Processors

Marantz AV7701 7.2 A/V Preamp/Processor

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction to the Marantz AV7701

The preamp and processor market for the home theater used to be more vibrant than it is now. There were a larger variety of products to pick from, and more from boutique manufacturers as well. The shift to HDMI for everything has led to a reduction here, as the issues that come about from using HDMI make it harder to make a new processor from scratch. With this limitation, it makes the market for these unfortunately ripe for vendors to charge a premium due to the smaller number of options available.

Thankfully Marantz came out with their AV7005 processor a few years ago, which contains almost all of the high-end processing and features that people wanted, but at a lower price-point than almost any processor out there. Now Marantz has some back with the AV7701, a replacement for the AV7005 that brings it up to date with the modern streaming functions of current receivers and processors, and adds a few nice other touches as well while keeping that aggressive price-point. Has this update let Marantz keep this little niche to themselves again? I swapped the AV7701 in for my AV7005 to see if I could tell a difference between the two.

MARANTZ AV7701 SPECIFICATIONS

  • Design: 7.2 A/V Preamp/Processor
  • Codecs: All, Including Audyssey MultEQXT, DSX, Dynamic EQ, Dynamic Volume
  • DACs: 24/192
  • DSP: Analog Devices ADSP21487
  • Video Connections: HDMI 1.4a (6 Rear In, 1 Front In, 3 Out), Component (3 In, 1 Out), Composite (4 In, 2 Out), No S-Video
  • Audio Connections: RCA Stereo (6 In, 1 Out), Optical (2 In, Coaxial Digital (2 In, 7.1 Multi-channel (1 In, 1 Unbalanced Pre-out, 1 Balanced Pre-out), USB (1 Front)
  • Other Connections: Ethernet (Internet Radio, DLNA, Streaming and Firmware), 12V triggers (2), RS-232, IR (1 In), 2nd Zone (HDMI, Composite Video, Component Video, Stereo Audio), 3rd Zone (Stereo Audio), Headphone Jack (6.3mm), AirPlay
  • Dimensions: 7.4" H x 17.3" W x 16" D
  • Weight: 21.6 Pounds
  • MSRP: $1,699 USD
  • Marantz
  • SECRETS Tags: Marantz, Processors, 7.2

Design and Setup of the Marantz AV7701

Moving from the AV7005 to the AV7701 was quick and easy, but it also made the changes in features all the more apparent. The output jacks are now gold plated, which is a nice touch, but they are also no longer color-coded for multichannel. I'm not sure if many people besides me use that to hook up cables correctly, but it is a small change. There's a small reduction in analog video inputs as well, but with an increase in HDMI inputs, I doubt anyone is going to miss them. The update to three HDMI outputs, one of which serves a second zone, is nice to see. I found that the HDMI inputs were a bit tight and I would think I had inserted a cable fully only to discover it was still slightly hanging out.

The larger additions are in the audio streaming features that Marantz has added to the AV7701. AirPlay has gone from an optional feature to a built-in function, and Spotify support has been added as well. Marantz has also added support for scaling content to 4K resolutions, though like most people I have no way to test this feature out yet. The iOS apps have also been updated and made it a bit easier to use, and there is an Android version as well.

A big improvement with the Marantz AV7701 is the setup process. Now after you connect it and power it on initially, you are prompted for what devices you have connected. This helps to pare down the selection of inputs on the front panel when switching, as well as name them correctly, and it is a logical feature to have. The AV receiver is probably the most complex device in a system to configure, so anything to improve that is welcome.

Marantz has also improved upon the web interface, where you can connect to the AV7701 from a computer on your home network to do lots of the setup. This is useful, but fell short in a couple areas that would have made it even better. First, I can't able to log into Spotify from the web, and had to enter my credentials with the remote. If you've become paranoid about your passwords recently like I have, making them longer and more complex, it takes a long time with a remote. Doing this from the web GUI seems very logical to me. Strangely enough, you can do this from the iOS app, but not the web browser.

I also don't enjoy having to establish another account to save radio stations on the AV7701. I have enough accounts already; I'd just like to save a few radio stations to the memory and not need a new login to do so. Finally, a couple features in the GUI are mislabeled, like "Search Podcasts" is really "Browse Podcasts", which is totally different. Once again, on the iOS control you can easily save a favorite without logging into another account. It seems the iOS and Android apps are ahead of the web interface now, though I'd like to see the web option catch up.

Overall, setup of the AV7701 is quick and efficient with the new setup routine; though a firmware update takes over half an hour to do, so plan ahead for that. I ran Audyssey, which has the same setup routine as always, and then was ready to go. The Marantz does provide some nice graphs of the Audyssey adjustments, seen below.


The Marantz AV7701 In Use

Right off the bat I went to Sea Change from Beck to see how Audyssey performs. I've never been a fan of Audyssey and two-channel audio. Recently I've moved into a better listening room, and I was hopeful that if it had to make adjustments they would be smaller in nature. My initial impression is that imaging is much improved over prior implementations of Audyssey, even in the AV7005 that I own.

