Anthem MRX 1120 11.2 Channel AV Receiver Review
A single box solution for a full immersive setup
What is the Anthem MRX 1120?The MRX 1120 is Anthem's latest flagship AV receiver which not only adds Dolby Atmos and, thanks to a future firmware update, DTS:X but also, as the name suggests, includes 11 channels of built-in amplification. That means you can create a full 7.2.4-channel immersive audio configuration from a single box and although that isn't unique, there are other examples of 11-channel receivers, they don't also include Anthem's excellent room correction software.
Anthem have never gone in for massive feature lists, preferring to concentrate on those that matter and once again the MRX 1120 includes features and functions aimed at performance rather than box ticking. So along with the built-in amplification, ARC, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, you also get two parallel sub out jacks, quad core digital signal processing, 32-bit/768kHz digital-to-analogue converters, four speaker profile memories, a wireless network connection and DTS Play-Fi.
Whilst the emphasis might be on the audio performance this is an AV receiver, so the video side of things are also well covered with eight HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. The HDMI inputs include support for ARC - that's the Audio Return Channel as opposed to Anthem Room Correction - and MHL. However more importantly they are HDMI 2.0a connections which means support for 4K 50/60, HDCP 2.2, High Dynamic Range (HDR), BT.2020 colour gamut and 4:4:4 subsampling at 4K60 (18.2 Gbps).
That's certainly an impressive set of features that will ensure the MRX 1120 remains relevant for the foreseeable future at least but this third generation of Anthem receivers aren't as well-priced as previous models. The MRX 1120 retails for £3,999 as at the time of writing (April 2016), which puts it firmly at the higher end of the AV receiver price scale. So does the addition of new features like Dolby Atmos and 11 channels of amplification justify the higher price? Let's find out.
Design, Connections & ControlDesign wise the MRX 1120 looks identical to Anthem's second generation of receivers. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as we rather liked that design but of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are plenty of other people who think they're ugly or rather utilitarian. However we still think the black brushed aluminium facia is quite elegant and understated, even if the receiver clearly comes from the minimalist school of design.
On the right hand side there is a volume dial and beneath that there is a main power button and a power button for Zone 2. In the middle there is a large and easy to read display and beneath this there are a few simple selection buttons for setup, display brightness, mode, level, zone and input. On the left hand side there is a circular set of navigation buttons and beneath that there is a small drop-down flap, behind which you'll find an extra HDMI input (MHL), a headphone jack and a USB port for firmware updates.
The Anthem is reasonably well engineered but the build quality, whilst decent, isn't as good as you would find on other flagship receivers such as the Yamaha RX-A3050. The navigation and selection buttons do all feel rather cheap and plastic and the drop-down flap is fairly flimsy. Still the overall construction feels solid enough and the volume dial has a degree of resistance as you turn it. The MRX 1120 measures 439 x 165 x 375mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 14.5kg.
The MRX1120 retains the previous generation's design but despite the additional amplification, isn't as heavy as you might expect.
Aside from the front connections that we've already mentioned, all the others are at the rear. Here you'll find seven HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. HDMI output 1 supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and HDMI input 7 supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link). Crucially all the HDMI inputs and outputs are HDMI 2.0a which means support for 4K 50/60, HDCP 2.2, High Dynamic Range (HDR), BT.2020 colour gamut and 4:4:4 subsampling at 4K60 (18.2 Gbps). The MRX 1120 supports immersive audio and thus includes main pre-outs for 11 channels along with two subwoofers. However the receiver also has 11 channels of built-in amplification and so there are colour-code speakers terminals for each of these channels.
There are two coaxial and three optical digital inputs, along with an optical digital output. There are also five stereo analogue inputs and stereo analogue outputs for a line out and a second zone, all using RCA connectors. There's a chassis ground screw, an IR input, a 12V trigger, an RS-232 connector for serial control and a second USB port that is also for firmware updates. There is an Ethernet port and, new for this generation, there are twin wireless antennas, which allow the receiver to connect wirelessly to a network. A network connection, either wired or wireless, is required for configuring Anthem Room Correction, using the Play-Fi app, or for IP control.
