Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity - Best Of Awards 2016
In their recently refreshed MRX receiver line, Anthem Electronics unveiled the new MRX 1120 home theater receiver. This new model slots between the MRX 720 and the AVM 60 pre/pro, effectively usurping the 720 as flagship of the series.

This handsome looking piece of gear supports Dolby Atmos decoding out of the box and will support DTS:X decoding, by years’ end, with a future firmware update that can be user installed. The MRX 1120 comes equipped with 11 channels of amplification on board, with the main five channels rated at 140 watts into 8 ohms and the remaining six channels rated at 60 watts into 8 ohms. Also included in the package is the latest version of Anthem’s acclaimed ARC 2 room correction system, and DTS Play-Fi which supports streaming services like Spotify, Pandora etc.

Anthem MRX 1120 Front Panel

Highlights

Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver

  • Excellent design and build quality.
  • 11 channels of amplification.
  • Amplifier channels handle 4 ohm speakers with ease.
  • ARC 2 room correction produced an exceptional level of quality sound.
  • 6 HDMI 2.0a inputs supporting HDCP 2.2 and 4K video.
  • No analog video inputs.
Introduction

Earlier this year, at CES 2016, the fine folks at Anthem Electronics revealed their updated MRX receiver line. These new units featured Dolby Atmos and would be upgradable to DTS:X capability via a firmware download later on in the year. Having had an enjoyable experience when I reviewed their entry level MRX 310 two years ago, which has now dropped from the line, I asked if I might take the top-dog MRX 1120 out for a walk this time around. About two months ago, they kindly obliged, and with four new overhead height speakers just recently installed in my home theater, the timing was perfect.

ANTHEM A/V RECEIVER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Design:

11.2 channel home theater receiver

DACS:

AKM AK4458 (D/A), AKM AK5358 (A/D)

DSP:

32 bit, quad core processor

Surround Codecs and Listening Modes:

Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Surround, DTS:X (via future firmware update), DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS Neo: 6, Anthem Logic, All Channel Stereo

Rated Power Output:

5 x 140 watts continuous – Two channels driven @ 1% THD into 8 ohms; 6 x 60 watts continuous – Two channels driven @ 1% THD into 8 ohms

Number of Zones:

2

Room Correction:

Anthem Room Correction (ARC 2)

Amplifier Type:

Class A/B (5 main channels), Class D (6 rear and height channels)

Inputs:

HDMI (6 rear HDMI 2.0a, 1- rear HDMI 1.4 with MHL support, 1 front HDMI 1.4 with MHL support), SPDIF Coax (2), Toslink (3), RCA Analog (5 Stereo Pairs), USB (1 rear, 1 front for service and updates), RS232 (1)

Outputs:

HDMI (2 HDMI 2.0a, one has Audio Return support), Toslink (1), RCA Analog (11 channel pre-outs, 2 subwoofer outputs, 1 stereo pair for Zone 1, 1 stereo pair for Zone 2), Speaker terminals (11 pair, all powered)

Tuner:

FM

Accessories:

Remote control, calibrated microphone, mic stand, Software installation disc, USB cable, Ethernet cable, Wi-Fi antennas

Dimensions:

6.5″ H x 17.25″ W x 14.75″ D

Weight:

32 pounds

MSRP:

$3499.00 USA

Company:

Anthem

SECRETS Tags:

Anthem, MRX, Receivers, ARC, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Home Theater, Receiver Reviews 2016

Having heard a number of Dolby Atmos demos at various audio shows, this would be my first experiment with the new surround format in my own house and I was looking forward to getting a taste of Anthem’s implementation. With a full 11 channels of onboard amplification and a price tag north of $3000.00, this is not a component for a casual installation or an entry level home theater. If history is any guide, the expectation of the MRX 1120 is for top quality performance and an exceptional level of sound quality. Let’s see if the Anthem measures up!

Design

Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver - Front/Side View

With the unpacking the MRX 1120 two things became immediately clear. Firstly, the unit itself was identical in size to the 5.1 channel MRX 310 that I reviewed two years ago. “So where did they stuff the six extra amp channels?” I thought to myself. Secondly, I became aware that the unit was noticeably heavier than the MRX 310 was, which gave a hint of an answer to my initial query.

Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver - Interior Top View

Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver - Interior Rear View

Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver - Interior Side View

Upon removing the top cover of the receiver for a look inside, I discovered a beefy new toroidal transformer and more robust heatsinking. These are substantial upgrades over what the MRX 310 had for its amplifier section. Delving into more detail, I discovered that while the 5 main channels of the MRX 1120 are Class AB amplifiers (rated at 140 watts per channel), the rear surround and height channels are more efficient, and smaller sized, Class D amplifiers (rated at 60 watts per channel). This is a rather elegant design solution for the power section that keeps the MRX 1120 from growing out of control, dimensionally.

