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Hardware Review Anthem Statement A5 Multi-Channel Amplifier Review

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Dave Upton, Apr 14, 2015.

  1. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    Anthem Statement A5 Multi-Channel Amplifier Review
    [​IMG]


    As a firm believer in the importance of amplification in my home theater, I am always eager to hear the effect a change in amplification can have on the performance of my system. For the past few years, my daily driver speakers have been Paradigm Studio 100 v.5’s, powered by a Wyred4Sound MiniMC-7. The MMC-7 is a great class D amplifier, but that doesn’t mean I’m married to it either.

    Anthem is Paradigm’s sister company, and has a sterling reputation in the AV community for building truly amazing products. Since the amps and speakers are designed by the same folks and are often used for demonstrations together by the manufacturer, I’ve always wanted to front my entire system with Anthem amplification.

    Fast forward a few weeks, and Anthem’s Statement A5 has arrived on my doorstep. With an MSRP of $3999 and weighing a substantial 57lb (26kg), I knew this was a serious piece of engineering. Inside two very thick double boxes, the A5 shows the aluminum fins and design elements one would expect to see in an amplifier like this. Elements that may purely be for show, but are expected none the less. No different than a Ferrari buyer expecting class leading design in their car, Anthem products are a statement level piece, and they are designed to look like it on the rack. The anodized black finish of the A5 along with the flaring front baffle looks seriously badass. Sporting nothing on the front but a simple silkscreened Anthem logo, 5 blue LED’s, one for each channel of amplification and a power button next to its LED.

    Even the back of the A5 is elegantly minimalist, with high quality binding posts positioned below the standard balanced and unbalanced inputs. The left side has a 12 volt trigger input and output, a selector switch for power-on modes, and a plug for the power cable.

    [​IMG]

    This is minimalism done right, and I love it. The A5’s venting on top is well conceived and after running for 8 hours on my burn in bench, is only moderately warm to the touch. Impressive, considering this is a 250+W amp at 4 ohm impedance with all channels driven. See below for full power output specs:

    [​IMG]


    According to Paradigm’s spec sheet, the A5 can draw 1800Watts from the wall, and has a THD+N of 0.001% with an IMD (Intermodulation Distortion) or 0.0005%. On paper and at first glance, this amplifier is a beast. Let’s see how it sounds.

    The Sound

    I actually reviewed the A5 with 3 different sets of speakers. I began with my Paradigm Studio 100’s, moved on to Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L’s and finished with Power Sound Audio MT-110’s. The chance to evaluate this amp across so many speakers was actually a tremendous benefit in this review, since I was able to A/B it against my Wyred4Sound.

    Music Impressions

    Here are the impressions from the Definitive’s and the MT-110’s in spoiler form so you can expand if interested:

    Power Sound Audio MT-110:
    Immediately apparent was the ability of the MT-110’s to play really, really loud. Fed by an Anthem A5, ear splitting levels were achieved with absolute ease.

    [​IMG]



    I listened to a variety of my two-channel recordings including Mickey Hart’s Global Drum Project which remains one of my reference albums, Acoustic Alchemy’s Live in London, and to whole pile of others including B-Tribe’s Volume 5 and 6. On these more acoustic albums, the MT-110’s displayed a great ability to image, though commensurate with their price point did not live up to what I have heard from my Paradigm Studio 100’s or the Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L’s I just finished reviewing. When I switched genre’s to Metal and Rock, playing back albums like Satabon’s Carolus Rex or Pretty Maids’ Pandemonium the MT-110’s displayed a startling similarity to the sound you hear at loud venues – no doubt a result of the compression driver and high-efficiency woofer utilized. These speakers want to be turned up, loud!

    Switching gears to movie and TV watching, I gave the MT-110’s a run through with Guardians of the Galaxy, TRON, and the newTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is where the MT-110’s really began to shine. They are capable music reproducers, especially for the crowd that likes to listen loud; but they are fantastic for cinematic mixes that get aggressive and need dynamic range. Turning my system up to reference level, the MT-110’s didn’t break a sweat taking all the power I could give them with nary a complaint. Unless you are already deaf, I can safely say that with good amplification [like the Anthem A5] your ears will give out long before the MT-110’s hit their limit.


    Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L:

    After proper set up, the ST-L’s truly shone in 2-channel mode, offering some of the best imaging I’ve heard from a sub $10K speaker. I played through my standard demo list including B-Tribe’s Volume 5, Acoustic Alchemy’s The Very Best of Acoustic Alchemy, and several albums from Mickey Hart including Planet Drum and Supralingua. The combination of percussion elements and world music is a real sonic treat and gives any speaker a workout. Dave from Definitive Tech also commented on several occasions that he wanted to pick up these albums, since they sounded seriously amazing on the ST-L’s. The built in subwoofer outputs extremely tight and solid bass which is fantastic for 2 channel listening. Since the MTM and Sub portions of the speaker are in separate enclosures the mids and highs remained extremely delicate and controlled no matter how hard the sub was working, especially important for many of the tracks I use in my reviews.

