MARANTZ AV8805 SURROUND PROCESSOR
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.
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.
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.
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.