MARANTZ AV8805 SUR­ROUND PRO­CES­SOR

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - By David Vaughn

I RE­MEM­BER my first flag­ship A/V re­ceiver like it was yes­ter­day. It was the year 2000, and Onkyo’s TX-DS989, which sold for a cool $3,200 and fea­tured seven chan­nels of built-in am­pli­fi­ca­tion plus sup­port for the lat­est, great­est THX Sur­round EX and DTS-ES codecs was every home the­ater en­thu­si­ast’s dream. With rear sur­round speak­ers now added to the mix, a home the­ater could ac­tu­ally match the ar­rays found in cin­e­mas.

Over 1,900 part changes are meant to en­hance au­dio qual­ity over the Marantz AV8805'S pre­de­ces­sor.

It’s now nine­teen years later and the home the­ater mar­ket has con­tin­ued to evolve. Back in 2015, I low­ered the ceil­ing of my the­ater and in­stalled four over­head speak­ers to get set up for Dolby Atmos. The cen­tral piece of hard­ware driv­ing my sys­tem then was a Marantz AV8802A sur­round pream­pli­fier­pro­ces­sor, a model that of­fered 11.2 chan­nels of pro­cess­ing and an op­tional Auro-3d up­grade.

As is usu­ally the case in the A/V world, up­grades of­fer­ing even more good­ies were soon to come. Case in point: the new Marantz AV8805 ($4,499), an A/V pream­pli­fier sport­ing 13 pro­cess­ing chan­nels and a 15.2-chan­nel pream­pli­fier stage for home the­ater en­thu­si­asts who want to ad­dress vir­tu­ally every avail­able speaker ar­ray op­tion.

'The AV8805 is for en­thu­si­asts who want to ad­dress every avail­able speaker op­tion.'

With its 15-chan­nel out­put, an AV8805 owner can con­fig­ure their sys­tem to get the most out of the Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3d formats.

Other fea­tures found in the AV8805 in­clude HEOS wire­less mul­ti­room stream­ing, Air­play 2, Blue­tooth, Alexa voice con­trol (good if you don’t mind Ama­zon spy­ing on you 24/7, which I do), and flex­i­ble Audyssey Mul­teq XT32 pro­cess­ing that al­lows a user to in­put their own tar­get curves (re­quires the Audyssey app, avail­able for $19.99 from the itunes and Google Play Stores). A firmware up­date will up­grade the AV8805 to IMAX En­hanced sta­tus, a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process meant to bring the IMAX movie the­ater ex­pe­ri­ence into the home.

FEA­TURES AND SETUP

Marantz’s AV8805 is about the same size as its AV8802A pre­de­ces­sor. It sports the same classy curved front panel with a sparse lay­out fea­tur­ing just a vol­ume knob on the right, a source select knob on the left, and a power on/standby but­ton. The only vis­i­ble dis­play is a port­hole show­ing the cur­rent source and vol­ume level. Be­low that is a flip-down door re­veal­ing nav­i­ga­tion but­tons and other con­trols, along with a sec­ond LCD dis­play. There is also an HDMI in­put, a head­phone jack, ana­log A/V in­puts, an Audyssey mi­cro­phone in­put, and a USB type-a port.

The AV8805’S rear panel is com­pletely packed with con­nec­tions—not sur­pris­ing given how many chan­nels this beast sup­ports. Ar­ranged along the bot­tom are 15 XLR out­puts; these al­low the op­tion for four stereo pairs of height speak­ers, with the fourth con­fig­urable as front heights or wide speak­ers in the setup menu. There are dual sub­woofer XLR out­puts, along with cor­re­spond­ing Rca-jack out­puts for all chan­nels for in­stal­la­tions us­ing am­pli­fiers that lack XLR in­puts.

Back-panel HDMI con­nec­tions in­clude seven in­puts, two mon­i­tor out­puts (one with ARC), and a Zone 2 out­put. A re­cent firmware up­date en­dowed the AV8805 with sup­port for EARC (En­hanced Au­dio Re­turn Chan­nel), which al­lows for the car­riage of 3D-for­mat au­dio sig­nals from TV apps over a sin­gle HDMI con­nec­tion. There are also three com­po­nent-video in­puts and one out­put, plus more than enough gold-plated ana­log in­put/ out­put jacks to ac­com­mo­date every legacy piece of equip­ment you might have ly­ing around the house. Other fea­tures in­clude dual an­ten­nas for Wi-fi and Blue­tooth, an AM/FM tuner in­put, a sin­gle pair of XLR bal­anced in­puts, and a sec­ond USB in­put. There’s also a phono in­put for con­nect­ing a turntable.

