Anthem MRX-1140 11-Channel AV Receiver Review

Posted on 14th October, 2021

Anthem MRX-1140 11-Channel AV Receiver Review

Tony O'Brien is beguiled by this new eleven-channel surround sound powerhouse…

Anthem

MRX-1140 11-Channel AV Receiver

AUD $5,999 RRP

In our previous reviews, powerful, dynamic and cinematic, were all terms we used to describe Anthem's third-generation AV receivers. Indeed both the company's eleven-channel MRX-1120 and seven-channel MRX-720 received glowing reviews here. Be that as it may, time stands still for no one. Despite a six-year life-cycle, its line of AV receivers was due for a refresh, even if it was just to give them a facelift. 

So is Anthem's fourth-generation MRX-1140 more of the same, but with a quick nip and tuck, or does it better the already impressive MRX-1120 in terms of performance? Enter the company's 2021 range of fourth gen AVRs – the five-channel MRX-540, the seven-channel MRX-740, and the flagship eleven-channel MRX-1140 you see here…

Capable of powering up to eleven speakers, the MRX-1140 is rated at 140 watts for its main five channels; its remaining six channels put out a claimed 60 watts, with two channels driven into 8 ohms. Its five main channels derive their power from good old fashioned Class AB amplification, while the remainder use Class D amplification. That's an interesting combination.

Indeed, it's a somewhat unorthodox approach that Anthem has presumably used to overcome the challenge of fitting an ever-growing number of amplifiers into a single box. Generally, I don't believe in mixing and matching amplifiers types and power ratings, yet it's the same recipe used in the MRX-1120 with great success. On paper, the power rating of the MRX-1140 appears identical to the superseded MRX-1120. Anthem, however, assures me the amplifier is a new design, sharing much in common with its new range of MDX multi-room amplifiers. Likewise, it utilises a new 32-bit/768kHz-capable DAC.

Although the MRX-1140 can support up to 7.2.4 channels with its eleven internal amplifiers, it can decode up to fifteen channels. Of course, you'll need to add external amplification, with Anthem's own MCA range of amplifiers being the logical choice. This unit will happily decode Dolby and DTS codecs, including Dolby Atmos, DTS :X, and DTS:X PRO. Imax has also been added to the supported codecs. While Auro is sadly still missing in action, I suspect it's going to be a game-changer for all but a few.

Regarding streaming options, the MRX-1140 offers onboard AirPlay and AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth and Roon. Neither Spotify Connect nor Roon is available right now. However, both are due to be added in future firmware releases.

GETTING GOING

Modern, sleek, and minimalistic is the order of the day when it comes to Anthem's MRX-1140. Its 152x432x364mm size means it will fit into the tiniest of spaces, although it's worth checking the specs to allow sufficient ventilation. Although it is great for smaller places, it's actually one of those bits of kit that you want on show. A black, high gloss interface dominates the left side of the receiver, contrasting against the matt black finish found on the right-hand side of the fascia. 

In keeping with its minimalistic styling, the buttons are kept to a minimum, with six small ones flanking the volume dial. Hardly numerous by any means, but as it turns out, more than enough to navigate the extensive setup menus. Save for a headphone input on the front, all of the rest of the MRX-1140's connections are located at the rear of the receiver. 

Here you'll find three HDMI outputs – with support for eARC on HDMI 1 and Zone 2 on HDMI 3 – and seven HDMI inputs. The MRX-1140's HDMI inputs are HDMI 2.0b, HDCP 2.2 and HDR, HLG and Dolby Vision compatible. Although they're limited to 4K Ultra HD 18.2 Gbs signals, the MRX-1140 will be upgradable to HDMI 2.1 (8K) in the future. Pricing or availability on the 8K upgrade wasn't available at the time of review, although it will likely require a trip to an authorised service agent.

