Tonal balance of AV receivers. Add yours here too...

Leeps

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A while back I mentioned that many reviews of AV receivers get so bogged down in their lengthy descriptions of their growing list of elaborate feature set, that the actual description of the SOUND is either terse or non-existent. As a prospective buyer putting a shortlist together, knowing their approximate tonal balance (for the purpose of speaker matching) would have been helpful.

So I'm going to put my brief observations of my Anthem here, but all you Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, Onkyo, Arcam owners out there, forget the specs for a moment, what do they SOUND like?

ANTHEM MRX 710

It's worth noting that I've come from a Pioneer AV receiver and my Ruark speakers are neutral to forward, bass light (for floorstanders) and a potentially excitable treble if put with a forward-sounding amp.

Overall the Anthem has an effortless mercury-like sound. Compared with the Pioneer VSX-2021 I owned before, it's significantly sweeter for 2-channel music. Its treble retains good snap and timing but never grates. Drums are exciting but strings are just right: retaining a certain amount of bite at the leading edge but silk-smooth too. The Pioneer could sound a little 'grainy' with strings at times.

One thing that's notably different to the Pioneer is the way it develops the soundstage, both in 2-channel and surround. The Anthem seems to tie together each speaker more effectively, so you don't really notice sounds coming from one speaker or another, but a large wall of sound is spread before you (&behind you with multi-channel). This has a strange effect on your perception. Of course, it's more like how sound works in real life, so its very fluid and natural and managed to sew together my small Apex rear speakers with my Talisman floostanders better than the Pioneer did. But I must say, in some situations the Pioneer had a little more sparkle and excitement. Because it actually sounded more like the sounds came from the speaker with the Pioneer, steering effects were a little more striking.

Another key difference with the Anthem is its handling of bass which is far superior to the Pioneer, which was its principal Achilles heel. It just didn't have the current to keep the bass in check, so often with bass heavy music I'd listen in 2.1 mode and employ the subwoofer. The Anthem, with its superior current delivery and ARC room correction just delivers bass exactly how I like it. Double-bass jazz solos are awesome now. Before they were all a bit one-note with the Pioneer.

So in summary, the Anthem has a sweet crisp treble, slightly rolled off compared to the Pioneer. Tonally, to my ears, it's spot-on and genuinely neutral I would say. Musical instruments sound 3-D, rounded, natural and real. It doesn't sound like hifi. So for music I honestly couldn't fault one aspect of the Anthem. I have a system that's as musically satisying as I can imagine for 2-channel, and it's an AV receiver! Movies are just as satisfying as the Pioneer, but it is different. The Pioneer could sound more exciting at low volumes, but could become harsh at mid volumes so you'd want to turn it down at times. The Anthem sounds more effortless and you just want to turn it up, but this could obviously be very speaker-dependent.

If you were purely after an AV receiver for movies, then I'd actually save a huge wad of money and go for the Pioneer. Its treble that could be a problem for music is exciting and addictive with movies. But I want a one-box all rounder with a preference for music and 2-channel sources. And it's there that the Anthem kills the Pioneer. With movies, the Pioneer had a slight edge in certain situations, but with music, the Anthem is in a different league all together. So as a one-box music and movies solution, I am a very happy customer: no buyer's remorse here.

It's always tricky describing sound, but I've had a go. Now, please at your own impressions of your AVR's sound, particularly its tonal balance if you can.
 

newlash09

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I can only add my small bit regarding the two above .

Sony : sounds detailed on first impression due to a bumped up treble. But music on longer sessions reveals the brightness. So needs very careful pairing with dark speakers. That said, they sound punchy and are a good match for exciting musical genres. Their sound effects steering is more pronounced than my marantz. But that impression is due to the superior room correction of audyssey where the localisation of speakers is all but difficult to make out. With the Sony it was always apparent which speaker was playing. Not so easy with the marantz.

Marantz : I would rate it 50:50 for music as well as HT. If I was looking for a superior movie performance, I would go with a yamaha. They sound bolder and bigger, which is what I want for my sci-fi movies. But the marantz has refinement in spades. Slightly on the warmer side of neutral. Very good clarity. But the best part is that they are very musical at heart. Any music sounds good through them. But certainly need a better app, their present app is a PITA.
 

CnoEvil

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My AV600 prioritises the performance and musicality of a decent 2 channel amp and brings that to its AV performance....and does it in a way that I have not heard from any other brand....though I never heard the Pathos Cinema X.
 

Leeps

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newlash09 said:
I can only add my small bit regarding the two above .

Sony : sounds detailed on first impression due to a bumped up treble. But music on longer sessions reveals the brightness. So needs very careful pairing with dark speakers. That said, they sound punchy and are a good match for exciting musical genres. Their sound effects steering is more pronounced than my marantz. But that impression is due to the superior room correction of audyssey where the localisation of speakers is all but difficult to make out. With the Sony it was always apparent which speaker was playing. Not so easy with the marantz.

