THE MARANTZ AV8801 PRE-AMP REVIEW
So after recently Reviewing and then owning the Denon AVR-4520 I was pretty sure I was done checking out Audio Equipment for awhile. Then came an early opportunity to spend time with the new Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Pre-Amp/Processor. Since the Denon and the Marantz share a lot of features and components I wasn't sure what to expect. Would XLR Balanced connections, a Copper plated Chassis (which helps block subtile electro-magnetic interference), thirteen of Marantz's own HDAM (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module) discrete pre-amp modules (which delicately handle all signals before being passed to the XLR outputs), a Toroidal Transformer combined with 192 kHz/32-bit High Resolution DACs on all channels make an audible difference? I will attempt to compare the Denon 4520, Integra 80.3, Onkyo 5010 and Marantz AV8801. I will use the same set up, same room, same speakers and same listening positions. Let's get to work!
The GUIs are just about the same (except for the logos, XLR selections and under Surround Parameter the Marantz says Home Theater EQ while the Denon says Cinema EQ) as you can see here in my Denon 4520 Review. Below are some pics. As you can see it is very simple to navigate around and very self explanatory. In a very short time you will be running around it. Meat and Potatoes time... So after doing Audyssey (as usual I always do all 8 positions) I immediately went to my saved scenes on my DirecTV DVR. I will go on record now and say that the competition is more alike than different. It helps to have good speakers like the BG Radias Reviewed here. There are subtle distinct differences though. Those do favor the Marantz. Sharper details such as in Friday the 13th. When the arrow kills the guy driving the boat you hear the exact millisecond it impacts his skull. Very crisp like! Right before he is yelling, "Woooo" which sounds like he is in the room with you. In the movie 50 First Dates the Father throws his shoe at Sean Astin and as it hits him and then knocks down cans you hear them rattling in the Right Wides and Right Front so coherently you'd think it was on the floor in your room! Again as in the 4520 Review Bruce Almighty sounds amazing. The Girl Next Door opens with dialog while starting the song "Under Pressure" in the background. As the song becomes the main focus it envelopes the room perfectly. This is another example how the Marantz has has an increased soundstage. It makes my room feel as if it is much larger. Those comments are more directly in comparison with using the newer Onkyo 5010 and the Integra 80.3. As for the Denon it is closer but still the Marantz still has a difference with distinct details and a slightly clearer midrange. Still for the money you cannot go wrong owning either one. And I truly mean that. The show Dexter (one of our favorites of all time) has a very detailed opening intro. The chewing, the razor scraping, utensils on plates, food sizzling and the creepy music all play an integral part. The AV8801 is the best we have heard and trust me when I say we have heard that intro many times with many different AVRs/pre-pros. As with the 4520 I like using the Dialog Enhancer set to Low with DirecTV. I have not heard anyone ask "What did he or she say?" with that setting. That is even more important with sports like football and basketball. The crowd using DSX Wides and Heights puts you courtside or on the sideline which can make it difficult to hear the announcers at times. Especially when the PA announcer is in the background and sometimes when you hear distinct crowd chatter. Not to mention sometimes the players talking! Putting it to Low keeps them in the game. Unless you are not a fan of who is doing your game this is a very useful feature...
The Sony 1000ES 4K
projector accepts all these resolutions ===>
I can't emphasize enough how much easier it is to use a simple tripod. Not to mention you will get optimal results. They can be purchased at a local Walmart or Amazon for around $20.00 or even less!
Although they are sister companies of D and M Holdings Denon and Marantz operate with dedicated engineering. Of course they do share a lot of the same components. For example the ADV8003 video chip from Analog Devices. I have been slowly becoming a big fan of this chip. It does an excellent job deinterlacing 1080i to 1080p as well as upconverting 720p to 1080p. The AV8801 like the 4520 up converts to 4K though it is not as good as the Sony 790 Blu ray, Oppo 103 Blu ray, Onkyo/Integra units and of course the Sony 1000ES 4K projector. Though it does pass 4K which could become an important feature in the near future. The image is sharp and clean at 1080p though. Colors are not altered. Now I will say the HQV chip in the Integra 80.3 and Onkyo 5010 is just slightly better. Most displays the difference will be very hard to distinguish. Now for sports I have been using the Oppo 103 (it has a HDMI input in the back) Reviewed here. It "enhances" the image quite effectively. Now the AV8801 does have pic modes under the Option selection on the remote control. I do like having it set to Standard for all viewing. In its default it is set to Off. Engaged it brightens the overall image but adds an extra kick. Above are some pics showing the ADV8003 chip at work. If these look familiar many are the same from my Denon 4520 Review. Colors and details look very good. Speaking of the remote I will say there is a nice side button that makes it light up. The 4520's is very sensitive and lights up with a fart. At least with the AV8801's you control when it lights up. Nice touch! Also I like how you hold down your sound mode button of choice for a second and then they all appear on the screen. You just scroll down and make your selection. You also have direct selections to the inputs including Internet Radio, iPod and Network options. There is also an InstaPrevue which gives you an instant preview as to what is on the other HDMI inputs. Also for those who are concerned often about what is going on (like me) there is an Info command.
