Originally Posted by asur1
You got the crux of my question, namely, which pair sounds better, the MRX internal D/A to its preamp-amp, or the Oppo D/A to some int. amp via XLR. I have no idea how much you'd lose over the XLR lines vs whatever you lose in the MRX. But if ARC dominates D/A considerations, the diff is moot.
Let's look at the actual potential causes of sonic differences here.
Noise. XLR are "better" than unbalanced RCA. They are better because they reject noise better than unbalanced RCA connectors. In most domestic systems cable-induced noise is not an issue, though in some it is. However, a digital connection is generally going to be equally noise-free. So in this case, I'd call the type of I/O a wash.
ARC: Point MRX, no discussion needed.
Bass management: See "ARC," supra.
Power: The MRX amps are perfectly competent to power most systems, but aren't anything special. The 225 is in a different league power-wise, and can play full-throttle for much longer because they have a lot more heat sinking. Rated like an AVR (including Anthem's) it would likely be called a ~325W unit, rather than 225W continuous with 1.5dB headroom. That said, when playing music even at deafening levels, amps rarely run full throttle for more than a few bursts.) If you use very inefficient or hard-to-drive speakers, the 225 is a better choice. The Anthem 225 is the most impressive integrated I've ever seen. It's certainly ballsier than the Classe one I have in a different home. If they upgrade their next-gen unit to have bass management and room correction like the Harman/Kardon 990,
I'll buy one for my bedroom.
Phono input: Point 225, no discussion needed.
On balance, to me that points to the MRX as being the better-sounding solution. Though if you don't use ARC or bass management then the 225 is better because it has easily .
By contrast, the DACs will not sound absolutely identical, and in both cases you only have one stage of conversion. (No A/D/A loops.) Both Oppo and Anthem have excellent modern designs, and competently execute them. DACs just aren't a source of sonic variation in modern equipment. (Well, except for some "high end" gear that is incompetently designed, poorly built, or shipped out with inadequate quality-control screening. Anthem may occasionally have some QC issues - my first MRX 300 shipped to me with a dead video something - but their gear is all competently designed for low noise, low distortion, and flat frequency response.)
Originally Posted by asur1
So, if one were to judge by the introduction of that pair, AudioControl seems to be making a case for XLR producing a better sound--else why would they compete with their own AVR-4?
That is more likely than not the incorrect inference. AudioControl (another company known for its solid design and general lack of BS) probably did it just because they could capture more sales by having separates, as opposed to an AVR. And make higher margins on the separates than an AVR. And get audiophool goodwill by having the expected "high end" parts. (Many functionally deaf people wouldn't be caught dead under any circumstances with a lowly AVR instead of multiple separate boxes doing the exact same thing with the exact same fidelity to the source material; they seem to think it will lead to a revocation of their man-card or something.)