Marantz : I would rate it 50:50 for music as well as HT. If I was looking for a superior movie performance, I would go with a yamaha. They sound bolder and bigger, which is what I want for my sci-fi movies. But the marantz has refinement in spades. Slightly on the warmer side of neutral. Very good clarity. But the best part is that they are very musical at heart. Any music sounds good through them. But certainly need a better app, their present app is a PITA.

Interesting comment. That's been my experience of the Pioneer vs Anthem. The Anthem seems to blend all the speakers together more effectively, so its room correction may have something to do with that. It's calibrated microphone is far more sophisticated and accurate than Pioneer's plug-in puck. But its true, that localisation can make effects seem very dramatic. But its less helpful with music. You seem very happy with your Marantz Newlash, which is good to know when you're as interested in its musical performance as its multichannel.

There are some AV receivers out there that are very musically satisfying. The first time I heard the Anthem MRX710 was a few years ago at the Bristol show, and it was the best musical demo I heard all day, and it was an AV receiver. It shows it is possible to have your cake and eat it, as CNO's comment indicates too.
 

Benedict_Arnold

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Nothing to add.

Don't use my AVR for audiophile lights out music listening and probably never will. Call me old school but I still believe in "proper stereo" for proper stereo and AVRs for movies and never the twain shall meet. The only caveat being I would use the Aux or AV input on a stereo amp (with proper stereo speakers) as the front left and right for an AV setup. Maybe its because my budgets used to (before marriage and a wincing £3500 a month mortgage and £1000 A MONTH (and you thought YOUR council tax was high...) property tax bill*, but my last "proper stereo" (Cyrus plus ProAcs) cost me well over £10,000 when all was said and done.

* Gotta pay for those 10,000 seat HIGH SCHOOL sports stadiums somehow... See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_E._Berry_Educational_Support_Center for the one about three miles from where I'm sitting. Bristol Rivers would wet themselves at the prospect of having this as their home ground.

Anyway. I digress.

Also, since my AV speakers are modest in-wall jobs, I wouldn't expect ProAc, Spendor, etc. levels of performance from them either.
 

newlash09

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Aug 28, 2015
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Leeps said:
newlash09 said:
I can only add my small bit regarding the two above .

Sony : sounds detailed on first impression due to a bumped up treble. But music on longer sessions reveals the brightness. So needs very careful pairing with dark speakers. That said, they sound punchy and are a good match for exciting musical genres. Their sound effects steering is more pronounced than my marantz. But that impression is due to the superior room correction of audyssey where the localisation of speakers is all but difficult to make out. With the Sony it was always apparent which speaker was playing. Not so easy with the marantz.

Marantz : I would rate it 50:50 for music as well as HT. If I was looking for a superior movie performance, I would go with a yamaha. They sound bolder and bigger, which is what I want for my sci-fi movies. But the marantz has refinement in spades. Slightly on the warmer side of neutral. Very good clarity. But the best part is that they are very musical at heart. Any music sounds good through them. But certainly need a better app, their present app is a PITA.

Interesting comment. That's been my experience of the Pioneer vs Anthem. The Anthem seems to blend all the speakers together more effectively, so its room correction may have something to do with that. It's calibrated microphone is far more sophisticated and accurate than Pioneer's plug-in puck. But its true, that localisation can make effects seem very dramatic. But its less helpful with music. You seem very happy with your Marantz Newlash, which is good to know when you're as interested in its musical performance as its multichannel.

 

There are some AV receivers out there that are very musically satisfying. The first time I heard the Anthem MRX710 was a few years ago at the Bristol show, and it was the best musical demo I heard all day, and it was an AV receiver.  It shows it is possible to have your cake and eat it, as CNO's comment indicates too.

I do like the marantz. Does everything I needed at its time of purchase. Which was to be good at both movies and music at a decent price. I never had room for a music setup at that time.

And I do watch a lot of YouTube music too, so it still has its role with music. But not as much as before.

Iam sure the anthem is a certain step up from the marantz in sound quality. And also has superior room correction too. But they are too expensive where I live. Way over priced. I could have bought 2 marantz's in lieu of the anthem :)

I plan to keep the marantz going as long as it lasts. And when time comes for a change, I would like to go for something spectacular with movies, and ballsy sounding :)
 

Leeps

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newlash09 said:
I do like the marantz. Does everything I needed at its time of purchase. Which was to be good at both movies and music at a decent price. I never had room for a music setup at that time.

And I do watch a lot of YouTube music too, so it still has its role with music. But not as much as before.

There are some excellent YouTube channels for music and some of them sound pretty good. One of my favourites is NPR Tiny Desk concerts. They have anenormous variety of world, jazz, acoustic and even some very well-known artists.

newlash09 said:
Iam sure the anthem is a certain step up from the marantz in sound quality. And also has superior room correction too. But they are too expensive where I live. Way over priced. I could have bought 2 marantz's in lieu of the anthem :)

I plan to keep the marantz going as long as it lasts. And when time comes for a change, I would like to go for something spectacular with movies, and ballsy sounding :)

The Anthem was too expensive for me too which is why I bought a used MRX710 rather than an HDCP2.2/4K MRX520 or 720. The weak pound hasn't helped either, so new prices are crazy. But I'm not too fussed about 4K sources and if I ever do take that step I can just get a twin-HDMI output Bluray. For me sound is more important than vision. But I'm really content with the Anthem and have no wish to upgrade. I'll keep it until it breaks and just enjoy the music.

