Receivers

Anthem MRX 700 7.1 A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

After unpacking the MRX 700 and placing the receiver in my cabinet, I couldn't wait to get everything connected. I started with the speaker cables first since they tend to be the most time consuming. The speaker binding posts on the MRX 700 are three-way posts which allow cable to be inserted from the top, bottom, or directly into the post via banana connectors. It is tedious to hook up bare wire to 14 binding posts in a 7.1 system, so I would always recommend that you take the time to terminate your speaker cable with banana connectors. This greatly simplifies the process should you have the need to move or change the equipment in the future. One note about the MRX 700 speaker connectors is that they don't accept spade connectors.

Moving on to the HDMI connections was a breeze. The MRX 700 has 4 HDMI inputs to which I connected my satellite DVR, PS3, and an Oppo BDP-95. I ran a single HDMI output cable from the MRX 700 to my HDTV. I connected my first generation Apple TV to the MRX 700 via component video and optical digital. The MRX 700 is able to up-convert the video signal from composite video and component video to HDMI, so this really simplifies system configuration and minimizes your video cables. I did run an extra set of analog audio cables from the Apple TV to the MRX 700 so I could listen to music using the zone two functionality of the MRX 700. Unlike the Anthem processors, the MRX series receivers are not able to play digital sources from the main source in zone two. It's a simple limitation to get around, but does require that you have an extra set of analog audio connections for every source that you intend to enjoy in zone two.

I connected an antenna so I could checkout HD Radio and I also connected an Ethernet cable so I could eventually play with the vTuner Internet Radio application. The MRX 700 does not support wireless networking, so you have to run a network cable to the receiver or purchase a wireless networking adapter. I double-checked the connections, connected the power cord, and was finally ready to get started exploring the configuration options on the MRX 700.

The menu system in the MRX 700 is nicely organized and pretty simple to use. The bottom-right corner of each menu has a small circular graphic with black arrows indicating the possible cursor-navigation directions within any particular menu.

The menus are sized for a minimum display size of 480p and don't resize when a higher screen resolution is used. This makes the menus rather small on a 1080p display and they can be a bit hard to read from a distance.

The first step in configuring the MRX 700 is to visit the "Quick Setup" menu and answer a few basic questions about your configuration. The first two questions determine whether you will be using HDMI or Component video output. Since the MRX 700 supports only one HDMI or Component video output at a time, you have to revisit the "Quick Setup" menu again should you wish to change the video output type at a later time.

The third question determines if you are using a subwoofer. The last question determines the overall speaker configuration and whether you will be using the auxiliary speakers for main back, main ceiling, or zone two operations. The reference to "ceiling" in the menu is a bit confusing and would be more appropriate if called "front height" since this configuration is used for Dolby PLIIz processing.

With the setup questions out of the way, I entered the distance between my primary listening position and each speaker in my room. Distances are entered in the "Listener Position" menu and can be entered in feet or meters in increments of 1 foot or .3 meters respectively. I was now ready to run Anthem Room Correction, but before I did that, I verified that I was running the latest version of the MRX 700 software. This is easily accomplished by comparing the version number shown in the "System Information" menu against the version number shown on the Anthem web site.

In my case, I was not running the latest software so I needed to perform an update. I downloaded the latest version of the MRX 700 software as well as the latest ARC and MRX Multimedia software from the Anthem site. If you are thinking that this doesn't sound like something you do with the average consumer receiver, then you are correct. Anthem has always done a fabulous job supporting their A/V processors with software upgrades and they are continuing that same practice with the MRX receivers. While this may sound a bit complicated, the process is pretty simple and helps to ensure that you have the latest functionality and the latest software corrections for the MRX receiver.

To get started, I needed a laptop and the serial cable that came with the MRX 700. While most laptops these days don't have a serial port, they all have USB ports and I used a USB to serial port adapter to connect my laptop to the RS-232 serial port on the back of the MRX 700. Anthem is not currently including a USB to serial adapter with the MRX receivers, but you can buy one from Anthem support, your Anthem dealer or at your favorite computer store. The main thing to remember is that the adapter must have a Windows-certified software driver to ensure proper communications between the MRX 700 and the computer. I connected the serial cable between my laptop and the MRX 700 and ran the MRX 700 software updater program.

I just pressed the "Run" button and the updater software automatically found the MRX 700 and updated all the necessary software in the MRX 700. The program provided some status and progress messages along the way and even took care of turning off the MRX 700 when necessary. All I had to do was sit back and watch. The entire upgrade process took about ten minutes.

