In high-end audio and home theater systems, the Anthem AVM 90 8K is a formidable contender, promising an exceptional audio and video experience. With a reputation that precedes it and a commitment to sound quality, this AV preamplifier has garnered attention from audio enthusiasts and home cinema fans worldwide. This comprehensive review explores the design, features, performance, and unique capabilities of the Anthem AVM 90 8K, delving into cutting-edge audio and video processing.
The AVM 90 8K is a testament to Anthem’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of sound quality and audiovisual excellence. Designed to meet modern AV enthusiasts’ complex and often conflicting demands, this AV preamplifier offers a compelling choice for those who value both pure audio quality and elegant, user-friendly features. Join us as we delve into the aesthetics, connectivity options, and the remarkable ARC Genesis measurement system that sets the AVM 90 8K apart, providing a balanced and calibrated listening experience that leaves a lasting impression.
Anthem, a renowned name in the audio industry, has consistently delivered exceptional audio and home theater solutions for discerning enthusiasts. With a rich heritage and a commitment to uncompromising sound quality, Anthem has earned its place among the most respected brands in the high-end audio and AV realm. Their dedication to pushing the boundaries of technology and using innovative approaches, such as the ARC Genesis room calibration system, reflects their mission to provide audiophiles and home cinema enthusiasts with an unparalleled audiovisual experience. The Anthem AVM 90 8K embodies its ethos. It combines cutting-edge technology with sophisticated design to create a versatile AV preamplifier that promises to elevate any home theater system’s audio and video performance.
AV amplifiers, often called AV preamplifiers, are the backbone of modern audiovisual systems, serving as the central hub for audio and video processing. These sophisticated devices seamlessly manage various audio and video sources, route signals to amplifiers and speakers, and ensure a high-quality, immersive entertainment experience. AV amplifiers are designed to decode the latest audio formats, process video signals in stunning 4K and even 8K resolutions, and provide advanced room calibration for optimal sound quality. They have extensive connectivity options, from HDMI and analog inputs to wireless streaming capabilities, allowing users to connect all their audio and video components. As the heart of any home theater or audio system, AV amplifiers are critical in transforming ordinary content into an extraordinary sensory journey.
|Anthem AVM 90|
|Concept:||AV preamplifier with 15.4 channels|
|Inputs:||7x HDMI, 1x HDMI eARC, 3x Toslink, 2x SPDIF RCA, 4x stereo RCA analog, 1x phono, 1x IR mini jack, 1x RJ45 Ethernet, 2x antenna (Bluetooth, WLAN), RS-232, USB-A (only 5V)|
|Outputs:||3x HDMI (1x Z2), 15+4 pre-out each RCA & XLR, 1x Toslink (loop-through), 3x 12V trigger|
|HDMI:||HDMI 2.1, HDCP 2.3, 8K/60Hz or 4K/120Hz, ALLM, VRR, QMS and QFT|
|Streaming:||DLNA, Google Chromecast (Audio), AirPlay 2 (Audio), Bluetooth v4.2, Spotify Connect, Roon (future update promised)|
|Measuring:||ARC Genesis, measurement microphone & tripod included|
|Standby:||0.3W, 1.8W (IP Control), 4.9W (HDMI bypass)|
|Dimensions (WHT):||43.18 x 15.24 x 36.4 cm (19″ X 4U)|
Robust set of connections and connectivity options
The Anthem AVM 90 8K offers robust connections and connectivity options, making it a versatile hub for a wide range of audio and video devices. Here’s a detailed exploration of its connection and connectivity features:
- Audio and Video Inputs: The AVM 90 8K has various audio and video inputs, including RCA and XLR connections. This versatility allows users to connect their source components with ease. Whether it’s a Blu-ray player, gaming console, turntable, or any other audio/video source, the AVM 90 8K accommodates them. Including RCA and XLR connections provides flexibility, catering to different equipment preferences.
- HDMI Inputs: The device features seven inputs, offering ample connectivity for modern home entertainment setups. These HDMI inputs support the latest technologies, including eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel). This feature enables high-quality audio transmission from a compatible TV to the AVM 90 8K, making it suitable for 4K and 8K setups. The HDMI inputs also support various video and audio formats, ensuring compatibility with various media devices.
- Zone 2 Support: The AVM 90 8K supports Zone 2, allowing users to connect and control audio in a second zone or room. This feature is particularly useful for multi-room audio setups or for providing audio in an outdoor area. With Zone 2 support, users can enjoy different audio sources in separate zones simultaneously, enhancing the flexibility of their home entertainment system.
