• Superior processing accuracy; specifically, Anthem says, “The connected PC’s 64-bit floating-point processor does the hard work of calculating the correction curves, which greatly minimizes rounding errors of a less sophisticated calculator.”
• The ability to apply custom calibration data that precisely matches the exact, measured characteristics of the individual measurement microphone supplied with the ARC kit. Indeed, ARC microphones and software CD ROMs deliberately carry matching serial numbers and must be used together as a package (i.e., you can’t use the microphone from one ARC kit with the software ROM from a different ARC kit).
• The ability to apply ARC’s “super-efficient Infinite Impulse Response (IIR) filters” and “Anthem’s Custom Filter Topology” in order to “minimize delay and reduce processing gain noise.”
On a practical level, I was very pleased by the sonic results provided by the Anthem ARC system. Specific benefits included noticeably tighter and more controlled bass with significantly improved textural and transient detail. The system also brought worthwhile improvements in midrange smoothness, yet without imposing any obvious signs of “DSP haze” and without losing detail or definition. One of the things I like best about Anthem ARC is that it improves overall system balance, yet without obscuring the textural, timbral or transient characteristics that make one speaker system sound different from or better than another.
Practical concerns: my only complaints about ARC involve a small handful of ergonomic/ease-of-use issues:
• The supplied USB microphone cable is only 12 feet long, which—according to Anthem—is the maximum distance USB can be run without an active hub. This cable length is adequate for some applications, but too short for others. A solution that allowed longer cable runs would be preferable.
• The supplied serial cable that connects the calibration PC to the MRX 700 is only 15 feet long, which is too short (again, a cable 20 feet long or longer would be preferable).
• ARC calls for use of a calibration PC that supports an old style, 9-pin serial port (for purposes of connecting the PC to the MRX 700). This can be problematic given that 9-pin serial ports have at this point all but disappeared from modern PCs. Granted, Anthem advises that you can use a USB-to-9-pin-serial adapter, provided that you use one that supports “two stop bits,” and are careful about which of your PC’s USB communications ports you use. Nevertheless, an appropriate USB-to-9-pin adapter is not included in the ARC kit, so that you’re on your own in terms of finding an adapter that will work. The bottom line is that it would preferable for Anthem to create an all-USB version of ARC.
• Finally, note that the MRX 700 positions its ARC serial interface port on the rear panel of the chassis, where it is fairly hard to access. I think it would be much simpler (from the user’s point of view) to have the ARC interface port on the front panel—if only to simplify re-calibration procedures when needed.
If you believe as a general rule that “simpler is better,” then I think you will like the MRX 700 user interface. While preserving most, though not quite all, of the functionality of the Statement D2v’s extremely elaborate (but at times somewhat inscrutable) user interface, the MRX 700 interface comes across as being simpler, more intelligible, and easier to navigate.
Listeners, especially those who are comfortable with advanced set-up functions, will appreciate the face that the MRX 700 (like the Statement D2v) allows users to configure separate Movie and Music profiles for each input. Users might wish, for example, to run slightly elevated subwoofer levels in Movie mode, but lower (and more accurately voiced) subwoofer levels in Music mode. The MRX 700 supports this.
Similarly, the MRX 700 (again following the pattern set by the Statement D2v) allows users to specify precisely which listening modes they wish to apply for each input format and source component. For example, when the receiver selects “CD” as its source component and receives a 2.0-channel audio signal from the CD player, the MRX 700 might be programmed to apply the AnthemLogic-Music listening mode. But, if the receiver selects “BDP” (for Blu-ray Disc Player) as its source component and receives a 2.0-channel audio signal from the Blu-ray player, it might be programmed to apply the AnthemLogic-Cinema listening mode. This level of programming control gives the MRX 700 tremendous flexibility, and the ability to apply “the right mode at the right time” automatically as listening contexts change.