While on the subject of the guts of the unit, the DAC chips have been upgraded to AKM AK4458 parts which Anthem bill as “Premium 768 kHz / 32-Bit Differential-Output D/A Converters.” All digital inputs can now accept up to a 24 bit/192 kHz input signal, however a direct DSD bit-stream cannot be accepted. Convert those to PCM at your player outputs first and then you’ll be fine. The main DSP silicon is now a 32bit-Quad-Core chip which allows even better filter resolution with the ARC 2 room correction system.

The face of the MRX 1120 is essentially a carbon copy of the 310. It’s visually uncluttered with a modest array of six primary buttons under the main display labelled: Setup, Dim, Mode, Level, Zone and Input. To the left is a circular grouping of five buttons similar to a cursor scroll and select control on a remote. Below that, there is a small door covering the headphone jack, front USB (for updates) and front HDMI (1.4) inputs. The main volume knob is to the right with two small buttons for Zone 2 and Main power just below it.

Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver - Rear View

The rear panel is equally organized and well laid out with inputs and outputs in black and white color coded groups for easy identification. The MRX 1120 receiver sports eight HDMI inputs (seven in back, one in front) and two HDMI outputs. Six of the rear inputs are of the HDMI 2.0a variety which are HDCP 2.2 compliant. This means the receiver fully supports and switches 4K/60 video resolution, HDR (High Dynamic Range) video and the BT.2020 Color Gamut. The remaining rear HDMI input is HDMI 1.4 and supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) as does the input in front. MHL provides special considerations for the connection of mobile devices and also allows a device to be charged when connected. One of the two HDMI outputs supports an Audio Return Channel (ARC), which allows you to listen to audio from your television without the need for an additional cable. On the MRX 1120, legacy video inputs are just that, a legacy. They don’t exist at all on this receiver period, end of story. The MRX 1120 supports five sets of stereo analog RCA inputs and five digital audio inputs (2 coaxial and 3 optical). There is also a USB connector to assist with Play-Fi updates, if a network connection is unavailable, and an Ethernet connector to be jacked into the home network, the old-fashioned way. The new-fashioned way of interfacing with your home network sees this newest Anthem sporting a pair of Wi-Fi antennas. This also allows the use of the streaming services on the 1120 and permits the ARC room correction system to be a fully wireless exercise to setup and implement.

Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver - Tripod Package

The ARC kit, which is included with the receiver, comes with a calibrated microphone, an adjustable tripod, a USB cable, a software disc and an Ethernet cable. The software itself is simply called ARC 2 (Anthem Room Correction) and it is their latest generation of code. It features both an automatic and fully manual mode which can allow either a streamlined or a detailed level of adjustability for the system. Anthem also includes a complete set of 11.2 channel pre-outs should you want to use the MRX 1120 with higher power amplification down the road. Zone 2 audio duties can be handled with either the line level outputs or by configuring the speaker outputs through the setup menu. New on the MRX 1120 are the afore mentioned streaming services afforded through DTS Play-Fi.

Anthem MRX 1120 A/V Receiver - Remote

Play-Fi compatibility may be of increasing interest as there are a number of DTS Play-Fi certified network speakers coming to market and any of them could be mated to this receiver to create a whole house wireless music system with the MRX 1120 as its hub. There is also a DTS Play-Fi app for iOS, Android and Windows systems that can integrate and control the whole shooting match, along with connecting to external music servers. The remaining connections on the MRX 1120 back panel allow for antenna connection to the standard FM tuner. No AM, sorry talk radio fans, just stream it! There is also an IR input as well as an RS-232 jack that can be used to control the MRX 1120 with an external control system. A 12 Volt DC Trigger is also included which allows you to turn on another device, such as an external amplifier for zone two.

The MRX 1120 comes with the same basic, non-learning remote that the MRX 310 had. It’s light, it works and it’s backlit. Enough said.

Setup

As I found with the MRX 310, the setup of this receiver is pretty straightforward with no real surprises. The Ethernet cable connection was ditched this time around in favor of having the MRX 1120 talk to my network wirelessly. Within a few moments, that was taken care of.

Compared to some of the fancy GUI menus on many receivers and processors today, Anthem’s menu system is simple, clean and straightforward. No gee-whiz graphics here, just a simple intuitive list system. As I began to go about assigning my inputs, I discovered that five inputs are setup by default at the factory but that you can add, remove and reconfigure any inputs for a maximum of 30. A nice bonus was that HDMI sources could be reused across any input. Once the inputs were set up, I entered the distance between my primary listening position and each speaker in my room. Distances are entered in the "Listener Position" menu and can be entered in feet or meters in increments of 1 foot or .3 meters respectively. This is something that you must do manually as the Anthem Room Correction system does not do this for you when calibrating as some other systems do.