    It bears mentioning again that these speakers image really well, portraying the artists wherever they are relative to the mic with pinpoint accuracy. While the level of holography isn’t quite up to the standard of a benchmark speaker like the Legacy Audio Focus SE, for less than half the price, it is truly astonishing how well the Mythos ST-L performs. The vocal in Sophie Milman’s In The Moonlight was rich, velvety and projected about 12 feet in front of the listener on center stage. On AIX Records Blu-ray release, the piano in Bryan Pezzone’s performance of Berceuse suffused the entire room just as one would expect from a close-mic recording.


    With both the Definitive Technology Mythos ST-L’s and the MT-110’s from Power Sound Audio, the Anthem A5 was able to bring out a level of performance that significantly exceeded what I heard with my MMC-7. Sad as I am to admit it, this is the first time in ages I have a true case of “upgradeitis” and my amplifier is the target.

    With my Paradigm Studio 100’s, the differences between the Anthem and the MMC-7 were more pronounced than I expected. There was a fullness and ease to the sound with the A5 that wasn’t there with the MMC-7. This wasn’t a change in tonality so much as a sense that the speakers had opened up and were finally displaying that last ten percent of performance. I ran through all my favorite demos, including Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum, and was amazed at the change in upper register percussion elements. While the attack of each instrument was no less apparent with the A5, the presentation was smoother, and sounded somehow more natural than with the MMC-7.

    I’ve heard folks before say that class D sounds “digital”, and while I have never agreed with that characterization, I can certainly say that the sound of the MMC-7 was for better or worse noticeably more clinical and less involving than that of the A5. Nuances that were equally apparent on both amps were more involving on the A5.

    I’ve actually racked my brain a fair bit for a way to explain these differences without resorting to typical audiophile vocabulary. So here is my best attempt to explain the sound of the A5. It is above all a natural and involving amp that produces a totally uncolored sound. At the same time, music played back from the A5 is involving and cohesive in a way that it just isn’t with the MMC-7. Fancy adjectives aside, the simple truth is that my ears preferred whatever the A5 was doing to what I heard with the MMC-7, something very few amps I have reviewed have done so convincingly.

    Home Theater Impressions

    Film mixes are obviously less geared towards critical listening than two channel, so the differences between the MMC-7 and A5 were less apparent on almost all the speakers in question, until I used the Power Sound Audio MT-110s. In that case the difference was very pronounced, especially at higher listening volumes. The MT-110s really opened up and had a lot more visceral impact with the A5 than the MMC-7, which surprised me given their similar total output specifications. Perhaps this goes back to the old adage that sometimes “watts aren’t created equal” and as many purists would argue, amplifier class matters.


    In the end, differences aside it is worth mentioning that the Anthem A5 is a truly bulletproof amplifier that handled home theater duty with complete composure, never once sounding strained nor sacrificing even the tiniest bit of detail and spaciousness in the sound across three different sets of speakers.


    Conclusion

    The last Anthem product I reviewed was fantastic. It outperformed the competition in both audio and video and had amazing features. I also criticized that product for its extremely high price of almost $8000 when the competition was much cheaper and not that much worse. We all realize at this point that there are diminishing returns on each dollar spent after a certain point, and I want to be clear that I don’t think everyone needs a $25,000 investment in AV.

    That said, amplifiers are the cornerstone of your entire system and once you go with separates, they are an investment you can enjoy for decades if you so choose. It is through that lens that one has to evaluate a product like the Anthem Statement A5. There’s no mistaking Anthem makes high dollar, bulletproof gear no matter what they are building. In the case of the Statement A5, Anthem has delivered a product that while expensive, is worth every penny. For anyone looking for a truly superb all around performer that can go toe to toe with the best two channel digital amps while still functioning as the foundation of a high SPL no-compromise home theater, the Anthem Statement A5 deserves to be right at the top of your short list. Highly Recommended.


    This post has been promoted to an article
     
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  2. vidiot33

    vidiot33 Stunt Coordinator

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    I have a 7.1 system, so spending 4 large and only getting amplification for 5 channels isn't a particularly good value for me, especially in my experience, amps driven within their proper operating limits, tend to sound very similar.
     
  3. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    Mark,


    That's a totally fair perspective. To my ears, the difference is not subtle. I view amps as one of the most worthwhile investments you can make, since they can be in your system for 10 years quite easily. My current W4S has been in mine for 5 years already. When you compare a 10 year investment of 4K on an amplifier to the cost of a receiver every 3 years to stay feature current, you are only spending a little bit more for a LOT more audio quality.
     
