Price: $4699 USD
Dimensions: 17.25"W x 5.875"H x 14.25"D
Weight: 27 pounds
Warranty: Two years on video, three years
- Gennum VXP Digital Image Processor
- HDMI inputs (4) and output (1)
- 1080p video upscaling from S-video, component, and HDMI
- Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx (Music,
Movie, Matrix, Game), DTS-ES, DTS Neo:6 (Music, Movie), THX (Cinema, Ultra2 Cinema, Music,
Game, EX), AnthemLogic (Cinema, Music), All Channel Stereo, All Channel Mono, Mono Academy
- FM/AM tuner
- Six-channel analog input with bass management
- Analog Direct Mode (all inputs)
- Adjustable low-pass/high-pass crossover (25-160Hz in 5Hz
- Three-zone operation and record path
- 24-bit/192kHz DACs
- Center-channel equalization
- Composite-video inputs (7) and outputs (5)
- S-video inputs (7) and outputs (5)
- Component-video inputs (4) and outputs (2)
- High-definition, broadcast-quality (1080p-compliant)
- Headphone jack
- Sleep timer
- IR emitters (2)
- Trigger outputs: 50mA (2) and 200mA (1)
- XLR audio inputs (2) and outputs (10)
- RCA audio inputs (7)
- Coaxial digital inputs (7)
- TosLink digital inputs (3)
- Learning, backlit remote control
There are so many options in todays
electronic marketplace for bringing movies alive in our living rooms that we may be in our
home-theater prime. With high-definition video technology being embraced by the
mainstream, the boundaries of performance continue to be pushed, and for those buying a
new TV, the sky is truly the limit. For many years I remained on the sidelines of my local
big-box store, waiting for the right time to enter the game -- the long-promised
high-definition video resolution of 1080p that for years had loomed over my home-theater
consciousness warned me not to rush in. Now, it has finally arrived. TVs that accept a
true 1080p signal are on the shelves, and their prices dont offend too much.
So I bit the bullet, opened my wallet, and joined in the fun.
Many other eager home-theater nuts are also taking the
plunge, but these hobbyists may not fully understand what 1080p means, and thus may
not fully realize the benefits of the resolution. The number 1080 refers to the
number of vertical lines of resolution of the video screen, and the p stands for progressive
scan. The more lines of resolution, the sharper the image can be, and at this point,
1080 lines are as good as it gets. The difference between progressive and interlaced
scanning is the way each line of resolution is refreshed per frame. A progressive-scan
video display refreshes every line of vertical resolution; an interlaced-scan display
refreshes every other line of vertical resolution. The result: Progressive-scan
video provides a picture thats smoother and richer in detail.
But now that our TVs and projectors can finally deliver
1080p, we have a problem: There are very few sources of true 1080p signals. HDTV currently
boasts only 1080 interlaced lines (1080i) of resolution, and only a few channels actually
deliver that. Most HD networks put out 720p signals for most of their broadcasts, but the
vast majority of cable channels still broadcast in ancient 480i. The hi-def formats of
Blu-ray and HD DVD do contain true 1080p signals, but unless youre willing to dive
into another electronic pool of uncertainty, its best to wait for the water to warm
up. What to do?
Anthem provides the answer with the latest addition to
their award-winning AVM line of audio/video processors. Beginning with the AVM 2 in 2000,
Anthem supplied a feature-rich processor that was then the state of the art while being
relatively affordable. Providing signal processing for every known sound format as well as
wide-bandwidth video switching, the AVM 20 set the world of home theater on fire.
Anthem later updated the AVM 20 and reissued it as the AVM 30 -- the same basic
processor, with twice the number of component-video connections. The AVM 30 cost a
few hundred dollars less than the AVM 20, which indicated that Anthem
wasnt simply out to make more money; they really wanted to offer good value.
AVM 50: description and setup
Now Anthem has unveiled the next
step in the evolution of the AVM, the AVM 50 ($4699). Basically, the new model is the
AVM 30 plus a video processor built around the Gennum VXP Digital Image Processor and
HDMI switching capabilities. The Gennum, which is also included in the Anthem D2
processor, lets the AVM 50 upconvert a video signal from its S-video, component, or
HDMI input to a 1080p signal, then pass that signal through its HDMI output to the
The AVM 50 is the same size as its predecessors:
17.25"W x 5.875"H x 14.25"D. My review sample had a brushed-aluminum
faceplate and a vented box of black metal. On the faceplate are more than three dozen
buttons and a blue LED display. From afar, the AVM 50 looks just like an AVM 20
I unplugged all of the wires from my AVM 20 and placed
it to the side. As we all know, home-theater systems can require a mess of cables, but
HDMI minimizes that mess and simplifies logistics. With four HDMI inputs, the AVM 50
was much simpler to install than my AVM 20. My Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD player was a
snap: plug the HDMI cable into the input marked HDMI 1. That was it. My HD cable box
required a component-video cable and one of the AVM 50s coax digital inputs, my
Xbox 360 a component cable and one of the optical inputs.
