Anthem MRX 500 7.1 A/V Receiver


Design of the Anthem MRX 500 7.1 A/V Receiver

As with each of the three Anthem receivers, the MRX 500 is a 3d-ready 2- zone 7-channel surround receiver. Anthem originally planned to release a massive 9-channel receiver, the MRX 900, but that project has been cancelled due to the market realities for that size and class of surround receiver.

To start things off, I want to emphasize that the MRX 500 embodies Anthem's legendarily solid and masculine build quality. The case has a sturdy heft with a textured finish while the front panel is a substantial brushed aluminum affair with a two-line dot matrix display.

Robert Kozel recently reviewed the Anthem MRX 700 on for Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity (Link). In his review of the MRX 700, Robert did an excellent job of providing a rundown on the three Anthem receiver models. So I will primarily focus my comments on some of the features and design elements that were not covered so thoroughly by Robert.

Dropping down from the top of the line MRX 700 to the MRX 500 naturally means that you will see a lower power output rating (100 wpc versus 120 wpc). Anthem rates their receivers for stereo operation using the FTC method. The MRX 500 is rated to deliver 100 wpc continuous into 2 channels driving an 8 ohm load from 20 – 20k Hz at less than 0.1% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion). I remember when all amplifiers were rated this way. That was back in the halcyon days of stereo, before the multi-channel beasts started to roam the earth. Ahem, well, what this means is that the MRX 500 can be expected to produce useful power output into actual speaker loads.

Bear in mind that the power rating drops to 75 wpc continuous into 8 ohms with 5 channels driven continuously. No distortion measurement is given by Anthem in this case. In any event, it would be very rare that a receiver would be called upon to produce peak power to five or seven channels simultaneously. In day to day practice, I found that the MRX 500 had ample power output to drive a number of different speaker systems despite the wide range of sensitivity ratings of each and also considering my theater space is relatively large.

Here is a shot of the MRX 500 transformer and forced-air cooling fan.

The transformer design in the MRX 500 is an iron core EI transformer as opposed to the lower-noise torroidal design found in the MRX 700. There was no noticeable transformer hum in any of the auditioning I did with the Anthem MRX 500. Also, I bench tested the MRX 500 and the results were almost identical to the test plots that Robert Kozel posted in his review of the MRX 700, despite the different transformer designs. Clicking on this link will bring up the bench test results of the MRX 700 (Link).

This image shows the outlet side of the cooling tunnel. There are 2 large output devices for each channel of amplification. Also, unlike the sparsely populated cases of mass market receivers, the MRX 500 case is literally packed with goodness, contributing immensely to its mass and solid build quality.

The MRX 500 does not have HD radio or RDS as found in the MRX 700. There is old-school analog AM/FM as well as internet radio using vTuner for those who favor quantity over quality. I personally use internet radio only for background music. As with the MRX 700, the MRX 500's internet radio is via Ethernet only, however you could run out and purchase a wireless bridge if you wish to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi.

The MRX 500 has a dual processor dsp circuit that includes the heralded Anthem Logic listening modes along with the full suite of Dolby and DTS modes. There are front and rear USB inputs for playing music libraries off your flash drives or external hard drives. Cover art, when available, is displayed on your TV during playback. The MRX 500 is compatible with the soon-to-be-released Anthem MDX 1 iPod dock via a proprietary rear-panel connection.

There are two things on the audio side that are not included - a phono stage and multi-channel analog inputs. I don't see these omissions as a major problem in this day and age, but many prospective buyers may have an issue with the exclusion of either or both of these. I personally have an SACD player with good internal DAC's that I did not use with the MRX 500. But my Oppo BDP 83 SE sounded great playing SACD's through the MRX 500. For vinyl, I have a Parasound JC-3 phono preamp so I had no issues enjoying my vinyl collection during the review period.

The Anthem MRX 500 includes Dolby Volume which I do not use very often. Since the MRX 500 is not THX certified nor does it have Audyssey room correction there is no Dolby Loudness control/Dynamic EQ which I often use. And my family loves Dolby Loudness even though they don't know that it is typically engaged on our system or that it even exists for that matter.

On vinyl and other stereo sources, I tried the Anthem Logic music mode, but preferred the Dolby Pro Logic II music mode due to its inclusion of the center speaker. This is due mostly to the wide spacing I use for the main speakers when I have plans to use my front projector. Consequently, I did adjust the DPL II panorama, dimension and center width controls and found that the MRX 500 had no on-screen adjustment for this. The adjustments must be done via the front panel display. This wasn't a major issue, but it was not very convenient as the Anthem receiver sat in an enclosed cabinet at the back of my theater.

On the video side of things, the MRX 500 is 3d-ready. I have not made the leap to 3d (yet) so I was not able to test this capability for myself. This receiver has a single HDMI output on the rear panel. I like a second HDMI out whenever possible as the HDMI splitter I have sometimes doesn't play nice with receivers. The MRX 500 does not have a front panel HDMI input. Front-panel HDMI inputs are useful primarily so that my kids can get a crack at playing video games on the big rig until I send them packing to their own rooms with their gaming rigs in tow.

The included Genesis Torino video processor didn't pass all the tests run by Robert Kozel. In actual practice, though, I thought the subjective performance of the video section was more than passable and even bested a number of other receivers I've had in my system over the years. I could happily live with the video performance I saw. Bear in mind that I didn't use any analog video sources and it is in the MRX series transcoding of analog to HDMI where many of the very rigorous bench tests fell short of a passing score.

Kudos goes to the sliding panel that hides/reveals the front-panel inputs. It slides this way and that to show or hide the connections. I like this so much more than the detachable little plastic covers that disappear after the first few uses only to turn up several months later when you move a bookcase and discover that they suffered the dismal fate of having become a chew toy for one of your free-ranging house pets.

The MRX 500 comes with the same pair of remotes as the MRX 700. One is a full-function backlit model and the other is a smaller non-backlit device for the second zone.