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Anthem AVM 50v 3D Processor ReviewZtagtest Hardware
Anthem AVM 50v 3D Processor Review
Anthem AV – a sister company of Paradigm is well known for their high-end AV receivers, amplifiers and processors. Having not reviewed a high-end dedicated AV processor solution in the recent past, I was eager to see what the $6,499 MSRP AVM 50v 3D could do. Despite not being a major player in the mainstream A/V receiver market Anthem has a reputation for quality and innovation. Their ARC (Anthem Room Correction) technology gets rave reviews from many enthusiasts who own their products and is often touted as a viable alternative to Audyssey.
The AVM 50v 3D is actually a refresh of Anthem’s AVM 50v – their first iteration of the model with HDMI 1.3 and ARC. The 3D version adds HDMI 1.4 and 3D support, in addition to several firmware enhancements. Existing owners of the AVM 50v can have their unit upgraded at the dealer, where the HDMI mezzanine board can be replaced.
Features & Ergonomics
In a processor costing this much, you expect a lot in the way of connectivity; in the case of the AVM 50v 3D, Anthem delivers. It’s hard to imagine a rear panel any more densely packed than this one. With 8 HDMI inputs, 2 HDMI outputs, XLR and RCA pre-outs, in addition to all the S-Video, Composite and Component video inputs you could ever need – the AVM 50v 3D is a well-equipped unit.
Packaging, Fit & Finish
The AVM 50v 3D arrived in a very dense double box and was totally encased in closed cell foam. The box included the processor itself, a manual, a power cord, the remote and a kit containing software, a boom stand and microphone for ARC.
The AVM 50v 3D itself is good looking unit. Offered in standard black and silver, the unit features a brushed aluminum faceplate full of inset silver buttons with a rotary volume knob to the right of the LCD display. The overall appearance of this product is more aggressive than most processors, though somewhat less avant-garde than products from competitors like Classė.
specs-pdf.pdf 399.16KB 297
The basic initial setup of the Anthem was a breeze, simply swapping all connections 1:1 was a relative snap and didn’t take more than 5 minutes. Following that step and powering the unit on, I was greeted with a somewhat more challenging task. The menu system on the Anthem is extremely granular and looks deceptively “old school” – you’ll see a bright blue background and white blocky text reminiscent of a 1985 VCR. Next to the modern AVR’s and pre-pro’s from the big manufacturers, the menu system on the Anthem is downright sad - but that doesn’t mean it lacks functionality.
The Anthem allows up to four sources to be run by a single input – also allowing a single source to be up to four different components. It also has the ability to assign different settings for each. An example could be “CD” using HDMI 1 from your Oppo player with all audio processing on the Anthem. You could also assign HDMI 1 to DVD and use analog audio outputs instead of HDMI audio. The options here are almost endless – and I think something custom installers and picky consumers alike will enjoy thoroughly.
After reading the sizeable manual (a step not to be skipped lightly!) and spending a few minutes assigning inputs and settings as desired – it was time to run ARC.
Listening Impressions – Music and Movies
I started my listening session with a favorite track of mine – Sophie Millman’s Prelude to a Kiss. This is a rich, warm song with Millman’s husky voice front and center capturing the listener’s attention. As the opening bars played back, I was struck almost immediately by the perfection with which Sophie’s voice filled the room without distinctly coming from a single location. Likewise, the string bass – an instrument I often struggle to reproduce perfectly in my room, was dead on. There is a certain natural decay and fullness to a string bass that poor subwoofer integration almost always damages. In my system – ARC was able to get a near perfect presentation with clean integration between the mains and the sub
Following my quality time with Sophie, I moved on to some other genres. I started things off with Bonobo’s Black Sands, where I enjoyed the track Kiara, which is a great test of forward or aggressive highs, as it will quickly fatigue me. With the Anthem in place, the top end sounded just a little less emphasized than I am used to on my Onkyo, resulting in a very enjoyable and ultimately less fatiguing listening experience while giving up none of the bass “oomph” I so enjoy on this album.
I spent the remainder of my critical music listening session in a whirlwind tour through some eclectic playlists I keep on hand for reviewing. I started out with Klaatu’s Little Neutrino, progressed through Bela Fleck and the Flecktones’ 2011 album Rocket Science, before moving on to Yo-Yo Ma’s Appasionato and finishing with Super Colossal by Joe Satriani.