Legacy connections consist of five analogue audio inputs, plus four optical ins (three in, one out) and a coaxial input and output. Pre-outs are provided for all channels, with additional pre-outs for a third set of height speakers, line input and Zone 2. The 1140's eleven speaker binding posts are sturdy enough; its other connections consist of three 12V triggers, IR input, RS232 connection, LAN connection, USB input for service and dual wireless network antenna connections for its dual antennas.

One of my criticisms of the outgoing MRX-1120 and MRX-720 was that they didn't offer independent subwoofer outputs. Instead, both subwoofers shared the same output resulting in identical distance and gain settings for both subs. The MRX-1140, however, provides true independent subwoofer outs. This results in both having independent gain and distance settings, with the resulting signal from both subwoofers then equalised as a single entity.

Overall then, the MRX-1140 is a well built and beautiful piece of kit. Indeed it shares much in common with JBL's more expensive Synthesis SDR-35 in terms of user experience. 

Anthem continues to take the setup of its AV receivers seriously, with as little as possible left to chance. The carton includes a separate box labelled with the ARC moniker, which contains the calibration microphone, mic stand, and necessary cables. The new, chrome-plated microphone is eerily similar in appearance to Mini DSP's UMIK-1. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the UMIK-1 is a much-lauded microphone. Either way, Anthem claims the new microphone is more accurate than the previous generation. Also bundled are two wireless antennae, a quick setup guide and power cables. Most are going to find setup a breeze, with everything clearly marked.

While the receiver itself may have had a substantial update, the remote remains unchanged. Nonetheless, it is functional, with all buttons within easy reach. Unfortunately, there is no automatic backlighting, forcing users to press a dedicated button to activate the backlight.

Unlike its predecessor, the MRX-1140 now features assignable channels. This means that unused channels can be used to bi-amp the front speakers, power a second zone or for additional presence speakers if you were to opt for a 5.2.6 speaker layout. While a downloadable user manual is available, it serves more as a reference rather than a walk-through. With this in mind, novices may want to ask their dealer to set up and calibrate the MRX-1140 for them.

Connected and powered on, you have several options for setup, including an on-screen display (OSD), web GUI and of course, the MRX-1140 front display. In short order, you'll find yourself moving around the web GUI like a pro, with the front display coming in a close second.

ARC GENESIS

Building on Anthem's principle of in-house production, its engineers have created their own propriety Anthem Room Correction (ARC) software. ARC was heavily influenced by a three-year study undertaken by Canada's National Research Council, The Athena Project. This involved parent company Paradigm and revered sound engineer Dr Floyd Toole. The project was essentially a study of 'perceived sound in rooms', and the most effective way to apply automated room correction.

Now in its third generation, Anthem's ARC Genesis needs to be downloaded and installed on a laptop with PC and Mac versions available. With ARC installed and the microphone connected to the laptop with a USB cable, the process is much the same as other room correction systems – move the microphone to set locations, take a measurement, move and repeat.

How easy or complicated the room correction/EQ process is, is largely up to the user. In its simplest form, download the software, connect the microphone and follow the on-screen instructions, upload the calibrated profile, and you're good to go. If you're a diehard tinkerer like me, enabling the professional version gives you access to a range of options. Here you'll find controls to adjust everything from crossovers, gains, delays and curve itself. 

Unless you've had experience with such systems, I'd suggest sticking to the basic version as you can run into trouble and even potentially damage your speakers. Even if you're an experienced user, you'd best download the ARC Genesis user manual to familiarise yourself with some of ARC's nomenclature. I found the default curve to my liking, and apart from changes to the frequency range to which EQ is applied, I let Genesis run the show.

The MRX-1140 was partnered with VAF Signature i91 front and centre loudspeakers and four VAF i90 speakers, used for surround and overhead Atmos channels. The unit's dual subwoofer outputs were connected to custom 10” VAF Gravitas subwoofers for a 5.2.2 speaker layout. Video devices consisted of a Panasonic UB9000 4K Blu-ray player and Apple TV, connected directly to a Lumagen Radiance Pro. Images were projected onto a 100” Severtson Cinegray 16.9 screen by a Sony VPL-VW270ES native 4K projector.

