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Comparison: Anthem AVM30 vs Arcam AVP700

Discussion in 'Arcam Owners' Forum' started by cpd, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. cpd

    Standard Member

    Aug 7, 2005
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    I posted this over in the AVS Forum. Thought you might want to read it here too.

    Here are some initial comparisons between the Anthem AVM30 Arcam AVP-700 pre/pros. If you want the background on why I am comparing them, see the Arcam AVP-700 thread. Quick version: I've owned the AVM30 for six months... faulty power supply (I think)... got the Arcam to evaluate while the Anthem is out for repair. Obviously I can't do blind A/B testing until the Anthem comes back, so use whatever grain of salt you feel is necessary for the sound quality choices. They are all hooked up to an Anthem PVA7. I have never heard the AVR300 so I can't help with that comparison. My categories are Sound Quality, Features, Setup/Flexibility, and Style.

    Sound Quality for 2 channel Music (the #1 priority for me): The clear winner here is the Arcam. I spent a lot more time today breaking out more and more reference material with which I am very familiar. The sound was more natural than I've ever heard from my setup. The music was quite lively and detailed (with all of the clarity and microdynamics that I want), but there was no harshness or fatigue. For the first time, I felt like there were no compromises with the music, be it crunchy metal, crisp jazz, complex prog rock, mellow accoustic music... they all shined. The AVM30 is very clear and detailed, but can be harsh and a bit sterile depending on the recording. It really shines with well-recorded jazz and prog rock. Heavier music can be fatiguing (especially trebly guitar and piercing vocals), and mellow accoustic music lacks some of the warmth that I look for in that style. In fact, prior to trying the Arcam, I was starting to use my Denon 2900 as an analog direct source for heavy music at loud volumes due to the fatigue factor of the Anthem. For what it's worth, I also connected my older Marantz SR8200 for a couple of days. This is still one heckova music receiver for the price (and probably a cut above the current crop of 8x00s out there - they've really cut back on some of the music-first features like dual diff DACs). It puts out a nice warm sound, with just enough pop and little fatigue factor. The downside is that complex music can sound compressed, and the soundstage is not quite as wide in general. It also lacks the pristine clarity for jazz and "crisp" music. Still, when you consider what they are going for used these days, you could do a lot worse.

    Sound Quality for multichannel music: This category depends quite a bit on your DVD-A/SACD player, since the processor is just acting as an analog pre-amp. The sound quality was closer here for that reason, and because imaging owes more to the mix and speaker placement than 2 channel. The Arcam sounded more fluid to me, however. I was never quite happy with the blending of the sub and mains with the Anthem, but I was able to achieve it very quickly with the Arcam. Your results may vary though, depending on how you have it all configured. Multi-channel audio setup can be a complex business. Note: My universal player (Denon 2900) has bass management, so I don't need it on the processor. If this is necessary for you, the Anthem is one of the few processors that can do it. The down side is that it has to engage some additional signal processing so it isn't true bypass.

    Sound Quality for HT. I have a very hard time quantifying my findings here, partly because I don't have nearly as many frames of reference. My first reaction is that the Anthem and Arcam are very very close, and both are outstanding. At times, the center channel sounded a bit harsh on the Anthem (perhaps for the same reason as stated above for music). I haven't noticed that with the Arcam, but admittedly, I haven't spent as much time with DD/DTS movies yet. I need a bit more time, but I'm guessing it would be hard to pick a clear winner.

    Features: It depends on your priorities. Right now, Arcam has some video features that many want (HDMI switching and video upconversion). However, all this and more will be part of a future hardware upgrade available for the AVM30. Unfortunately, they will come at a cost, and the final price for the updated Anthem may be twice the Arcam. The Anthem also has more support for multi-zones, a couple of balanced ins, and some additional surround formats (PL II game, Anthem logic, etc.). The remotes are identical, and you probably won't use them anyway.

    Setup & Flexibility: The Anthem easily wins this category. Where to begin? It has 1/2 decibel steps, a notch filter (very useful), separate music and cinema settings for each input (very very useful), bass management for DVD-A, renamable sources, split second muting to avoid the "pops", more flexible cross-overs, and more. Best of all: frequent upgrades that are downloadable from the Internet. The Arcam has a few unique items, like EQ for each speaker, variable input sensitivity, and better support for "on the fly" tweaks from the remote. I was pleased to find that the Arcam does have some of the settings that I didn't want to lose, like max volume, power on volume, and stereo subwoofer trim (which basically does the same thing as Anthem's music/cinema settings in my system: allow the sub to run 3 db hot for movies and be flat for music).

    Style: Not that important to me and very subjective, but for what it's worth: the AVM30 is better looking overall, primarily due to the brushed metal exterior and blue display. The Arcam is kind of plain, but I like the fact that there are fewer buttons (my only complaint with the Anthem's look).

    Final conclusions: To declare an overall winner here, you would have to know the listening/viewing habits and priorities of your owner. I am a die hard music-first listener, and that drives my purchases. I'm also of the belief that a processor that can make music sound good, can make a movie sound track sound good too! I really really wanted the Anthem to be my "final solution". You just can't beat features and value relative to what's out there. It's a great company, and I love the upgrades. Yet, I always had a nagging itch that music is just not what it should be with the jump to separates. I've decided that my Anthem will go up for sale, and I will keep the AVP 700. More than anything, I'm so glad to have finally found that "musical nirvana" that I've been draining my wallet to achieve for the past 3 years or so. The feature set also stands up very well with most of the competition out there. The fact that you can get this processor for under two grand with a 10% discount should put the AVP 700 on every audition list. The Anthem is pretty darned great too, and would get my full recommendation for someone whose priorities skew more towards HT than music.

  2. Ashmaster


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    Thanks for the detailed review. It is very informative and will help people like me who are considering the AVP700 but did not get a chance to listen to it. We appreciate it.

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