After everything was hooked up to the AVM 50, I used a
single HDMI cable to connect the Anthem to my 57", 1080p TV, a Mitsubishi WS-Y57.
Doesnt get much simpler than that. I then used the AVM 50s front-panel
controls to turn it on and navigate its setup menu. The AVM 50 booted up in only
three seconds; the AVM 20 takes almost three times as long.
First order of business: Select the video output to the TV.
I selected HDMI, then set the AVM 50s output to 1920x1080p/60. I was now set up
to use the onscreen display (OSD), which was now output via HDMI. This is a great touch --
before, with the AVM 20, the OSD was output only via the S-video connection. That was
a bit of a pain because it meant changing the video input of the TV. While that process
wasnt needed all the time, having the OSD data via HDMI is a welcome addition.
Setting up the video and audio inputs for each source took
little time because Ive owned an AVM 20 for years; someone new to Anthems
AVM line might struggle for a while. If so, Anthem provides great technical support.
Tucked away in a dark room on the second floor of the Paradigm/Anthem facility in Toronto,
Canada, overlooking the speaker-assembly area, Nick and Frank patiently answer every
question promptly and with a disposition that makes every caller or e-mailer feel
comfortable. When you spend thousands of dollars on a product, you should get topnotch
service and support. Anthem provides that, and to a higher degree than any other company I
With everything connected, I pressed the Back/CNT button on
the AVM 50s well-laid-out and backlit remote control to leave the setup menu
and get a glimpse of the 1080p video feed. My first impressions didnt reveal much
improvement. Up till then, Id been upconverting my cable signal to 1080i through the
cable box; my Toshiba HD DVD player did the same with SD DVDs. Both do a reasonable job of
upconverting to 1080i, and the Mitsubishi TV processes the rest to 1080p. Suddenly, I
realized that was the problem. I went back into the setup of my cable box and DVD player
and reset their output resolutions to the native resolution of the source. This meant that
SD DVDs were now output in 480i, and some HDTV in 720p. The AVM 50s Gennum VXP
Digital Image Processor now took over, upscaling images from these resolutions to 1080p.
Why do I need a video scaler if my new TV can upconvert all
signals to 1080p? Manufacturers of the new 1080p TVs do include a built-in processor that
upconverts 480i, 720p, and 1080i signals to 1080p. Many people accept this video
processing as "good enough," but what they dont realize is that the TV
isnt really doing the job. To understand why, and to fully appreciate what the
Gennum VXP Digital Image Processor does, its important to comprehend a few tedious
To upconvert a video signal to 1080p, a process called 3:2
pulldown must be performed with film sources. Film has 24 frames per second, and to be
seen on most displays, it has to be converted to video at 60 interlaced fields per second.
A good video processor has to reverse this frame-rate conversion. Confused? I was too.
Heres a crude example. Lets label the 24 frames
of one second of film footage A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T,
U, V, W, and X. The telecine process, which converts film sources to interlaced
video, converts this one second of visual data by tripling every other vertical line and
doubling the remaining lines. This means that frames A, C, E, G, I, K, M, O, Q, S, U, and
W are repeated twice (12 x 3 = 36), and frames B, D, F, H, J, L, N, P, R, T, V, and X are
repeated only once (12 x 2 = 24), for a total of 60 interlaced fields per second.
One field contains the even lines, the other contains the odd lines, and the two fields
together comprise one frame.
Most TVs sold today that boast the ability to upconvert to
1080p are not actually capable of correctly performing inverse telecine, also known as 3:2
pulldown or film mode, in order to reconstruct the 24 frames as they were on film; at
best, the consumer gets a jaggy and/or jittery picture. Not only does this describe
most new "1080p" TVs, but also DVD players for which the same claim is made. Not
all video scalers are created equal. But the Gennum VXP Digital Image Processor isnt
only a video scaler; it also includes many adjustment features to fine-tune the picture to
achieve even better results. The AVM 50s manual states that the
processors default video settings should work best overall; after a little
adjusting, I found that they did. I could go into much greater detail concerning every
adjustment provided, but that would be another review unto itself.
