You can’t find a product in the audio/video space that says “custom installation” more loudly than the Anthem MDX-8 distribution amplifier. It is an eight-channel power amplifier that has up to 200 Watts-per-channel of Class-D power waiting for any number of speaker applications, be it in-wall speakers, invisibles (like I use from Nakymatone and Stealth Acoustics), subwoofers, or even outdoor speakers. So. why am I talking about a distribution amp in an audiophile publication? This amp is so amazingly versatile that it is your secret weapon in getting audiophile results from your whole home audio system.
What’s its special trick, you ask? Anthem Room Correction, my friends. ARC. In your most acoustically unfortunate rooms, you can (without an installer if you are a DIY guy) achieve nearly perfect 2.1-channel sound. We put a lot of effort into the performance of our two-channel systems, but what if one component could bring the rest of our whole-home audio system to much higher audiophile performance standards? Now it can.
What Makes the Anthem MDX-8 Amplifier Special?
- Let’s start with Anthem Room Correction. While not the only room correction system in town, Anthem’s well-evolved ARC is an industry standard these days and can solve any number of audio problems via an iPad with an app (or a PC or Mac or whatever) in ways that 10 years ago might have been thought to have been impossible. Subwoofers? Also no problem. Small speakers placed in strange places? Not an issue. There are big audio gains to be had here all over your home.
- 60 watts per channel is a lot of power for most speakers in a whole-home audio system. With bridging, you can get up to 200 Watts-per-channel depending on your speaker configurations.
- While the Anthem MDX-8 is an eight-channel amp, there is a 16-channel option for larger homes or more complex distributed audio systems.
- The Anthem MDX-8 is compliant with all of the major home automation platforms which makes this Crestron Home user happy. Savant, Control4 and others are well supported too. Advanced control is supported via RS-232 or Ethernet.
- Bass Management is available on every zone so that you can control your subs as I do with the numerous in-ceiling Gray Sound S80 in ceiling subs I have located in my home.
- Each input has a DAC capable of 24/192 performance, which will keep your high-res streaming sounding high-res.
- Because it is a Class D amp, the Anthem MDX-8 runs cool as a cucumber in your equipment rack. For me, this is becoming more and more of an issue as I have two eight-foot-tall Middle Atlantic racks and the collective heat can get overwhelming in my mechanical room (formerly a big coat closet). I’ve got enough factory-installed fans at the top of my Middle Atlantic racks as well as two Panasonic heat activated “fart fans” normally used for bathroom use to pump more hot air from the ceiling into the attic, but the less heat generated to begin with, the better.
Why Should You Care About the Anthem MDX-8 Amplifier?
You care about the Anthem MDX-8 distribution amplifier because you love your high-performance two-channel system (or the core of your home theater) but you also understand that you listen to just as much music outside, in other rooms, while working in the garage or cooking in the kitchen. Getting your distributed audio system up to the standards of your main system can be a very worthy upgrade.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Anthem MDX-8 Amplifier
- The Anthem MDX-8 is a very rack-centric product which is perfect in my world but it might not look as cool in a non-racked setup.
- If you need more power than 200 Watts (bridged) then you will need to look to a dedicated two-channel amp for that specific zone.
- If you want to power cycle your amp for any reason, you need to go to the back of the amp to find the switch. There’s no easy access from the front of the Anthem MDX-8.
Listening to the Anthem MDX-8 Distribution Amplifier…
There are many venues where I could listen to the Anthem MDX-8 in my home but I focused my main testing in my living room, which relies on both Nakymatone ETCH invisible speakers and a very well-hidden Gray Sound S-80 subwoofer – both mounted in the ceiling. On “Going to California” from Led Zeppelin IV (Streaming: Amazon Music at CD resolution) (buy at Amazon) it was striking to hear the impact Anthem Room Correction can make in a venue where you literally cannot hear the depth of the lower notes of Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar in the same way. The depth was greatly increased as the music just sounded more and more engaging.
On a more raucous track “BLACKOUT,” by the now three-times-Grammy-nominated pop-metal band from Jersey, Turnstile, (CD quality Streaming via Amazon Music) (buy at Amazon) the aggressive yet open percussive sounds had a wonderful three dimensionality to them. With explosive and heavy guitars waiting at each chorus, the Anthem captures the gravity of the song as well as the little percussive details in the way that you’d expect from a high-end audio system – not a system where you can’t physically see a single speaker in the room. Invisibles and in-ceiling woofers are fantastic, but the Anthem ARC on top is simply game changing.
In pushing the volume limits a little, I cranked up Silk Sonic’s “777” from An Evening with Silk Sonic (streaming from Amazon Music – CD Resolution) (buy at Amazon) where the soaring horns came to life in a three-dimensional mix that was just intoxicating. The control needed to reproduce the James Brown-inspired syncopation was effortless for the Anthem MDX-8 as it has that level of control but comes with no real sound or flavor, meaning it didn’t have any sweetness in the highs or anything flowery in the vocal mids. This is a very accurate amp that plays back what’s on the recording without adding anything of its own. It just fixes the room issues, which is the big draw.
Does the Anthem MDX-8 Distribution Amplifier Have Any Resale Value?
I’ve never seen an Anthem MDX-8 for sale used, but I bet that it would have excellent resale value in that anybody who has one could use a second one. I could, as I have a lesser, non-ARC-based distribution amp that I would upgrade if I got the chance.
Anthem does a great job promoting their brand and their dealer network is one of the best in the business. I wouldn’t buy an Anthem MDX-8 to resell it, per se, but if you had to move on from it, I bet you would do just fine on Audiogon.com or Ebay.com.
Who Is the Competition for the Anthem MDX-8 Amp?
Oh boy, this is a tough one as this is a somewhat “out-there” category of new-school audiophile goodness. With that said, AudioControl.com has a few options in their P-Series that are very custom installer friendly and 2U rack-space high. Learn more here.
NAD has a completely different way of bringing network-connected 2.1-channel audio to your life via their CI 720 V2 module. You can expand this system out to about 64 zones, which is a lot even in a large home. The form factor is completely different than how Anthem and AudioControl go about things, but this is a viable option from NAD.
You could use a $4,995 Trinnov ST2-HiFi with another amp, but that would be at significantly higher expense, as the Trinnov is twice the cost of the Anthem amp and that’s before you added an actual amp. Trinnov has a new line of amps, but it doesn’t look like the room correction is built into them from what I can tell.
Simply put, the Anthem MDX-8 is a pretty unique product in the marketplace right now. There really isn’t that much competition for it right this second.
Final Thoughts on the Anthem MDX-8 Distribution Amplifier
In the past 10 years, I can’t think of too many audio components that have changed the way that I listen to music as drastically as the Anthem MDX-8 has. Using the modern computing power that drives today’s best room correction, any end user can get drastically improved sound in his or her own room very easily. And the results aren’t subtle. Not at all. You can pull subs in and out. You can turn ARC on and off to test. Anybody can tell that it is a massive improvement.
We spend a lot of time and thousands and thousands of dollars on our main audiophile systems or core home theater rigs, and for good reason. What if $2,500 invested in a distributed audio system could bring the same level of sonic excellence to the other rooms of our house? It can and it is easy. The answer is the Anthem MDX-8.