Secrets Q & A

Which AVR Should I Choose: Anthem 710 or Pioneer SC-79?

Question:
My dream of owning a Statement ended when I woke up realizing it wasn't going to happen. So, now I have narrowed my choice of AVR down to two. It's between a Pioneer SC-79 or the Anthem 710. Which would you recommend I go with. I would be looking for whichever one to be able to handle a medium to large size room. Bells and whistles don't mean a whole lot just the sound. I'm not a big music guy so most of its use would be for gaming and movies. I currently own the VSX-84txsi and have enjoyed it for seven years, but the 710 is very interesting to me (not to mention the fact, it's a thousand dollars cheaper). Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated and please keep up the good work. Thanks SECRETS!

- John Z.
Cockeysville, Maryland

Answer:
You are looking at a couple of very fine components to be sure, but with decidedly different design philosophies. The right one for you will be the one which is aligned closest to the way you view your home theater. Decisions like these can only be intelligently made with hands on shopping experience; however I can offer the following thoughts:

The Pioneer is very classic, almost a throwback to yesteryear. Just look at the back of it: there is every manner of I/O ever known, including multiple component video ins(and an out), and even several composite video connections. Unless you've been an enthusiast for more than 10 years you might not even know what composite video is (the kids certainly don't!), let alone have a use for it. The DACs are well thought of, the MCACC room correction less so. It measured well, though perhaps could have done better given the price point. However, note that The Class D amp design used by Pioneer is very sensitive to speaker load. Dependent on the speaker, significant frequency response variations can occur above 5 kHz.

Shifting gears to the Anthem MRX 710, the product has embraced the digital era with an almost Spartan, clear focus on the HDMIs, coax and optical digitals, and only a handful of analogue inputs (stereo and component video). The most compelling feature is of course the ARC room correction. Much lauded, many would argue it is reason alone to go with the MRX (I can honestly say that in my 17 years reviewing equipment it's the only gambit I've ever come across which actually delivers dramatic, radical improvement to system performance). From a processing point of view, an MRX coupled to an OPPO player would leave little if anything to be desired.

As for amp power, I'm not going to lie: having loads of power is nice. I love great big amps, but the often unspoken truth is that no one, at any price, can make a receiver with amplification on par with a separate dedicate power amp (mainly due to heat issues). Keep in mind you can always add a 2, 3, or 5+ channel power amp at a later date, which opens up the option of going with the 710 and putting the difference towards a power amp.