This Canadian AV receiver makes some unusual but sensible choices in set-up and implementation, and proves a powerful performer.

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There tend to be three categories of AV receivers. There are the lowcost/entry-level units, some of which are from well-known Japanese or other brand names, while some are from companies unfamiliar to the enthusiast. Then there is the middle band: the broad range of quality receivers from most of the major Japanese companies whose brands are household names. This kind of receiver would dominate use, in quantitative terms, among our readership.

And finally we get back to less familiar names in the higher price reaches. Of course, the major Japanese ones also have a model or two here, but there are American and British companies as well. The prices of some of these are counted not in the thousands of dollars, but in the tens of thousands.

This Anthem MRX 700 is from the Americas - Canada, to be specific. It has features that separate it well out from the rest, yet it sells in the pricing space inhabited by those same well-known Japanese brands. Can it take them on successfully?

EQUIPMENT

Well, Anthem hasn’t skimped on the power output. The unit offers seven channels, each offering 120 high-fidelity watts. The unit’s specifications go on to say that when five channels are running, it is capable of delivering 90W into each of them at the same time, which is quite impressive.

Nor does it skimp on other facilities (except, perhaps, for S-Video which it simply omits, as seems to increasingly be the fashion). OK, there is no 7.1-channel analogue input, but discrete multichannel sound is provided these days via HDMI. But there is a 7.1-channel analogue output in case you feel the need to boost the output of one or more of the channels.

Perhaps some more HDMI inputs than the four included would be nice, but you get USB and Ethernet, the latter supporting internet radio but not DLNA streaming. There are USB sockets on both front and back, eliminating one of our perennial complaints: who wants a cable from their jukebox-capacity USB hard-disk drive running into the front of their receiver?

The receiver offers all the usual audio processing facilities, including Dolby Pro Logic IIz for front height speakers if you want. It also includes a set of proprietary DSP modes called AnthemLogic. Two of the amplifier channels can be redirected from the default surround back position to drive either the front height speakers or a second zone. You also get Dolby Headphone processing for a decent surround effect in private listening.

Two remote controls are provided. One is the normal largish one that provides all the control you need, while the other is a compact one intended primarily for operation in a second zone. The receiver also has a good set of system integration facilities

PERFORMANCE

It’s a bit hard to say that this receiver has an ‘auto set-up’ feature. It does, and it is an extremely powerful one. But saying ‘auto set-up’ implies that this is an easy task. And compared with many others, this one isn’t.

This unit’s system is called ARC, for Anthem Room Correction. It comes with a substantial looking USB microphone, a long USB cable, a decent counter-balanced microphone stand on a tripod, and a long RS-232C cable. You put the microphone on the stand and plug it into a USB socket on a Windows computer. You load the included software on said computer. The tricky part comes with the RS-232C cable. This is used between the computer and receiver.

Don’t have an RS-232C port on your computer? Few computers made in the last four or five years do. Well, you can use a USB to serial (the other name for RS-232C) adaptor. I keep an old notebook computer with RS-232C for this specific purpose.

You first put the microphone where you normally sit — you are the main listener after all! Hit the button on the software on your computer, and the receiver produces some sine-wave sweeps from all speakers. Then you move the stand to another position and hit the virtual button again. You do this for at least five positions, and as many as ten if you like.

When all this is done, you hit another button to upload the room correction profile to the receiver.

Well, after all that it sounded excellent, so I guess it was worth it. But Anthem might consider updating the system to something more onboard the receiver itself.