Up to eleven

The most chan­nel­laden and prici­est re­ceiver in this group, the Marantz re­turns enor­mous lay­out flex­i­bil­ity as well as high­qual­ity am­pli­ca­tion whether in movie or mu­sic mode.

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Those who watch the an­nual re­fresh of AV re­ceivers will know how in­cre­men­tal the changes can be — a new for­mat here, im­proved cal­i­bra­tion there. But the last few years have seen the in­creas­ing ac­cep­tance of im­mer­sive sound for­mats, and that has brought the need for more am­pli­fier chan­nels able to han­dle the new height chan­nels. In the Denon re­view this is­sue we men­tion the AVR-X8500H which of­fers 13 chan­nels, while here we have no lesser brand than Marantz de­liv­er­ing a full 11 chan­nels, so able to pro­vide all you need for 7.1.4 Dolby At­mos or DTS:X sound from a sin­gle box.

Equip­ment

And they are 11 very re­spectable chan­nels. Each is rated at 140 watts out­put, full au­dio band­width into eight ohms at just 0.05% THD, two chan­nels driven. All chan­nels also sup­port four-ohm loud­speak­ers. There’s a special set-up func­tion for set­ting the load im­ped­ance to four or six ohms rather than the de­fault eight. For ul­ti­mate out­put lev­els, if you want to call it that, the am­pli­fiers are rated at 175 watts into six ohms at 1kHz with 0.7% THD.

All those am­pli­fiers mean that you need no ad­di­tional am­pli­fiers to drive the max­i­mum num­ber of speak­ers in any At­mos or DTS:X sys­tem (short of a small num­ber of truly ex­otic sys­tems with equip­ment start­ing at quadru­ple the price of this re­ceiver).

But there’s enor­mous flex­i­bil­ity to drive other zones, for ex­am­ple, or to bi-amp other speak­ers. Many re­ceivers these days let you bi-amp the front stereo pair. How many have the op­tion to bi-amp all five main speak­ers in a 5.1 sys­tem?

Speak­ing of chan­nels, we note that although there are two sub­woofer out­puts, there is no op­tion to split dif­fer­ent parts of the sig­nal to them. That is, you can’t have one do­ing left and the other do­ing right, for ex­am­ple. But even so, the sig­nals are not iden­ti­cal. Dur­ing Audyssey MultEQ 32 cal­i­bra­tion, if you have two sub­woofers they’ll both be mea­sured and their lev­els and dis­tances set in­di­vid­u­ally.

In­ci­den­tally, if you’re a fan of the Auro-3D de­cod­ing sys­tem, this re­ceiver comes with it in­stalled. One of the odd­i­ties of that sys­tem is that it uses a ‘Top Sur­round’ speaker — that is, one speaker in the ceil­ing right in the mid­dle of the room. Ap­par­ently you can’t just use reg­u­lar At­mos ceil­ing speak­ers.

If you want to switch be­tween At­mos and Auro-3D, and you’ve got all the rel­e­vant speak­ers in­stalled, you can use the Sub­woofer 2 out­put to feed an am­pli­fier con­nected to Top Sur­round. Yes, clearly there’s some fancy sig­nal re­di­rect­ion go­ing on in there.

The con­nec­tiv­ity of this re­ceiver is, as you’d ex­pect, first-class. There are eight HDMI in­puts (in­clud­ing one on the front) and three HDMI out­puts. All the in­puts on the back panel sup­port HDCP 2.2 and full-spec­i­fi­ca­tion UHD video (with things like Dolby Vi­sion and wide colour). So do the three out­puts. Two of those out­puts are for the main zone. The third is for a sec­ond zone.

There are also com­pos­ite and com­po­nent video in­puts... you know, just in case. Plus plenty of ana­logue au­dio in­puts (in­clud­ing on the front

panel), and coax­ial and op­ti­cal dig­i­tal in­puts. And a mov­ing-mag­net level phono in­put.