Now it was time to run the ARC 2 software. A quick check of the receiver menu showed that it had the latest firmware installed. A quick check on Anthem’s website showed there was a newer version of the software for the laptop than what came packaged with the kit. I downloaded and installed the newer software which included the calibration files that matched my microphone’s unique serial number. Anthem informed me that they are phasing out including the physical software disk with ARC in favor of just downloading the software directly when you get your unit home. That way you are always guaranteed to be working with the latest software revision. A quick note, since I use two subwoofers in my HT, Anthem advises you to level match them first with a SPL meter from the main listening position to just under 75dB each before running ARC 2, which I did.

I started the software in the Automatic Mode which found the MRX 1120 on the network and began by offering me the default choice of 5 measurement positions for the microphone. I elected to choose 6 for my room, but you can choose more if you need. Once the measurements were done and uploaded to the receiver, I reviewed the calculated settings on my laptop. While everything seemed reasonable and would have been fine to go as is, I saw that ARC 2 had set the crossover on my center channel at 100 Hz and 170 Hz on my height speakers. Through past experience, I know that those speakers can be crossed a little lower and the raw measurement graphs confirmed that there was some response to spare.

Anthem MRX1120 Target customization panel

I closed up the ARC 2 Auto Mode portion of the software and opened up the Manual Mode. I selected the file which contained my measurements and pressed the Target button. This opened up a new window with a number of customization options including individual crossover settings, adjustable high-pass filtering for the subwoofers, room gain level, speaker level trims, etc. There is also provision to store and upload settings for up to 4 different speaker profiles and associate them with specific inputs if you so choose. I decided to adjust the crossover setting for my center channel to 80 Hz and the height channels to 120 Hz. After that, I pressed the Recalculate button and ARC began to re-calculate and calibrate for the new settings based off the original measurement data. When complete, press Upload and the new data is sent to the receiver. Now, it’s time for the fun stuff!

Anthem MRX1120 ARC Results-Front Left and Center

Anthem MRX1120 ARC Results-Front Right and Surround Right

Anthem MRX1120 ARC Results-Surround Left and Subwoofer

Anthem MRX1120 ARC Results-Height 1 Left and Right

Anthem MRX1120 ARC Results-Height 2 Left and Right

In Use

For this review, the connected components consisted of: Pioneer KURO 50” Plasma TV, OPPO BD-103 Blu-ray Player, Sony PS3, Xbox ONE, Motorola DCH-6200 Cable Decoder box, APC H-15 Power Conditioner and Blue Jeans Cable speaker wire and interconnects. Speakers used were the Salk Songtowers for the front left and right channels, a Zaph ZD3C center channel speaker, AV123 RS300 quasi-dipole surround speakers, 4 GoldenEar SuperSat 3 speakers for the height channels and Chase Home Theater 18.1 and 18.2 subwoofers.

Usually when I set up an HT receiver for review, I don’t program our universal remote so there is always a short learning curve before the receiver’s usage becomes second nature. This not only applies to me but also to my two boys who will have no barriers placed between them and the enjoyment of their video games! Having just finished setting up the MRX 1120 in an afternoon and after confirming that everything worked, I powered it off and proceeded to do some business in my studio. My 12-year-old son comes downstairs with his buddy to play Xbox and before I can pause what I’m doing to explain some pointers about the receiver to him, he has everything powered up, inputs properly selected and is up and running! I walk in, asking him how he figured it out so fast? “Easy!” he says, and then proceeds to show me how he did it, using the buttons on the unit, in a matter of seconds. It just goes to show that, once the initial set up is done, the MRX 1120 (and by extension all the Anthem MRX receivers) are basically a cinch to use and live with.

I don’t currently have any 4K source material so I can’t test if any signals of that resolution passed the 1120 successfully, but all 1080p Blu-ray content looked subjectively spotless. Colors seemed clean and true and I did not experience any HDMI handshake issues throughout any of my usage.

On the audio side of things, the Anthem was, quite simply, exemplary. My home theater sounded at least as good as I’ve ever heard it, if honestly not a touch better. My front three speakers have a 4-ohm impedance and the surrounds are 6 ohms. Neither of which presented any sort of challenge to the Anthem’s amplifier stages. In fact, the receiver kept a tight rein on all the speakers as none of them showed any signs of stress or misbehavior. Another note about the amplifiers is that when there were pauses in the music, or very quiet passages, there wasn’t a hint of any background noise even when turned up fairly loud. I’ve owned a couple of receivers where I would hear switching noise when changing inputs or there would be the slightest hiss in the background when nothing was playing. Complete silence with the MRX 1120, dead quiet, an electronic monastery.

