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Exclusive First Look! Marantz AV-8801/MM-8077

Posted on November 24, 2012 at 3:25 PM

I’ve been a fan of Marantz products for a while now for two big reasons.


One: The stuff has great sound and build quality and hits that sweet spot between middling receiver performance and the truly insane gear found at the high-end. (I’m looking at you, Meridian, Krell, Lexicon, ADA and Theta!)


Two: Kevin Zarow – VP of sales at D&M (Marantz, Denon and Boston Acoustics) – is an incredibly cool guy that has always been a real straight shooter with me and I not only respect him, but like working with him.


So, several years ago when I updated my home’s reference system, I replaced my existing Denon AVR-4802 receiver with the brand new Marantz separates; the AV-8003 pre-pro and MM-8003 amplifier. I loved the copper chassis build quality of the pieces and could immediately tell a huge improvement in audio performance over the (admittedly aged) Denon receiver.


When Marantz released the new version of its pre-pro – the AV-7005 – about 18 months ago, I jumped on board. I loved the new “porthole” design and the updated network streaming features and the improved Audyssey processing. But from the momen I laid hands on it, it was immediately clear the unit was not in the same league build-quality wise as the AV-8003. Whereas the 8003 was THX Ultra2 certified and weighed in at 25.6 pounds and felt incredibly solid, the AV-7005 lacked THX certification, weighed 3 pounds less and just didn’t *feel* the same.


Also, the AV-7005 was sorely missing two key features that I really wanted, nay, NEEDED to have! While it has processing for Audyssey DSX, it could only support one set of additional channels at a time. That meant I couldn’t enjoy surround back AND front height simultaneously for a true 9.1 experience. (Clearly a tragedy of Greek proportions...) Second, it didn’t support the latest, most powerful version of Audyssey’s room-correction processing, XT32, which improved by an order of magnitude the correction applied, especially to those pesky, hard-to-tame bass notes.


So, ever since installing the 7005, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I replaced it whenever Marantz decided to remake a flagship, 8000-series pre-pro to take its rightful place as heir apparent at the top of the line.


At CEDIA this year, I sought out Marantz and ran into Jeffrey Cowan, the VP of Training and Customer Insight. (Here's a video of me talking to Jeffrey at the show.) I mentioned the tragedy which was my life without XT32 and 9-channels of audio and asked if the new Marantz pre-pro would do the trick. He looked at the new AV-7701 for a moment; sitting there on gleaming black a white, linen covered tablecloth ready for it's primetime unveiling to the world. Took a deep breath and then said, “No…”


After a conspiratorial pause, he said, “But, we are working on something that WILL give you exactly what you need.” After a quick huddle with the PR team to see what information I could be trusted with, Jeffrey -- under strict embargo -- went on to give me the outlines of what would become the true flagship AV-8003 replacement, the new AV-8801.


Sight unseen I told him I wanted it. Whatever I had to do, whatever it cost, I wanted to be on the top of the list of people getting one! As God is my witness, I would have this piece!


And last week the stars aligned and I got this e-mail from Kevin:


You have the second set in the world.  Do you know who has the first? :):):)


I’ll never tell but I can assure you that he will be busy this weekend playing with the new gear…


Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday.


Then later this e-mail addendum:


Funny story. I went back to the warehouse to assist the admin in what units we were shipping you.  Lo and behold, another AV/MM set arrived and I grabbed it.  Since I drove it home, I technically got the first set but your units actually left the building first.


So, yesterday, either the first or second set of this dynamic A/V duo arrived on my front porch!


Let's have a bit of A/V unboxing porn, shall we?



The units arrived nicely double-boxed and -- at least on my front porch -- were in the correct "This End Up" orientation. This is the amp’s box:



While Denon has gone to pretty, retail-friendly, four-color boxes with pictures and charts and feature descriptions, Marantz is keeping it real: Plain, brown cardboard box with some basic printing and a CAD looking illustration. You want fancy? Here’s what the product is…in French! You want a pretty-boy box, go buy something else. You want a 7-channel power amp, here it is. Included in the box is the amp, heavy gauge power cord, manual and control cable for remote power switching by the pre-pro.