There’s a front-panel USB socket and, more im­por­tantly, both Wi-Fi and Eth­er­net. The Wi-Fi sup­ports up to the dual-band 802.11n stan­dard. There are two an­ten­nas on the back. These dou­ble as an­ten­nas for Blue­tooth as well. Only the ba­sic Blue­tooth stereo codec, SBC, is sup­ported.

If you’ve been a reg­u­lar reader, you will have no­ticed that we only talk about the back panel of equip­ment in the con­text of its con­nec­tions. And we never talk about its un­der­side. They are, af­ter all, fun­da­men­tally bor­ing things. Well, that’s not the case here. All the screws hold­ing things to­gether are cop­per-plated. The un­der­side is, in­stead of the usual undis­tin­guished nickel or tin-coated panel, a beau­ti­ful cop­per panel. On the rear panel nearly all the con­nec­tors are gold-plated. Not the HDMI ones, nor sys­tem con­trol sock­ets, but even the mounts for the two WiFi/Blue­tooth an­ten­nas are gold-plated. We hes­i­tate to use the word, but re­ally it is a thing of beauty.

Per­for­mance

Again the Audyssey auto cal­i­bra­tion sys­tem seems to have been tuned up a bit since the last gen­er­a­tion of Marantz re­ceivers. Nor­mally it does ev­ery­thing nicely... ex­cept the sizes of the speak­ers. (With those most cal­i­bra­tion sys­tems of­ten seem quite ran­dom.) But even though our loud­speaker ar­range­ment is the same as it usu­ally is, this time the auto cal­i­bra­tion sys­tem got ev­ery­thing very close to right. We tweaked some of the crossovers a lit­tle, but that was it. And we cer­tainly could have lived with it with­out those tweaks.

We note that Audyssey has stated that it de­ter­mines the EQ curves for the full range of speak­ers, even if it ends up set­ting them as small. So if you do lower a cross­over fre­quency, the newly han­dled bit of band­width will still be equalised.

The re­ceiver talks you through that cal­i­bra­tion. In­deed as with the Denon re­ceiver in the pre­vi­ous re­view, it can talk you through ev­ery step of the set-up. To start, all you need do is plug in power and a TV, and the wiz­ard will cover con­nect­ing each speaker, one by one, the Audyssey set-up, the con­nec­tion of source de­vices and the con­nec­tion of the net­work. If you’ve cho­sen Wi-Fi, you can use iOS de­vices to au­to­mate the set-up of this as well. But it’s sim­ple enough us­ing the SSID se­lec­tion plus pass­word ap­proach that house­holds are these days do­ing all the time.

There are pe­ri­odic op­tions to skip chunks of the wiz­ard, so you don’t need to go through the bits you can han­dle your­self.

Just make sure that Audyssey Dy­namic Vol­ume and Dy­namic EQ are switched off at the end. Don’t con­fuse Dy­namic EQ with stan­dard Audyssey EQ, which you may well want to use.

Stereo mu­sic

Stereo mu­sic lovers, there’s one other thing you might want to do in the set-up. In the

bot­tom of the menu in man­ual speaker con­fig­u­ra­tion set­tings is some­thing called ‘2ch Play­back’. This lets you set a sep­a­rate speaker con­fig­u­ra­tion to be em­ployed when­ever play­ing some­thing in two chan­nel di­rect or stereo modes. So in the nor­mal set-up we set the front stereo speak­ers to ‘Small’ with 40 hertz crossovers to the sub­woofer. In ‘2ch Play­back’ we said that there was no sub­woofer, so the front stereo speak­ers were set to large. We also made sure both speak­ers were on the same de­lay time.

That way you can lis­ten to stereo mu­sic us­ing only your stereo speak­ers and not the sub­woofer, which is how we usu­ally pre­fer it. You can also do that by se­lect­ing ‘Di­rect’ or ‘Pure Di­rect’ mode, but those modes also dis­able EQ. So you have op­tions.

