we had a B&W CT series Dolby Atmos system set up in a 5.4.2 configuration. This theater has everything hidden in a cabinet and is controlled by a smart remote so most people who experience it never notice what the gear is.
When we first got in the MRX 720 we decided to put it into this system. Now, previously we had a set of separate components with a surround sound processor and 9 channel power amp in the room. That stack was a little over $4K. We installed the MRX 720 and used just two of the channels from the power amp to get to 9 channels. It took about 30 minutes to run ARC and redo the Control 4 remote for the Anthem codes.
Later that day, two of our sales team went in there and did home theater demos. They had no idea anything had been changed. Both of them asked what in the world had we done to the system, they could not believe how much better it sounded! That pretty much sums up the reaction you will probably have when you experience Anthem sound in your home theater.
Anthem MRX1140 A/V Receiver
15.2 Processor with 11 Amplifier Channels
The Anthem MRX1140 home theater receiver uses the same amp section as the MRX740 but has 11 powered channels on board. It can, however, decode up to 15.2 channels and has preamp outputs for every channel. That is impressive! Like the other models, you can re-route the amp channels any way you want when you add on a separate power amp.
Even though they have the same amp section, the MRX1140 does sound better due to the fact it has a toroidal power supply. Toroidal power supplies can deliver more current and are quieter. This type of power supply also allows the DAC’s to do a better job, so the MRX1140 will sound a little sweeter and smoother with better dynamics as well over the Anthem MRX740.
The MRX1140 adds another feature we really like. While the MRX740 and MRX540 both have two subwoofer outputs, they are in parallel and all adjustments apply the same to each one. The MRX1140 has 2 independent sub outputs. When you run ARC, each sub will be calibrated individually plus you can adjust level and phase separately for each subwoofer. We have to say, if you have subs that come with room correction, like something from Paradigm, Martin Logan, or another brand, this is not a huge deal, but if you do not, it is.
If you are building a full-blown Dolby Atmos home theater with 11 or more main speakers, the MRX1140 is a fantastic choice from both a sound and flexibility standpoint. It will cost less than adding a separate power amp or amps to the MRX740 to get to 11 channels and will drive most speakers with ease.
Anthem MRX Overall Recommendation
When Anthem introduced the last MRX series almost five years ago, they became an instant Audio Advice favorite. The new models take everything great about the ones we loved and add better sound, streaming enhancements, great amp flexibility, upgraded ARC, and a very cool web interface for set up. Talk about hitting the ball out of the park, we have our hats off to the design team at Anthem! All you have to do is pick the one best suited for your system then sit back and enjoy the incredible sound.
We hope this brief overview of the new Anthem receivers has given you some insight as to which is the best match for your home theater system. If you have any questions at all, be sure to reach out to us via chat, email, phone, or if you are in the Raleigh or Charlotte area, feel free to drop by one of our audio video superstores!
Anthem MRX A/V Receiver Comparison
|MRX 1140||MRX 740||MRX 540|
|Independent Subwoofer Outputs||2||1||1|
|Subwoofer Phase Adjustment||✓||✓||✓|
|Subwoofer Polarity Adjustment||✓||✓||✓|
|DTS-HD Master Audio||✓||✓||✓|
|Anthem Room Correction||✓||✓||✓|
|Speaker Profile Memories||4||4||4|
|Crossover Settings||40-200 Hz||40-200 Hz||40-200 Hz|
|Digital Signal Processor (DSP)||Multi-core||Multi-core||Multi-core|
|Lip-Sync Adjustment Range||500ms||500ms||500ms|
|Speaker Distance Increments||2” / 5 cm||2” / 5 cm||2” / 5 cm|
|Volume Adjustment||0.5 dB||0.5 dB||0.5 dB|
|Stereo Analog Inputs||5||5||5|
|Analog Sampling Rate||32-bit / 768 kHz||32-bit / 768 kHz||32-bit / 768 kHz|
|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||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||3 Years|
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