Here’s a picture of the front of the amp.



It retains identical styling to the current MM-7055 series, with the porthole design and the ability to turn off the front panel display. Here’s a close-up of the front panel sticker:



Here you can see the beautiful copper-plated construction on the bottom of the amp.




The amp’s business end is around back where you’ll find balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs for all 7 channels as well as the speaker binding posts.




The amp also features some control inputs that allow it to turn on/off with the AV-8801. While the spec I found on Marantz’s site lists the weight at 45.41, I threw it on our home's scale and found that it measured 39.5, which is identical to the MM-8003. This isn't too surprising, and the build and feel is a lot like the MM-8003. But where the 8003 was 8 channels x 140-watts (an extra channel for a non-powered sub), this is a far more home theater usable 7 channels x 150-watts. (If you do the math, you’ll see that 7 x 160 actually equals 8 x 140 (both 1120), so I’m surprised that that isn’t the rating of the new amp...) Kevin told me the amp is based on the MM-8003's design, but the new model has more headroom and a few other tweaks.  


Now, on to the main event…the AV-8801!


The outer box, again, plain and straight-forward.




However there are a couple of key new logos worth noting. DTS Neo:X, Audyssey MultEQ XT32 and Audyssey DSX LFC. From the manual, here’s what these refer to:


DTS Neo:X - This technology enables the playback of 2-channel source audio or 7.1/5.1 multi-channel source audio through a maximum 11.1 channel speakers, achieving an even broader sound field.


Audyssey LFC (Low Frequency Containment) - Audyssey LFC™ solves the problem of low frequency sounds disturbing people in neighboring rooms or apartments. Audyssey LFC dynamically monitors the audio content and removes the low frequencies that pass through walls, floors and ceilings. It then applies psychoacoustic processing to restore the perception of low bass for listeners in the room. The result is great sound that no longer disturbs the neighbors.


Discrete subwoofers and Audyssey Sub EQ HT - The unit has two subwoofer output capability and can adjust the level and delay for each subwoofer individually. Audyssey Sub EQ HT makes the integration seamless by first compensating for any level and delay differences between the two subwoofers and then applying Audyssey MultEQ XT 32 to both subwoofers together.


Inside the box is the prerequisite accessory baggie:




This contains a quick setup guide, FM antenna, AM loop antenna, AA batteries for the remote and a CD that contains the entire – 199 page! – owner’s manual on PDF.


Here is the new remote, updated from the model included with the AV-7005.




Though, I have to be honest, if you are buying a piece like this, the chances that you are going to use the factory remote are probably somewhere between slim and none. I will be controlling the AV-8801 via IP with my Control4 system. However this remote looks fairly simply laid out which is a plus, though it probably means you don’t get discreet access to all of the different sound modes and settings, etc. So, the moral of the story is, get a good 3rd party control system!


Here’s the Audyssey calibration mic.




This is pretty much the same Audyssey mice – ACM1HB – that is included with all Denon/Marantz products, even those starting under $400. With a unit like this (which supports Audyssey’s professional calibration), hire a pro to come and use a REAL calibrated mic to get the most out of the system. (I’m awaiting my ProEQ license and will upgrade it immediately! Here's my review of the ProEQ system in use on the AV-7005.)


Here’s a shot of the top of the unit where you can see the six copper screws, definitely a sexy touch.



Here’s the front which appears identical to the AV-7005:




Here’s a close-up of the front panel sticker touting all of the new, gee-whiz features of the AV-8801:



Keeping the sleek, front panel look means hiding the extended display and buttons behind the drop down front panel door:




The front panel door feels much more solid on the AV-8801 than on the AV-7005 which was always kind of flimsy/plastic-feeling to me. Behind the door things are mostly unchanged. One big difference is that the AV-8801 omits the Toslink optical digital input on the front which was included with the AV-7005. Since I used this exactly zero times, this isn’t a big deal to me. On the plus side, the front panel HDMI connection supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link), a feature found on some mobile devices.