This was also my second experience using the ARC 2 room correction system and I continue to be impressed by what it was able to accomplish in my room. The consistency of the sound, particularly the bass, across all four of my theater chairs was excellent with minimal variation. The subs were equalized just right for my liking. Bass sounded deep and punchy without getting bloated at all. Sometimes, with other EQ systems, the bass will get flattened out too much for my taste and then I invariably have to go into the settings and tweak levels and whatnot. ARC got the bass right where I wanted it on the first go. No additional “juicing’ of the levels was required. Another nice quality about the ARC system is that, since it doesn’t EQ anything above 5000 Hz, I felt that the sonic attributes that I like about my main speakers weren’t overly messed with, which has to do with why I bought them in the first place.

As this was also my first dipping-of-the-toe in the waters of Dolby Atmos, I had a little trepidation as my speaker setup was not exactly “textbook.” I couldn’t install ceiling speakers due to existing can-lighting being right where those speakers would normally go, and those Atmos-enabled “bounce” speakers weren’t an option for me either. After some research, I got 4 GoldenEar SuperSat 3 speakers and attached them to omni-mounts right at the point where the ceiling met the walls. This allowed me to angle the speakers towards the seating position so that their sound would be coming from roughly the Dolby prescribed angles. My surround speakers were also not direct radiators placed at ear level, but quasi-dipoles (only tweeters out of phase) placed just above head level. I couldn’t alter that arrangement because, at ear level, the speakers would be too close to anyone sitting at the end seats in my room. I was honestly wondering if this set up would even work. And, I had pared down from a 7.2 set up years ago because I found that 5.2 sounded so much cleaner in my room. Would adding 4 more speakers just mess things up again?

Well, after living with it for a couple of months, I can honestly say that Atmos, in general, and the Dolby up-mixer that extends non-Atmos material into the height channels is a very welcome addition that sounds better than my standard 5.2 and my original 7.2 setup, with a couple of minor caveats. Speaking generally, I found that most of the Atmos material I listened to made good use of the height channels (obviously some more than others) and that this new height layer of sound tended not to adversely draw too much attention to itself but successfully added to the overall experience. On non-Atmos encoded surround material, the Dolby up-mixer in the MRX 1120 did an admirable job of extending the soundtrack into the height channels and creating a larger sense of space without it sounding gimmicky. After switching back and forth, I found myself listening through the up-mixer for most of my surround movies and music. On some surround music recordings however, I did find that I preferred Anthem’s home-brewed “Anthem-Logic Music” steering mode better in certain instances. On 2 channel music, I will have to agree with what I’ve read from some of my other colleagues here at Secrets. The Dolby up-mixer does a noticeably less convincing job of expanding 2 channel music to multiple speakers than the old Dolby Pro Logic IIx steering did. In almost all but a precious few cases that I tried, stereo music sources just sounded thin and detached when put through the up-mixer and the height channels. In many instances with my usual receiver, Dolby Pro Logic IIx would give some surprisingly pleasing results with stereo music, particularly live recorded material. Some music examples, while not equaling truly discreet surround mixes, were actually downright impressive. The comparable DTS listening modes have never sounded as successful to IIx in my experience. The lack of an equivalent to Pro Logic IIx is not a deal breaker by any stretch on the Anthem but, speaking broadly, I wish Atmos receivers would come to market with IIx still as a listening option. Just because you may have 11 channels on tap, doesn’t mean you should always use all of them. With the ability to have ARC calibrations for up to 4 different speaker profiles, the MRX 1120 would be a perfect vehicle to have a speaker preset for expanded 2 channel music. With that being said, some of the more standout listening experiences that I had with the MRX 1120 were:

Batman vs Superman

Batman vs Superman – The Ultimate Edition

Batman vs Superman-The Ultimate Edition, Warner Bros. I’ve been a comic book fan for a good portion of my life and, as such, these particular characters hold a certain hallowed place in my heart. So let me say up front that, conceptually, this film is an absurdly long, ponderous, steaming hot load of poo! I really dislike this dark, overly serious tack that DC comics and Warner Brothers has taken with the production of their comic book properties. With overly cynical, dystopian worlds and flawed heroes that are constantly questioning themselves with overwrought internal struggles.