Unfortunately it turns out that the latest generation of Anthem receivers are currently incompatible with BT HomeHubs and Virgin routers, which are probably the two most common in the UK. We appreciate that Anthem is a Canadian company but if you plan on selling a product into the UK, it should be able to work properly in this country. We couldn't create a wired or wireless connection with our BT HomeHub, so we were unable to fully test the Play-Fi capabilities of the MRX 1120. We also couldn't connect the Anthem directly with our laptop because it didn't have an Ethernet port, which made running ARC problematic but eventually we were able to use a second wireless router to connect the MRX 1120 to our laptop and run it.As with the design, so it goes for the remote control, which it identical to the one provided with the previous generation. The remote is comfortable to hold and easy to use, thanks to a clear and intuitive design. The keys are sensibly laid out and kept to a minimum, thus ensuring you aren't faced with dozens of little buttons. There's a backlight, which makes the remote easier to use in a darkened home cinema and everything you need to effectively control the MRX 1120 is included. At the bottom of the remote there are even separate controls for the second zone.
Features & SpecsThe third generation of Anthem's AV receivers retains much that made their previous models so good but adds plenty of new features to ensure the latest range remains up-to-date. So what's new? Well the MRX 1120 supports Dolby Atmos and, thanks to a future firmware update, it will also be able to support DTS:X. As a result the Anthem has 11.2-channel pre-outs but, slightly more unusually, it also has 11-channels of built-in amplification with Advanced Load Monitoring (ALM). This means that anyone wanting to run a full 7.2.4 immersive audio setup can do so from a single sensibly sized box. In terms of maximum continuous output, for channels 1 to 5 Anthem quote two driven into 8 Ohms at 140W and for the remaining channels they quote two driven into 8 Ohms at 60W. We have always found that Anthem's quoted numbers actually represent a realistic appraisal of their receiver's output, so whilst they may not seem as large as other manufacturers they are more representative.
The MRX 1120 includes plenty of new features that ensure it will remain up-to-date for the foreseeable future.
The MRX 1120 also includes Anthem Room Correction (ARC) which has now been updated to account for the additional height speakers used with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. As always the receiver comes with its own calibrated USB microphone, a microphone clip, a telescopic stand with boom, a USB cable and a CAT5 cable. All of which is intended to ensure the best possible results when running ARC. There are also up to four speaker profile memories in case you need to create multiple speaker profiles. The MRX 1120 includes Anthem's standard menu system that is fairly basic in terms of its layout but remains intuitive to understand and easy to navigate. As mentioned previously the HDMI inputs are all HDMI 2.0a which means support for 4K 50/60, HDCP 2.2, High Dynamic Range (HDR), BT.2020 colour gamut and 4:4:4 subsampling at 4K60 (18.2 Gbps).The MRX 1120 includes quad core Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and 32-bit/768kHz differential Digital-to-Analogue Converters (DACs). In terms of other features there is an FM tuner (the receiver comes with an FM antenna included), a low power consumption standby mode and support for both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as AnthemLogic for up to 11.2 channels and Dolby Surround for upmixing 5.1 and 7.1 content to 7.1.4. There is also CEC control and standby pass-through, whilst for the custom installers there is IR control, RS-232 control, a configurable IR input, a 12V trigger, control system drivers and a sidemount rack kit (sold separately).
As already mentioned there is now a wireless connection and support for DTS Play-Fi. This is a music source that allows you to stream music from local sources including your phone, popular services like Spotify and internet radio to your receiver. Play-Fi does not compress audio, so file formats up to 24-bit/192 kHz .wav and . ac are supported as long as the network and the mobile device support the data rates involved. If using network accessible storage (NAS), it must be NTFS or FAT32 formatted, and with DLNA enabled. Once installed and set up, you can select Play-Fi as you would any other input such as the FM tuner, and open the Play-Fi app on your mobile device or computer to select music, create zones, and control volume on all Play-Fi devices that are on your network.
Anthem Room Correction (ARC)Anthem Room Correction (ARC) is an automated system designed to correct the effects of reflective surfaces and room boundaries on sound quality by measuring the response of each speaker relative to the listening area and equalising it accordingly. ARC equalises the response without stressing the amplifier or speakers and does not downsample the source material to process it. The filters used are neither graphic nor parametric, instead ARC flattens the response by using its ability to create practically any suitable function, inherently correcting phase effects created by the room. The default correction range is 5 kHz. Although it can be lowered if needed, it cannot be raised since the microphone becomes directional at upper frequencies, affecting measurement accuracy.