- Phono Input: The device includes a dedicated phono input with MM (Moving Magnet) level support for vinyl enthusiasts. This built-in phono stage allows users to connect a turntable directly to the AVM 90 8K without needing an external phono preamplifier. While the phono input delivers decent performance, audiophiles may prefer using a high-quality external phono stage for optimal sound quality.
- Audio Streaming: The AVM 90 8K supports various audio streaming options, including DLNA and AirPlay 2. DLNA streaming can handle high-resolution audio signals up to 192 kHz at 24-bit depth. Additionally, the device is equipped with Spotify Connect, providing convenient access to the popular music streaming service. It’s important to note that Roon Ready integration was not fully implemented during testing, limiting high-resolution streaming via Roon. However, Chromecast can be used as an alternative for streaming, though it has some limitations regarding bit depth and sample rate support.
- ARC Genesis Room Measurement: The Anthem Room Correction (ARC) Genesis system significantly enhances audio quality. It allows users to calibrate and optimize the audio performance of their system to suit the room’s acoustics. ARC Genesis simplifies the room measurement process, offering step-by-step guidance through a user-friendly interface. It even includes a USB measurement microphone and a stand to facilitate accurate room measurements. Users can fine-tune the device’s audio output, producing balanced, immersive sound tailored to their listening environment.
- Web Menu and Control: The AVM 90 8K offers a web menu accessible through a browser, making it easy to configure and customize the device’s settings. This web menu supports control via a tablet, smartphone (Android, iOS, and iPadOS), or computer. It provides extensive control over speaker configuration, room measurements, and firmware updates. Users can also view comprehensive status displays, including hardware and software information, audio and video signal information, and more. This web menu adds a layer of flexibility and customization to the AVM 90 8K’s connectivity options.
The Anthem AVM 90 8K provides many connection and connectivity options, ensuring compatibility with various audio and video sources. Its support for HDMI, Zone 2, audio streaming, room measurement, and web-based control makes it a versatile and user-friendly centerpiece for modern home entertainment systems. Whether connecting legacy analog equipment or the latest digital devices, the AVM 90 8K offers the connectivity required for a seamless and immersive audio and video experience.
Design and Features
The Anthem AVM 90 8K boasts a design that effortlessly combines elegance with functionality. Its front panel exudes a minimalist aesthetic, offering a clean and uncluttered appearance. When powered on, a large and dimmable display emerges, providing clear and easily readable information, even from a considerable distance. The display, roughly the size of a palm, adds to the unit’s overall sophistication. You’ll find six buttons, a rotary control, and a headphone output alongside the display. This simplicity in the front panel design emphasizes ease of use and a user-friendly approach.
While not as minimalist as the front panel, the accompanying remote control maintains a well-structured layout with logically grouped buttons. It also features backlighting, ensuring effortless operation even in a darkened home theater environment. One minor quibble might be that the volume control button on the remote occasionally feels slightly sticky, though it functions without issue. As one experienced Anthem dealer noted, this is a common occurrence among Anthem remotes. Nevertheless, the remote offers an intuitive and straightforward means of controlling the AVM 90 8K.
Anthem’s commitment to user convenience extends to mobile device control, as the unit can be seamlessly managed via an Android app. This app ensures smooth and precise volume adjustment, with standard functions readily accessible. Notably, the Android app simplifies the direct integration with the Spotify app, enhancing the streaming experience. However, at the time of testing, there was no app available for Apple devices, although one was accessible for older Anthem models.
Users can access a web menu via a web browser for deeper customization and setup, enabling control through an iPad or iPhone. This web menu is vital in configuring and fine-tuning the AVM 90 8K. It’s worth noting that the menu offers the option of German language support. However, some translations may require a bit of interpretation, such as “Treble” for treble control and “Equilibrio” for balance. However, these instances are minor, and most terms are accurately translated.
The AVM 90 8K’s flexibility extends to audio and video connections. Combined with various presets per source, this amplifier allows users to manage essential functions like assigning up to four memory settings for speaker configurations and room measurements. This flexibility enhances the unit’s adaptability, enabling users to configure distinct setups, such as separate configurations for stereo audio. Additionally, the web menu provides access to features like a backup of settings and firmware updates, comprehensive status displays for hardware and software, and real-time monitoring of audio and video signals.