But tonally, the Anthem a little smoother and sweeter at the top end than Pioneer; rather as you describe the Marantz vs Yamaha. The Pioneer was definitely more bombastic, but for a one-box solution for music and movies the Anthem strikes a better balance. Although for what was originally a much cheaper machine, the Pioneer has been a really good bit of kit.

But it's good you're as pleased as you are with the Marantz for music too. I think AVR's can make really good all-rounders, and some are certainly more musical than many would admit. Although I have a separate stereo amp in the bedroom and love it for what it is, the room correction and option to engage the sub or not for different sources I think makes many AVR's more flexible than straight integrated amps, but they can be trickier to set-up and therefore have the potential to sound bad if schoolboy errors are made with the set-up, like setting speakers to 'large' even when you have a sub. Certainly the Anthem was much more complex than the Pioneer to set-up, but the extra effort pays dividends.
 

Samd

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Mar 6, 2013
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Leeps said:
newlash09 said:
I do like the marantz. Does everything I needed at its time of purchase. Which was to be good at both movies and music at a decent price. I never had room for a music setup at that time.

And I do watch a lot of YouTube music too, so it still has its role with music. But not as much as before.

There are some excellent YouTube channels for music and some of them sound pretty good. One of my favourites is NPR Tiny Desk concerts. They have anenormous variety of world, jazz, acoustic and even some very well-known artists.

newlash09 said:
Iam sure the anthem is a certain step up from the marantz in sound quality. And also has superior room correction too. But they are too expensive where I live. Way over priced. I could have bought 2 marantz's in lieu of the anthem :)

I plan to keep the marantz going as long as it lasts. And when time comes for a change, I would like to go for something spectacular with movies, and ballsy sounding :)

Although I have a separate stereo amp in the bedroom and love it for what it is, the room correction and option to engage the sub or not for different sources I think makes many AVR's more flexible than straight integrated amps

Indeed but if only that were combined with an option to have different startup volumes for those different sources!
 

Tonestar1

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I've been catching up on some work for the past five hours listening to spotify on pure direct mode. It sounds great to my cloth ears. Not to harsh, just the right level of warmth. The crash bang movie perfomance is completely smoothed out. I'm more than happy with my releatively modest purchase. Will pre out to my old Technics SU909 and see if it make a difference but i'm not feeling there is anything lacking at the moment.
 

newlash09

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Fully agree leeps. AVR's are excellent all rounders. And are enough for music too if paired with the right speakers.

In my limited experimentation in my room. I tried the marantz with 3 floor standers- PMC, QA concept 40 and audipro FS2. It sounded decent but nothing great. The sound was not in the same league as compared to the parasound halo integrated.

But when I put the qacoustics q7000i setup with the marantz, it sounds right up there with the best I get from my stereo setup. The scale is slightly smaller, but the beauty is still intact.

Thus I believe that if someone needs to run floor standers, they might be better off with a stereo amp with more power and better control. Especially for floor standers with 4 ohm ratings , or 3 way cross overs.

But if using smaller speakers, especially a satellite + sub package, where the powered sub does the heavy lifting of the power hungry bass freqeuncies. Then I would always suggest a AVR . The added room correction and the available features are the icing on the top.
 

Leeps

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newlash09 said:
Fully agree leeps. AVR's are excellent all rounders. And are enough for music too if paired with the right speakers.

In my limited experimentation in my room. I tried the marantz with 3 floor standers- PMC, QA concept 40 and audipro FS2. It sounded decent but nothing great. The sound was not in the same league as compared to the parasound halo integrated.

But when I put the qacoustics q7000i setup with the marantz, it sounds right up there with the best I get from my stereo setup. The scale is slightly smaller, but the beauty is still intact.

Thus I believe that if someone needs to run floor standers, they might be better off with a stereo amp with more power and better control. Especially for floor standers with 4 ohm ratings , or 3 way cross overs.

But if using smaller speakers, especially a satellite + sub package, where the powered sub does the heavy lifting of the power hungry bass freqeuncies. Then I would always suggest a AVR . The added room correction and the available features are the icing on the top.

Yes, I'd second that. My Pioneer didn't really have the current to control the bass in my floorstanders, particularly in my acoustically problematic room. I'd only use them in straight 2.0 when I was playing anything acoustic or vocal-heavy. If there was a hint of bass in the track then I tended to employ the 80hz crossover and sub, which was fine, but admittedly not the last word in resolution and timing. But even compared with the Anthem, the Pioneer's midrange was first class. Vocals have always sounded wonderful through it, definitely its strong point.

But with the Anthem, not only is there enough current, but the room correction has sorted out the room's bass nodes anyway, so I now have the freedom to use my floorstanders in straight 2.0, which I do most of the time now.

Like you say, it's about speaker and amp matching: much consideration is given amp and speaker matching with stereo amps and the same care needs to be given AV receivers.
 

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