ARC also detects how much the room reinforces low frequencies due to its boundaries and pressurisation. This room gain shows as a bump in the target response. ARC does not remove it because if changed, bass sounds thin. Ideal anechoic speaker response, a straight line as measured in a special non-reverberant facility, is not the same as ideal in-room response which normally includes, to a varying degree, this room gain. ARC senses where each speaker’s low-frequency response declines and sets high-pass filters accordingly. Calibration is set so that the average level is the same when comparing EQ “On” compared to “Off”. To set the levels ARC uses a midrange band that’s wider than the standard home theatre setup noise and is centred at 1 kHz so there’s no chance they would be reduced by a crossover.
Anthem Room Correction remains a great tool and the fact you can EQ the height speakers is a nice touch.
Of course room equalisation isn't for everyone and if you know your room well, have it properly treated and position your subwoofer(s) optimally then you might not need to use ARC at all. However there seems little point buying the MRX 1120 if you aren't going to use ARC and for most people equalisation is the easiest way to get a better response within their room. We have a particularly nasty null in our room that often sorts the men out from the boys when it comes to room equalisation and for the purposes of the review we tested the Anthem with and without ARC.
Using ARC is fairly straightforward, all you need to do is connect your laptop to the MRX 1120 (either directly or via your network) and then run the software. You'll also need to connect the microphone to a USB port on your laptop and place it in the sweet spot using the provided tripod stand. ARC has both an automatic mode and a manual mode but for most people the automatic mode will be the best option. You just run the automatic version of ARC and follow the instructions. The software looks for the receiver on the network and checks the microphone and the support file match. This is because each microphone’s frequency response is measured precisely in the factory and then used to create the calibration file.
ARC will then take you through the entire calibration process, beginning with selecting the number of speakers and the configuration. Then you can select the number of measurement positions, the system defaults to five but you can go up to ten, and the software begins measuring at the first position before promoting you to move the microphone to the second position and measuring again. The software will do this for all the positions you have requested and once all the measurements have been taken, ARC processes the data, calculates the curve corrections and uploads it to the hard drive on your laptop.
Anthem Room Correction will then upload the room correction parameters and speaker levels to the MRX 1120. Once this process is complete, you are given the option to preview the results and if you say yes, the software produces a full calibration report. This is a really nice touch and the detailed report shows all the before and after measurements for each speaker, along with speaker levels and crossover targets. The entire report can even be customised and printed out, which is great news for any professional installers out there.
ARC also includes a Quick Measure feature, which can be quite handy for checking the position of speakers, especially the subwoofer. To use Quick Measure, select Manual mode instead of Automatic when starting ARC. Click on the Quick Measure button and enable the sweep tone for the subwoofer that you are positioning. After a few sweeps the graph will show a live update of the uncorrected measurement. It will keep running until you turn it off. The idea is to leave the subwoofer where the graph is flattest in the bass region, then run ARC normally
So far this is identical to earlier versions of ARC but there are a couple of changes to the latest iteration. First of all the system now measures for 11 speakers plus the subwoofer rather than the previous 7.1-channel AV receivers that Anthem has released. As a result ARC measures the delays and levels for the front and rear height speakers as well as all the usual channels. The software also applies correction to the height channels, which is something that some other systems don't do. Also new this year is the ability to create and save up to four speaker profiles. This probably won't apply to most people but if you should need more than one profile, perhaps to allow for two completely different listening positions in the same room, then you can.
TestingWe tested the Anthem MRX 1120 using a full 7.2.4-channel immersive audio setup for Dolby Atmos and we also tested the receiver using 5.1- and 7.1-channel configurations, as well as using the Dolby Surround upmixer. In addition we tested music using a straight two-channel configuration and a 2.1-channel setup. We conducted all these tests with and without ARC room equalisation being applied. We used a combination of the Samsung UBD-K8500 and Panasonic DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray players, along with the Oppo BDP-103EU Blu-ray player as sources and we connected the MRX 1120 to a JVC DLA-X5000B projector. We sent full 4K 50/60, HDCP 2.2, HDR, BT.2020 and 4:4:4 subsampling at 18.2 Gbps from our the Ultra HD Blu-ray players and via our Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator to ensure that the HDMI inputs and outputs could handle what Anthem claimed.