As for Blu ray titles I really was in awe with The Avengers. Ironman flying around was jaw dropping. The gun shots also sounded eerily as if they were in the room! Dialog was top notch. Batman The Dark Knight Rises was equally impressive. Bane's creepy voice made the hairs on my neck stand up. You could easily understand him and Batman's dialog. This is an overall terrific title to use as demo material. As is Battleship. When the enemy is firing their weapons of destruction the entire room is engulfed. Another shocking title that had first rate sound was Ted. Their fight scene was too real and funny. You could feel the impact of Ted's punches. Voices also were clear and distinct. Especially Ted and all is bad words! The Norah Jones concert moment made us feel like we were in the audience. I ended up putting it into DTS Neo:X for all soundtracks. It has quickly taken over my theater for movies and TV shows. Sports I still favor DSX sound. Another notable title to try is The Expendables 2. It is the first title to feature DTS Neo:X. Movies with rain, wind, helicopters and bullets are next level!
Other cool things to consider... You can do Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify and Flickr. Mobile App control. For the pure Audiophile fans a phono input for vinyl records. Audyssey MultEQ XT32 with Sub EQ which is the best calibration available today. The DSX sound is second to none for sports! Can you say crowd noise? Awesomeness! Also Audyssey LFC (Low Frequency Containment) which will help contain bass in your room. This can be useful if you have neighbors close by or a baby sleeping upstairs. Airplay which allows you to stream music from your itunes library. My Wife Jaclyn loves this feature. Another cool feature is the Ethernet Hub on the back. This allows you to connect other Blu ray players or Video Game consoles to the internet. This is conveinant and I hope many other brands follow suit. An assignable DC Trigger. We also get 4 source 4 zone capability. Three HDMI outs. A HDMI input in the front that supprts smartphone playback. And finally what about Gapless Audio Playback? Cool!
COMPARISONS... Let's take a look at the Onkyo 5010 Receiver, Integra 80.3 pre-pro, Denon 4520 Receiver and of course the Marantz AV8801 pre-pro.->
DENON AVR-4520CI RECEIVER
So after spending the past four or five days doing intense listening I have come to a conclusion that all of the above units will make any Home Theater better. Again they are much more alike than different. Not any are head and shoulders above. The Marantz (which is the most expensive) just has a little more than the others. The "The devil is in the details" as they say. Sure the Integra and Onkyo have slightly better video processing but that should not be a deal breaker by any means. I would say looking for a good bargain is the key. Of course if you are looking for a pre-pro then the 4520, 80.3 and AV8801 are the best route. The Onkyo 5010 does not allow you to custom assign AMPs. Though some set ups that might not matter anyway. Since I always get asked I will state that for 2-Channel listening I did like the Marantz slightly better than the 80.3 Still very close but still I favored the AV8801. The pre-pros just seem to have that slightly better separation than the Receivers. Let's face it though, if they weren't better (even by slight margins in some areas) then they wouldn't make them. We would just have Receivers. Again there is not a loser in this group. I could keep any of them in my set up and be 100% content. I am planning to keep the Marantz in my rack for awhile. Jaclyn likes the looks of it the best. In all seriousness I am a believer in Marantz's HDAMs and their XLR outputs. They do combine with other key features mentioned above to produce the largest, clearest soundstage I have heard.
Equipment used for some or all of this Review in the "lab" are:
SONY VPL-VW1000ES 4K PROJECTOR
MARANTZ AV8801 Pre-Pro
DENON AVR-4520CI RECEIVER
OPPO BDP-103 Blu ray, Integra DHC-80.3 pre-pro, Simplay Labs DVDO DUO VP,
OnkyoTX-NR 5010 Receiver/ Pre-Pro, DARBLET, DirecTV HR24 500, Xbox 360, PS3, Monster Power HTS 5100, Sony BDP S790 4K (upscaling) Blu ray, Panasonic BDT 500 3D Blu ray player, MonsterVision 3D glasses, Sony 3D glasses, Parasound HALO A51 AMP, Parasound HALO A52 AMP, Antec Component Coolers, Vutec SilverStar 120.5" screen with a Carada Masquerade Masking System. Speakers (11.6) BG RADIA CENTER CC-220 & FS-420s (Left and Right), Pinnacle Speakers- Heights BD500 OWs, Surrounds Super K555s and the KLCR for surround back. Subwoofers- BG Woofer SW-210, Pinnacle Dig 600 & CS88 Corner Sub plus four MTX Lolita Low Profiles. 11.7 Sound! Remotes: Harmony 1100. Monster M1000 Ultimate HDMI cables top to bottom. And two Monster 35 foot HDX Hyperspeed HDMI cables.
DTS Neo:X 11 Channel Sound
Usually only my German Shepards react to the sound. Lately Jaclyn's Pom Tyler has been on edge when downstairs. Especially when I demo some of the scenes I discussed earlier (Friday the 13th). If you are in the market looking for the ultimate Sound Processor then look no further. So what else can I say about the Flagship AV8801? It is the backbone of my set up. The image is only half of your Home Theater and the sound is the other. The Marantz is a great compliment to the Sony 1000ES 4K projector.
This creates Home Theater bliss where eye candy meets ear candy...
For more details about the AV8801's GUI and other features and components make sure you read my Denon 4520 Review here.
Thanks again for everyone's support. Have a safe and safe Holiday Season. And special thanks goes out to Jaclyn and Tyler. See you next time...
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If you are near Scarsdale stop in to hear the new Marantz AV8801. Robert would be more than happy to demo it for you!
35 Popham Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
Make sure you stop in. Located in Oakbrook
Terrace across from the Oakbroak Mall. For now call Noah 630 788 6624 and tell him I sent you! The Marantz AV8801 is worth the upgrade!!!
One of our Christmas Trees!
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