Anthem AVM50v Audio/Video Processor


In Use

In my mind, while there will always be some HD material which is shot interlaced, or progressive material handled as interlaced, as well as material which can benefit from noise reduction and other shaping, video processing of Blu-ray is almost point moot in that we are dealing with an industry which finally matured from the mire of telecine'd material and is now into 24p from source to disc with no intermediary conversion. Here the Anthem should simply be asked to be transparent but my experience fell a little short. Specifically I found the AVM50v to be a little fussy in terms of receiving HDMI signals. On occasion a stream would play with video but no audio, or the video would be in the wrong color space. I also ran into situations where a 2.0 PCM track would be fed, the display would show "2.0 + Pro Logic II", but the Anthem would actually be in stereo mode. In addition there is a certain amount of snap, crackle, pop as you navigate around discs which can get pretty annoying after a while. Bottom line though is that while we can expect a more challenging road for companies writing their own software, at this price point we should see interoperability a least as smooth as off-the-shelf solutions. However, Anthem's track record of continuous improvement and refinement of their product and software gives faith that things will get better.

The video processor on the whole does an excellent job when put through the paces of our DVD Player Benchmark in term of SD processing and scaling, and on the HD side it did a mostly flawless job with the Spears & Munsil tests. Here we found it could get tripped up on the time-compensated cadence test, and also did not do quite as good a job on the 1080i60 real-world material, in particular the ship test with its challenging ropes and riggings. Here jaggies were just more prominent than on other solutions out there, though I don't want to overstate this. The VXP remains terribly useful for Digital Cable and DSS, both SD and HD flavors thereof, but for disc an Oppo "doing its own thing" would still be my recommendation.

An interesting tid-bit I stumbled on is the fact that the Anthem does not include a comb filter. In other words composite video cannot go through the VXP, as I discovered when I connected an aging VHS player, thinking I would for once see Macros Plus properly deinterlaced. "Just not worth the extra cost" I was told is the simple reason.

Enough has been said about the audio output quality of the AVM series that I don't need to reinvent the wheel here. As mentioned at the onset of the review, that portion of the product is practically unchanged since the original and continues to impress and inspire with its insanely neutral and natural quality, ridiculously low noise floor, and flawless presentation. At the end of the day, this is what really counts.

As for HD audio decoding, this is one area I have to comment on. Yes Anthem was pressured to incorporate the decoding of Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD master, and all that jazz, and make no mistake I'm not saying they shouldn't have, but this is such a tremendous example of the industry's failure to educate, and we at the press must take our share of the blame. Why did people yell for HDMI 1.3 and the new codec's? No reasons other than the number is higher than 1.1 and there remains the complete and utter misconception that Dolby TrueHD (or whatever) sounds better if decoded at point B in the playback chain as oppose to A. The truth is while any NEW product better darn well include the feature, the lack of it should not be seen as a shortcoming in incumbent ones. There is NO advantage (at this time) to sending the HD audio bit streams to an SSP or AVR, and in fact there is a disadvantage in that you cannot have any secondary audio from Blu-ray. The point of this little rant is for the existing AVM50 owners out there: unless you are seriously hurting for more HDMI inputs, just add ARC to your existing piece if you haven't already, but don't feel like you have to pawn your 50 and grab a 50v just to have those extra logos on the front. Other than verifying their implementation, for the duration of the review my Blu-ray player was set for PCM output.