  4. vidiot33

    vidiot33 Stunt Coordinator

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    I see your point, but if you want the latest surround formats, you're forced to buy a new receiver or pre/pro (which tend to be more pricey than receivers). You used to be able to buy a disc player that would output them, but that's apparently not the case with Atmos or DTSX).
     
  5. Kevin Collins

    Kevin Collins Owner, from The Other Washington
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    I actually agree with Dave. I had the same problem when 5.1 came out. I was in love and still am with what I feel is a deep/rich sound with Krell amplifiers. At that time I needed to get a three channel and a two channel two power Dolby Digital. I'm at the crossroads now of upgrading to Atmos and I have to get more amps. I definitely don't want to cross amplifiers and Krell doesn't sell that model anymore, though I could probably find some used. I bought those Krell's back in 1997 and they are still my go to amp.


    IMO, you need to listen to a bunch of different amps and find out which one sounds the best with the speakers you like. For me, Krell + Revel has been the best pairing to my ears. I spent a boatload of $$, but it was worth it in terms of what I felt was superior sound.
     
  6. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    I've heard a few systems with Statement amps. Always ridiculous headroom. But...there should be.

    My go to is the Kenwood M2A. I went on an ebay buying binge around a decade ago. At the time they could be had for $225-$275. Bought 6 of them. I have 8.

    Currently I'm only using 2(1 has died), the other 5 have been looked at and been refurbed(caps don't last forever...better to replace...before they blow).

    Like above...next to speakers. Good amps are forever.

    Hard to argue against an amp rated 220wpc that pulls nearly 7 amps off the wall.

    The 1 that died(my first one...reason it isn't junked yet) died while playing some Apogee Centaur Majors...when the ribbon split.

    If I had been in the room(was cooking at the time and didn't notice the crackling over oil popping) I could have saved it. Not sure how long it fought the 0ohm load.
     
  7. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    Interesting Sam! I love finding old amps that are just killer.

    I had an Adcom amp from the early 90's that was a beast, but I sold it off. Bad idea!
     
  8. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    Nice review Dave. I'm still using an older Anthem MCA-5 with Paradigm Monitor 9s and the sound is incredible. I wholeheartedly agree that Anthem makes rock solid premium amps.
     
  9. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Lead Actor
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    Nice review Dave I will have to remember Anthem when I can get around to buying some amplifiers. I purchased my main stereo speakers from my father back in the 90's and they used to be power by a Yamaha natural sound amplifier. I agree with you that a good amplifier can make a difference and hopefully my financial situation improves and I can shop for a nice amplifier.

    IMG_4441 (2).JPG
     
  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Dave Moritz, I'm guessing those Altecs don't need a lot of power, so you probably don't need to go with too much of a brute. I expect the sensitivity (just a guess) of those is well into the 90s, so you might even look into tube or pure Class A if you ever decide to go exotic on an amp.


    I'm a big proponent of good amps as well. I've never been all that interested in the latest up-to-the-second sound formats and modes. After all, seconds after you make an update like that, something has already replaced it. There really have only been three significant format changes to HT audio in over 25 years. Dolby Surround/Pro-Logic > Dolby Digital/DTS > DTS/Dolby HD.


    What I've never tried is using a superior amp on mainstream speakers. My living room system is very "ordinary", with all Polk Monitor speakers. I'm using a Marantz receiver in that system that has full pre-outs and it would be interesting to try a good amp. I removed an Aragon 4004II from my main system, that runs pure Class A up to 50 watts, that would be a good one to try.
     
  11. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Lead Actor
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    I purchased my Altec's from my father who at one point back in the 80's ran a mobile DJ business on the side. At one point my father had two pair of these speakers and a pair of 18" subs with three Yamaha Natural Sound Amps that where rated at 300 watts/ch.


    DSC00677.



    And the preamp and eq that was my fathers as well that he used with the Yamaha amps and Altec Lancing's.


    2 Channel Sys 1_20_2009a.
     
  12. Bob Bielski

    Bob Bielski Second Unit

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    Got an Anthem P5 used for half price. I will pick it up with an AV60 pre amp next week. I will post how it sounds. Right now using a AVR at 80 watts.
     
  13. Bob Bielski

    Bob Bielski Second Unit

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    20160909_205419. 20160909_205430. 20160910_191215. 20160910_191708. Well finally getting it all together. I still have to get some more connection wires and speaker wire. Got stalled by house renovation and daughter moving back home pregnant. Will probably get to it in next two weeks. Had all the stuff since June. Gonna try to post a pic. 20150517_154650_resized. 20150524_152643. 20150525_101214. IMG_1328.JPG IMG_1378.JPG IMG_1375.JPG IMG_20151228_231454.
     