Anthem MRX 1120 Video Review
We started off testing the MRX 1120 without using room correction, partly because we couldn't run ARC without being able to connect our laptop to the receiver in some way. As a result we actually spent longer listening without any correction than we probably would have if given the choice. However the Anthem was easy to configure and once we'd set the delays and levels, we quickly had a great sounding system. The first thing we noticed was that despite the chassis not being particularly large or heavy, the amplification had plenty of grunt suggesting that Anthem have been fairly conservative in their power numbers, which makes a nice change. The system could go very loud without becoming brittle or harsh and we wondered how Anthem actually managed to cram eleven channels into the MRX 1120. However despite performing well without room correction, there's no doubt that in our room at least, the addition of ARC took the performance of the MRX 1120 to a whole new level.
The soundstage opened up and the experience was wonderfully immersive, even when restricted to a 5.1 or 7.1 mix. We started with Interstellar, a 5.1 mix that we know well and the Anthem delivered the soundtrack with great skill. We watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the MRX 1120 proved very effective in replicating the artistic intentions of what is a very nuanced sound design. We particularly liked the way that, when Kylo Ren uses The Force to interrogate someone, the entire room became energised with bass using the lower frequencies in a controlled way to add greater impact to the scene. We then moved on to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the opening scene of which has become a testing favourite here at AVForums. It's a complex and layered 7.1 mix that slowly builds and the MRX 1120 did a marvellous job of delivering the intended effect. From Caesar's controlled breathing to the rain falling all around you, each subtle cue is rendered perfectly. As the choral arrangement on the score builds, the quiet of the forest is shattered by the apes hunting.
Although some people people might question the validity of using the Dolby Surround upmixing, the scene we've just described was a great example of how the processing can add value by using the overhead speakers to enhance certain effects. In this case the falling rain feels even more realistic. That is until we actually put on a Dolby Atmos disc and remembered what the format is capable of when used creatively with a full 7.2.4 mix. On the Dolby Atmos demo Blu-ray there is a test sequence that replicates being in a rainstorm and it is highly effective. The rain appears to fall down all around you whilst thunder rumbles overhead, it's an incredibly realistic experience. Once we moved on to movies, the audio was just as effective with old favourites like Unbroken and John Wick sounding incredibly immersive. A rocket launch on the Ultra HD Blu-ray of Ender's Game was spectacular as deep bass rumbled around the room and from inside the space ship the entire sound field rattled. Naturally the high octane thrills of Mad Max: Fury Road were delivered like a sonic assault but always with a real sense of cohesion.
There's no doubt that whether you're listening to a 5.1 or a 7.1 soundtrack or taking full advantage of all 11 channels with a 7.2.4 setup, the results will be hugely enjoyable. ARC does an excellent job of removing the negative effects of the room, leaving the soundtrack to deliver exactly what the designers and mixers intended. Is ARC better than Dirac Live? Well Anthem's system is technically superior because it corrects the height channels as well but it's debatable how much effect that actually has with real content. We did however find that overall Dirac was slightly better and more refined at correcting the 7.1 channels and getting the best out of your subwoofer. Dirac Live also addresses the impulse response of each speaker and since a super computer probably outperforms the processing in our laptop, it's safe to assume the level of calculations conducted is far greater as well.
Ultimately Dirac did a slightly better job at addressing the limitations of our particular room but ARC is still a powerful tool and we really like the user-friendly workflow and graphical interface. The MRX 1120 also comes with everything you need to perform a full setup right there in the box. Whereas to get the most out of the Arcam receivers you will need to buy a calibrated microphone and four more channels of amplification. So in that sense the Anthem MRX 1120 really is single-box solution with everything you need to deliver a truly stunning immersive audio performance.
If there is one area where Anthem have surprised us in the past, it is the performance of their AV receivers when it comes to music. There is a school of thought that suggests if you want to listen to music you should have a separate amplifier because AV receivers aren't very good when it comes to two-channel audio. That might well be the case with many AV receivers and there's no denying the quality of a good two-channel system but in reality most people won't be in a position to run two separate audio systems in their lounge. So ideally what you want is an AV receiver that performs well with both movies and music. The MRX 1120 is just such a receiver, delivering a barnstorming performance with movies but then producing a musical and rather subtle performance with music.
