|You think it's tough
keeping up with all the changes in the A/V world? Imagine how tough it is for
manufacturers. Ten years ago, stereo was king. Today, everything seems to be multichannel.
The only real question these days is how many channels is that?
Anthem PVA 7 multichannel amplifier
Price: $1499 USD
Dimensions: 17.25"W x 5.25"H x 16.375"D
Weight: 47.5 pounds
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
- Seven channels of amplication (rated at 125W with one
channel driven, 105 with all channels driven)
- Aluminum faceplate
- Heavy-gauge steel cabinet
- 800VA toroidal transformer
- 100,000 microfarads capacitance
- Bipolar output transistors (28)
- Auto on/off
- Remote trigger (12V)
- Five-way binding posts
- Silver or black faceplate
Could be 5.1. Some folks are shooting for 6.1. And others,
of course, are pushing for 7.1. The only sure bet is that, no matter which standard wins
in the long run, most people won't have the right number of amplification channels on
hand. Unless, that is, they've decided to cover all the bets with a product like Anthem's
remarkably affordable seven-channel power amplifier, the $1499 PVA 7.
That's right. Seven channels for under $1500. That almost
seems too good to be true.
At sixes and sevens . . .
When the home-theater boom began, lots of manufacturers
added three-channel amplifiers to their lines. It seemed appropriate and logical to assume
that most consumers already had a stereo amp and would just need to add three more
channels to complete a 5.1 system (most subwoofers are powered, taking care of the
".1"). Im sure more than a few of them sold, and probably still do today.
Three-channel amplifiers didnt suit everyone, though.
There was the odd passive subwoofer out there, and for folks who owned these, among
others, a few four-channel units were released. Consumers could run their subs, centers,
and surrounds with these, and with their existing stereo amps, they were set. This was
probably even a less-likely niche than the three-channel models, so selection was limited.
Things changed again almost immediately. Space, or lack
thereof, forced many a consumer to ditch the stereo amp, and demand a one-box solution to
home-theater amplification. After all, an amp/processor combination was still double
the boxes of a receiver-based system. So, the five-channel amplifier was born. And it has
For a short time, this seemed like the ticket, but then
things changed again. THX Surround EX, DTS-ES, and several proprietary 6.1 implementations
came into being, which added even more speakers to the back of our rooms. All of a sudden
we needed six channels. Oh wait! Actually we need two center surrounds, so make
that seven channels.
But, as we learned early on, it takes more than just
discrete channels of amplification to make a first-rate multichannel amplifier -- the amp
should deliver real power and slam, or those reference-level explosions will sound like
wet paper bags popping.
Power is of crucial importance to a home
theater, so any power amp designed for A/V purposes must produce massive amounts of
honest, clean power. That takes a hefty power supply. The Anthem PVA 7s power
supply is comprised of a single, large, 800VA custom-built toroidal transformer and
100,000 microfarads of filter capacitance, which feeds all seven channels.
Opinion is divided as to whether it's better to have a
single large power supply common to all channels or independent, smaller supplies for the
individual channels. Anthem believes a single, large supply better supports the dynamic
peaks that individual channels see during soundtrack playback, but that rarely occur
simultaneously in all channels. This single core is responsible for the Anthems 125W
rating into one channel, which drops a negligible amount, to 105W, when all channels are
driven simultaneously (8 ohms). Into 4 ohms, the Anthem will reportedly do 200W into one
channel and 140W to all of em at the same time.
All this power could be dangerous, so, in order to protect
the PVA 7s output devices, Anthem devised the ALM (Advanced Load Monitoring)
system, which monitors heat buildup as well as voltage and current levels. According to
Anthem, this ensures a long, stable life for the PVA 7, while not affecting audio
performance (it does its work entirely out of the signal path). For those interested in
specs, Anthem rates the PVA 7 as having a 122dB signal-to-noise ratio, which is a remarkable
The PVA 7 boasts plenty of nice design features in
addition to the power supply and protection circuitry. Bipolar transistors -- 28 of 'em
(four per channel) -- are mounted on heatsinks computer-modeled for speedy heat
dissipation. Military-spec FR-4 epoxy circuit boards carry the audio signals in a
clean-looking layout -- no small feat when seven channels are packed into one chassis. And
speaking of the chassis, you get a heavy-gauge steel cabinet with an attractive aluminum
faceplate. My sample was silver, which I found to be a nice, confidence-inspiring touch.
The back panel is further evidence that the PVA 7 was
well thought-out and implemented. The binding posts are staggered (in a up-down zigzag
shape) along with the RCA inputs, so that there is enough space to actually connect
decent-gauge speaker wire. The PVA 7 sports an auto on/off and 12V trigger, as well
as the usual power button on the front panel. And thats about all there is to
report. After all, amps should be beefy and attractive, but shouldnt have bells and
The Anthem PVA 7 fits the bill. Once hook-up to your
system is complete, just tap the small circular power button on the front and away you go.
