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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Anthem AVM 20 DD, dts, THX EX, 7.1 pre amp pre processor


11 days later. No change in the following opinion.


I made better speaker cables and bought better main interconnects. My listening room seems to have innately good acoustic properties. But, I did put some foam in the corners and cushions on the hardwood between the speakers (no wife). These tweaks have improved the sound quality.


Cost List C$ 4,400 to 4,500 (USD$ 3,100) -- Street about C$ 4,000 – 4,100


Caveat: As you can easily discern, I am very pleased with the AVM 20 :D . I am not an acoustic engineer and this is my first review. I should have more negative things to say about it. Maybe, gremlins will surface in time. If so, I will update this review.


Equipment:

DVD/CD transport: Sony DVP S570D with digital coax into AVM 20

Amps/speakers: Classe CA 101 (2 x 100 w) bi-wired into Paradigm Studio 60s, Bryston 5B ST (3 x 120 w) into Paradigm Studio CC center channel and Studio ADP bipolar surrounds, Paradigm PW 2200 (12" 250 w) sub-woofer, Denon 3200 (85 w) into Angstrom Omega 5 rears, Acoustic Research inter-connects, DIY cross connected dual coax speaker cables (Jon Risch recipe from audio asylum).


HT

Material: The flamenco and car chase scenes from MI 2, opening battle and first arena scene from Gladiator, opening battle from Saving Private Ryan, The Phantom Menace, Hell Freezes Over, Roy Orbison Black and White, depth charge sequence from U 571, helicopter rescue from Matrix, 5th element (dts), and some others.


This unit is as good as anything I have heard at the shops and a recent show in Toronto (Integra RDC 7; Bryston SP1, Meridian – granted I did not hear some of these under ideal conditions). It has most or all of the features of these high priced units and great sound. In Canada, there is no price/performance competition for this unit. The Integra is C$ 6,000, The Meridian is C$ 8 or 10 large. The Classe 25 is about the same price as the AVM 20 ($C 4,000), matches its acoustics, but is 5.1 with no upgrade ability.


The acoustics are terrific. Little details like the pebbles crunching under Max's sandals before the battle comes through very well. Explosions, gunshots and transient sounds are also handled very well. It shines with dialog it comes through with the soundtrack. There seems to be seemless integration of sound among the speakers. The overall effect is one of intimacy with a good sound track. You are right in the action.


The THX EX seems to work well in extracting material from the surrounds in 5.1 mode. The bullets were thwacking all around me in Saving Private Ryan. When there is good material in the surrounds, the rear channels make a big difference. The EX implementation on the AVM 20 seems to be good, but I have nothing to compare it with.


Stereo

Material: Wilson audio reference disk; Diana Krall – The look of love - Verve, When I look in your eyes - Verve; Allison Kraus – Forget about it - Rounder; Kathleen Battle - French opera arias – Deutche Grammophone; Jane Monheit - Dream with me - Warlock; Dexter Gordon – Go – RVG Collection Blue Note; Bennie Wallace - Someone to watch over me - enja; Othmer Libert - Nouveau Flemenco - Higher Octave Music; Carol Rosenberger - Beethoven piano sonata op 57 - MIT, and many more.


This pre pro is a great stereo preamp and DAC. The sound is soooo good. The speakers disappear into a wide, 3 dimensional sound stage. Imaging is very good with instruments and vocals very well localized. Diana was right in my living room (I wish). High notes are smooth with no ragged edges. My audiophile friend says there was absolutely no grain. The details (little tinkles, brush strokes on the hat, the finger plucking the guitar string) stand out without overshadowing the music. DPL II is going to have to be really good for me to use it for stereo. Bass management allows you to use the subwoofer in stereo even with the main speakers set to large. I had been using a Bryston .5B pre amp with an M-audio outboard DAC (AKM 24/96 DACs; this little DAC is a great value. It is pro-audio gear at about $200, if it was audiophile gear it would be $800). The AVM 20 is better, the sound is more transparent and the soundstage is larger and more intimate.