The main premise of this movie was adapted from parts of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Night Returns” comic book series and then taken in a direction that the comic book never intended. Even my 14-year-old son, whose alley this should be right up, kept looking at me after various scenes and said, “Dad, that was ridiculous!” I mean the best part of this film was when Wonder Woman makes her appearance in the final battle with Doomsday. Her character outshines the two leads with a bit part! Hate on this movie much? You bet I do. It’s a pig. But the Dolby Atmos soundtrack and the playback through the Anthem receiver? Oh my word, it is fantastic! Despite its story flaws, this movie has one of the better Atmos soundtracks that I have come across and the MRX 1120 plays it for all its worth. Compared with what I am used to hearing with my 5.2 setup, the new height channels really gave an extra sense of spaciousness throughout the entire movie with additional ambience and music cues applied judiciously. The heights are put to very aggressive use during the final battle with debris from crumbling buildings, helicopter fly-bys, explosions, and the like. All the height effects seemed to pan seamlessly when they needed to and really added to the sense of space without drawing undo attention away from the main action. The Anthem’s ARC 2 system also had excellent control of the low frequency effects content in this movie. The deep rumble of that Batplane when it hovered was just cavernous and palpable. Whenever Doomsday would set off one of his epic blasts, the bass hit was low, powerful and solid without ever getting muddy. Everything, as a whole, sounded crystal clear and in proper balance via the Anthem. So, in this case, the MRX 1120 made the best out of the situation by putting lipstick on a pig and successfully taking it to the ball. Not a bad party trick!

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Paramount. With this next installment in the venerable franchise, Paramount ups the ante with a really enjoyable story and an excellent Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The addition of the height channels really goes a long way here to create a true bubble of sound. Every chase scene felt bigger in dimension. The assassination attempt at the opera house had just a larger degree of space, what with the audience, backstage rigging and various effects all taking place overhead.

The extended underwater scene when Ethan Hunt is trying to facilitate Simon Pegg’s character breaking into the vault, while holding his breath was particularly immersive with plenty of panning sound, both at ear level and above. ARC 2 shined again here with plenty of controlled, hard-hitting bass throughout the film.

ALT

Goldberg Variations – Acoustica

Goldberg Variations Acoustica, The AIX All Star Band, AIX Records. Another fine recording from Mark Waldrep’s label. This Blu-ray disc features 6 well regarded studio musicians re-interpreting J.S. Bach’s work through almost a jam session type of arrangement. The audio was recorded and mixed in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD at 24/96. The surround mix sounded incredibly natural on this disc with every performer properly placed in space.

The instruments had a clarity and purity to their sound that I don’t come across very often on recorded material. An “unmolested” sound would be a good way to describe it. The acoustic bass plucks came across forceful and clean sounding while both the acoustic piano and Hammond B-3 organ had an almost “right there” quality to their notes. Drums also had excellent weight and impact while the cymbals sounded as clean as a whistle. And the quiet passages that I touched on earlier? They were here and they sounded dead silent on this recording. You could tell that the musicians were genuinely enjoying playing off one another as the interplay was incredibly skillful. In particular it was great to see and hear Dean Parks and Laurence Juber trade licks on electric and acoustic guitars respectively. When switching between the standard TrueHD steering and the Dolby up-mixer, it seemed that the latter was intelligently extending the sound field higher and expanding the natural environment but still maintaining a level of clarity and cohesion. The added sound level didn’t draw undue attention to itself and sounded as if it belonged. The MRX 1120 basically put me right in the middle of the performance and it felt like I was very much there.

Diana Krall-The Girl in the Other Room

Diana Krall “The Girl in the Other Room”

The Girl in the Other Room, Diana Krall, Verve Records, Multi-channel SACD. Yes, it’s the recording that is both the mainstay and the bane of everyone’s existence that goes to an audio show. It is one of the most commonly used pieces of demo material for a reason, because it sounds so darn good! I had never heard the multi-channel mix before and, frankly I hadn’t thought about it as the stereo mix is excellent by any measure. Not to engage in hyperbole but, what a fool I am! This surround mix, rendered on the Anthem using the Dolby up-mixer sounded nothing short of gorgeous!

The MRX 1120, again, put me right there in the recording studio. The instruments and the ambience of the recording were so rich though, that it could have just as easily been a nightclub. From the opening notes of “Stop This World”, the Anthem and the ARC system work convincingly as they reproduce the piano’s deep, resonant, lush sound while the kick drum had nice, impactful hits that were clearly felt. Krall’s voice is placed perfectly in the soundscape, sounding clear but with just the right amount of the trademark huskiness to its tone. The basslines through this entire disc are just palpably good, sounding big and rich but not sloppy at all. Once again, thank you ARC! On “Temptation”, probably the most overplayed audio show demo tune, the surround mix has a depth that puts the stereo mix completely to shame. Again, when switching in the Dolby up-mixer, the sound bubble just got bigger but not in an un-natural or distracting way. The MRX 1120 kept everything sound big and lush, but while maintaining control with detail and specificity to all the instruments and vocals. It could have easily fallen to sonic mush on a lesser receiver, but not with the Anthem.