The Anthem PVA 7 sounded punchy and quick upon first
listen with Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. The pod-race scene (chapters
20-22) let the PVA 7 shine when driving Von Schweikert speakers, extracting plenty of
detail and a guttural sense of weight from the racers. The engines roared with life and
intensity, and that made the scene work well from a sonic standpoint. I was using the
system in a 5.1 configuration at this point, and as the sound panned around the room, it
was evident that each speaker was getting everything it needed to reproduce the soundtrack
fully. The sound certainly did not lack power or substance at all -- it sounded impressively
The sense of ease and detail remained intact as I slowed
things down a bit to listen to The Eagles Hell Freezes Over on DVD. Don
Henleys vocals were remarkably free of grain, giving the performance a truly live
and inviting feel. The guitar work throughout this concert exhibited the texture I know is
present on this disc, which showed that the Anthem was not masking or veiling the
performance. While there wasnt quite the ultimate air present around each
instrument that Ive heard from much more expensive amplifiers, I had a hard time
believing I was listening to a $1499 amp. All this great sound -- and I still had two
channels to spare!
Soundstaging and focus on two-channel recordings, such as
Steve Earles "Copperhead Road" (Essential Steve Earle [MCAD-10749]),
was excellent. When the vocals came in after the intro, they were planted firmly on
center. This characteristic focus, when coupled with good midrange clarity, made for a
realistic sonic experience. The PVA 7 presented the rest of the album with a
surprisingly dynamic and lively feel.
The same immediate sound was present on David Cheskys
DVD-Audio recording of Bucky Pizzarellis Swing Live. This recording sounds
about as live as any multichannel mix Ive heard outside of some select orchestral
master tapes. The PVA 7s fleet-of-foot nature maintained the recordings
quality with ease when driving my system in four-channel mode. Immediate and instantaneous
sound was what I heard.
The PVA 7 kept pace with complex soundtrack material
like The Last Castle. Although I really didnt care for the movie, the DTS
soundtrack is fine. In the prison-yard fight scene (chapter 3), there is a cast-iron
weight thrown onto a concrete slab. There is a distinctive ring that cuts through
the rap music occupying the background. With the Anthem anchoring the system, the
scenes detail was preserved intact. The explosions later in the same movie, when the
helicopter crashes to the ground, were delivered with excellent impact and transient
Of course, the true test of the Anthem came when driving
seven speakers during playback of a Dolby Surround EX soundtrack. Going back again to Star
Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, I heard complete envelopment using the eight-piece
Von Schweikert speaker ensemble I had on hand, and this at healthy, though not outrageous
sound-pressure levels. Admittedly, the 7.1 system was not set up as comfortably as I would
have liked (my room is suited more to a 5.1 configuration), but the sound of the pods
racing whirled around me, illustrating that the Anthem could easily handle the format, and
seven speakers, without losing control. This is pretty incredible.
Seven on seven
The Anthem PVA 7 is rated at 125W. The $3800 Denon
AVR-5800 receiver is rated at 170W (into seven channels), which appears to be a
fairly substantial increase. Surprisingly, Im here to tell you that it doesnt
sound like an increase at all. I pressed into service a well-broken-in AVR-5800 I borrowed
from a buddy and discovered the PVA 7 sounded every bit as powerful, dynamic, and
crystalline. In fact, the Anthem's upper treble was even purer and its bass was just as
tight and well defined as the Denon's when reproducing The Last Castle on DVD. The
Anthems sound could actually be considered an upgrade to the Denon, based on its
high-frequency superiority. It was that good.
I like the flexibility of having a separate power amp in my
system, which raises an interesting point. You could get something like the moderately
priced Denon AVR-3802 and pair it with the PVA 7 (using the Denons preamp
outputs) for well over a thousand dollars less than the AVR-5800. While it's true
there would be some processing differences, the sound would likely be comparable. Many
folks are using value-oriented receivers as alternatives to stand-alone processors these
days, because frankly, you can save some substantial money without sacrificing much of
anything. When a combo like this costs much less than a top-of-the-line receiver, that's
clear evidence of extraordinary value. For state-of-the-art processing, you could always
go for Anthems own outstanding AVM 20 surround-sound processor that I just reviewed, but thats another story.
Whats the verdict? Listening to the Anthem PVA 7
in a stereo configuration was a treat. In fact, Id even say its priced fairly
as a two-channel amp. Shop around. Paying this much for two high-quality channels
of amplification in a well-built chassis is not a bad deal at all. However, it's not
reasonable to buy it like this and have all those other channels go to waste. But in a 5.1
or 6.1 system, the picture changes. Its a definite bargain even when one or
two channels aren't being used. You'll be hard-pressed to match everything it gives you
for the same price. The home-theater performance with Dolby Digital/DTS film soundtracks
and music listening with DVD-Audio recordings were both exceptional. I could see someone
getting it for this type of system and having an expansion path for later if they purchase
a 7.1-compatible processor.
When you take into consideration that you actually get seven
channels of amplification for $1499 -- oh my! -- thats incredible from a
standpoint of both performance and value. So, if youre implementing a 7.1
system, or want an expansion path for the future, youve got a monster deal on your
hands in the Anthem PVA 7.
|Speakers - Von Schweikert Audio VR-3.5
(mains and surrounds), LCR-35 (center-channel), VR-S/3 (subwoofer), TS-350 (surrounds or
- Anthem AVM 20
|Source - Technics DVD-A10
|Monitor - Sony WEGA FD Trinitron
direct-view TV, PLUS HE-3100 Piano DLP projector