Receivers

Anthem MRX 710 7.1 A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup of the Anthem MRX 710 A/V Receiver

From a setup perspective, the MRX 710 is pretty simple. The speaker binding posts on the MRX 710 are three-way posts that allow cable to be inserted from the top, bottom, or directly into the post via banana connectors. The MRX 710 speaker binding posts don't accept spade connectors so I would recommend banana connectors to keep things simple.

I connected a DirecTV DVR, an Oppo BDP-105 and a third-generation Apple TV to the MRX 710 via HDMI and I ran a single HDMI output cable from the MRX 710 to my HDTV. I also connected my first-generation Apple TV to the MRX 710 via component video and optical digital. The MRX 710 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 was pleasantly surprised to see that Anthem now includes support for digital sources (two-channel PCM only) in zone two. This means that you don't have to worry about having analog audio connections on your devices in order to listen to them in zone two. This came in really handy with my third-generation Apple TV which only supports HDMI and optical digital. While HDMI is not supported for zone two audio, I simply connected an optical digital cable to my third-generation Apple TV and I was good to go. I also connected the MRX 710 to my home network with an Ethernet cable so I could configure ARC 1M.

With the connections out of the way, it was time to explore the menu system on the MRX 710. The menus are well organized and are so much larger and easier to read than the first-generation MRX menus, which were sized for a minimum display size of 480p. Anthem eliminated the "Quick Setup" menu and now provides five default inputs for HDMI 1 through 3 and for the FM and AM tuners. Since I connected my DirecTV DVR to HDMI 1, I was pleasantly surprised to have picture and sound immediately after powering on the MRX 710. It doesn't get any easier than that.

As for setup, the first thing I tackled was input. The MRX 710 allows you to create from one to twenty inputs to suit your needs. Inputs can be easily named and you can delete inputs so that you can build your perfect configuration. Each input allows for separate audio and video assignments and I was especially happy to see that HDMI sources could be reused across inputs. This allowed me to create one input for watching movies from my Oppo BDP-105 and another input for listening to music using the dedicated analog outputs on the BDP-105. Both inputs could share the same HDMI source for video. Anthem also includes listening mode menus so you can set the preferred listening mode for 2.0 and 5.1 channel sources. I really appreciated the flexibility and found input setup to be very intuitive.

With the inputs configured, 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 710 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 710 software from the Anthem site. Compared to the first-generation MRX receivers that required a PC to perform an update, updating the MRX 710 was a breeze. Just extract the firmware file to a USB stick and follow the simple directions that come with the download. The entire process takes less than ten minutes and helps to ensure that you have the latest functionality and the latest software corrections for the MRX receiver.

For anyone that has used the Anthem Room Correction software on the first-generation MRX receivers, the biggest barrier to setup was often the serial interface that was required for communication. It's not just that serial communication is slow, but it is quite rare to find serial interfaces on modern laptops. The workaround was always to use a USB to serial adapter but oftentimes those would cause problems if the adapter's driver was not Windows-certified. With the introduction of ARC 1M, Anthem has finally eliminated the serial cable once and for all. ARC 1M refers to the hardware implementation of Anthem Room Correction in the second-generation MRX receivers. It is fundamentally the same as the prior generation of ARC except that it runs on the new MRX DSP hardware and it supports Ethernet as its communication interface. To go along with the updated hardware implementation, Anthem has introduced a new version of the ARC software called Anthem Room Correction 2 or ARC-2 for short.

ARC-2 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-2 software is a Windows application that comes on a CD with the MRX receiver. In addition to the software, a calibrated microphone and tripod stand are included in the ARC 1M kit. The installation CD that comes with the MRX 710 includes a special microphone calibration file that is tied specifically to the microphone in the ARC 1M kit. If you install from the CD, the calibration file is automatically copied to the ARC-2 installation folder. If you install from a downloaded version of ARC-2, you must manually copy the calibration file from the root of the installation CD to the install directory. If you do install from the CD, then you need to make sure that you have the latest version of the ARC-2 software by checking the Anthem support site. Fortunately, a reinstall of ARC-2 leaves the microphone calibration file in place which simplifies the process.

The installation of the ARC-2 program is very straightforward and uses a typical Windows installation wizard.

The installation wizard prompts for installation folder and Start Menu folder.

The ARC-2 software requires the Microsoft .NET 4.0 framework and support files for Visual C++. If either one of these components is not present on your PC, then the installation wizard will indicate that they are required prerequisites and install them for you automatically as part of the ARC-2 installation process.

The last step in the ARC-2 installation wizard is a final summary of the steps that are going to be taken during the install.

Simply press "Install" and let the installer do its work. The entire installation process can take some time depending on the speed of your PC and if the .NET 4.0 Framework has to be installed. The installation may require a reboot to complete, normally the case when running Windows XP. If a reboot isn't required, then the last step in the setup process prompts you to run ARC-2 in automatic or manual mode. The shortcuts to run ARC-2 in either automatic or manual mode can always be found in the ARC-2 Start Menu folder.

