|Anthem Statement P5 Multi-channel Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Christopher Zell, Ph.D.|
|Saturday, 01 January 2005|
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I find it very difficult to describe the sound of the reference quality, ultra-powerful P5 amplifier. Music and soundtrack sequences were as realistic and live as the source permitted. With power to spare to drive just about any loudspeaker load I can imagine, the P5 delivered fantastic results up to the considerable limits of my Revel Ultima Salon and Voice reference loudspeakers’ capabilities. The Salons in particular are not an easy load, especially when driven to reference levels, but the P5 always sounded like it was cruising throughout the review period. Besides being brutally powerful, the P5 was also light on its feet, delicate and detailed where appropriate as it waited patiently to explode dynamically when reproducing upcoming musical transients. I was not able to pinpoint any trademark “sound” of the P5, which is exactly as it should be with a reference amplifier.
As is usual with any new component inserted into my multi-channel system, after a few weeks of casual usage, I begin the real evaluation process listening to two-channel sources in stereo mode. Lately, for reasons I will not bore you with, I have gravitated toward an assortment of classical music performances. One spectacular release from my favorite classical label, the “budget” Naxos, is Phillip Feeney’s score for the first ever ballet version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (Naxos 8.553964). Because of my perhaps misguided childhood fascination with Dracula, this CD is exciting to me both musically and topically, despite the disturbing images I cannot help but conjure of Dracula in tights. The emotionally charged first act covers Jonathon Harker’s trip to, and subsequent imprisonment in, Castle Dracula in Transylvania. The tempo builds throughout, with an ominous tension that is even evident during beautiful, melodious sections. The P5 easily displays the power of Manchester, England’s Northern Ballet Theatre’s full symphony orchestra. The soundstage was very three-dimensional, with the percussion, bells, etc. extremely clear and crisp, correctly placed behind the wind and string instruments. This entire act was wonderful through the Anthem, the soloists rising beautifully above the orchestra, while the strings remained sweet without any added harshness, despite my preferred high listening levels. The final crescendo builds to a frantic, raucous frenzy, all the while staying clean, effortless and uncompressed through the Anthem P5 amplifier.
The P5 did equally well with high resolution sources, particularly multi-channel recordings such as the SACD version of Roxy Music’s Avalon (Virgin Records). For those who dislike an aggressive surround sound mix, be aware that this disk uses the surrounds as direct sources on many occasions. The title cut, “Avalon”, begins with exceedingly clear percussion, guitars and keyboards, followed by Brian Ferry’s vocals which startlingly appear front and center, his distinctive waver and vibrato as clear as I have ever heard. “Take a Chance With Me” is typically the first surround sound demo cut I unleash on guest listeners, becoming a near-religious experience, especially when listening in a dimly lighted environment. The introduction sets an indescribable atmosphere as it swirls around the listening space, sharply focusing into a front-dominated interpretation once the main theme and vocals commence. Additionally, the P5 imparts a weight on this cut, helping to make it powerful but still clean.
I have enjoyed numerous DVD movies and concerts through the P5, none more impressive or shocking than Kevin Costner’s “Open Range” (Buena Vista Home Video). Composer Michael Kamen’s atmospheric soundtrack and the various sound effects are impressive throughout, but this all pales in comparison to the exhilarating, climatic gunfight. The absolutely stunning crack, percussion and visceral impact of the firearms, and especially the shotgun through the P5 mated with the Revel Salons, must be experienced to be fully appreciated. There is nothing like unadulterated power to make a good action film realistic and affecting.
Although I consider myself a long-time fan of Canadian rockers Rush, for some reason I waited until recently to purchase their concert DVD Rush in Rio (Coming Home Studios, Anthem Entertainment). Having attended numerous Rush concerts over the years, including a recent engagement in San Diego in 2004, I am well aware of their virtuosity and power in a live setting. Although no home theater can actually match the multitude of massive stage monitors at a live concert, Neal Peart’s drums are authoritative and exciting on this disc. The energy of older, classic songs such as “Tom Sawyer”, “YYZ” and “The Trees” is stirring; they simply rock through the Anthem. This is the first concert DVD that has actually pulled my teenage son into the room and kept him interested, which is a testament to the P5’s abilities and musical muscle.