The sound retains a naturalness and warmth that most will find appealing and the Anthem manages to avoid being too clinical. The result is a receiver that can deliver just as great a performance when driving a pair of floor standing speakers as it does when immersing you in overhead action. Ben Watt's new album Fever Dream has a serious bass line at the start of the first song that can cause lesser systems trouble. However it sounded wonderful with the MRX 1120 and the receiver handled the rest of the album just as well. It delivered the melancholy vocals with ease, whilst Bernard Butler's inventive guitar work weaved its way through the mix and filled the room. AV receivers can't handle music... don't you believe it.
The MRX 1120 delivered a wonderfully immersive experience with film soundtracks but remained pleasingly musical with two-channel.
- Great sounding receiver
- 11 channels built in
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
- ARC is very effective
- HDMI inputs suitably future-proof
- Problems connecting with certain routers
- No remote app yet
- Quite expensive
Anthem MRX 1120 11.2 Channel AV Receiver Review
Should I buy one?
If you're looking for an AV receiver than can deliver a full 7.1.4-channel immersive audio experience from a single box then your options are limited and aside from the Anthem MRX 1120 the only other example currently available is the Onkyo TX-NR3030 but that doesn't have DTS:X or HDMI 2.0a. So if that's your basic criteria the MRX 1120 is the receiver for you. If you don't mind adding two or four channels of extra amplification then you have plenty of options but the Anthem remains an excellent choice even at a retail price of £3,999.
The MRX 1120 might not be the prettiest or best made AV receiver on the market and it certainly doesn't have the power or feature sets of some of the competition, but it does deliver in the areas that matter. In terms of features the emphasis is very much on audio and video quality and that is fine with us. So you get high quality DACs, powerful DSP and capable built-in amplification; along with Dolby Atmos and, in the near future, DTS:X. You also get ARC, which remains one of the best room correction systems available. You even get a calibrated microphone and a dedicated stand to ensure you get the best from your MRX 1120.
In terms of the video specifications Anthem have ensured the MRX 1120 should remain relevant for the foreseeable future and the HDMI 2.0a inputs and outputs support 4K 24/50/60, HDCP 2.2, HDR, BT.2020 and 4:4:4 subsampling at 18.2 Gbps. For this latest generation, Anthem have also added wireless capability and DTS Play-Fi, although they really need to sort out the receiver's incompatibility with popular UK routers. The MRX 1120 also includes all the features found on previous generations of Anthem AV receivers, making it a great all-round package.
Of course features and specifications are all well and good but what really matters is the sound quality and in this regard the MRX 1120 didn't disappoint. It delivered a wonderfully open and spacious surround sound experience, whether it was 5.1-, 7.1- or a full 7.1.4-channel soundtrack. The precision with which objects were steered around the room was remarkable but the receiver retained an impressive level of clarity and dialogue was always clear. The bass was also extremely well integrated within the rest of the sound field, retaining definition and impact where necessary.
The MRX 1120 is also a very musical AV receiver, making it one of those rare beasts that is able to deliver a barnstorming performance with films and an equally subtle and effective performance with music. Anthem may have more competition these days than in previous years and the company's receivers are not quite the bargains they once were but there's no denying they still deliver a lovely sound regardless of the characteristics of your room. If you're looking for an AV receiver with the right combination of features and performance, then the Anthem MRX 1120 should definitely be on your short list.
What are my alternatives?
At this price point any flagship AV receiver could be considered an alternative and the excellent Yamaha RX-A3050 or the superb Denon AVR-X7200WA would both make ideal choices. Of course the fact that the MRX 1120 includes Anthem Room Correction means that the obvious alternative would be Arcam's AVR850 which uses Dirac Live. The Arcam is slightly more expensive than the Anthem and it only has 7 channels built-in, but that amplification is Class G. However there is an even better alternative in the shape of Arcam's AVR550 which doesn't use Class G amplification but does include Dirac Live and only costs £2,399. The AVR550 might only have 7 channels of amplification built-in but you can easily buy an extra four channels for less than the £1,600 price differential.
In terms of build quality, design and features the two receivers are very similar and although the AVR550 doesn't have wireless capability, what difference does that make if you can't get the Anthem to connect to your home network? Ultimately what it comes down to is whether you prefer ARC or Dirac and after having tested both, we feel that Dirac has the edge in terms of overall performance. It's true that ARC corrects the height speakers, which Dirac currently doesn't, but it's debatable how much impact that really has in terms of actual listening material. We found that Dirac's addressing of impulse response to have more impact on the sound quality and overall we felt the bass was better integrated and slightly tighter with the Arcam.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £3,999.00
Value For Money8
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