AT THE MOVIES

The MRX-1140 is an immensely powerful AV receiver. Capable of huge dynamic swings, it filled the listening room with an immense sound field that envelopes the viewer. Bass is both prodigious and tight, while pans are guided seamlessly around the room. Despite the often frenetic action the Anthem can deliver, and vocals don't get caught out in the mayhem, staying on point perfectly centred on the screen.

Imaging was very good and indeed a step up on its predecessor, while the overall sonic character of the MRX-1140 is a little more refined. For instance, as Silva and Tyrone drive from the airport to the base in the early scenes of 13 Hours the Anthem flexes its considerable muscle. As the duo attempt to negotiate their way through a checkpoint, the chaos is delivered with both a sense of power and attack. 

It makes simple things – such as the guard slamming his hand on the car's bonnet and yelling – enough to startle, adding to the already palpable anxiety of the moment. The MRX-1140 has a field day with the reference-grade 4K Blu-ray Atmos soundtrack when the action kicks in. The sounds of gunfire are delivered with a sense of power and impact that excites, often leaving the viewer at the edge of their seat.

This is accomplished with a sense of ease, the Anthem sounding as though it's not in the least bit taxed but instead still having plenty in reserve. Bass is prodigious, delivered with a sense of force and impact that's felt at the listening position. It's also served with a sense of control, never outstaying its welcome, gunshots and explosions being lightning-fast, yet offering all the impact we seek from an action blockbuster. All of this comes from within a massive soundstage that threatens to break free of the confines of the listening room. 

It's much the same with the Dolby Atmos soundtrack found on the 4K Blu-ray of Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace. Once again, the Anthem creates an immense soundfield that has a serious sense of height and width. The sound of starships whizzing overhead and throughout the room is seamless, giving the proceedings a sense of credibility, further enhancing the immersion. The MRX-1140 and ARC Genesis combination results in the pod-racers moving about the listening room with excellent precision. Imaging is likewise excellent and hard to beat considering the receiver's modest asking price.

These aspects are equally impressive with the Atmos mix found on the 4K Blu-ray of Spiderman: Homecoming. The soundtrack comes to life with the volume given a suitable boost to compensate for the mastering level. Despite the often-times frenetic action, voices are never lost in the mix, remaining centred on the screen where they should be and loud and clear. Despite my apprehensions about mixing amplifiers with different power ratings, I found myself hard-pressed to hear the differences in my listening room. All seven channels were equally engaged with none sounding like a poor second.

Switching to the 2.0 PCM soundtrack found on Shudder's creepy Superhost, the Anthem did an excellent job with the mix. I'm not generally a fan of up-mixing 2.0 soundtracks, yet both Dolby and Anthem Logic did a decent job, given the limitations of the soundtrack. While both up-mixers produced similar results, I ultimately preferred using Dolby Surround, Anthem Logic placing a little more emphasis on the centre channel than I preferred. However, much of this is personal preference, so it's worth experimenting with the various options. Despite the legacy mix, it once again demonstrated its dynamic range capabilities.

THE VERDICT

Anthem's new MRX-1140 is a mighty machine capable of creating a massive soundstage with huge dynamic swings. Coupled with ARC Genesis, it produces seamless soundscapes with excellent channel steering and defined yet powerful bass. Anthem's current generation ARC Genesis has proven just as capable and easily stands up to its Dirac Live competition.

The MRX-1140 is a clear step-up from its predecessor in terms of appearance, flexibility and features. More importantly, where it counts, it delivers a more refined sonic character, with better imaging and arguably more power than its predecessor. It makes for a highly engaging and cinematic movie-watching experience that beats its current price rivals. I'd even go as far as to say that it gives some of the current AV Receivers at higher price points a good run for their money too.

For more information visit Anthem

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    Tony O'Brien's avatar

    Tony O'Brien

    As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

    Posted in:Home Theatre Amplifiers AV Receivers & Processors Applause Awards 2021
    Tags: anthem  audio active 


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