Are there any negatives about the MRX 1120, since I have essentially been gushing about it up until now? Mostly small things. The remote control, while serviceable, could be so much more. I’m sure many prospective buyers would expect a learning unit be included at this receiver’s price point. During ARC setup, it would be great if, when running dual subwoofers, the software would ping them individually and allow a user to dial in their sound levels during the pre-measurement phase. The latest iteration of Audyssey does this and it is very convenient.

There are no analog 7.1 audio inputs. Some people might find this problematic depending on their setups, I didn’t.

On The Bench

Benchmark audio tests were conducted on both the analog inputs of the MRX 1120 and the digital input via HDMI. The source device for both analog and HDMI tests was an Oppo BDP-83SE. For the analog tests, the input level was 2.2 VRMS into the RCA inputs of the MRX 1120. The volume was adjusted for 2 VRMS at the speaker outputs.

Anthem MRX1120 1 kHz Sine Wave-Analog

At 1 kHz into the RCA input, THD+N was 0.002921%. We see a few harmonics throughout the spectrum with the second harmonic at 2 kHz being about 88 dB below 2 VRMS.

Anthem MRX1120 IMD Test-Analog

The IMD measurement using the RCA input was 0.004248%. We see minor noise spurs on either side of the fundamentals and a second harmonic at 14 kHz at 100 dB below 2 VRMS.

Anthem MRX1120 19 and 20 kHz Sine Waves-Analog

Here are the results for the 19 kHz, 20 kHz combined test frequencies using the RCA input. There is a visible B-A peak at 1 kHz about 88 dB below 2 VRMS. We see distortion spurs throughout the spectrum. The second harmonics at 38 kHz and 40 kHz are about 85 dB below 2 VRMS.

Anthem MRX1120 Frequency Response-Analog

I measured the frequency response of the MRX 1120 out to 96 kHz. In analog direct, the response is flat out to about 70 kHz and then we see a gradual roll-off of the high frequencies at 80 kHz. Note that the minor “tick” at 2.5 kHz is an artifact from my measuring setup.

Anthem MRX1120 1 kHz Sine Wave-Digital

At 1 kHz, and 16-bit/44.1k sampling rate, THD+N was 0.003628% measured from the speaker outputs. We see several harmonics in the spectrum with the peak at 2 kHz being about 88 dB below 2 VRMS.

Anthem MRX1120 1 kHz Sine Wave-Digital

The IMD measurement using the HDMI input was 0.003974%. We see noise spurs on either side of the fundamentals and a second harmonic at 14 kHz at 100 dB below 1.9 VRMS.

Anthem MRX1120 19 and 20 kHz Sine Waves-Digital

Here are the results for the 19 kHz, 20 kHz combined test frequencies using the HDMI input with 24-bit/96k sampling at 2 VRMS. We see higher distortion spurs throughout the spectrum. There is a visible B-A peak at 1 kHz about 89 dB below each test tone which is insignificant. The second harmonics at 38 kHz and 40 kHz are about 85 dB below each test tone.

Conclusions

Anthem MRX1120 Front Panel

THE ANTHEM MRX 1120 is the Best Home Theater Receiver That I Have Had the Pleasure of Ever Using.

Likes
  • Great design and solid construction.
  • Lots of power with ample reserves.
  • Superb sound quality for movies and music.
  • ARC 2 room correction is a standout.
Would Like To See
  • Learning remote.
  • Dolby ProLogic IIx for expanding stereo sources into surround.
  • ARC subwoofer level set up stage.

To put not too fine a point on it, the Anthem MRX 1120 is the best home theater receiver that I have had the pleasure of ever using. It looks deceptively simple on the outside and while it might not have every last bell and whistle that some of its competitors do, the features it does have are the ones that matter and are well thought out. It’s defining characteristic though is its sound quality and the MRX 1120 is truly top shelf in this regard. I don’t think I’d be overstating it if I said that the sound quality you get from this unit is comparable to having separates from some other manufacturers. ARC 2 room correction continues to show why it is one of the most well regarded of these types of systems. Bass was always tight, powerful and perfectly rendered regardless of the source material. Also, as the first receiver that allowed me to experience a proper Atmos set up in my home, it was a home-run in terms of showing what the format can do, even with a slightly unorthodox speaker layout. If anything, it has unfortunately set the bar rather high for any other Atmos receiver that comes through these doors. Well done indeed!

*Note: As soon as Anthem releases an update enabling DTS:X functionality on this receiver, I will post a follow up report on my experience. Also, special thanks go out to Robert Kozel for his assistance with the bench test results.

  • dv cali

    Been waiting for this review, thank you! Do you have insight to how different the 720 and 1120 are besides the number of amplified channels and toroidal transformer?