Regarding audio streaming, the AVM 90 8K supports DLNA and AirPlay 2 without a hitch, making it seamless to enjoy high-resolution audio signals up to 192 kHz at 24-bit. The unit also incorporates Spotify Connect for easy access to the streaming platform. While Roon Ready capability was initially promised, it wasn’t integrated at the time of testing. To enable Roon playback, users must either work with the limited options of AirPlay 2 or employ Chromecast. Configuring Chromecast may require some assistance and involves identifying the Anthem Chromecast Client through the “Google Home” app and assigning it to a zone. It’s essential to note that the Chromecast implementation is relatively basic, supporting a maximum of 16-bit audio at a 48 kHz sample rate and limiting the playback of audiophile HiRes content.
In sum, the design and features of the Anthem AVM 90 8K strike a balance between elegance and functionality. Its user-friendly interface, mobile device control, extensive connectivity, and streaming capabilities make it a versatile and sophisticated AV preamplifier that caters to both the casual listener and the discerning audio enthusiast.
Audio Streaming and Room Measurement
Audio streaming via DLNA and AirPlay 2 seamlessly supports HighRes signals up to 192 kHz at 24-bit. The unit also includes Spotify Connect. However, Roon Ready integration was added post-testing, requiring Chromecast for full functionality, albeit limited to 16-bit audio at a maximum of 48 kHz.
Audio Streaming: The Anthem AVM 90 8K offers a robust and flexible audio streaming experience catering to various user preferences and requirements. It supports key streaming protocols and platforms, making it a versatile choice for modern music enthusiasts. The unit seamlessly handles DLNA and AirPlay 2, ensuring compatibility with various devices and applications. DLNA support extends to high-resolution audio signals, accommodating formats up to 192 kHz at 24-bit depth. This level of compatibility with high-res audio files caters to audiophiles seeking the best possible audio quality. Additionally, Spotify Connect integration simplifies access to one of the world’s most popular music streaming services. Users can easily control and stream their favorite tracks and playlists from Spotify, enhancing their music streaming experience.
Despite these impressive features, the absence of native Roon Ready integration during testing might be considered a limitation. Roon, renowned for its exceptional music management and playback capabilities, is a favorite among audiophiles. The AVM 90 8K requires a workaround to enable Roon playback, typically relying on either AirPlay 2 or Chromecast. However, the Chromecast implementation falls short of supporting audiophile HiRes content, as it is restricted to a maximum of 16-bit audio at a 48 kHz sample rate. This limitation might disappoint users seeking the highest fidelity music streaming experience. In summary, while the AVM 90 8K delivers solid performance in audio streaming, the absence of native Roon Ready functionality and the limitations of the Chromecast implementation represent potential areas for improvement.
Room Measurement with ARC Genesis: One of the Anthem AVM 90 8 K’s standout features is implementing the Anthem Room Correction (ARC) Genesis system. ARC Genesis is a well-established and continuously evolving room measurement and calibration solution, and it plays a pivotal role in delivering exceptional audio quality. This system is accessible via various devices, including Windows and Apple computers, tablets, and smartphones running Android, iOS, or iPadOS. Including a USB measurement microphone and a robust boom stand in the accessories package further enhances the AVM 90 8K’s appeal. To connect the microphone to a tablet or phone, a host connection (OTG) is required, a feature readily available on most modern devices.
The ARC Genesis calibration process is notably straightforward, with a user-friendly, step-by-step menu that simplifies the setup. The system offers an automatic calibration option that yields excellent and balanced results. This auto-calibration mode is especially appealing to users who prioritize simplicity and reliability. One of ARC Genesis’s strengths lies in its ability to calibrate the phase alignment between the main speakers and subwoofers iteratively. By testing various phase angles and selecting the most optimal option, ARC Genesis ensures the smoothest transition between overlapping sound sources, enhancing the overall sound quality.
Upon calibration, the AVM 90 8K’s audio performance becomes more balanced and gains a deeper low-end response when correctly calibrated with a subwoofer. The seamless transition between woofers and speakers, a highlight of the ARC calibration, is especially commendable. The frequency response adjustments across different channels demonstrate excellent seamlessness, resulting in a cohesive soundstage. While ARC Genesis excels in optimizing audio quality, one area it doesn’t address is the phase response between surround and front speakers, particularly the interaction between two-way and three-way speakers. This minor limitation may impact the precision of sound placement when events occur between the front and surround channels.
In conclusion, the Anthem AVM 90 8K’s audio streaming capabilities provide a flexible and feature-rich experience. However, the absence of native Roon Ready support and some limitations with Chromecast integration may leave room for improvement. On the other hand, the ARC Genesis room measurement system stands as one of the AVM 90 8K’s strong suits, offering user-friendly calibration and enhancing audio quality through precise and seamless phase alignment and frequency response adjustments.
