While Anthem is best known for their AV receivers and amplifiers, they also build dedicated preamp/processor units that have all the features we have come to expect as enthusiasts. The most recent of these to hit the market and strike my fancy is the AVM 60. Anthem launched this unit nearly 4 years ago, and has continued to update the units software and feature set, including a recent overhaul of Anthem Room Correction, their very well regarded automatic room correction software that has been branded ARC Genesis. As a room correction and sound quality nut, I was eager to compare ARC Genesis to Dirac Live in my home theater. I reached out to Paradigm/Anthem and requested a review unit, which arrived a month or so later.
You’d be hard pressed to find a home theater enthusiast who will say bad things about Anthem, Paradigm’s internal amplification and electronics division, and for good reason. Anthem equipment is regarded as some of the highest quality products on the market, and often comes at a much more reasonable price than other statement brands who focus on the luxury market.
Design & Packaging
Like most AV processors these days, the AVM 60 ships in a high quality corrugated cardboard box and uses high density closed cell foam to cushion the unit, which is also wrapped in thick plastic. Upon removing the packaging material, the AVM 60 is rather unassuming at first glace, lacking some of the industrial design panache that luxury brands charge you so much extra for. The design does feature the stylized face plate Anthem has become known for, with the extreme edges raised up in a gently curving fin.
The display is a monochrome LCD, and the buttons and volume knob are all very standard fare for AV processors or receivers these days, and not worth much more discussion.
On the rear of the unit, the connectivity options are abundant and extremely well laid out with plenty of room to spare. The connectivity options include 7 HDMI 2.0a inputs, and 2 outputs, with the primary supporting ARC (Audio Return Channel). The AVM 60 offers 11.2 channels of XLR and RCA connectivity on the rear for your amplifiers and subs, and also features 5 channels of analog audio inputs in stereo RCA form, 3 optical audio inputs, 2 coaxial inputs, and one optical output. From a control perspective, the AVM 60 offers IP control over Ethernet in addition to an RS-232 port that should be compatible with any control solution on the market, and has a single 12V trigger, which is disappointing as the real estate exists for more.
The AVM60 has dual wireless antenna connections for those who don’t have ethernet nearby, and an ethernet port for those who do.
The list of features that the Anthem AVM60 offers, similar to the AudioControl Maestro M5 I recently reviewed is impressive and lengthy. On the video side, the AVM 60 supports 4K Ultra HD via HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2, while on the HDR side supporting Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG as well as the BT.2020 color space. On the audio side, the AVM 60 ships with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support (up to 12 channels), and ships with their newly released ARC Genesis room correction software, including a microphone to perform measurements.
The built in OSD of the AVM 60 is relatively basic when compared to consumer brands, but gets the job done and won’t be visible much of the time, though just like my last review, I do wish Anthem had invested in a slightly more beautiful UI and a web interface, which is notably missing in comparison to more feature filled competitors like the Marantz AV8805.
The technical specs of the AVM 60 are impressive, and listed below:
Installation & Calibration
After the usual curse word ridden process or removing my old pre-pro and putting the AVM 60 in place, I was eager to give ARC Genesis a try. Anthem claims that they have rewritten ARC’s software from the ground up to enable features such as new target curve adjustment options that extend to the deep bass and high frequency regions. They’ve also added the ability to save, stop, start and resume measurements and importantly for those who frequently upgrade, remeasure individual speakers.
The user interface of ARC Genesis is brand new, and vastly superior to the legacy ARC v1 software, and the improvements aren’t just cosmetic. Anthem has improved the room correction algorithms themselves, which enables new features like setting maximum correction frequencies for each set of speakers.
This is a huge piece of news for our industry, where the near ubiquitous Audyssey room correction has largely languished, while new competitors like Dirac have taken center stage. ARC Genesis can be downloaded from Anthem’s website, and installs on PC or Mac very quickly.
