Anthem MRX 300 7.1 A/V Receiver


Design and Setup of the Anthem MRX 300 Receiver

First of all, I should say that this receiver has a very easy setup procedure. It defaults to HDMI video output and prompts you through a few simple questions to help it get acclimated to your preferences, sources, number of speakers, sub, etc. I never experienced any HDMI handshake problems and there is no audible clicking when changing inputs. This would seem like a no-brainer but there are more expensive receivers that still have no mastered this feat, and I do not take it for granted (and I would not purchase one that had these problems).

One benefit to buying this $999 receiver is that Anthem includes its proprietary ARC setup kit (usually sells separately for $329-$399 since early 2008, and $420 as of November 2011), which comes in a separate box and includes a professional grade tripod mic stand, mic, usb cable. Mine was shipped with a Tripp-lite serial to USB adaptor, which the company sells for a small extra fee (I think this should be included if it's necessary to fully utilize the receiver's biggest feature) I'll say up front that I almost majored in computer science in college and this was the most complex, counterintuitive auto-setups that I've ever used. My family only uses Apple computers and as the ARC software was only written for PC, I had to borrow one just to run the ARC (in their defense, I was informed that ARC will run on Bootcamp equipped Intel based Macs).

Anyway, I got an error message early on stating that the ARC software couldn't detect an Anthem processor. Turns out that the Tripp-lite serial-USB converter didn't ship with Windows 7 drivers. So, I got on the Internet to download those, and, while I was on, got the most recent firmware and ARC updates from the Anthem site (make sure the serial and USB cables stay tight, if they wiggle off just a little, you'll get a "no processor detected" msg. as well). Updating the firmware is an unusually lengthy process, about 30-40 minutes after you get everything hooked up.  The firmware I used was v.50.12 and fixed a bug with the receiver passing through a 3D signal from satellite, as well as some HDMI control problems. The firmware update was very beneficial though I'd like to see this process made easier by connecting the receiver to an Ethernet connection and letting it do the update itself.

There's a very good screenshot walkthrough in our MRX 700 review here:

The ARC is similar, but much more complex, to other room correction systems such as Audyssey Multi EQ that I have on my Denon ARV-2909. It requires a minimum of 5 room measurements at least 2 ft apart and 10 maximum. It also allows you to choose which speakers are being calibrated and lets you calibrate different ones for music modes. The Audyssey software simply calibrates whichever speakers are hooked up. I preferred the ARC partially because I run 5.1 in my living room and my surround back speakers to the patio and this always throws Audyssey for a loop (tries to turn them up because they're so quiet, being outside). With ARC, you can just tell it to disregard any certain speakers you want. ARC feels like a much higher end room setup, but I'd try to talk your Anthem dealer into coming out to your house and running through the setup for you (it would really save you some time).

I also found out the hard way that DirectTV doesn't play well with Anthem devices. First, I'm using my DTV remote to control the other components in my HT, but not the Anthem (I called Anthem and DTV both and it turns out DTV just hasn't gotten around to programming Anthems codes…well, its time!) Second, since Directs HD box isn't fully HDMI 1.4 compliant, it doesn't play well with any devices that are and it won't pass 3D through the Anthem to my TV, though 3D blu-rays worked fine as that bypasses the satellite box. During my time with the receiver, Anthem developed a firmware update that tricks the satellite box into working (it also enables HDMI control of the Anthem receiver with the satellite remote).

The remote is backlit but the light button is painted black and is impossible to see in the near dark plus its right in the middle of a bunch of other buttons, which makes it even harder to locate. Manufacturers need to start making the light button out of glow in the dark material or at least place it way over by itself where it can be easily located in the dark. Anthem does provide a zone 2 remote with only basic controls but this remote isn't RF and has to have a line of sight so it's not really that useful for a separate room (plus it cannot control the receiver's zone 1-main controls).