The AVM 90 8K impresses with its sound quality, offering balanced and dynamic audio. It delivers fine dynamics and differentiation in stereo mode but may appear less musical than expected. However, the unit achieves a balanced sound image with extended bass response in a surround setup with ARC Genesis calibration.
The unit’s seamless transition between channels and smooth frequency response adjustment is praiseworthy. It provides a vivid and spatial listening experience, outperforming many competitors in the test cinema. Additionally, the AVM 90 offers true mono playback, a feature often overlooked in modern AV preamplifiers.
The unit’s phono input for MM-level vinyl playback is functional but may benefit from an external phono equalizer for enhanced sound quality.
Sound Test and Listening Experience: The sound performance and listening experience of the Anthem AVM 90 8K reveal a mix of strengths and some nuanced areas for consideration. The unit’s ability to deliver balanced and high-quality sound is a notable highlight, making it a compelling choice for audio enthusiasts who prioritize accuracy and clarity in their listening sessions.
In a stereo setup, the AVM 90 8K offers a fine balance of dynamics and differentiation. Music streamed through DLNA in classic stereo mode is characterized by excellent dynamics and precise sound separation. However, some listeners may find the presentation more restrained and less vibrant than they’d prefer, given the device’s reputation for outstanding sound quality. While it offers an impressive performance, some listeners might expect a more dynamic and engaging musical experience.
When configured for surround sound and calibrated with ARC Genesis, the AVM 90 8K’s soundstage becomes more balanced. It achieves a deeper low-frequency response when integrated with a correctly calibrated subwoofer. The calibration process through ARC Genesis ensures a seamless transition between speakers and subwoofers, enhancing the overall cohesion of the soundstage. The system optimizes the frequency response across various channels, resulting in a consistent and well-organized auditory experience. The sound quality during stereo and surround playback is finely detailed and offers an appealing spatial immersion. In stereo, the unit showcases its ability to deliver balanced and vivid sound within and beyond the listening environment. Compared to competing Japanese AV amplifiers, the Anthem AVM 90 8K stands out for its finely drawn and spatially enclosed sound, which enhances the overall listening experience.
Anthem’s commitment to authenticity is evident in the AVM 90 8K’s support for true mono playback with its dedicated sound modes. This feature enables a monaural signal to be presented as a single sound source through the center channel or as a phantom image between two speakers. This level of customization allows listeners to choose the most appropriate mode, ensuring a tailored listening experience. Furthermore, the unit includes a phono input with MM-level support, catering to vinyl enthusiasts. The phono input, while functional, may not provide the depth and richness that some users seek. An external phono preamp may be necessary to unlock the potential of vinyl playback fully.
One aspect where the AVM 90 8K could see improvement is its music upmixing capabilities. While the Dolby Surround mode is versatile and user-friendly, DTS modes may not meet the desired quality standards. The Anthem-Logic music decoder, while functional, may come at the cost of some audio resolution. Therefore, the device’s native music upmixing options may not fully satisfy audiophile listeners.
The Anthem AVM 90 8K impresses with its balanced and detailed sound quality, although some users may desire a more emotionally engaging musical experience. The device excels in stereo and surround setups, providing a cohesive and immersive soundstage with precise spatial placement. Its support for true mono playback and phono input caters to various listening preferences. However, the music upmixing options may benefit from refinement to fully meet audiophile expectations.
Usability, Functionality, and Unique Functions of the Anthem AVM 90 8K:
Usability: The Anthem AVM 90 8K is designed with user-friendliness in mind, making it accessible to both novice and experienced users. Its front panel features a minimalistic design with a large, dimmable display that provides clear information. The display is easily readable even from a distance, ensuring users can monitor the device’s status without hassle. The front panel includes six buttons, a rotary control, and a headphone output, keeping the interface straightforward and uncluttered.
While not as tidy as the front panel, the device’s remote control is logically organized, making it easy to navigate. The buttons are grouped sensibly, and the remote is equipped with backlighting for convenient use in dark environments. One minor issue with the remote is that the volume button may feel slightly stuck, although it remains functional. Overall, the device offers a user-friendly interface for controlling various functions.
Functionality: The Anthem AVM 90 8K boasts extensive functionality, catering to various audio and video needs. It supports up to 15 channels of surround processing, offering flexibility in setting up complex audio systems. Users can connect their devices using either RCA or XLR connections, making them compatible with various audio equipment.
