Anthem AV receiver better than Denon as a preamp

I asked this question in a previous thread and it turned into a bit of a gongshow, so I am going to try it again, but ask a very specific question this time.

Once again, I NEED to utilize an AV receiver in my setup. I have a 3 channel Bryston 5Bst amp utilized through the preamp outs on my Denon 2808ci to power my front L front R and center. The AVR powers the rears and a second zone (my patio).
I am not in love with how my Denon performs as a pre for music ( but a separate 2 channel pre is not an option for many reasons..respectfully, please don't suggest). I am currently looking at the Anthem MRX line of AV receivers.
Does anyone have any experience using these ? Would this provide me a significant enough improvement over my Denon when using as a preamp (and powering my rears and 2nd zone)?
Depending upon how much the Anthem would cost you, you could go with something like Emotiva separates for maybe even less money. Look at UMC-200 prepro and some XPA-100 monoblocs...

Thank you but as I stated in the rigianl post, I am looking specifically at AV receivers. This went off the rails in the previous thread and I tried to make it quite clear what I was looking for and asking about.

Not really interested in Emotiva...the Anthem has what I need as specified in the post (power to run rear channels AND a second zone).
And I certainly don't need another amp. I have the Bryston which is generally considered a world class amp.
I for one am not a fan of Denon receivers at least for stereo listening. Can't imagine the preamp section alone is anything special either. I'd be very surprised if the Anthem wasn't a meaningful step up. Any way for you to demo one at home?
Anthem sounds alot better than any denon receiver regardless of price. I use to own two different "flagship" receivers from denon and the anthem sound wise is a clear winner . All 3 of anthems receivers will sound the same used as a pre. since you do not need amplification the smallest model will work . Only benefit of going with the middle or top model is bigger amp power and the internet streaming capabilities .
As this is your second post on the matter, we should all be very clear by now that you require an AVR that is also great at 2 channel stereo as well as HT. So I will definitely say on topic and talk AVR's only.

From what I have heard, I don't think the Anthems will give you what you are looking for. They are pretty much designed and priced to compete with mainstream AVR's (Denons) in the HT market and the ones I have heard in "pure direct" mode had the same unimpressive sound quality as all the other mainstream brands. Great at HT; but undesireable in Stereo. Might as well keep the Denon.

In your other post, I also recommended Arcam and still do. Suggest you audition the AVR600 & 400 models. They cost more but as a higher end product, they are drawing upon Arcams 2 channel pedigree. These I did listen too and IMO, were among the best out there at 2 channel in an AVR. Hope this helps.
Take a look at Kal Rubinson's reveiew of the MRX 700 in Stereophile if you have not already He even tried it with a Bryston amp. He throught the MRX 700 amps sounded almost as good as the Bryston so the theater match should be good. And he very much liked the 2 channel sound. He is one reviewer I trust.
I am going to stick by my NAD AVR suggestion in the other thread. I am completely amazed daily how well my older NAD T773 receiver and T175HD pre/pro handle 2-channel music. Get the 2nd from top T775HD or T775HD2 and don't look back. I have had zero reliablity issues with either of my NAD's and they sure create a very distinct 3-dimensional stage in my room.

Don't know what your budget is but here is a link.

Odd about the Anthem. I hear good things and the Stereophile review is great, but paraneer say it is no better than the Denon. Not sure what to think.
Would love the Arcam, but may be a bit out of my budget. Also regarding NAD, great stuff, but they have just had so many reliability issues I am leary. Especially when buying used like I am looking to do to keep it afforadable (for example, the Anthem MRX 500 is $1500 new, but I can get used locally for $750). Would like to keep it under $1200
Paraneer...will the Arcam AVR360 give me the same performance as the 400 just will a little less power and features ? Or is it a different pre section all together ?
I think what you are hearing is that the good receivers may be 10% or 20% different, but a lot of that is in the amps, not the preamps. You are probably not going to see a huge difference in the 2 channel pre-amp performance from most of the good ones. What differences you hear will probably be as much personal taste as anyting. Anthem, Arcam, NAD and maybe Marantz are probably the options. The best thing to do is try to get a local trial, if possible. If you can get the Anthem locally at a good price, you should be able to get a trial. If not possible, maybe try the NAD from Spirit Sound with a 30 day return (I think they have a 30 day return). Or some other brand if you can find a 30 day return. That will probably give you an idea of whether you hear enough difference to be worth it. I doubt you are going to get any definitive answer without listening.
Don't take my opinion about Anthems as gospel Dallyd. Most here seem to like them. I have heard the MRX line in 2 channel mode with no processing and simply wasn't impressed. They reminded me of mainstream AVR's I had before I bought a separate 2 channel preamp with HT bypass. Thats why I equate them to Denon and suggested you might as well keep what you have.