Through a real mixture of genres, artists and recording styles – I was thoroughly impressed with the audio quality of the Anthem AVM 50v 3D. If it can have its sonic signature described, it is natural, uncolored and true to the source. ARC does a tremendous job of enabling the disparate elements of an audio system to work synergistically with one another, and in many ways bettered Audyssey when it came to subwoofer integration.
Viewing Impressions – Blu-ray & HDTV
Anthem is well known for their superior attention to detail when it comes to video, and I was not disappointed when I swapped my Onkyo for the AVM 50v 3D. Utilizing the latest Sigma VXP processor, the AVM 50V 3D does a tremendous job upscaling SD content as well as allowing the ultimate level of control. Sources can have their video settings adjusted independently while utilizing a slew of features such as adjustable cropping, chroma bug filtering, frame locking, gamma correction, digital noise reduction or detail enhancement.
While I didn’t need to use any of the “gravy” video processing features in my case, I was thoroughly impressed by the sharpness of the image and consistent upscaling quality on interlaced and SD content. Color reproduction was flawless – and perhaps superior to my usual setup. When I removed the Anthem from my system at the conclusion of the review period, both my wife and I thought something was wrong with the video signal – a testament to the clean signal that this device is able to propagate to your display.
Caveat – it’s a dirty word to most manufacturers, something they certainly don’t want to see on a review of their product. Fortunately – my experience with Paradigm/Anthem has been that they very honestly appreciate feedback, and unlike some in this industry, take no offense when a legitimate complaint or problem is found.
In the case of the AVM 50v 3D – there was only a single technical caveat as it were, but it was a fairly substantial one in terms of annoyance. Occasionally, and without warning when switching inputs, I would find the Anthem making a pulsating digital hum. After a great deal of testing and frustration, I determined that the problem wasn’t the usual transient issue that rebooting the source in question or removing and reinserting HDMI cables clears up. The only way to solve this problem somewhat consistently was to reboot the Anthem itself. This wasn’t always successful, but it did resolve the problem 90% of the time.
While it’s typical to alert the manufacturer to an issue like this immediately, I chose to complete the review without bringing this to Anthem’s attention. In part – because I believe a buyer could go through the same experience. When a processor of this caliber is purchased, the buyer has the full backing of the dealer and manufacturer if a problem is encountered, and I do believe that this would have been resolved in the course of normal troubleshooting and support.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor complaint about an otherwise stellar piece of equipment, yet I still feel it deserves mentioning in the review due to the tier at which this product competes. Any processor that retails for over $6000 should not have HDMI handshake issues at this point in HDMI’s lifecycle, irrespective of firmware updates or other devices in the chain. Over the past two years I have had many processors in my system with identical peripherals and the Anthem was my first taste of persistent and annoying handshake issues. Is this something Anthem could have fixed? Absolutely. Should a product that costs $6499 even make it out the door without this being discovered? I don’t believe it should when you’re paying this much.
The Anthem AVM 50v 3D is a sonic and visual wonder. There is no question that it sounds clearer and cleaner than anything I’ve had in my system, and that the video performance is second to none. Anthem Room Correction is a truly remarkable room correction technology that enhances the performance of an audio system drastically. This is the first competitor to Audyssey MultiEQ XT/XT32 I have encountered that matches and perhaps outdoes it. The sheer flexibility of this device in terms of options, signal routing and “tweakability” is staggering and likewise deserves notice. On the downside, the OSD menus look dated, ergonomically the Anthem remote and interface is clearly inferior to its mainstream competition, and perhaps most importantly - this is an incredibly expensive piece of equipment.
Value is a hard thing to quantify in the high end market, as a product like this clearly faces the same issue of diminishing returns other flagship products do. As incredibly well as this unit performs, I have a verydifficult time calling it a good value. With the AVM 50v 3D priced more competitively at $4000, I would not hesitate to praise its value proposition. At its current MSRP of $6499, the AVM 50v 3D is in this reviewer's opinion - overpriced.
Is the Anthem AVM 50V 3D perfect? No, and I doubt that any product truly is. If your demand in a processor is for benchmark audio and video performance, a level of control and configuration that you cannot get in consumer class gear, and bulletproof build quality, I think this product is about as close as you’ll get. For a price.
Reviewed by: Dave Upton