Anthem MRX 740 AV Receiver Review
- Excellent sonic performance
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X & IMAX Enhanced
- ARC Genesis highly effective
- Attractive new design
- Great value for money
The not so good
- No HDMI 2.1 but upgrade coming
- No Auro-3D support
- No remote app
What is the Anthem MRX 740?
The Anthem MRX 740 is the latest mid-range AV receiver from the Canadian manufacturer, and it sports an updated design, seven channels of built-in amplification, and 11.1-channel processing for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced. It also supports AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, and Roon, plus Anthem’s excellent ARC Genesis room correction software.
Anthem's range is headlined by the AVM 70 15.1-channel AV processor, followed by the MRX 1140 AV receiver with 11 channels of built-in amplification and 15.1-channel processing, then the MRX 740, and finally the MRX 540 with five channels built-in and 7.1-channel processing. All boast the same features, although the MRX 540 is very limited in terms of immersive audio speaker layouts.
The MRX 740 retails for £2,799 as at the time of writing (August 2021), which is a competitive price when you consider all that you're getting. Anthem's receivers have certainly impressed in the past, and while this new line-up doesn't look much different under the hood, if they're as good as previous generations then these latest models could be winners.
The Anthem MRX 740 sports the same redesigned chassis as the rest of the new line-up, and it's a massive improvement over the previous generations. The ageing, rather industrial look of the earlier models is replaced by an appearance that's elegantly minimalist. The build quality is good, and the design has clearly been influenced by Scandinavian manufacturers like Lyngdorf, with the MRX 740 not appearing dissimilar to the equally stylish JBL Synthesis SDR-35.
The new look uses a two-tone design, with the left half of the front facia finished in black glass, while the right half is matte black. There’s a big volume dial on the right, with buttons on either side of it for power, mute, inputs, and navigating the menus, but the only other feature on the front is a 6.3mm headphone jack. The clean lines extend to all the various logos, which are neatly lined-up along the bottom, and it's something that JBL Synthesis should consider for its design.
The elegant two-tone design is a step-up from previous generations, as is the easy-to read display
The front display has also been upgraded, replacing the old dot matrix screen with something a bit more modern. While the display is clearly laid out and easy to read, it's also fairly simple and only provides basic feedback. It's certainly not as impressive as the colourful feedback found on the NAD T 778 or Arcam AVR30. In fact, when you look beyond the cosmetic changes, the menu system appears to be the same as previous generations.
Connections and Control
The Anthem MRX 740 houses all of its connections at the rear, and looking at the back panel confirmed my suspicions that this new generation of AV receivers isn't massively different from the previous one. The overall layout is slightly different, but cosmetics aside it's almost identical in terms of the types of connections it offers and how they are identified.
There's a decent selection of inputs, including an HDMI 2.1 upgrade path, plus a useful web user interface
There are seven HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, plus a third output for a second zone. The main output supports eARC, and all the HDMI ports are compliant with the main HDR formats (HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision). There's no passthrough of HDR10+ (no great loss), and nor does the MRX 740 support ALLM, VRR or 4K/120Hz. However, Anthem is planning to offer an optional HDMI 2.1 8K upgrade early next year, ensuring the new models can be future proofed.
The other connections include five analogue inputs, three optical digital inputs, a pair of coaxial digital inputs, and a USB port. There’s also an IR input, 12V triggers, and an RS232 serial connector, plus support for third-party control solutions like Control4 and Crestron.
There are dual antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (as well as Ethernet if you prefer a wired connection), and installation is relatively straightforward, although you’ll need Google Home to set-up the wireless connection. The MRX 740 supports Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast, with Anthem planning to add Spotify Connect and Roon support soon.
There are good quality speaker terminals for the seven built-in channels, and the MRX 740 defaults to a basic 7.1-channel setup. However, you can choose a number of different speaker layouts, up to the 11.1-channel limitation of the internal processing. There are pre-outs for all the channels, but you'll obviously need extra amplification for additional channels beyond the seven built-in. You can also reassign the internal amps if necessary. There are two subwoofer outputs, although both run off the same mono signal.
In terms of controls, there are the buttons on the front that can access the menus, and these appear on the front display and on-screen – although neither is ideal. There's no remote app, but Anthem has introduced a new web user interface that provides complete access to all the setup menus in a comprehensive and clearly laid-out fashion. In terms of initial setup, this is definitely the way to go, and allows for quick and easy customisation.
The included remote is the same as the previous generation, but that's not a bad thing because it's a well-designed controller that's comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand. The controls are laid out in a sensible fashion and kept to a minimum, so you aren't overwhelmed by a mass of buttons. There's everything you need to effectively control the main and secondary zones, and there’s even a backlight, which is very useful in a darkened room.