We spent a lot of time with mu­sic, both ana­logue and dig­i­tal, and movies. The ana­logue mu­sic was from vinyl. The gain on the phono in­put was per­haps a lit­tle lower than we would have pre­ferred, re­quir­ing the vol­ume con­trol to be ad­vanced to quite a high level. But there was no dis­cernible noise from the re­ceiver, so it didn’t re­ally mat­ter. But re­mem­ber­ing the Denon’s abil­ity to use the In­put sub­menu in set­tings, we checked here, and again you can ad­just the level of each source by ±12dB. So much for our ob­jec­tion.

We hes­i­tate to say this, be­cause it’s kind of con­tro­ver­sial, but we’d sug­gest that it would take a very par­tic­u­lar golden ear to even tell, blind­folded, that they were lis­ten­ing to mu­sic be­ing de­liv­ered by a home theatre re­ceiver rather than an au­dio­phile stereo am­pli­fier.

Movies

As for movies, how about a fine, fun ac­tioner. We watched Baby Driver, which com­bines an ex­cel­lent mu­sic sound­track with a fine Dolby At­mos sur­round field. It’s es­pe­cially im­pres­sive in the fast car scenes. The au­thor­ity of this re­ceiver over our loud­speak­ers was ab­so­lute.

The only op­er­a­tional dif­fi­culty we found with the re­ceiver was when we had the HDMI Con­trol switched on so that we could use the Au­dio Re­turn Chan­nel. When­ever we switched on our LG OLED TV, if the re­ceiver was al­ready on it switched to the TV in­put. We’re more used to re­ceivers that only switch to the TV in­put when we select some­thing in which the TV is the source, like the TV tuner or Net­flix.

HEOS and net­work­ing

The re­ceiver also does all the im­por­tant net­work stuff. In par­tic­u­lar it works as a DLNA ren­derer for Win­dows/An­droid folk. And an Ap­ple Air­Play mu­sic player for Mac/ iOS folk. And a Spo­tify Con­nect player for Spo­tify Pre­mium sub­scribers. And it has in­ter­net ra­dio built in.

All of that stuff worked well. But even more use­fully, it uses the HEOS multiroom plat­form for this — which is now well-es­tab­lished, spread­ing be­yond its roots with Denon into other brands un­der the SoundUnited flag, in­clud­ing Marantz as here, and be­yond. The HEOS app was es­pe­cially handy, as the Marantz AVR Re­mote app worked, but slowly and a bit flak­ily. Even if you aren’t go­ing full multiroom, the HEOS app gives ad­e­quate con­trol, of­fers more sources and is sim­ply more sta­ble. It was a plea­sure to use.

Con­clu­sion

The Marantz SR8012 AV re­ceiver is far from cheap, but that’s only ap­pro­pri­ate. This is the re­ceiver for the dis­cern­ing lis­tener, who also wants flex­i­bil­ity, plenty of power, and per­haps Auro 3D. Stephen Daw­son

Marantz SR8012 AV re­ceiver with HEOS

A cop­per chas­sis and an over­sized shielded toroidal trans­former take cen­tre stage in the SR8012, with high-cur­rent power sup­ply ca­pac­i­tors and care­fully se­lected high-grade au­dio com­po­nents in­clud­ing Marantz HDAM mod­ules in Cur­rent Feed­back topol­ogy.

With 11 chan­nels of power, the most ever in a Marantz re­ceiver, the SR8012 can de­liver full 7.1.4 At­mos sound — or a wide va­ri­ety of other con­fig­u­ra­tions. Eight HDMI in­puts and nu­mer­ous au­dio in­puts in­clud­ing turntable and both coax­ial and op­ti­cal dig­i­tal

Speaker out­puts In­puts Stream­ing

▲ With so many chan­nels of power, it’s only fair you get two apps as well — the AVR Re­mote app (left) and the per­haps more use­ful HEOS con­trol app which al­lows some re­ceiver con­trol along with stream­ing and multiroom. And HEOS now works with Alexa (see p26).

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