Again you can see evidence of the quality build construction in the copper chassis.




Beyond the build quality, you have higher quality power supplies and multiple other performance/build improvements that add up to the AV-8801 weighing a hefty 8.5 pounds more than the AV-7005. This thing definitely feels like it means serious business.


Much like the amp, the exciting stuff happens around back. Here I’ve made some notations about key features of the AV-8801.




I’m not sure why it took this long for a manufacturer to add a REAR USB port, but it makes SO much sense, especially if you like to keep a hard drive filled with music permanently connected in your rack. Being able to plug into the back makes for a much cleaner connection. The 4-port switch is handy, but I wish it would have been Gigabit speed instead of just 10/100. However, for most applications, this will be a handy, $50 savings over not needing to purchase a separate network switch. (Also, it is a bit surprising that the unit doesn't feature Wi-Fi at this price point...) The AV-8801 is ready for dual-display systems – like my own living room Plasma by day, projector by night – with dual, simultaneously active HDMI outputs for the main zone. The system also supports a second, discreet HDMI zone which is oddly called Zone4 and not Zone2, but tomato/tomahto.


And finally, here’s a beauty shot of the two units stacked on top of each other:





I’m excited to install the system into my rack this weekend and can’t wait to give the system a listen, including being able to (finally) experience 9.1 channel audio. I’ll be posting up a full review later, but my initial impressions are Marantz clearly stepped well-beyond the performance of the last model, cramming the 8801 with all of the latest, top performing audio/video enhancements and looking to establish a new benchmark in the upper-mid-fi A/V preamp/processor category!


While your waiting for my full review, here's a link to the spec sheet from Marantz and you can find much nicer pics of the units at Marantz's website here.

Categories: November 2012, Electronics, Reviews

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28 Comments

Reply Joe Hayes
10:46 AM on November 25, 2012 
Great review, John. The 8801 is absolutely beautiful, and the specs are insane. However, it's also $3500. Sure, it's their flagship, but is it really worth 4x more than something like an Onkyo 818 or 2x more than their own 7007?
Reply John Sciacca
4:09 PM on November 26, 2012 
Joe Hayes says...
Great review, John. The 8801 is absolutely beautiful, and the specs are insane. However, it's also $3500. Sure, it's their flagship, but is it really worth 4x more than something like an Onkyo 818 or 2x more than their own 7007?


Well, you're in rarefied air with what this can do. I know of only one other "reasonably" priced pre-pro that will do 11.2 -- an Integra piece. So, if you want to fully push the bounds of home theater -- or even just go with 9.1 -- then the other pieces you mentioned are out. Also, there is a superior DAC set in use here, and I'm not sure whether the 7701 will even handle 192/24 high-res audio signals (I can say that the AV-7005 definitely would NOT). And the 7701 doesn't have the Audyssey XT32 processing. Plus, the build quality of this unit is SO superior you can't even begin to compare it. It weighs virtually the same as the Denon AVR-4520 but doesn't include the 9-channel amplification! There is *serious* hardware under the hood, and you can feel it. And I can tell you that this unit sounds *sweet* as well. Now, as a retailer would I like to see it at $2999 or even $2499? Sure. But I think Marantz is looking to establish this as a benchmark, and it has little competition in the AV-8801 arena.
John
Reply Pangue
6:34 PM on November 29, 2012 
Great first look. Do you know if Marantz will be releasing a SR8007 or something like that. I am a Marantz fan and would like a receiver that is comparable to the Denon AVR4520 or the old Marantz SR8002.
Reply Gary
8:58 PM on December 3, 2012 
Why is the amp only for seven channels but the preamp is for nine? Won't you need a Marantz two-channel amp too?
Reply Ehud Avni
8:02 PM on January 1, 2013 
Joe Hayes says...
Great review, John. The 8801 is absolutely beautiful, and the specs are insane. However, it's also $3500. Sure, it's their flagship, but is it really worth 4x more than something like an Onkyo 818 or 2x more than their own 7007?