Features and Specs
The Anthem MRX 740 is designed to deliver object-based audio out of the box by using its built-in seven channels of amplification to create a 5.1.2-channel layout, while also providing the option to expand up to a 7.2.4-channel immersive audio experience.
The MRX 740 supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX Enhanced up to a total of 11.1 channels of processing, which means you can run a 7.1.4 channel system with two subwoofers. There's no Auro-3D support, but that's hardly a great loss, and there's no DTS:X Pro support, but in the case of the MRX 740 that's moot due to it being limited to 11.1 channels of processing anyway.
There's a solid set of features, headlined by 11.1-channel decoding of Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced
In terms of the onboard amps, the MRX 740 sports five channels of Class A/B rated at 170W into 6 ohms or 140W into 8 ohms (both measured with two channels driven), and an additional two channels of Class B rated at 75W (6 ohms) and 60W (8 ohms) when driven together.
Unlike previous Anthem processors and receivers, this new generation allows you to reassign the onboard channels in a number of different ways, allowing unused power to bi-amplify demanding front speakers, drive surrounds or height speakers, or even cover a second zone.
As a result, you could add a more capable two-channel power amp to drive the front left and right speakers, and then reassign those built-in channels elsewhere. You will obviously also need to add extra amplification if you plan on running a system that uses more than seven channels.
With that in mind, Anthem offers a trio of power amps with matching styling: the two-channel MCA 225, the three-channel MCA 325, and the five-channel MCA 525. Strangely, Anthem don’t make a four-channel version, which is what you actually need to expand the MRX 740 to 11 channels and take the MRX 1140 up to the full 15.
ARC Genesis remains an excellent room correction system that includes a high quality microphone and stand
One of the big selling points of an Anthem processor or receiver is the inclusion of ARC (Anthem Room Correction). The MRX 740 supports the latest iteration – ARC Genesis – and includes an upgraded calibrated microphone (based on the popular UMIK-1 model), along with a USB cable and microphone stand (the latter is a particularly nice touch).
ARC Genesis is a highly effective room correction system, and when combined with the included microphone and stand, the results came be impressive. There's a well laid out and intuitive user interface that works with both the Windows and Mac operating systems, and we'll discuss ARC more in the next section.
Set Up and Operation
The Anthem MRX 740 is easy to set-up, thanks to a well-designed and intuitively laid-out rear panel. Everything is clearly labelled, so all you need to do is connect your source devices, choose the system layout, and wire up the speaker terminals. You can connect up to two subwoofers, although both run off the same mono signal, and there are 11.1-channel pre-outs for those using additional outboard amplification. You have a choice of 5.1, 7.1 and 5.1.2 out of the box, and 5.1.4, 7.1.2 and 7.1.4 by adding extra amplification.
The set-up is easy and intuitive, with well laid-out connections and an effective user interface
Once set-up you can run ARC, which measures the output of each speaker relative to the listening area, before running calculations and adjusting the output. It corrects peaks and dips in a speaker’s frequency response from 15Hz to 20kHz, while preserving the beneficial acoustic attributes of the room. It’s very effective, and addressed a couple of nasty nodes below 100Hz in my testing room, resulting in greater cohesion and well-integrated bass.
You need to measure and input the distances to all the speakers before you start, but the calibration procedure itself is relatively straightforward. ARC automatically detects your device, and then you just follow the instructions. After taking a minimum of five measurements, the software produces an average in-room response for each speaker and the subwoofer, before applying target curves to each one to correct their responses accordingly.
It also adjusts the crossovers and subwoofer level, but you can fine tune the settings yourself afterwards. You can create your own custom target curves as well, before saving your settings and loading them into the receiver. You can save multiple profiles for different acoustic environments, and ARC even allows you to produce a full calibration report, which is both fun and informative.
There are seven built-in channels that can be expanded to a 7.1.4 speaker layout, with ARC bringing it all together.
The MRX 740 was initially setup as a 7.1-channel system, allowing the built-in amplifiers to be tested on their own. This system was based around MK Sound S150 speakers at the front, MK Sound S150T speakers at the sides and rear, and a pair of MK Sound V12 subwoofers. After that the system was expanded to 11.1 channels, by adding four JBL Control Ones for the overhead channels, while a Storm Audio PA16 MK2 power amplifier provided the additional channels of amplification.
For testing, I employed a range of content including movies with 5.1, 7.1, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced soundtracks. As my primary sources, I used an Apple TV 4K and a Panasonic DP-UB9000 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
The Anthem MRX 740 delivered an impressive performance right out of the gate, and running the receiver as a simple 5.1-channel system, it sounded fantastic with Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney+. The AVR revealed all of its inherent strengths, rendering the animated show’s 5.1 mix with plenty of scale and depth. The rousing score is spread across the front, laser blasts rip through the room, and spaceships are seamlessly steered around you. ARC works its magic, particularly at the low-end, where the two subs are perfectly integrated to give explosions a powerfully tight punch.
