I was able to borrow an Anthem MCA5 from a local store last night and demo it on a friends high end system.
Krell 20i(?) CD player, Krell A/V Standard (as preamp), B&W 801 Nautilus speakers.
We switched between the Anthem and a Bryston 4b as the power amp. Balanced (XLR) connections were used.
The Anthem XLR connectors do not "click" in like the Bryston. This isn't a big deal, but it does set it apart from most other balanced equipment I've seen. No where in the Anthem documentation could I find out if the RCA connectors are gold plated, but they are gold in colour.
Before last night, I was firmly of the belief that I would be hard pressed to hear much difference between these two amplifiers. Was I ever wrong.
We listened to the Anthem first. It sounded a little understated at the start, but as the amp warmed up a little it "filled out" in sound. I found it very "immediate" sounding. It seemed to emphasize the high end a little. Possibly you could argue it lacked a little bass punch.
The Bryston on the other hand was a lot quieter, we had to turn the pre-amp up about 8db to match the sound level of the Anthem. The Bryston sounded very laid back. The instruments were more detailed. I found that the bass was a little tubby (in comparison). The sound staging was quite wide, but not very deep. The Anthem was deep but not wide in its sound stage.
Overall, I'm not as 'sold' on the Bryston sound as I was previously. I did really enjoy the Anthem, but was a little surprised to find that it sounded so different from the Bryston. The Bryston made it easier to pick out individual elements in the song, but the Anthem tended to pack more "feeling" into the music.
At home I checked it quickly against my reciever. I used the RCA inputs, and switched between using my reciever as the amp/pre-amp and as the pre-amp only. The Anthem adds a lot to my system.
Honestly the Bryston isn't an option at this point based on price. The ATI 1505 may still be a contender, but the Anthem is available in a 2 and 3 channel version which is much more appealing to me -- especially if I can get my dealer to drop the price a little to make it irresistable http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif
Does anyone have the slew rate for the ATI? Apparently the difference in sound stage "width" between the Bryston and the Anthem was due to a 3x difference in slew rate.
Both of my friends who gave a hand with the listening test were both impressed with the performance/price of the Anthem. They commented that it was quite "musical". My friend who owns all the Krell stuff commented that it was "no bad at all", high praise indeed.