The 1080p image created by the AVM 50 was far superior
to the images upconverted by my Mitsubishi TV. The TV sometimes renders colors overly
bright and not consistently true, but via the AVM 50 colors were always deep and
rich. I also noticed that the "video drag" associated with moving objects had
disappeared, leaving the smoothest moving images I have ever seen.
A few chapters from Behind Enemy Lines provided a
good test. In a scene early in the film, the pilots sit in the mess hall eating dinner.
Suddenly, visible just over the shoulder of one of the characters, a commanding officer
steps through a doorway. Without the AVM 50 in the mix and the video signal sent to
the TV as 480i, the shading of the back wall as the camera pans over to the officer, then
zooms in, reveals artifacts that drag across the screen. Once it had been brought to my
attention, this became very noticeable and irritating. The AVM 50s upconversion
to 1080p removed this dragging effect and smoothed it out completely. Facial details also
seemed sharper, and skin tones more realistic.
The Incredibles also came to life in a manner I
hadnt experienced before. The improvement in the CGI color was stunning -- it popped
off the screen more than ever. The differences were striking: Colors were deeper, outlines
of objects sharper, and dark images had greater depth. I knew at that point that my TV
couldnt look any better.
Standard-definition TV also benefited from the AVM
50s video processing. But while the Anthem was in most cases capable of turning
video water into wine, it couldnt perform such miracles with local broadcasting. The
video processor did make the picture smoother and more uniform, but it couldnt make
it look like HD. The AVM 50 cant be faulted for this; well just have to
wait until analog cable-video feeds go away forever.
My Toshiba HD DVD player also enjoyed the
AVM 50s HDMI connectivity. Ive read in many online forums about owners of
Toshibas HD DVD players having trouble with the HDMI handshake between source and
processor, but I had none. I made the necessary adjustments inside the Toshiba, turned it
and the AVM 50 off, then fired them both back up. They shook hands perfectly from
then on. The Source setting in the Anthems setup menu gives the option of sending
the audio signal via HDMI, which meant that I could watch and listen to standard DVDs as
well as HD DVDs without changing the input. HDMI also let me send the Dolby Digital
Plus/TrueHD multichannel signal without having to press a single button. Fantastic.
To compare the AVM 50 to any other processor would
require a substantial wait. Pixel Magics Crystalio II has the same Gennum video
processor but not nearly as many features or capabilities, including surround-sound
processing, and it costs more than $1000 more. Companies such as Outlaw sell processors
that costs thousands less than the AVM 50, and while you do get good performance from
their products, the Anthem AVM 50s sound quality and abundance of features, as
well as the flexibility it offers in letting the user tweak each source setup, clearly set
it apart. And that was before Anthem added the Gennum processing chip.
The Anthem AVM 50 is the ideal processor for these
changing times. With a group of mad scientists stashed away in a building somewhere in
Canada designing tomorrows new technology, and a factory of dedicated employees
working hard to build almost every piece by hand, Anthem is committed to their customers.
Whether its the availability of upgrades via software downloads from their website
or the opportunity for owners of AVM 30s to ship their units back to Anthem to be
upgraded to AVM 50 status, Anthems products are about as future-proof as they get.
I didnt have the space in this review to describe
every facet of this groundbreaking processor. Explanation of its additional features can
be found on Anthems website. You can also read Jeff Van Dynes great review of
the AVM 30, from June 2005. His
descriptions of the AVM 30s functionality and his description of the
processors sound apply to the AVM 50 as well. My goal was to describe the
difference the new Gennum VXP Digital Image Processor made in the images produced. In that
regard, the AVM 50 has set a new standard of visual excellence for me.
|Speakers - Aerial Acoustics
10T (mains), CC3B (center); Von Schweikert VR-1 (surrounds); JL Audio f113 (subwoofer)
- Anthem AVM 20
|Amplifiers - Anthem
MCA 50, Krell KSA-50S
- Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD player, Esoteric DV-60 DVD player, Sonos Digital Music System
|Display Device - Mitsubishi
- Nordost, Monster Cable, DH Labs
|Remote Control - Universal
Remote Control MX-850
Conditioner - Shunyata Research Hydra Model-6 with Copperhead power cord