The excellent built-in amps and effective ARC correction deliver impressive 5.1, 7.1 and 5.1.2 channel systems
The Netflix series Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix) may have been cancelled, but it sports a wonderfully immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Using the onboard amplification in a 5.2.2-channel configuration allows the show’s super-powered protagonists to literally take flight. The brutal fist-fight between the heroes and Blackstar at the end of the first episode is fantastically visceral, with smooth bass ensuring the blows hit with power. The overheads are employed to send bodies flying through the air, while immersive audio explodes fireballs all around, and shoots laser beams through the room.
The 4K Blu-ray of Midway sports an amazing Dolby Atmos soundtrack that’s a masterclass in modern object-based sound design. To fully appreciate this mix I switched to a full 7.2.4-channel system by adding extra amplification and pushing the MRX 740's decoding to its limit. The titular battle is staggering in its immersion, especially as the US pilots dive bomb the Japanese carrier fleet, weaving their way through a destructive cloud of flak, strafing bullets and other aircraft. It’s an amazing sequence, and the audio is incredibly three-dimensional.
While the MRX 740 does an excellent job with its built-in 5.2.2 amplification, adding the extra channels allows objects to be steered around the room with greater precision. It’s definitely worth expanding the amplification if that’s an option, and running a full 7.1.4-channel system will pay dividends in terms of Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced soundtracks. Even if you're happy with two overhead channels, it's still worth adding the extra rear channels for a 7.1.2 layout, because filling the hole behind you ensures a more immersive hemisphere of sound.
Moving on to DTS:X and Jurassic Park delivers an amazingly immersive experience, especially during the T-Rex attack. The receiver uses the subs to deliver deep and well-timed bass to vibrate the glass of water and herald the arrival of the film's dino star. The water hitting the jeep’s roof is expertly handled by the overhead channels, while the T-Rex's monstrous roar reveals the Anthem's superb dynamic range. Dialogue is always clear and focused, no matter how complex the mix, and the overall soundstage is seamless as it surrounds you in effects and precise sonic cues.
The 7.1.4-channel decoding delivers a sonic hemisphere with precise sound steering and placement of audio effects
The 4K disc of Zombieland: Double Tap allowed me to test the MRX 740's abilities with IMAX Enhanced soundtracks. This enhanced audio format amps up the bass, making every gun shot sound like a canon, while the screaming of the zombies retains a deep and terrifying roar. The climax allows every channel to be used, and as the zombie-free enclave of Babylon is defending itself, electrical appliances are pushed off the roof of a tower block. As they come whistling down from above, there’s a fantastically heavy thud as a washing machine lands on an unsuspecting zombie.
Anthem MRX 740 AV Receiver Review
Should I buy one?
The Anthem MRX 740 feels like a car that boasts a new body, but under the hood are largely parts from an earlier model. It sports identical controls, menus, remote and connections as the previous generation, but despite the groovy new design and web user interface, also supports the same features. This isn't really a bad thing because Anthem's receivers are always superb performers.
The MRX 740 continues this tradition, with seven built-in channels using a combination of Class A/B and Class B, plus processing for an 11.1 system. There's support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced, and while there's no Auro-3D that's hardly a great loss. There's plenty of connections, along with the ability to reassign channels, and even an HDMI 2.1 upgrade in the works.
The MRX740 uses ARC Genesis room correction, and comes with a high-quality calibrated microphone and stand. Best of all it sounds fantastic, with a tight and immersive soundstage that's sure to please fans of object-based audio. The result is a competitively-priced and well-specified AV receiver that sounds excellent and delivers superb value for money.
What are my alternatives?
There are a number of alternatives in this segment of the market, but the obvious competitor is the similarly-priced NAD T 778. At £2,499 this AV amplifier is even better value, with nine channels of built-in amplification and 11.1 channels of processing. It decodes Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, supports Dirac Live, includes NAD's modular design construction and BluOS multi-room system, is Roon Ready and even has a full-colour touch-sensitive display on the front. There's no decoding for IMAX Enhanced or Auro-3D and, like the Anthem, there's currently no HDMI 2.1 8K support, but otherwise this great-sounding AV receiver is a cracker.
However, for sheer bang for buck it's hard to beat the Denon AVR-X6700H at £2,299. This 11-channel AV receiver can deliver an immersive 7.1.4 speaker layout right out of the box thanks to its built-in amplification, and it supports a full-house of object-based audio formats with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Pro, Auro-3D and IMAX Enhanced. There's also Hi-Res Audio, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2, HEOS multi-room, and the ability to work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The Denon uses Audyssey MultEQ XT32, which isn't as sophisticated as ARC or Dirac, but also supports HDMI 2.1 8K.
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