AV8802A A/V PRE AMP
So Summer is about half way over which makes me feel like I am five years too late for the prom but maybe I am just in time since Marantz released the newer "A" version (HDCP 2.2) of their 8802 PrePro. And after being a big fan of their last generation 8801 I am very excited to rip open the box and get to the ATMOS side of things. Having heard it on their SR 7009 Receiver (Review here) and then on an Integra 80.6 (Review here) it's hard to believe we are approaching nearly a year since I first heard ATMOS in my home. I am directly comparing it to my baseline component the RS20i from DATASAT. There will be an ATMOS update for the RS20i we are told this August but still the 8802A has a huge mountain to climb with the RS20i doing 12.3 Auromatic (which includes a Top speaker sometimes referred to as the Voice of God). But enough about that let's focus on the Marantz and what makes it the best around for the $3999.99 MSRP crowd.
Equipment used for some or all of the Reviews in the "lab" are:
Sony VPL-VW1100ES, Marantz AV8802A Pre-Pro, Datasat RS20i pre-pro & RA7300 AMP (Fronts, Center, Sides & Backs), DarbeeVision DVP-5100CIE, DVDO Mini 4K Scaler, Simplay Labs DVDO DUO VP, DirecTV Genie, Xbox One, Sony FMP-X1 4K server, Monster Power HTS 5100, Oppo 103D Blu ray, Monster/Optoma/Sony 3D glasses, Parasound HALO A51 AMP (Heights & TOP), Antec Component Coolers, Vutec SilverStar Curved 3D Screen, Speakers: MARTIN LOGAN STAGE X Center, THEOS (Left and Right), VANQUISH (HEIGHTS & ATMOS & T), AXIS (Backs), Subwoofers- Martin Logan BalancedForce 212 X 2, Dayton APA150 Sub AMP x 2, 8 Aura Pro Bass Shakers, 8 Black Seatcraft Venetian Home Theater Chairs (with Raffel Integrated Lighted Cup Holders), Remote: Harmony 1100. Monster 1000 HDX Ultimate HDMI cables top to bottom. And two Monster 35 foot HDX Hyperspeed HDMI cables.
First title I went to was American Sniper in ATMOS. The sandstorm scene was making me feel like I had sand in my hair. The realism factor was very good. I also went with The Gunman, Run All Night and John Wick. Those movies have some terrific action moments that really envelope the room. For non ATMOS testing I grabbed a couple of my favorite ones in Oblivion and Whiplash. More on those later though. As for my TV and Sports testing I was more reminded of the 8801 which is not a bad thing. The ATMOS up convert (Dolby Surround) did a very good job. I actually prefer that for football now even over my now "getting old" Audyssey DSX true love.
As you can see the back is very close to their last model besides some labeling. Same goes for the remote. My biggest gripe is the claim of 13 channels. I personally don't know one person planning to use Front Wides with NEO: X. It really does 11 channels and if it were capable of doing 13 for everything then Auro-3D (if you decided to upgrade) would be amazing instead of a watered down version. And for those that have experienced Auro-3D or its up convert AUROMATIC they know it can be heart stopping.
Marantz and Denon do have some of the nicest looking GUI menus in the industry. Setting up is very easy and they even include a useable cardboard tripod (pic below) though I have my own (pic above) which I have used for the last 5 years or so. Following along makes the Audyssey calibration smooth. Speaking of which I have always been a fan of MultEQ XT32 and still am but I will admit it is starting to feel like the same old same old which isn't particularly a bad thing. Will they make a new and improved? Maybe XT64? The 8802A has everything including the kitchen sink? Name a feature and chances are it has it or will (DTS: X) which makes it one hell of a bargain pre-pro for the money. Like the 8801 the newer model has Marantz's HDAMs (Hyper Dynamic Amp Modules) which are built by engineers that hand pick the best parts which help them achieve sonic details with dynamic music and soundtrack reproductions. It's packed with 32 Bit/192kHz DACs on all channels. The DSP is a high resolution 32 Bit Digital Signal Processor from SHARC. The audio and video boards are on separate circuit boards. The 8802A also has a Hybrid PLL Jitter Reducer that is designed to reduce jitter and phase noise that can affect the sound. The last biggest feature is its Current Feedback Topology which allows High Definition signals from a Blu-ray player (or other components) to be listened with high fidelity.
As far as I can tell the video processing is the same from the Analog Devices ADV8003 chip as it was with the 8801. That is not a bad thing at all. Testing showed it did not hinder the image in any way. You also can up convert sources to 4K (3840x2160) and A/B it with your 4K display to "see" which does better. You do have 8 HDMI inputs (one even in the front) and 3 outs. And let's not forget the heavy copper-plated chassis with a double layer bottom plate which minimizes vibration and interference. There's also a massive low-noise toroidal transformer! And last but not least let's not forget the felt insulated high density feet which reduce vibration. They've squeezed out every nook and cranny with the 8802A! Copper screws anyone!?
