Anthem MRX 1120 Dolby Atmos AV receiver review

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posted on Thursday, 29th September 2016 by Steve May

home cinema  Invision UK  Dolby Atmos 

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3D audio has rewritten the rule-book when it comes to home theatre design – but as we all know, Dolby Atmos comes in multiple flavours. With eleven channels of amplification onboard, the Anthem MRX 1120 is about as tasty as it gets, without recourse to super high-end processors. Impressively, all this muscle resides in a rack mountable chassis just 4U tall. But that’s not the most remarkable thing about this flagship receiver…

Anthem MRX 1120 Dolby Atmos AV receiver: Specification
When it comes to immersive audio, Dolby is the defacto decode option. On this AVR DTS:X will be a firmware update, but until then there’s DTS-HD Master Audio support (and its derivatives) on hand, as well as Anthem Logic Cinema should you want spread stereo around the soundstage.

The receiver has seven rear-placed HDMIs, plus one front facing, with two outputs. There's support HDMI 2160/60 with HDCP 2.2 on HDMIs 1 - 6 plus HDMI bypass, so that the system doesn’t need to be fired-up to just catch up on the news.

When it comes to audio there are five digital inputs (two optical, three coaxial), plus one optical output, and five analogue stereo inputs. In addition to Ethernet, there's Wi-Fi onboard.

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With 11 channels of amplification on board, the receiver supports a full 7.2.4 Atmos speaker configuration. Alternatively, you can divide power for second zone duties (but where’s the fun in that?). 

Also bundled in the box is a complete Anthem Room Correction kit. This includes an individually serial numbered and calibrated USB microphone; the number on the mic tallies up with the Anthem Room Correction software supplied on the enclosed CD Rom. If your laptop doesn’t have a disc drive, you can just download the specific calibration file from the Anthem website. The pack also includes a proper (not cardboard!) tripod and USB cable.

Anthem maintains that a calibrated microphone will always be more accurate than a generic one, and cleverly leaves all the EQ to the PC. The processor in an average AV receiver will never have comparable number crunching chops.

When first launched, ARC was an expensive separate upgrade kit. Now it’s bundled free.

Anthem MRX 1120 AV Dolby Atmos receiver: Design and features
The MRX 1120 presents a workmanlike face to the world, with a self explanatory text display. It doesn’t embrace a cookie cutter receiver design though. The input set up is different from the norm. Out of the box, you’ll find just three inputs assigned, plus FM radio and DTS Play Fi. The latter doesn’t have a great deal of traction in the multiroom world, so you’ll probably want to delete the option.  Additional HDMI and audio inputs can be created and assigned, as required, up to 29. These are not so much physical inputs, more Profiles build around connected hardware, your chosen decode mode and room settings.

All inputs can be manually labelled – and as I discovered after setting up the system, you don’t need to laboriously finger the remote, you can use the rotary volume dial to rename (which is obviously a lot quicker).

The MRX 1120 doesn’t try and offer every bell and whistle. The emphasis here is on decoding quality and amplification. The AVR is tailored heavily for the CI market. If you’re programming a Control4 system, the Anthem has SDDP (Simple Device Discovery Protocol) engaged, so it will automatically appear on the network.

There’s no option to download firmware from the Internet. Anthem has mandated that all firmware updates be manually downloaded from the official website. One reason is to prevent awkward clashes with other control protocols which might be resident on a system – RTI, Crestron etc. 

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The key feature attraction of any Anthem receiver is ARC (aka Anthem Room Correction). When it comes to EQ and fine tuning, this is a league removed from the likes of Audyssey and Yamaha’s YPAO (to name but two competing systems).

ARC measures the listening room, capturing all the data with that calibrated microphone.

Once you’ve analysed the speakers in situ, you can view an uncorrected trace of every channel, comparing live data against a target curve. This reveals just what’s happening in the space, including room nodes and other nasties. ARC automatically calculates where to put crossovers.  One click tailors every channel to a target curve.

Once calibrated, the settings are uploaded into the AVR’s processor. The entire set up can saved as an extensive PDF which can then be given to a client as part of the hand-over documentation. It’s a tangible added value.

General Configuration

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Anthem MRX 1120 Dolby Atmos AV receiver: Performance
When dialled in, the MRX1120 sounds sensational. Dialogue is clear and uncoloured, front LCR image placement beautifully precise. Steerage around and within an Atmos soundstage is seamless and deliciously immersive.

There’s a massive amount of power on tap – more than enough to pressure load larger rooms or small home theatres. Interestingly, the four height channels are all driven by Class D modules, while the main speaker layer benefits from Class A/B amplification. Anthem rates the power output of the MRX 1120 at 140W p/c into 8 ohms. If you need more, there’s always a bank of pre-outs.

Mad Max Fury Road boasts a blistering sound mix, and the MRX 1120 is more than up to the job. The receiver growls with a ferocity that’ll send shivers up your spine, yet ARC EQ keeps dialogue crisp and focussed.

Two channel music replay is excellent too, although the receiver post processes stereo into multichannel so effectively even purists are unlikely to complain.

Anthem MRX 1120 Dolby Atmos AV receiver: Verdict
In many ways, Anthem has redefined expectations around home cinema. For many brands, the category has simply become an arms race about features and functionality. Anthem has stripped all that back to offer a sublime level of performance allied to a truly sensational calibration and room EQ solution. The result is a fabulous home cinema centrepiece.

The Anthem MRX 1120 is available now
Retail price: £4,399
The MRX 1120 is available through Anthem AV Solutions and Invision UK. For more on Invision’s product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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