Having logged a lot of time with the powerful (but also quite complicated) remote that Anthem supplies for its Statement D2v, I am pleased to report that the MRX 700’s main remote is lighter, smaller and considerably simpler to use, yet still very powerful (especially in terms of making the sort of “on the fly” adjustments needed on a day-to-day basis).
The MRX 700 also comes with an even smaller and simpler Zone 2 remote, which provides a subset of the control functions found on the main remote.
The receiver’s HDMI inputs and upconversion/scaling functions performed transparently, without adding any apparent noise or artifacts. The MRX 700 does not feature the elaborate video processing options that the Statement D2v A/V controller provides, but I think many users will find its “keep things simple” approach desirable.
One problem in discussing the sound quality of the MRX 700, per se, is that we are—under most normal listening conditions—observing the receiver through the sonic “lens” of its own digital front end. This is true for the simple reason that the MRX 700, as mentioned above, provides no multichannel analog audio inputs. Bearing that caveat in mind, though, let me offer some observations about the MRX 700’s signature sound.
When playing PCM digital audio source material or decoding either Dolby or DTS-encoded soundtracks, the MRX 700 offers a high degree of clarity and finesse. What I noticed, and I think that other who do comparative listening tests will notice, is that the sound provides a high degree of articulation, a good measure of detail and resolution, and a certain surefooted sense of refinement and sophistication. Tonal balance appears to be neutral, or nearly so, though I would say the overall sound conveys a touch less natural warmth than you would hear from, say, the Anthem Statement-class components. This doesn’t mean the MRX 700 sounds “cold” or “brittle” by any stretch of the imagination, but rather that its sound is not quite as rich or vibrant as, say, the sound you would hear from the big Statement D2v A/V controller and Statement P5 multichannel amplifier.
In terms of power output, the MRX 700 makes good on Anthem’s claim of “more ‘real’ power than the competition.” When I put the MRX 700 in my test system, it replaced a competing AVR whose claimed power output was greater than that of the Anthem. Nevertheless, the Anthem sounded noticeably punchier and more muscular than the competing receiver had. This, frankly, is where Anthem’s practice of quoting power specification in an ultra-conservative way pays big dividends. Where it counts most—namely, in our listening rooms—the MRX 700 consistently makes speaker systems jump and boogie in ways that some ostensibly more powerful receivers cannot.
Finally, the Anthem ARC system leverages and enhances the receiver’s strong core sound—in essence making a good thing even better. The great part, here, is that ARC follows the edict of “first doing no harm,” so that its effects appear to be entirely beneficial and free from apparent sonic downsides.
The soundtrack from Inception provides plenty of material that showcases the MRX 700’s strengths, but a favorite sequence for me is the one where Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) gives Ariadne (Ellen Page) her first introduction to the experience of laboratory-induced shared dream. As Cobb and Ariadne sit at an outdoor café, the scene at first seems and sounds disarmingly normal. But as the two protagonists talk, Cobb drops increasingly explicit hints that the situation is far from normal because it is, in fact, a dream. “We’re dreaming?” Ariadne asks, incredulously, at which point Cobb unleashes a series of violent but seemingly random and inexplicable explosions as if to demonstrate the utter otherworldliness of the dream state. As Cobb sits calmly at the café table, fruit and vegetable stands begin exploding, windows blow out from buildings overhead, and sections of the brick-paved street are thrust upward as if launched by a geyser from below. The strange scene ends thunderously when a pile of debris drops falls upon Ariadne, crushing her and causing her to wake from the dream to find herself in Cobb’s “sleep lab.”
What’s impressive, here, is not just the MRX 700’s highly energetic handling of the various explosions being presented, but the uncanny precision of its surround sound decoding as we hear debris being flung first in one direction, then another, and another. The sonic images of debris sizzling through the air from left-to-right, right-to-left, and even directly overhead, have a certain laser beam-like crispness and clarity that make them seem unnervingly realistic. Then, to cap things off, there is the horrendously abrupt and low-pitched “ka-ruumpff!!” of debris falling straight down upon Ariadne, burying her in a split-second. The really eerie part is that the imaging during this last effect is so precise that we have the illusion of hundreds of pounds of broken glass, stones, and brick landing just inches from our listening chairs. We can’t help feeling, just for a moment, as if we’ve only narrowly missed being crushed, ourselves. I’ve heard this soundtrack segment with other electronics in play, and for obvious reasons it almost always has lots of impact (too much for our comfort, actually). But what distinguishes the MRX 700 is that quality of laser beam-like precision, which makes the sound effects at hand feel more compelling, tangible, and real.