The Review System
My system was recently upgraded to Dolby Atmos just prior to this review, and consists of the following equipment:
Front Left & Right Channels: Legacy Audio Focus SE
Center: Legacy Audio Marquis HD
Left and Right Surrounds: Legacy Audio Silhouette Pro
Left and Right Surround Back: Legacy Audio Phantom HD
Atmos (x4): KEF CI200RR-THX in-ceiling speakers
Subwoofers: Seaton Sound Submersive HP+ and Submersive F2+
Amps: D-Sonic M3a-6100-7 (bed channels) and M3a-2800-7 (Atmos)
Display: Sony VPL-VW675ES 4K Projector
Listening & Viewing Impressions
I began my evaluation of the AVM60 with my favorite lossless audio tracks, among them the late Chris Jones’ No Sanctuary Here, Birds of Paradise album Flight Patterns, and a wide selection of acoustic tracks. From the outset it was clear the ARC Genesis is a greatly advanced calibration solution to previous generations which in my opinion never quite matched Audyssey XT32. The AVM 60’s implementation of ARC seamlessly integrated my mains and subs, ultimately yielding an impressive and focused stereo image than I found matched up to my AudioControl Maestro M5 very favorably.
Since ARC Genesis allows for customized correction, I intentionally left the higher frequencies alone which to me left more air and detail in the music. The stereo pans in Flight Patterns are extremely precise and these were flawlessly executed by the AVM 60, a task many lesser room correction systems fail at.
I moved on from music listening to Dolby Atmos encoded content, starting with one of my favorites, the Amaze demo. The amaze demo features some incredibly deep and tight bass, as I commented in my review of the AudioControl Maestro M5:
I started my review by playing a few Dolby Atmos demo loops from my NAS via the HTPC, which supports Atmos in Kodi. Upon starting the Amaze demo, I immediately noticed a a sense of low end heft and tightness to the bass that was absent with my Audyssey XT32 calibrated Marantz AV8802A. I noticed that some muddiness around 60Hz that I have had a very hard time taming despite room treatments was significantly improved. On the top end, I noticed that the amount of air and space in the sound was about the same as my Marantz, though the mid-range was slightly more recessed. I pulled my laptop back out and made a couple of tweaks to the target curve, removing some cuts in the mid-range area and re-loaded my target curves to the M5 and tweaked levels.
I restarted the Amaze demo and was greeted by the same low-end heft, but now the mid-range was much more like I was used to, open and clear, well balanced with the rest of the audio presentation. Now that the mid-range had been corrected, I also noticed that the sense of space in the mix, especially the depth of the soundstage was significantly improved. Positional queues such as raindrops overhead were now more localized and sounded less like a recording and more like the real thing, with more natural timbre and placement.
With the AVM60 I felt like these comments were still true, though the Dirac calibration was clearly emphasizing bass a bit more than the ARC Genesis, a difference of about 1.5 or 2 dB to my ears. Upon tweaking the settings in the ARC software, I was able to find a happy medium that I believe ultimately yielded even tighter bass than the Dirac Live calibration had while being slightly more balanced with the higher frequencies.
I moved on from the Amaze demo to the Leaf demo, which showed off excellent spatial rendering and then watched a few movies in the theater over the course of the following weeks, among them Avengers: Endgame and Spiderman: Homecoming which are both challenging films for a sound system to reproduce with a lot of extremely deep LFE activity and busy surround channels. Watching films on the AVM 60 was a joy, with flawless playback and nary a handshake issue in sight. In fact, input switching and power-in were superior to every processor I’d tried other than the Maestro M5, which speaks very well of the AVM 60 and its price point.
My last review of an Anthem processor was positive, but somewhat less enthusiastic due to the high cost of the unit and what I felt like was a very dated UI and calibration system. Anthem’s AVM 60 has solved all of these problems and then some. First, Anthem offers the AVM 60 at a very reasonable price of $2999, and has updated their ARC platform to ARC Genesis, a product that punches at the same tier as Dirac Live in every respect. Finally, the UI and menu system has been overhauled to be modern, if not cutting edge.
Visually and sonically, there is nothing to complain about with this beast of a processor that seems to do everything you ask it to do perfectly. Anthem has a real hit on their hands with the AVM 60, particularly now that ARC Genesis is available for public consumption. If you’re on the market for a new processor for your system, I enthusiastically recommend giving the AVM 60 a hard look. It’s competitive with the best Marantz has to offer price wise, and while it may lack a few bells and whistles on the integration side, it offers a vastly superior calibration solution, while being significantly more affordable than my own AudioControl Maestro M5 without any real differences between the two other than the choice of Dirac Live or ARC Genesis. For the pure play audio and video processor market and those who aren’t concerned with integrations with every streaming service on earth, you would be hard pressed to do better than the Anthem AVM 60 right now. Highly Recommended.