So after mainly having McIntosh Pre-Amps the past few years I found myself in a bit of a jam when I sold my MX170 too soon in anticipation of their new 180 model. I also sold my Marantz 8805A so when Noah from Audio Video Interiors of Oakbrook called to tell me about the new Anthem Flagship which had just come in I was more than happy to give it a play. At this point any sound is better than no sound, right? After getting off to a rough start meaning I had to reset it after its initial long update and make sure I had downloaded the correct BETA software to pair with the ARC Genesis software I was good to go. I knew the critical error warning I was getting was irrelevant since doing test tones I was getting all of the speakers to react to their cadence correctly. After that within a blink I was blown away with the performance the Anthem AVM 90 delivered in my theater! Dolby Atmos hasn't sounded better!!!
Sticker indicates which way to aim the hole in your mic!
As you can see it comes very well packaged. Set up besides what I described in my first paragraph was easy for the most part. I first used the remote a bit and found it well laid out. Love that it is backlit. A nice bright white to be exact. One super cool direct hit button on it which I don't see on most or any other remotes is the Lip Sync adjust. I go through the Anthem with my sources and then into the MadVR Envy before hitting my projector. I always have to make some Lip Sync adjusting for each source and that is a huge plus to have. Also having direct hits to Bass, Treble, Balance and Levels is nice. There's also a Mode (Sound Modes) and Info button. Of course all of those could be less meaningful if you just use your smart phone of Ipad or Laptop to control it. I used a HP Laptop to do the ARC calibration. It was really cool and surprisingly easy once it started. The results did make some nice improvements in my room. I would say a 25-30% increase in performance. I used the HP to label all the inputs and set basic parameters. It was very intuitive. Once done I then used my ipad and iphone 13 to control the Anthem during movie demos. Bottom line the Anthem is one of the easiest components to control with a nice variety of options...
As you can see below the options from your smart phone or iPad are easy peasy to adjust. I really liked having them on the fly at my finger tips. After starting a movie though it is great to have everything "set it and forget it" ready. Sure the first few movies I tweaked but I haven't since I did ARC and a few slight tweaks. Network address and so many more. I have read others have been extremely pleased with their results after calibration and I have to completely agree with them. So how does the Anthem AVM 90 perform with Movies and of course Music? Continue below to read my findings...
So obviously the most important aspect of the AVM 90 is the SOUND. I immediately went to my three favorite movie tests. Those who have read my Reviews in the past will know them. I love the intro to Darkness Falls. The Narrator's eerie voice will make your hair stand on your neck. The amount of inflection was as good as I have ever heard it. And I have listened to it on many Higher End Pre-Amps and Receivers. It is right there with my McIntosh MX170 which is saying a lot! Same as the amount of detail you can hear as Tom Cruise chomps on his toast in Oblivion. Lastly Emily Blunt in the mirror in Sicario. She is deep exhaling and under her breath is telling herself to "Relax." The second time is very hard to hear and understand but with the AVM 90 It was perfectly negligible. We also watched the new movie MoonFall which had a lot of terrific sound demo materiel. Our entire room was enveloped with all the special effects. At the same time the soundstage in the front remained invisible but with perfect voice placements. We also watched the amazing movie from Apple TV + CODA. Wow it had great singing parts and you can hear them like they were in the room with us. Of course 80% of a movie depends on your center speaker so having a great one is key for your movie experience. My Illusion from Martin Logan has never let me down. My ML speakers and BalancedForce 212 Subs go hand in hand with the Anthem. As for music I have to agree with other experts when they say a room set up for Cinema will not be as good for music. Though I will say streaming 80s and 90s sounded damn good. My Wife Jaclyn who also participated in my movie demo moments and movie watching loved it when she tried her favorite Country music artist Thomas Rhett. Like being at his concert she said!
Obviously you can't hear sound quality or how good it is but you can pick up details. The AVM 90 did an amazing job with all of them!
So how does the AVM 90 rank in my rack? Well, it is definitely better than the Marantz 8805A I had here not too long ago. And that is saying a lot because the 8805A is one heck of a pre-pro for the money. It is very capable and gets the job done. Now the question I have been asked by no less than 12 to 15 people so far is what about the MX170? Given the MSRP of it is about double versus the Anthem AVM 90 makes it a "Miracle" component. Maybe it's the audiophile-grade 32-bit/768kHz DACs or the toroidal power supply that ensures low-noise with high-performance picture and sound but whatever form of secret sauce under the hood it makes it the best buy in pre-pros today. I am going to have a hard time replacing it with the new McIntosh MX180 and there's a great chance I won't! Read what Anthem says in their own words on their website:
"Introducing AVM 90. Our most sophisticated audio-video processor. Every aspect of its design was scrutinized, every component carefully considered and reconsidered. It's the culmination of everything we know and unlike anything you've ever heard. Meet our embodiment of excellence, meet AVM 90."
I admit the first time I read that I was in disbelief that it could possibly live up to such words. Now the new Anthem AVM 90 has made our ears believers. Having what we consider the absolute best image in our home theater these days it was a jaw-dropping shock to have this quality of sound drop in our rack. Our Cinema Experience is complete!
Heat is the number one cause of death for components so protect yours by getting this!
Special thanks to my good friend Noah of Audio Video Interiors Oakbrook for convincing me to try the Anthem AVM 90. If you're in Oakbrook stop in and say hi and visit his showrooms. You can always call him at (630) 607-0054.
EQUIPMENT USED FOR ALL OR PART OF THIS REVIEW:
JVC NZ9 8K Projector, madVR ENVY Extreme, Stewart Studiotek 144 ST100 16:9, McIntosh MX170, Apple TV 4K 2021, NVIDIA Shield Pro, ROKU Ultimate 2020, Datasat RA7300 Amps X 2, DirecTV 4K, Oppo UDP-203 4K Player, Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Ultra Blu-ray player, Furman Elite-20 PFI, Monster Power HTS 5100, AC INFINITY Component Coolers, Speakers: MARTIN LOGAN ILLUSION Center, IMPRESSIONS (Left and Right), VANQUISH (HEIGHTS & ATMOS & Top), AXIS (Backs), Subwoofers- Martin Logan BalancedForce 212 X 2, Seatcraft Equinox Seating with Sound Shakers, Remote: Harmony 1100, HARMONY ELITE. Cables: Audioquest shorter HDMI cables top to bottom. Audioquest (Cinnamon & Forest) HDMI cables with RuiPro 32 HDMI fiber optical cable...
And thank you Mila, Raelynn, Dallas and Jaclyn's for letting me borrow your ears while we watched movies!