  14. Bob Bielski

    Bob Bielski Second Unit

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    Just building still. I will post when I have every thing hooked up and start playing with the ARC system. I can't wait to play with my new toys. Hopefully I will tame the boom and the room gain. Acoustics have become the final obstacle to pure sound. I have a very flat speaker and very accurate as well. Now I have plenty of power to drive them and hopefully with a little room treatment I will have a great system. Using 4 ADSL1290/2s and a self built center channel, all ADSL1290/2 components. The box I copied from Rich So who is an engineer that came from the factory in Wilmington MA. The ceiling speakers are going to be ADSL300s. I will be driving them with rebuilt Nikko Alpha 440s. They are recommended to only go up to 70 watts so 240 from the Nikkos will be plenty of headroom. I will post as soon as I can. Thanks for the patience guys!!
     
  15. Bob Bielski

    Bob Bielski Second Unit

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    Every thing is now operational. I set it all up the old fashioned way at first. I used Spears and Munsil 2nd edition test disc and a sound pressure level meter. The system sounded awesome. I finally ran the ARC system the other day. I had all kinds of trouble networking the AV60. The pre amp acts more like a computer than an AVR. My old Onkyo used to be set up with cat5 and I could update any time from the internet. The AV60 I had to download the file from the Anthem website and transfer it to a thumb drive and then insert it into a usb input on the front of the unit to upgrade. Then several reboots. The ARC system is off the charts. I am by no means a rooky at tweaking equipment but after running the ARC system I am completely blown away. I have used the Audassey system in the Onkyo and I could not get an improvement. To be fair the AVR I was using was a real inexpensive unit. Around 350$. I can only say that it is not only how much power you have, or how good your speakers are or the wire quality, it is as with the display device CALIBRATION. I am the biggest skeptic on all of the above but after getting into video I did see the difference on a good display well calibrated and running in a linear mode NOT clipping. I have hired Jim Doolittle to calibrate my displays. He did my first CRT and then I hired him to do my 3D Plasma. I ended up bringing the contrast down a tad using the Spears and Munsil test disc clipping patterns and got more performance out of the set. I only run it with one setting not night and day, 2 settings. I have found that even in the day time it is bright enough to be satisfactory. On the audio side, I have good equipment, but I was not good enough to zero it in to the best it could be and that is with decades of listening and tweaking, equalizers, and having signal sources above human hearing and below too. I used to own an analog synthesizer and sometimes tested my equipment using synthesized music. Still the ARC system made me feel like a deaf person. Unbelievable improvement in the bass. I can play my system louder with out the room gain limiting amplitude. I am not saying this because i am biased, and believe me I am a little frustrated that I couldn't tweak the sound to get to this level on my own, but had to share the results with the people on this forum so you to can enjoy yourself. I am remodeling the house I live in including the theater room and will post more information as I discover it. Please check out the Wide Screen Review January 2017 issue. It has a piece by John Dunlavy on Loudspeaker Accuracy that is loaded with useful information. Extremely useful information on room acoustics. Thank you Anthem and make a stand alone unit for other people to tweak their existing equipment.
     
  16. Bob Bielski

    Bob Bielski Second Unit

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    Had to post a situation. I got a stupid Idea of keeping the dust out of the P5 so I got a sheet of 1/8" rubber cut the exact size of the amp to cover it when not in use. Only problem is I was on the computer the first night I brought the cover home and the wife came in the darkened room and put all the equipment on and started to wach tv. I got off the computer and came over and wachted a few programs with her and we both fell asleep. I woke up having to go to the bathroom and when I came out I noticed a burning smell. I thought the oven was giving off some fumes so after looking in my horror I realised the cover was left on the P5 when the wife came in the dark room and turned all the equipment on. I observed 2 of the lights on the front of the amp were out, i quickly shut everything down and thought 2 channels got cooked. I was devastated. Was thinking an expensive repair. After about after an hour I couldn't resist checking the amp and turned it on when it was cooled down and much to my amazement and joy all was back to normal. I can only assume it has a thermal protection system. Feel like such an idiot to have this happen BUT thank you Anthem for idiot proofing my investment. Bullet proof for sure.
     
  17. Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    Bob,

    That must have been a very scary moment, as that's a lot of money to go up in smoke. Anthem always seems to over-engineer their products, and i'm glad that saved your amp.
     
  18. Bob Bielski

    Bob Bielski Second Unit

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    Yes it was a horrible feeling. Thank goodness it was Idiot proofed. I now am in the middle of a complete remodel of the entire home. I will be able to maximize everything I have learned, position, insulation, I will be able to hide everything in a closet. No more wires all over the place. I can concentrate on absorption and get a nice thick rug. I will tweak every thing I can and then concentrate on a new display. Great hobby.
     

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