The AV8805’S video sup­port in­cludes pass-through of 4K/60-HZ full-rate sig­nals with 4:4:4 color res­o­lu­tion, BT.2020 color space, HDR10, Dolby Vi­sion, and HLG (Hy­brid Log Gamma). In other words, you can run all video sources through the pro­ces­sor with­out fear of them be­ing down­graded. Marantz has also stated that it will of­fer an up­grade to HDMI 2.1, a new HDMI ver­sion that sup­ports up to 10K res­o­lu­tion video pass-through and high frame rates, in the fu­ture (cost is yet to be de­ter­mined).

While the AV8802A and AV8805 look sim­i­lar, the AV8805 has over 1,900 part changes that are meant to en­hance au­dio qual­ity. These in­clude faster DSPS, new iso­la­tion plates be­tween the trans­former and chas­sis to re­duce noise and vi­bra­tion, ad­di­tional shield­ing and iso­la­tion be­tween the

DSPS and the au­dio PCBS, a new DAC board lay­out with a shorter sig­nal path for im­proved jit­ter re­duc­tion, and up­dated HDAMS (Hy­per Dy­namic Am­pli­fier Mod­ule) with pre­ci­sion­matched dis­crete de­vices.

One thing Marantz hasn’t up­dated is its best-in-class user in­ter­face, one that I find to be ex­tremely in­tu­itive and easy on the eyes. When pow­er­ing up for the first time, you are greeted by a guided setup that walks you through the in­stal­la­tion. First, you tell the pro­ces­sor how many com­po­nents you’re us­ing. Next, you’re in­structed to con­nect the in­cluded Audyssey mi­cro­phone to the unit’s front panel in­put so that Mul­tieq XT32 equal­iza­tion can work its magic.

The ef­fect that Audyssey has on your par­tic­u­lar room will, of course, vary. In my case, very lit­tle help was needed since my room is fully treated and my

four sub­woofers get their own equal­iza­tion through a MINIDSP pro­ces­sor us­ing the free­ware soft­ware Roomeq Wiz­ard. I did make a point of do­ing some lis­ten­ing tests with Audyssey en­abled, but I ul­ti­mately pre­ferred it switched off. You may feel dif­fer­ently.

The AV8805’S re­mote is of the learn­ing va­ri­ety but can’t re­ally com­pare with more pow­er­ful af­ter­mar­ket re­motes like those from Har­mony or

URC. Thank­fully, it’s back­lit and has the ca­pa­bil­ity to op­er­ate all three zones by tog­gling the Zone Select but­ton lo­cated at the top. Like the re­motes in­cluded with its pre­de­ces­sors, the AV8805’S IR sen­sor has a very nar­row re­ceiv­ing range and doesn’t al­ways re­spond to com­mands un­less the re­mote is pointed di­rectly at it and in close prox­im­ity (less than 10 feet). I was able to over­come this is­sue by us­ing a URC MX-980 re­mote that com­mu­ni­cates via RF with a base sta­tion that in turn sent com­mands to the Marantz via its rear-panel IR in­put. Given the au­di­ence that this pre/pro caters to, I as­sume most users will do some­thing sim­i­lar or op­er­ate it via an IP in­ter­face.

The AV8805’S ar­rival co­in­cided with my re­view of an M&K Sound S150 speaker sys­tem (Oc­to­ber/novem­ber 2018 is­sue) con­sist­ing of three S150 speak­ers across the front cou­pled with four S150T Tripole speak­ers to round out the bed level. Over­head were four At­lantic Tech­nol­ogy IC- 6-OBA in-ceil­ing speak­ers; be­low were four sub­woofers finely tuned with the MINIDSP pro­ces­sor. Am­pli­fi­ca­tion was pro­vided by two ATI class-d am­pli­fiers with Ncore mod­ules: the AT527NC and AT524NC. While I would have loved to tap more chan­nels and test a full 13-speaker con­fig­u­ra­tion, my room is too nar­row for wide speak­ers and too shal­low to ac­com­mo­date ad­di­tional ceil­ing speak­ers. Plus, my wife has reached the tip­ping point when it comes to room up­grades.