I connected the ARC 1M USB microphone to my Windows laptop which was connected wirelessly to my home network. I placed the microphone in the tripod and positioned the tripod at the primary listening position in my room, with the microphone pointing straight up. Proper microphone height is critical to measurement with ARC 1M and the microphone should be positioned at ear level.

I launched the ARC-2 program in automatic mode, which is what Anthem recommends for most users, and was greeted with a very simple connection reminder dialog.

Pressing Start begins the process which looks for available MRX devices on your network.

Once an MRX receiver is found, the ARC-2 program displays a list of microphone calibration files found in the ARC-2 installation directory. I checked that the serial number matched the tag on my microphone and pressed OK to continue.

The next step in the process is the speaker selection dialog, which allowed me to pick which speakers I have in my room and also allowed me to measure two separate speaker profiles. Most people will use the same speaker configuration for both profiles, but different choices could be made for movies and music for example. ARC-2 requires a minimum of five measurement positions but you can also select up to ten if you wish. The speaker selection dialog allows you to designate whether the surround-back channels will be used for main back, zone 2, or for bi-amping the front channels.

I pressed OK and was shown a reminder dialog about proper microphone placement during the measurement process.

I pressed OK and was shown another reminder dialog about placing the microphone at ear level.

I pressed OK and ARC-2 prompted me to move the microphone to the first measurement position. Once I was ready, I pressed OK one last time and sat quietly.

For each measurement position, ARC-2 produced a series of test tones from each speaker. ARC -2 shows a very nice measurement summary graph for each position and clearly indicates which speaker is being measured. Once the first set of measurements was complete, ARC-2 prompted me to move the microphone to the next position. This process continued until each position had been measured.

If you have a 7.1 system and use the default of 5 positions, ARC-2 takes 40 distinct measurements of the room. I chose to use the same configuration for both speaker profiles, so I was done with speaker measurements. If I had chosen to use a different configuration for the second profile, ARC-2 would have prompted me to move the microphone back to position one and then repeat the entire process for the speakers in that configuration. If the phone rings or a dog barks interrupting the process, ARC-2 is able to detect such a problem and prompts to repeat any questionable measurement.

Once the measurement process was complete, the ARC-2 software processed the data and prompted me to save the results to my PC hard drive. Once that was completed, ARC-2 calculated the room-correction parameters based on the measurements and automatically uploaded the correction data along with the proper speaker levels to the MRX 710.

A final message informed me that the upload process was complete and offered me the option to preview the results. While I was expecting an onscreen summary, I was amazed to see that ARC-2 presented a preview window containing a ten-page in-room audio performance report documenting the before and after results. Graphs are provided for each configuration and measurement position, along with a summary of speaker levels and crossover targets, and the report can be printed for reference.

I was very eager to see what Anthem included in version two of the ARC software. The first thing I noticed was the speed of the measurement process. By using the network instead of the serial interface, I was able to measure my room in less than eight minutes. I could make tweaks to the ARC-2 configuration and simply upload a new configuration to the MRX 710, without leaving my couch, in about 30 seconds! If I didn't like the change, I could revert to the prior configuration file with ease. The ARC-2 user interface has undergone a complete makeover. The application feels fresh and modern and each speaker graph is beautifully formatted. The measurement graphs now include a plot of the uncorrected response with bass management applied.

As if that weren't enough, the ARC-2 software lets you view the measurement results at each individual measurement position. This can help in troubleshooting issues in the listening room.

The measurement graphs can even be tailored to include only specific curves based on personal preference.

ARC-2 has an updated version of the Quick Measure tool which is very useful for making real time measurements of individual speakers and for adjusting subwoofer levels. Anthem also included a new tool called Curve Viewer which lets you view the plots for each individual speaker.

Curve Viewer also allows you to finally see the equalization curve that is being applied for each speaker by the DSP in the ARC-1M hardware.

The final touch is the ability to generate and print a custom in-room audio performance report. Anthem has even included an option to enter the name of the system owner, the system calibrator and any notes for the report. This is definitely a feature that will be appreciated by custom installers.

I won't get into the details of the advanced ARC-2 options in this review, but the software allows the enthusiast or custom installer to adjust the correction response targets for each speaker and to tweak the computed room gain as well as to adjust the frequency limit for ARC 1M corrections. I have always loved the Anthem Room Correction system, but ARC-2 simply blew me away with its speed, ease of use and outstanding functionality. Best of all, it is included with every MRX receiver , you can run it as many times as you like, and you don't have to pay extra for it!!

With the room correction out of the way, I took one last pass through the MRX 710 menu system. I checked each input to ensure that Anthem Room Correction was enabled and I was finally ready to start listening.