Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver Review Page 2

My speaker system consists of three M&K Sound S150s across the front, four M&K SS150s to complete the seven-channel floor system, and four Atlantic Technology IC-6 OBA in-ceiling speakers for the height channels to make a full 11 channels plus subs. As noted, I run a two- subwoofer setup with an SVS PC- Ultra and a Hsu Research VTF-15H MK2—yes, I like bass!

The MRX 1120’s onscreen menus aren’t cluttered up with fancy graphics; everything is text-based, which I like. The layout is easy to follow, and renaming inputs was a breeze. The included backlit remote is very responsive and intuitive. I wish the backlight button had been placed on the side of the remote instead of in the lower third, but this is a very minor complaint.

Having never used ARC before, I expected the learning curve to be somewhat steep, but I was pleasantly surprised. Included with the shipped AVR is the Windows-compatible software for ARC, as well as a very handy microphone stand. The software measures the speakers in your room and then flattens the response. How well does it work? Marvelously! Despite the fact that you can’t EQ each subwoofer individually, I didn’t find the system lacking in any way, and the well-written manual gives you a tip on how to set up multiple subwoofers (which works well). The entire process takes less than an hour to complete, though if I owned this piece I could see myself devoting multiple hours to custom tailoring the various functions to my room based on viewing/listening conditions, taking full advantage of the four memory settings.

1016ant.rem.jpgTo Boldly Go…
Auditory memory is very fleeting, so making direct comparisons between the Anthem and my reference Marantz AV8802A pre/pro and Parasound Halo/Zonemaster amplifiers is very subjective. Without the opportunity to perform double- blind testing, any thoughts I had were based on a vast amount of everyday listening to the Marantz/Parasound combo versus a few weeks with the Anthem. That said, I can’t say I missed my reference system a lot. For one thing, the Anthem runs significantly cooler than the Parasound Halo with its five channels of Class A/AB amplification, so my room didn’t get as hot—which was a blessing in light of the heat wave that hit California during my testing.

Two-channel performance with music streamed through the Oppo or from the Play-Fi app was quite good, although it fell just short of what I’m used to hearing from my considerably more expensive separates. Available on HDtracks is Film Music by John Williams, and I used a hi-res FLAC download of the intro theme to Superman, with Williams himself conducting the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. This is arguably one of the most distinctive pieces the brilliant composer has ever written. The opening horns draw you into the theme, and as the rest of the orchestra kicks in, it builds to a spine-tingling crescendo. The Anthem performed particularly well with the horn section, though the bells and triangles in the track were slightly overpowered by the main orchestra, giving it more of a two-dimensional sound than I typically hear on this track with my reference system. Dynamics were strong, perhaps a smidgen flatter than what I’m accustomed to. Imaging, meanwhile, was excellent, with audio that was a bit forward and slightly less layered than my reference—not significantly so, but enough for me to distinguish between the two. Granted, the Marantz/Parasound combo is more than twice the cost of the Anthem, so I would expect it to outperform the one-box solution and am definitely picking some very minor nits with this comparison, but I found that was the case in most of my music listening sessions.

Watching and listening to movies was even more impressive. The Dolby Atmos track on the Ultra HD Blu-ray of Star Trek: Into Darkness is to die for. (Don’t worry, though: Bones can bring you back to life.) The action scenes are filled with a plethora of directional effects flying through the room from side to side and overhead. This is especially on display when Kirk is running for his life in the first act, as a spear whooshes over his head, and careens off into the wild- erness. Then when the Enterprise reveals itself from the ocean, the falling water encompassed my room, and I swore I was right there. Dialogue in chaotic sequences such as the final battle with Kirk’s nemesis never loses priority in the mix. I was initially worried that the amp’s separate power specs for its 11 channels might negatively affect the soundstage and muddle the layering of the effects or its cohesiveness, but that certainly wasn’t the case as the five main channels blended seamlessly with the lesser powered rear and height speakers and kept all the individual sound effects well isolated.

This command of the material was also on display while demoing the various Dolby Atmos trailers from the Dolby promotional disc handed out at industry trade shows. “Horizon” is one of the longest at nearly two minutes, but the clip highlights the full potential of the object-based audio. Near the beginning of the clip, there’s a sequence in outer space where you hear mission control’s radio broadcast in the back right corner of the room, which the Anthem placed perfectly in space. Then a large ship comes in from the rear of the room resulting in the rear soundstage coming alive with discrete effects coming from the back third of the room. As the ship moves forward, the roar of its engines shows off the dynamics of the scene, which the MRX 1120 handled flawlessly.


Toward the end of my review period, my daughter had some college friends visit for a few days, and they got to experience the Anthem as well. They were Star Wars fans and really wanted to watch The Force Awakens. While the film only boasts a non-Atmos DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, the receiver’s Dolby Surround upmixing filled the height speakers and thrilled them to no end. In fact, one of them commented that they thought the movie sounded better than the screening they saw in a Dolby Atmos–equipped theater near UCLA. Now that’s a compliment!

At $3,500, the MRX 1120 isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imag- ination, but it’s one of the few one-box components I know of that can do a 7.1.4 (or 7.2.4) object-based surround system without complicating your life with multiple boxes; and at the moment, it’s the most up-to-date and future-proofed. As an alternative, there are also some new AVRs out there at a more wallet-friendly price that offer 11 channels of processing with nine internal amps—meaning one could add a stereo amplifier for a few hundred dollars and save some hard-earned cash over this model. But you’d be back to adding boxes and giving up the excellent Anthem Room Correction software—a sacrifice that I’m not sure I’d be so quick to make.

In the end, my only real quibble with the Anthem is its inability to independently handle multiple subwoofers, something I think a product at this price really ought to do, though there are aftermarket alternatives for that if you’re a serious enthusiast looking to squeeze every ounce of performance out of your system. That being said, the MRX 1120, through countless hours of music listening and movie watching, provided the escape I was looking for without introducing any of the fatigue I’ve experienced with lesser products. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-sounding solution short of going with separates. Highly recommended.
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Slardybardfast's picture

David, I could not find a hi-rez version of the superman opening theme on HD Tracks. Only the 44/16 version is available there. Did you get the hi-rez version somewhere else?