It might be Joe, depending on the true power output. For instance the SR7000 is 125 WPC x2, but only 70 WPC x7 when measured on a bench. Close to $2k for 490 total watts?, not for me. There are so may manufacturers out there with 125-140 WPC receivers that do no better than 90 WPC x7. I sure as hell would be pissed off if I discovered the 125-140 x7 receiver was really only 70-90 WPC x7 after purchase. Caveat emptor!! ;-)
Reply Chris
6:06 AM on January 15, 2013 
No THX,,,wtf
Reply JD Gamez
7:19 PM on January 25, 2013 
I have been a Marantz owner for a while. This system is very solid in build quality, ergonomics, and sound. You have to spend twice, or three times as much money to get close. Onkyo products do not contend with this gear, and Integra have their problems.But, if your seriuos about sound, and true audio, then Marantz is your brand.
Reply Talamas
12:33 PM on January 26, 2013 
Looks a great A/V system, but how to bi-amp the AV8801 to MM8077(s) ? I could not find any explanation in the manual to do bi-amp connection. Most of A/V receivers can do it. Denon AVR-4520 can do tri-amp if necessary.
Reply John Sciacca
12:54 PM on January 26, 2013 
Chris says...
No THX,,,wtf

Many manufacturers have stopped paying the licensing fees required by THX. This would probably meet all of the necessary specs -- especially since the AV8003 was Ultra2 certified -- but the licensing would have raised the price even more.
Reply John Sciacca
12:57 PM on January 26, 2013 
Talamas says...
Looks a great A/V system, but how to bi-amp the AV8801 to MM8077(s) ? I could not find any explanation in the manual to do bi-amp connection. Most of A/V receivers can do it. Denon AVR-4520 can do tri-amp if necessary.

You could split -- y-cable -- the RCA outputs and run them to two separate amp channels, but you're correct, there is no built-in provision for bi-wiring with the 8077 and reassigning outputs. I'm guessing this is something Marantz *could* unlock in a firmware update (letting you reassign the height or width outputs to be front or center outs) but I've not heard of any plans.
Reply Nathan
4:40 PM on February 2, 2013 
Hi John,

Thanks for the review. I had a question regarding the LFC feature. Is this feature on at all times, automatically, or do I need to enable it?
Reply John Sciacca
11:25 AM on February 4, 2013 
Nathan says...
Hi John,

Thanks for the review. I had a question regarding the LFC feature. Is this feature on at all times, automatically, or do I need to enable it?

This is definitely a feature that you turn on or off. The default setting is off. It is under the Audyssey configurations.
Reply Jason
6:40 AM on February 12, 2013 
John, what happened to the full review? I am dying to hear a comparison between the AV8801 and be AV7005! I currently have the older pre-pro and am seriously considering the upgrade.
Reply Rik Bastiaens
6:24 AM on February 14, 2013 
Hi, just wondering what will happen if you bi-amp using the L+R front and the FHL+FHR channel together? Marantz expects lag in the soundsignal. I am guessing that low and high frequencies will be filtered out in the speaker itself.
The Y-splitter solution could be an option. Does it mean that the poweramp needs to work just a little harder?

John Sciacca says...
You could split -- y-cable -- the RCA outputs and run them to two separate amp channels, but you're correct, there is no built-in provision for bi-wiring with the 8077 and reassigning outputs. I'm guessing this is something Marantz *could* unlock in a firmware update (letting you reassign the height or width outputs to be front or center outs) but I've not heard of any plans.
Reply John Sciacca
12:00 PM on February 14, 2013 
Rik Bastiaens says...
Hi, just wondering what will happen if you bi-amp using the L+R front and the FHL+FHR channel together? Marantz expects lag in the soundsignal. I am guessing that low and high frequencies will be filtered out in the speaker itself.
The Y-splitter solution could be an option. Does it mean that the poweramp needs to work just a little harder?