It has the full array of ins, outs and features expected of a high end pre-pro. The specs, manual, and other stuff are on the web page: www.sonicfrontiers.com


A few noteworthy features are: group delay that allows syncing of the sound and picture, variable crossover in 10 dB increments; ability to direct bass from mains to sub, even when mains set to large; all inputs can individually be set to digital, analogue with DSP, or analogue direct pass through; all settings can be made from the unit’s control and display without use of TV or remote; balanced outputs; 100 mHz video path; the unit probably is as large as it is, so they could fit all of the inputs and out puts on the back. 24/192 AKM DACs on all 7.1 channels. More digital inputs than you could ever need. , 2 component in, 1 out, 7 SVHS in 5 out. 5.1 analogue pass through for DVD-A and SACD. There is a propriatary 7.1 DSP mode for stereo movies. Upgradable via the internet through a serial port on the back and board replacement. It is a heavy solid, well built piece of gear.


Weaknesses

- Acoustics – none.

- All speakers are crossed over at the same frequency (the Outlaw is going to let you set frequencies for each speaker)

- the remote is pretty bad (it makes you want to rush out and get a Pronto),

-and ya ya, I know, it does not have dts ES, or DPLII yet, even though every receiver over $200 has both. I would rather have this unit now and get the upgrade later, than wait for Motorola to finish programming the chip.


If you audition it, make sure it is hooked up to good amps and speakers. I heard it with the Anthem MCA series II (5 x 200w) amp and have auditioned the MCA 2 (2x 200w) amp with a high end pre amp and CD player. The current Anthem MCA amps are very good value for the money, but are not in the same league as the AVM 20 and will not show the best of its acoustic abilities.



Now I just need a better CD transport and ... well it never ends .
 

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The Sonic Frontiers site is down right now. How many component inputs and outputs does the AVM-20 have?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
2 Conponent video ins and 1 out


It has a propiatary 7.1 cinema mode for stereo movies. It also has THX EX which provides 7.1 from a 5.1 sound track. The sound going to the rears is not precisly the same sound that goes to the surrounds. THX EX extracts material from the surrounds and sends it to the rears. It works fine when there is good surround material. Saving Pivate Ryan, is 5.1, but some of the bullets thwacked behind me from the rear speakers. I think that it gives a more surround type of effect.
 

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Thanks for the review. I am hoping to get allot more of them before I make my decision. I sort of want to wait and see how the Outlaw 950 will do.
 

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My local B&M has this unit.


I plan to get the Outlaw 950 and take it by there to compare the two. They are also anxious to hear how the Anthem stacks up against the Outlaw unit.


-- Cain
 

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DenisT,

Thanks for the Anthem review. Do you have anything else to compare it to other than what you mentioned?

How does the analog output from your CD (DVD) player compare to the (digital in) digital processing (in stereo) on the Anthem? Tried that yet just to hear the diff. in DACs?


Cain,


PLEASE do that Outlaw/Anthem shootout! I'd love to hear about it! I'll probably get a 950 just 'cuz I can't afford anything else (unless it's something used)!


Everybody seems to already have an opinion on the Outlaw 950 before it's even out ("Gonna blow away the highly marked up pre/pros from Meridian, Lexicon etc...!" or "Great for 'cheap budget' but won't compare to a 'real' audiophile pre/pros like Meridian, Lexicon, etc...!")


From Outlaw's latest news -the features for sure hold up to the 'big boys', and they say the general performance specs will also match up to the typical modern pre/pro range of super high quality.


But how it sounds it the trick right?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The sound from the Anthem using digital input and all processing and DACs on the Anthem is very much better than analog out from my Sony DVD player and Denon 615 CD.


It is produces beter sound than my $250 M-audio DAC, which I had been using and is a very good unit as I said above. An audiophile friend is now using it as an outboard DAC for an older Meridian CD. The difference between the AVM 20 and the M-audio is small but noticable - more detail richer sound!. They are both very good and use AKM DAC's (24/192 for the AVM and 24/96 for the M-audio). You need to listen to the M-audio unit to know how good $250 can sound.


If the Outlaw matches the AVM's acoutics, I'll screem. I was too impatient to wait for it.
 
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