With the update completed, the next step was to run Anthem Room Correction. ARC is an extremely sophisticated software program that analyzes each speaker's in-room response and makes the appropriate corrections to each channel to ensure optimal performance in the listening room. The ARC software is a Windows application that comes on a CD with the MRX receiver. In addition to the software, a calibrated microphone and telescopic stand are included in the ARC kit. I installed ARC on my laptop using the software CD that came with the MRX 700 since it includes a special microphone calibration file that is tied specifically to the microphone in the ARC kit. Once the initial installation is completed, you can install any updates to ARC using the ARC download files from the Anthem website. You just need to ensure that the microphone calibration file for your microphone remains in the ARC program directory. Unless the default directory is changed during subsequent ARC installations, this shouldn't be a concern.

I connected the ARC microphone to my laptop. The microphone is a USB device so I was happy to not have to worry about another serial connection. I placed the microphone in the stand and positioned it at the primary listening position in my room pointing straight up. Proper microphone height is critical to measurement with ARC and the microphone should be positioned at ear level.
I launched the ARC program and was greeted with a very simple dialog which offers an "Automatic" or "Manual" option.

I will walk you through the "Automatic" option which is the recommended option for most users. The first step in the process is a simple dialog which confirms that ARC will automatically proceed to each step and save its progress along the way. I selected "Start" to begin the process.

The next step in the process is to measure the speakers. The measurement dialog allowed me to select which speakers I have in my room and also allowed me to measure a separate configuration for both movies and music.

For example, I could exclude all but my front speakers in the music configuration. Most people will use the same speaker configuration for music as they will for movies. ARC requires a minimum of five measurement positions but you can also select up to ten if you wish. The first position should be at the primary listening position which should be at the center of the listening area. Once I was ready, I simply pressed OK and ARC prompted me to confirm the microphone serial number.

This step confirms that the microphone calibration file in the ARC program directory matches the serial number of the microphone in the ARC kit. I just checked the serial number tag on my microphone and pressed OK to continue. ARC then prompted me to move the microphone to the first measurement position. Once I was ready, I pressed OK and sat quietly.

For each measurement position, ARC produced a series of test tones from each speaker. ARC provided a basic progress bar indicating which speaker was being measured. Once the first set of measurements was complete, ARC prompted me to move the microphone to the next position. This process continued until each position had been measured for the movie configuration. If you have a 7.1 system and use the default of 5 positions, ARC takes 40 distinct measurements of the room. I chose to use the same configuration for music and movies, so I was done with speaker measurements. If I had chosen to use a different music configuration, ARC would have prompted me to move the microphone back to position one and then repeat the entire process for the speakers in the music configuration. If the phone rings or a dog barks (as in my case) interrupting the process, ARC is able to detect such a problem and prompts to repeat any questionable measurement.

Once the measurement process was complete, the ARC software preprocessed the results.

The software then prompted me to save the results to my PC hard drive. Once that was completed, ARC calculated the room correction parameters based on the measurements and uploaded the correction data along with the proper speaker levels to the MRX 700.

A final message informed me that the process was finished and offered me the option to "Show Results."

The ARC program shows a detailed graph for each measured speaker including the target and corrected values that ARC computed. In this example, the target response for the center channel was in blue, the measured response was in red and the final ARC corrections were in green.

The ability to actually see a graphical representation of what ARC is doing is a significant benefit of the ARC solution. The final message from ARC reminded me to turn on room correction for each source as desired in the MRX 700 setup menus. At this point, I was able to disconnect my laptop from the MRX 700 and put away the microphone.

I won't get into the details of the advanced ARC options in this review, but the software allows the enthusiast to adjust the correction response targets for each speaker and tweak the computed room gain as well as adjust the frequency limit for ARC corrections. ARC is an amazingly sophisticated solution and I was impressed to see that Anthem included all of the ARC capabilities with the MRX A/V receivers.

I still had one more step to complete before finalizing the setup of the MRX 700. The multimedia software on the MRX 700 is updated using the USB input on the MRX. The first step is to download the update from the Anthem website and copy the MRX multimedia update to a USB memory device. With the MRX turned-on and the USB input selected, I simply inserted the USB device into the MRX 700 and followed the on-screen prompts to update the software. The on-screen display let me know when I could disconnect the device and cycle the power on the MRX. The software updates and the ARC process was trouble free and took about an hour from start to finish.

With all of the software updates out of the way, I was able to finish up the setup of the MRX 700. I reviewed and named each input on the MRX 700 and made sure that the video and audio inputs were set correctly for each source. The menu system made this really simple. The MRX supports a movie and music speaker configuration as we saw in the ARC setup, and the "Main Source Setup" menus allow you to specify which of those configurations to use through the "Bass Manager" option for each source input.

I also checked the "Advanced Source Setup" menu for each of my sources to ensure that the "ARC (Room EQ)" option was turned on.

This menu also allows you to specify the analog inputs for zone two as well as adjust the Dolby Volume options. The Dolby menu is not particularly obvious and can be found on page two of the "Advanced Source Setup" menus by pressing the down arrow on the remote.