I have heard the Arcam 400 & 600 in 2 channel mode on numerous occasions and thought they were much better. If I was in need of a do it all AVR, especially for 2 channel, these Arcams are the way I would lean. WRT the 360, can't say - never heard it and I won't comment either way on a product I never auditioned. I would suggest that you check out its specs, compare it to the 400 & 600 and go out and audition it.

But you seem to leaning toward Anthem so perhaps you should just go for it. Maybe you can get a trial. In the final analysis, its your system and you have to discover what sounds best to you. Not by asking us - you'll get different opinions like mine. To my ears, I simply cannot reaffirm your leaning toward Anthem. Best of luck to you in whatever you do and I hope you find the sound you are looking for in an AVR.
Pioneer Elite sc-68; see post in other thread
Paraneer, when you heard the Anthems were they in your system or somewhere else? If the latter, what equipment were they hooked up to and how was the room/setup? Did you hear the Arcams in the same setup or somewhere else and with what equipment? Just trying to get a sense of context and variables involved in your assessment since they're so critical. Thanks.
You are right Soix - many varibles must be taken to into account. Here are mine based on what I experienced. The AVR's were not in my system. They were lengthy auditions. Maybe some of the Anthem advocates in this thread are actual owners but I doubt if all are. The questions posed was if anyone has experience. Auditions, especially lengthy ones where the agenda is to find what the OP is looking for, is experience.

Listened to the Anthems at a dealer in 2 channel pure direct mode into Paradigm Studio 60's. Listened to Arcams at a different dealer in 2 channel pure direct mode into B&W CM9's (IMO both fairly comparable speakers). Brought along my own music that I know very well. The listening rooms were set up about as well as you can expect at a dealer. I wanted no subs or DSP mixed in so I could get a sense of their performance with as pure a signal as possible.

Again, to my ears, I was not impressed with Anthem. Reminded me of past mainstream AVRs (Denon, Yamaha, Pio Elite) I had and reaffirmed the reason why I went with separates for music. I was impressed with the Arcams but not enough to make a switch from the separate preamp I am using now. To be honest, I am not a fan of using AVR's for music period (looking to upgrade my 2 channel stuff right now for even better performance). But that is the discussion that the OP does not want to get into for whatever reason. I will respect that and stay on topic. The Arcam was as close as I got. Maybe NAD and Cambridge Audio should be checked out too - didn't audition these. Hope my experiences help.
Probably a dumb question, but how did you determine the blame for poor 2-channel sound rests on the Denon?
Paraneer - it sounds like you used both the amp and pre-amp sections of the AVR's you tested. The OP has Bryson amps for his mains, which means he is only using the pre-amp section of the AVR and that might be in a Pure Direct mode for stereo. My experience is that the amps can be as important to the sound as the preamp, depending on how they mate with your speakers.

So my suggestion remains, time for the OP to listen to some options in his own setup.
Of course, I had to use the internal amps in the AVRs Dtc. I also know the OP has a very nice Bryston. Try and find and dealer willing to rewire units and hook AVR's into a power amp for an audition. They would show you a 2 channel preamp instead and advise this is what you should really be using!

I am now beyond my personal 3 post limit per thread. Again, good luck to all contemplating the Anthems as a preamp. I hope it works out for you.
Paraneer - Your observations were very useful and appreciated. I was not trying to be critical, just trying to point out the difference between you auditions and the OP's setup.

I used to have one of the higher end of Denon AVR that I pay well over 1k (this is when I was in college). When the HDMI came out, I than upgraded to the Rotel AVR. Wow, I can't believe how much better Rotel sound, and it was rated at lower power than the Denon. However, I recently upgraded to the Anthem pre/pro mated with Proceed 3ch amp. I must say, Anthem really out perform my old Denon and Rotel AVR in every ways. I don't really enjoy listening to music on a HT system much, but now I do. Their are many better system out there, but for me, Anthem is a keeper. My next upgrade would most likely be their D1, D2 Statement line. Have fun shopping.