You wouldn't want to do that because the signals that are output from the FHL and FHR would not be anything like the signals that come from the main L and R channels. You would get weird, phasey sound that would be nothing but detrimental to the signal. You would have a minor drop in milli-voltage by spliting the signal, but that would easily be accounted for in level balancing. Splitting the output is definitely the best way to bi-amp at this point.
Reply John Sciacca
12:03 PM on February 14, 2013 
You can read my review of the 8801/8077 here:
http://www.residentialsystems.com/new-products/0019/marantz-av880
1-pre-amp/mm8077-amplifier/84206
Needless to say, I found it *significantly* better sounding than the 7005, which is not to imply that the 7005 was a bad unit, but just how awesome the 8801 is. It is really amazing in everything it does, and the ambiance that it extracts from surround information is stunning. Highly recommended!

Thanks for reading!

Cheers,
John
Reply Seth
4:28 PM on March 7, 2013 
Thanks for sharing your first impressions of these new Marantz products. I just read your review on this combo, and it's nice to know how great they are! I currently own a Denon AVP-A1HDCI and I LOVE it! It's without a doubt, the finest, most well built, and best sounding pre/pro I've owned to date! But in the coming weeks I plan on getting LG's new 84" Ultra HD TV. And according to one owner of this TV, he experienced an audio sync issue when going through his AV receiver(Yamaha) via HDMI. His receiver (like mine) has no ARC on HDMI, so I'm a bit worried that my Denon AVP could encounter this same issue. I hope not, but it's a definite possibility.

With that said, if I do run into the same issue, I may need to change to another pre/pro that offers ARC on the HDMI's. From what I've read on this Marantz AV8801, it has ARC, and offers 4K passthrough and 4K upscaling. I see that it's not THX certified, and while that's unfortunate (I would have paid a bit more for this), it's not a deal breaker if its audio performance is on par with what I'm used to on my Denon AVP.

In your honest opinion, how is the sound quality of this Marantz AV8801 as compared to the Denon AVP? Also, will I be taking a hit in performance with it not having THX? And how would you describe the sound of the AV8801, warm, neutral, or a tad bright? This is important, as I own an all Martin Logan setup, and a neutral to warm sound is much preferred over a tendency toward brightness.

Thanks in advance.
Reply Junior
5:33 AM on March 15, 2013 
No coax/opt digital out for audio ? Just HDMI ? so apart from this top range preamp/processor would we still have to buy a DAC to have a complete preamp/processor system ? This is ridiculous.
Reply John Sciacca
10:22 AM on March 15, 2013 
Seth says...
In your honest opinion, how is the sound quality of this Marantz AV8801 as compared to the Denon AVP? Also, will I be taking a hit in performance with it not having THX? And how would you describe the sound of the AV8801, warm, neutral, or a tad bright? This is important, as I own an all Martin Logan setup, and a neutral to warm sound is much preferred over a tendency toward brightness.

Thanks in advance.

I don't have any real experience listening to the Denon AVP, so I can't honestly give you a comparison, but I wouldn't call the AV-8801 bright sounding. I know that isn't really helpful though...
Reply John Sciacca
10:25 AM on March 15, 2013 
Junior says...
No coax/opt digital out for audio ? Just HDMI ? so apart from this top range preamp/processor would we still have to buy a DAC to have a complete preamp/processor system ? This is ridiculous.

Umm, you do realize that this has a top-flight DAC built in, right...? And if you wanted to use an external DAC, you would run your sources directly to that and then take the outboard DAC's analog output back to the Marantz... That is how a DAC installs. But, I would highly recommend listening to the on-board DACs Marants is using on this, you will likely be pleasantly surprised.