PER­FOR­MANCE

Watch­ing movies with the AV8805 was a ref­er­ence-qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence from be­gin­ning to end. Sur­round ef­fects moved through the room seam­lessly— whether from Dolby Atmos or DTS:X discs, or up­mixed via DSU (Dolby Sur­round Up­mix­ing) from legacy codecs. The Ju­manji: Wel­come to the Jun­gle UHD Blu-ray counts among my fa­vorite discs re­leased in 2018 due to its wildly en­ter­tain­ing screen­play and per­fect cast­ing. Also, its Dolby Atmos track is to die for! Heard via the AV8805 on my sys­tem, the over­head speak­ers re­ally came alive when a char­ac­ter respawned and was dropped back into the group. Cou­pled with gun­shots rip­ping through the room, foun­da­tion-shak­ing ex­plo­sions, and di­a­log that re­mained con­sis­tently clear and in­tel­li­gi­ble, the ex­pe­ri­ence ri­valled that of vis­it­ing a good movie the­ater.

One Repub­lic: Live in South Africa is a great con­cert

Blu-ray for fans of the pop­u­lar group. While the band’s mu­sic isn’t revo­lu­tion­ary, it’s well­com­posed and will have you tap­ping your toes. Both my kids played cello grow­ing up, so it’s nice to hear a band that in­te­grates or­ches­tral in­stru­ment into their songs. Lis­ten­ing to the cello solo that opens the song “Se­crets,” I had the ex­pe­ri­ence

'Watch­ing movies with the AV8805 was a ref­er­ence-qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence from be­gin­ning to end.'

of sit­ting front row at the con­cert. Every pull of the bow across the strings sounded so vivid and re­al­is­tic that it was hard to be­lieve I was in my home the­ater lis­ten­ing to a DTS-HD Master Au­dio track.

Play­ing the Una­mas String Quin­tet’s ren­di­tion of Franz Schu­bert’s No. 14 in D mi­nor Death and the Maiden from a Dolby Atmos demo disc took things up an­other notch. This track sounded even bet­ter than it did on the Marantz AV8802A, with in­creased body and mid-range heft. Fur­ther­more, the imag­ing was damn near per­fect, which had the ef­fect of mak­ing the speak­ers dis­ap­pear into the room.

One of the most im­pres­sive things about Marantz’s pre­vi­ous flag­ship pro­ces­sor was its per­for­mance with two-chan­nel mu­sic. As ex­pected, the next-gen­er­a­tion AV8805 has upped the ante here as well. One ref­er­ence track I use for au­dio com­par­isons is “Sec­ond Choice,” from the Marti Jones al­bum Live at Spirit Square. This song fea­tures just a bass gui­tar, bongo drums, and Jones’ fab­u­lous voice. With the Marantz, the bass re­sponse was tight and clean and didn’t hang in the room longer than it should. El­e­ments in the record­ing such as the bass gui­tarist’s fin­gers slid­ing along the strings also came through with crys­tal clar­ity. Sub­tle au­dio cues like these can get lost with in­fe­rior equip­ment, but the AV8805 passed every au­dio hur­dle I put in front of it.

CON­CLU­SION

I’m a big ad­vo­cate of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and when­ever some­one ex­pe­ri­ences those formats in my home the­ater they are blown away by how much the over­head ef­fects

The AV8805 has a re­mote with a fully back­lit key­pad, but its IR re­ceiv­ing range is lim­ited. draw you into the movie ex­pe­ri­ence. While I have no de­sire to add more speak­ers to my rel­a­tively small the­ater, or to con­fig­ure the room for Auro-3d, I know there are some en­thu­si­asts clam­or­ing for a fully im­mer­sive home the­ater au­dio ex­pe­ri­ence that doesn’t re­quire buy­ing a $20,000 ded­i­cated pro­ces­sor. For those folks, I’m happy to re­port that Marantz’s new AV8805 sounds great and checks every high-end home the­ater box at one-quar­ter the price of cur­rent uber-ex­pen­sive au­dio pro­ces­sor so­lu­tions. Highly rec­om­mended.

The Ver­dict

Marantz’s new flag­ship sur­round pro­ces­sor makes the most of the Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3d formats while pro­vid­ing a no­table sound qual­ity im­prove­ment over its pre­de­ces­sor.

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