This is my review of the stellar Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier. It is stellar for several reasons, not the least of which is the huge amount of power it delivers. It also features Anthem’s Room Correction (ARC) system, that optimises in-room performance.
Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier – Design
This Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier is similar in features to the recently reviewed MicroMega M150, notably with its room correction functionality and an array of inputs, including digital inputs (they are near similar price points too). Where it differs markedly is in its physical size, it is big, really big. This is AV Receiver sized big! Which is fine; it is big because it has an oversized precision wound toroidal transformer that dominates the inside layout. This transformer, with oversized capacitors, offers 400W into 4 Ohms or 200W into the Kanta speakers I’m using with a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms. Another notable difference is the Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier is cool, physically, compared to the Micromega, although one may argue the Micromega looked cooler, even though it was sweating so much, through design.
The STR has inputs for a moving magnet and a moving coil turntable. Other inputs include 4 RCA inputs, balanced XLR input, and two digital coaxial inputs as well as two more optical Toslink inputs. There is also a USB B input for computers, etc.
The digital section of this amplifier is asynchronous 32bit and supports up to 384kHz PCM and has DSD support to 5.6MHz.
The build quality here is excellent as you would expect at this price, power, and size. The 5-way binding posts have bags of room around them which is great and there is no fiddling about, unlike the Micromega! The STR is hand-built and it is this attention to detail that really stands out. The buttons are soft to the touch with a very smooth volume control.
There is more here on the Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier on their site.
I have been listening to the Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier mainly driving a pair of Focal Kanta No.1s. I’m supporting the low end with a REL T/5i (see below for my reasons). It has a nice sound. I’m using the Auralic DAC as my source as it is fantastic and it features the balanced output/input option.
The outcome of ARC is very impressive
One of the key features of this amplifier is the ARC (Anthem Room Correction) technology that optimises the performances of your speaker set-up in the room. I first experienced this at Pulse Cinemas a couple of months ago where it was featured in several AV set-ups. The ARC system uses its software to effectively control the bass and boost dips in sonic performance whilst also controlling room induced peaks.
Setting this up is very easy indeed, I just downloaded the App from the Apple App Store. From there the App synchronises to the STR and sets about measuring the performance of the room. It uses the microphone on your iPad after a series of pulses are pumped out as you move to five locations at least 2 or 3 feet apart in the room. The set-up took me 5 minutes at the most. You can do the same with the microphone provided in the box and a laptop.
The outcome of ARC is, I have to say, very impressive. I have a pair of Kanta No.1s that were struggling in my wide open and improbably reflective room because I have so little soft furniture in it (hence the GIK Acoustic panels worked so well for me). I decided to support the Kantas with a hard-wired hi-level input to a REL T/5i subwoofer which is pretty decent move in fact as the wiring to the STR is very easy given the space around the 5-way binding posts. I’m bound to say that I have probably just thrown the subwoofer solution together in haste, however, it is clear the ARC has taken control of my subwoofer and has brought the Kantas forward in their exact, beautiful, detailed resolution (Kanta No.1 review is coming soon).
XLR Input with Auralic Vega G1
So now, with ARC, it is onwards and upwards. As we all know the G1 is an ‘Outstanding’ piece of equipment. The bass is under control so I’m concerned there may be a lack of fidelity as the ARC calibrated DSP adjusts the output from the amplifier. But I should have no such worries. I check in with ‘Apocolypse’ by Cigarettes After Sex (Tidal FLAC) and the incredible detail from the guitar strings is front and centre from the Kantas. I’ve recently stumbled across Ed Harcourt’s “This One’s for You” courtesy of a Noel Gallagher interview around Definitely Maybe’s 25th Anniversary. What a track! It is so perfectly poised in production, rhythm, and lyrics. Here, with the Kantas the STR delivers another flawless and effortless sound. The XLR input gives you the confidence that you are accessing the very best source you can have and switching sources is a very simple matter with the remote and the arrow selection.
As an aside, as I have alluded to already, with a fair amount of running these last few days, the Anthem STR is as cool as a cucumber, probably a reflection of the oversized power supply, and therefore oversized fins on the top of the unit (unlike recent amplifiers I could mention!).
RCA Input with Bluesound Node 2i
I’m still really happy with the Node 2i, though it suffers in comparison next to the G1. However, using a pair of Atlas Mavros RCA interconnects I’m feeling I’m giving the best I can to the Node 2i. It is an excellent product. Once again, the STR is perfectly at home dealing with the analogue (output) source effortlessly. The resolution, on tracks such as ‘Ode’ by Nihls Frahm, is point perfect and breathless, wonderful.
USB B Input with DELL XPS
Here, I’m using as a 24-bit copy of the aforementioned ‘Ode’ on my laptop and boy it sounds good. The STR is receiving the PCM output through from the laptop and then the DSP in the STR is putting it all together (the display says as much). The sound from the tracks seems to feel softer than I’m used to (for example from the Auralic G1) and I really like it. Foobar is still a pain but it has moved on in the last few updates for 24 bit playing about.
With such a deal of space at the back of the Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier, it is a simple matter to hook up my RP3 to the Moving Magnet input at the back. I put a few (5) dBs of gain in the menu system just to add a bit of weight to the source input (in fact all of the inputs can be adjusted for gain which is a useful thing generally for your on-going sanity). The performance of the MM input with the STR is very nice indeed, it certainly presents the source resolution as you would want it. I’m listening to Ryan Adams’ “Gold”. The resolution is excellent, I’d be confident putting a P8 in here.
There is no headphone output here; interesting. Maybe the thought is that, at this price level, you may prefer your own headphone output and based on my Naim experience, I tend to agree. However, there is only an RCA analogue output to a potential headphone amplifier.
This is an outstanding piece of equipment and around which you could build your future system, be that digital or analogue. The Anthem STR Integrated Amplifier is doing everything you want, competently, without fuss. It is not over complicated and it really does feel robust. It has bags of power, which is the key selling point here, driving these Kanta speakers effortlessly.
Space at the rear
Nothing I can think of