The AVM 90 8K includes seven HDMI inputs with eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), allowing users to connect their TVs and enjoy high-quality audio from compatible sources. The device also features a Zone2 output, providing versatility for multi-room setups. Additionally, it offers analog inputs and even includes a Phono MM input for vinyl enthusiasts. This phono input, while functional, may not provide the depth and richness that dedicated external phono preamps offer.
One unique feature of the AVM 90 8K is its advanced room calibration system known as ARC Genesis (Anthem Room Correction). This system is renowned for its effectiveness in optimizing room acoustics and speaker configurations. It offers precise calibration, ensuring accurate sound reproduction and tailored to the specific room environment. The system is accessible through a computer, tablet, or smartphone, making it convenient for users to fine-tune their audio setup.
Unique Functions: The AVM 90 8K stands out with its true mono playback functionality, offering distinct sound modes designed for monaural signals. Users can choose between presenting a monaural signal as a single sound source through the center channel or as a phantom image between two speakers. This unique feature caters to audiophiles and vintage audio enthusiasts who appreciate the authenticity of mono-playback.
Additionally, the device’s subsonic filter safeguards the connected woofers from unwanted exposure to infrasound, ensuring the longevity and performance of the speakers. This feature is particularly valuable in maintaining the overall audio quality.
The AVM 90 8K’s ability to seamlessly transition between speakers and subwoofers during ARC Genesis calibration is another standout feature. The system iteratively optimizes phase angles to achieve the best possible transition between these audio components. This ensures the audio remains coherent and consistent throughout the listening experience, delivering precise and well-balanced sound.
While the AVM 90 8K offers various advanced functions, it retains user-friendly interfaces, making it accessible to many users. Its unique capabilities, such as true mono playback and advanced room calibration, enhance the overall audio experience, making it a compelling choice for audio enthusiasts who value functionality and convenience.
In conclusion, the Anthem AVM 90 8K is a formidable and versatile AV preamplifier that delivers high-quality audio and video experiences. Its minimalist yet elegant design, feature-rich front panel, and well-structured remote control underscore its commitment to user-friendly operation. With abundant audio and video inputs, including HDMI support for the latest 4K and 8K displays, the AVM 90 8K offers flexibility and compatibility with a wide range of source components.
Furthermore, the AVM 90 8K’s standout feature is its powerful ARC Genesis room measurement system, which, when utilized, brings room correction to a new level of precision and balance. The seamless calibration and subwoofer integration and the ability to create a true mono soundstage demonstrate its commitment to providing an optimal audio experience. While the device presents some streaming limitations and room for improvement in Roon integration, its overall performance, reliability, and rich connectivity options make it a valuable addition to modern home entertainment systems. The Anthem AVM 90 8K delivers on its promise of audio excellence, making it an excellent choice for discerning enthusiasts looking to elevate their audio and video experience.
Reasons to Buy the Anthem AVM 90 8K:
- Superb Sound Quality: The Anthem AVM 90 8K delivers high-quality audio, offering a neutral and balanced sound that is detailed and immersive. It caters to audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts who demand top-notch sound performance.
- ARC Genesis Room Correction: The AVM 90 8K features the highly effective Anthem Room Correction (ARC) Genesis system, allowing users to calibrate and optimize audio based on their room’s acoustics. This feature results in a customized and well-balanced audio experience.
- Versatile Connectivity: With a comprehensive set of audio and video inputs, including HDMI support for 4K and 8K displays, the AVM 90 8K ensures compatibility with various source components, offering flexibility and ease of integration in various home entertainment setups.
- Zone 2 Support: For users seeking multi-room audio capabilities, the AVM 90 8K’s Zone 2 support allows them to enjoy different audio sources in separate zones or rooms, enhancing the flexibility of their system.
- Phono Input: Vinyl enthusiasts will appreciate the inclusion of a phono input with MM-level support, eliminating the need for an external phono preamplifier.
Reasons Not to Buy the Anthem AVM 90 8K:
- Limited Streaming Integration: While the device offers audio streaming options, the integration with Roon was not fully implemented when testing, which may be a drawback for users who rely heavily on Roon for music playback.
- Chromecast Setup Complexity: Setting up Chromecast for high-resolution streaming requires additional steps, which may be less user-friendly than other streaming solutions.
- No Music Upmixer: The AVM 90 8K lacks a robust music mixer for enhancing stereo audio sources, which could disappoint users seeking an immersive music listening experience.
The Anthem AVM 90 8K is an excellent choice for top-tier audio quality, versatile connectivity, and effective room correction. However, potential buyers should consider the limited streaming integration and the absence of a robust music-up mixer, particularly if these features are essential to their audio setup.