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Hi dv cali. Thanks for reading the review. As far as I can tell through some quick checking, the 720 and 1120 are identical electronically, and only differ in the number of on board amplifier channels. The 720 has no height amp channels on board but it has pre-outs for the height channels so you can hook up separate amplifiers of your choice for them and end up have a full ATMOS set up. I will reach out to Anthem to confirm some additional details but if you already have some amplifiers around that aren’t being used, the 720 may be worth considering.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Just got some additional clarification from Anthem, The MRX 720 will do a 5.1.2 ATMOS set up right out of the box, but for anything more involved you will need to add external amplification using the 11.2 channel pre-outs.

  • dv cali

    Hi Carlo, Thank you for your feedback and for taking the time to find out. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Timing is perfect so I’ll be picking up the 720. 🙂
    Cheers!

  • e30cabrio

    Thanks for the review, I have a 720 & love it. Did you do a multi channel WPC bench test?

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Hi e30cabrio. Glad to hear that you like your 720. Unfortunately I’m not currently set up to run power tests yet. That may change in the future.

  • e30cabrio

    Thanks for the response!

  • Eduard

    I believe the 1120 also has the preamp similar to the AVM60 as well as the better tranformer. Not sure if that is important to you.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    That is an excellent point. The pre-amp section of the MRX 1120 and AVM 60 are essentially identical. You could go that route and choose all your amplification separately. You also gain balanced outputs if that is something you are after too.

  • dv cali

    Thanks Eduard and Carlo, the news just keeps getting better.

  • Eduard

    Hi Carlo, really enjoyed your review. After being happy with a 5.1 system for the last couple of decades or so, I got smitten by the Atmos bug after a very good demo. Got persuaded into going with separates. However, I’m finding this to be too complicated and not interested in fake various halls, cathedrals etc. I’ll be 67 in a couple of months and my wife cannot use the system. Glad to hear your young son figured it out by himself. There might be hope for the rest of us. Moving to a one box solution will be ideal, but top notch sound is critical.
    In your review you detail your system with the exception of your regular processor and amplification. Would you mind clarifying that? Glad you found the MRX had sufficient power GoldenEar SuperStat 3 speakers. I ended up redoing my room with GoldenEar XXL centre, HR7000 x4 for ceiling and MPX for surrounds, so I shouldn’t have any power issues either.
    I’m really interested if you did any 2 channel straight listening and what were your thoughts. I have an analogue front end (modified Rega P5) that I would like to use.
    In your use of the Diana Krall SACD disc, how did you manage surround when the MRX1200 does not do DSD?
    Currently no local dealers carry Anthem. I plan on traveling to the TAVES stereo show in Toronto next weekend and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a live display will be available.
    Thanks again.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Hey Eduard, glad you enjoyed the review and thank you for your kind words.
    To answer your questions, first: my usual receiver is a Denon AVR-X4000 with 7.2 channels and Audyssey X32 room correction.
    Second: I’ve have been doing a little more 2 channel listening in the last couple of weeks and the MRX 1120 sounds very good in straight two channel. What I am really enjoying is being able to set up a custom speaker preset expressly for two channel listening (the Anthem can do 4 separate presets). This has allowed me to mess around with different crossover, room gain and EQ limit settings for stereo listening without messing up the settings I’ve dialed in for surround listening. Unfortunately I don’t own a turntable so I can’t speak to how vinyl sounds through the Anthem. Be aware that there is a setting in the menu that disables any processing on the analog inputs so that may be of interest to you for a turntable hookup.
    Thirdly: for SACD listening (both stereo and surround) I set my OPPO player to convert the DSD stream to a PCM digital steam before sending it to the Anthem. Then the 1120 can process it without a hitch.
    Hope that helps.

  • Eduard

    Carlo,
    Yes that helps quite a bit. Thanks for the detailed reply and your time.

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    My pleasure.

  • zeeman1

    Pre amp/dac sections on the 720/1120 are identical. The E core transformer on the 720 provides identical sound and output capability as the toroid on the 1120.

  • Eduard

    Hi, that’s good to know. What system and source did you test this on to come to your conclusion. Appreciate it as I’m still trying to decide between the two.

  • zeeman1

    Paradigm monitor 11v.7, Paradigm Monitor Sub 12, Pioneer Elite Kuro 60″.

  • Justin

    Thanks for the review. Have you had a chance to check out the Arcam 850? The review of it here also touts that as the best receiver. It doesn’t make my decision making any easier. Haha

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Hey Justin. No, I haven’t had a chance to listen to the Arcam but it looks to be quite a beast in it’s own right and Jim Clements is a very particular fellow. If he liked it, then that says a lot to me. 🙂 The biggest difference I see is that, out of the box, the Arcam will do a 5.1.2 ATMOS setup where the Anthem will do a 7.1.4 with on board amplification and it costs just over half the price of the Arcam. While cost doesn’t tell the whole story at all, and the Arcam looks exceptionally well made, it is something to consider if you have to stick to a budget. The Anthem is also no slouch in the sound quality department.