The 8802A really is chock full of features. Download their App on your smartphone or tablet and you can control the 8802A on those devices. Makes it very easy. Music Streaming with Wi-Fi why not? As for the new buzz in the home theater world (no, I am not talking about 3D) you have your speaker options as well. I would definitely suggest 4 ATMOS speakers (DTS: X will work great with them as well) instead of 2. Whether you are doing 7.1(2).4 or 5.1(2).4, four is twice as much as two and just completely covers your room above your head a lot better. Don't "half ass" your ATMOS speakers. Do four! That should be a bumper sticker!!!
The majority of my testing and comparing came from the above titles. Please don't misinterpret what I am about to say as snobbish or slamming of the 8802A. For what it does do it does it very well. it is an awesome "gadget" of a pre-pro. Comparing to a very expensive DATASAT RS20i truly is not fair. But I did it because I like using it as my "baseline" in which all components are measured. Starting off with Darkness Falls and Oblivion right in the opening scenes there examples of "talk" that is incredibly audible on the RS20i and almost nonexistent on other components. Tom Cruise is chomping on toast and saying thank you (for coffee) so low under his breath to his costar that before I had the RS20i it wasn't discernable. Gravity has a lot of cool demo type moments but the best by far which tests any system is the scene when Sandra surfaces from the water. There's actually a good thread about it started by Cannga on AVS Forum. As he states this separates the "big boys" from the rest. Anyway, as she comes out of the water you can hear a fly buzzing around your head then towards the screen. It sounds amazing and makes you want to swat your hand in the air with the RS20i. Not bad again on the 8802A but not as clear and convincing. Jack Reacher has the too real opening moments of the sniper shooting his victims. This can make you feel sick to your stomach. You hear his slowed breathing behind you as he is looking through his scope. The hairs on my neck have stood up! Focus has a fun and finger snapping soundtrack that goes great with this cool movie. It is definitely a crowd pleaser. Lastly, It Follows has an eerie almost creepy soundtrack that gives the movie an engaging, scary 70's feel. Still this one was neatly done and really draws you in with the "big boys" even more.
Now before you get out the pitchforks and fire emails my way I want to point out that I compared first with using the same amount of speakers then let the DATASAT do its thing. Luckily you can easily turn off speakers in seconds using an iPad or iPhone too. I used Auromatic and regular Dolby PLIIz. As soon as the ATMOS update hits next month it will be much easier to compare. As of now it is like tying one hand behind its back. Except when I flip it in Auro up mix. The Top speaker (center of the room ceiling) really adds something to each movie and event we watch. I just hope in the future ATMOS recognizes this and DTS: X. If not you can just assign a channel or mirror one or two (awesome RS20i feature) channels to it. Problem solved! Sort of. Nothing would beat a natural dedicated Top speaker added in both formats... So put down the pitchforks and just remember this. You can pay $20.49 for a filet at Outback Steakhouse or $49.00 for one from Ruth Chris. Both will taste good but let's be honest only one will melt in your mouth! Translation, clarity wins out...
So now the brutal truth. Nay Sayers always find a convenient excuse as to why something like a 8802A is better than the DATASAT RS20i but the truth is they either can't afford it or have a Wife (or significant other) that won't let them. Now I respect anyone's choice or thought process in selecting a pre-pro. Maybe if I didn't have a RS20i I would emulate them. Problem is after comparing... There's just no way I could justify keeping the 8802A instead. My Wife who also enjoys almost as much as I do completely agrees. She actually said she is spoiled now and she can't even go to the movies because at home is waaaaaaaaay better! Now my Ex Wife who liked watching movies could care less if we stuck with a 720p projector (like the BenQ PE7700) and "just" 5 speakers. She never was a fan of my time I spent downstairs. My younger model Wife is an upgrade in just about every way. It's true we all need discipline in our life but when it comes to home theater I am not willing to make sacrifices. We only live once so if that means having a 4K projector (like a Sony) and 12.3 sound (like from the RS20i) then that just means I/WE have made different choices...
So back to the MARANTZ AV8802A... It really truly is a great buy with all that it can do and at its price level. It is a Jack of all trades... master of some... If you are looking for fun home theater without taking it too serious than this is the perfect pre-pro for you. Even if you are one of those "going extinct" two channel guys this Marantz does a very competent job. It will be even better, I predict- when DTS: X shows up. Sure you can spend even less for a decent pre-pro or Receiver but if you want a boat load of features and options with good performance that should keep you current a couple years look no further. If you want to keep current for 10 years or so then you will need to spend a lot more and get.... I am sure you can figure it out... MARANTZ tells you to "Experience the ultimate in home theater enjoyment." As a Jack of all trades the AV8802A is a great starting place. And you know the vast majority will be thrilled with it. Success breeds followers and the AV8802A will be no different...
For more information on the AV8802A ATMOS Pre-Pro click on the MARANTZ logo above.
Again and again I have said thank you to my favorite AV store in the industry. If you are near Oakbrook stop in and check out the latest and greatest components like the Marantz AV8802A. Give them a call if you need instructions or good "sound" advice. The number is (630) 607-0054. Ask for Noah or Aaron. Tell them hi for me!
CLICK HERE TO GO BACK TO:
And again and again as usual I would like to thank my cool "Home Theater" understanding Wife. The WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) is one of if not the most important ingredients to an awesome theater! Since we've been together that has never changed...
*Note: My in-ceiling speakers are the Martin Logan Vanquish which can be read about here...