  • Justin

    Hi Carlo, thanks for the reply. The out-of-the-box solution by Anthem is a good point there. Thanks again

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    My pleasure!

  • Taylormade

    Does the anthem support digital sources for zone 2? I’m looking to replace a Yamaha A1030 and would like to simplify the cable mess. It seems that the Yamaha A1060 and Marantz SR6011 support digital sources in zone 2. I can’t tell if the Anthem or Arcam products support that. Thanks!

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Hey Taylormade. As far as I can tell from looking through the manual, you can access both coaxial and optical digital inputs, and Play-Fi as a Zone 2 source. All inputs, whether stereo or multi-channel are downmixed to stereo for Zone 2.

  • Taylormade

    Thanks Carlo!

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    No problem! 🙂

  • Taylormade

    I just browsed the manual. One more question. Does HDMI out for zone 2 allow for a separate video source than zone 1?

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    I’m not sure but I passed your question along to Anthem and I’ll let you know what they say.

  • Eduard

    Thanks for the reply. I have listened to a A-S801 briefly, so that gives me something to go by. Do you use the 701 as your primary 2 channel amp? Perhaps you can post an update on your 701 listening experiences, especially after running ARC.

  • mhdaniels31

    im having a little trouble understanding how the 30lb anthem mrx1120 which was bench tested at 135 watts at .01% 2 channels driven and 70 .01% watts all 5 channels driven into 8ohm had no problem pushing your salks when you said the yamaha rx a3050 struggled with it when the yamaha rx a2050 was bench tested at 177 watts .01 and 105 watts .01% at 5 channels before yamahas protection system kicked in not to mention the yamaha also was able to pull off 255 watts at 4ohm at .01% and 315 watts 1% clearly the the 2.5lb heavier rx a3050 yamaha would have had even more under the hood just dont have the bench tests to prove it so im wondering if there is a little boutique snobbery going around here you can clearly check the back of the yamaha’s owners manual where it states it puts out 400-450 watts on average but when needed it has max wattage of 1210watts at full output guess thats where the 10lb difference comes in which is some serious power for a receiver but somehow it didnt seem to put out enough power to make the salks sing I think you stated and that just leaves me a little confused if there is maybe a little brand bias going on here cuz clearly the yamaha has the better build quality,power and price to performance ratio as far as i can tell yet there where no real comparisons made anthem built a nice piece of equipment without a doubt but at 30lbs for $3500 I feel like there should be alot more amplification for that kind of money what your really paying for is ARC2 and its ability to make a average receiver seem like so much more by the way i would like to see a denon x6300h review with direct comparisons especially with the new audessy $20 app feature or the onkyo rz3100 with its new 11 channel D3 amps because as far as i can tell a torodial transformer over an EI doesnt sudddenly make it have 4ohm super powers at its disposal anyway nice review just wish you’ld do more comparisons to other recently reviewed products and how you came to your conclusions

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Hi mhdaniels31. Thanks for reading the review. Just to be clear, I personally didn’t review the RX-A 3050 for our site, Glenn Young did, so I can’t personally attest to how it would handle my Salks. But, after having read Glenn’s review, I’m sure it would do just fine. BTW, Glenn didn’t say anywhere in his review that the Yamaha struggled with his speakers (Axiom M80s) just that, in pure two channel listening, he thought that separates might give you a little more refined sound. I also see that you quoted the power benchmarks from Sound & Vision and I have no reason to doubt those. I can only tell you about what I hear from the equipment I have in my room. I’m certain the Yamaha sounds excellent and will find many happy owners. That doesn’t change the fact that the MRX 1120 is also an exceptional sounding receiver that powered the 5.2.4 ATMOS setup I have beautifully and without any distress. And in terms of the transformer, I just mentioned it for comparison to the same sized MRX 310 that I reviewed two years ago and how Anthem could squeeze 11 amps into a case the same size as the 5.1 channel MRX 310. No additional super powers are implied.
    Cheers!

  • mhdaniels31

    thanks for the response when i saw you mention that the anthem had no problem running your salk speakers i just assumed you were the same reviewer sorry about that I realize everybody has a different opinions anyway like i said before nice review would love to see the site do more comparisons based on performance with other receivers or a shoot out for the 11 channel peoples champion do you guys get to request the receivers or is it what the manufacturer offers also would love to see a rz3100 review and if its just a rebadged pioneer elite or if it has a sound of its own anyway great review and pics and data tests i know sound matters most but its nice to see whats under the hood and how it breaks down signal wise thanks again

  • Carlo Lo Raso

    Not a problem. We typically don’t do “shootouts” per say, but it may be something that we might want to look into in the future.