Vocals and instruments can be located in the soundstage better, instead of being really diffuse in nature. The bass seems to be toned down quite a bit, and disabling Audyssey did bring that back up. While bass is louder with Audyssey disengaged, it also is flabby and loose. I find myself preferring the tightness of the corrected bass, and left it engaged. For the first time, I actually left Audyssey enabled with stereo music. Now this can easily have be the better room, but even with the AV7005 I keep disabling it, so to my ears the AV7701 has improved upon the performance of Audyssey from the prior model.

The phenomenal SACD of Wish You Were Here sounds good, though a bit different. The opening of "Welcome to the Machine" is set deep back in the center of the soundstage, far more distant than I am used to it sounding. At the start of "Wish You Were Here", the audible cough comes out clear and precisely located, and once the song kicks in the details are clear as our recent sunny days. The best aspect of the Marantz is a clear and seamless transition between speakers. As sounds move around me, and across the front of the room, there are no gaps between speakers, or mismatches in level or sound. It throws out a very clear, coherent soundstage that lacks transitions or breaks. With an enveloping mix like the Pink Floyd album, it is wonderful job at sucking you into the space.

The best soundtrack I've heard this year has come from Zero Dark Thirty, the film detailing the search for Osama bin Laden. There are many scenes set in crowded markets and other environments that the film really places you into, and makes you really feel like you are in that space. There are also surprising explosions and assassination attempts that call for quick dynamic surges, as well as the near silent raid on the bin Laden compounds at the end. With all of these varied environments the Marantz didn't disappoint and I stayed engrossed in the film.

A new feature I was happy to see on the AV7701 was Spotify. I've been burned too many times recently buying albums from artists I liked before, only to find their new album disappoints. Now I can simply stream every new album I want to listen to straight to the AV7701 and then decide if it's worth the money. Combined with AirPlay, and support for albums located on a DLNA server, you can quite easily play back all of your streaming and computer audio on the AV7701 without any extra hardware. The available iOS and Android application makes browsing Spotify or networked devices easy to do without a display as well, so you can listen to music without needing your display or projector.

In use, the AV7701 is a well-mannered beast, free of those annoyances and distractions that can turn a good product into one that you don't want to use. It performs admirably in my system, and has some very nice enhancements over the AV7005 to make it more flexible and enjoyable for daily use.


The Marantz AV7701 On The Bench

Data was gathered from the RCA outputs of the AV7701 with Audyssey and other features disengaged with a 2V signal. The CD input was utilized as the Multichannel input bypasses Audyssey and is less likely to be used in real world use.

With a 1 kHz test tone, we see that the 2nd and 3rd harmonics are all around 95 dB below the fundamental frequency. There is an odd noise spike way out at 65 kHz, but that is test setup related, as it appears on every chart. I ran this test in regular, Direct, and Pure Direct modes, with results that were all within the margin of error for the test device, so I didn't see any benefit on the bench to the other modes.

With the 10 kHz test tone, we see the 2nd and 3rd harmonics are much higher, at around 80dB below the fundamental frequency. THD+N is a little higher than with 1 kHz, but overall the spectrum is well behaved.

On the 60 Hz + 7000 Hz IMD test, the Marantz has a decent 0.03% IMD, though this is much higher than with the previous AV7005 model.

On the 19000-20000 Hz IMD test, we see a B-A peak that comes in around 95 dB below the primary tones. Once again, it is a good test result, but not up there with the best of the best.

With Audyssey and everything else disengaged, the frequency response is very flat out to 20 kHz, and then it has a slow roll-off until around 70 kHz where it accelerates. The initial spike at 60 Hz is power line noise and can be ignored.

Here's the interesting graph for our readers, and this isn't a problem specific to the AV7701, but to all current Audyssey receivers and processors. The DSP used by all of them to handle Audyssey processing requires that you downsample the signal to 24 bit, 48 kHz, so all information beyond that is lost if you use Audyssey. So if you're playing back a Blu-ray disc with a 24/96 soundtrack, or listening to a lot of high resolution downloads, you might want to consider performing some A-B comparisons of Audyssey on and off to see which you prefer. I imagine for a lot of people, the benefits of room correction out-weigh the loss of some resolution, but I also think it is something that everyone can test themselves. Hopefully we will see someone implement a DSP that does Audyssey at 24/192, because from my discussions with Audyssey it can work at that sample rate, it is just up to the vendor to use a more expensive DSP to implement it.

For video bench tests, I recommend disabling the video scaling inside of the AV7701. Enabling it causes a loss of chroma resolution and a change in color space, and so I recommend disabling it for the best performance. You lose the ability for menus to overlay content and only get a black background instead, but you maintain the best possible video signal.

Overall on our bench tests the AV7701 does well with no major issues, coming in at the same level or a little ahead of the $2,000 level receivers that I have tested as I would expect.


Conclusions about the Marantz AV7701

When it was released, the AV7005 fit into a very nice niche. There was very little below it in the processor segment, and going above it cost 33-50% more. The AV7701 manages to maintain that well placed position. There are some products in the $800 realm now, but those lack streaming features, Audyssey, balanced outputs, and other features found on the AV7701. Moving above the AV7701 adds a lot to the price, and so it remains in a price class all its own.

Despite having that level to itself, Marantz didn't rest on their laurels and improved upon the AV7005 with better streaming support, a much nicer GUI and setup routine, more inputs and outputs, and little touches like gold plating those connections. I didn't find any area that was worse than the AV7005 at all, unless you really need more composite connections for your retro video game system collection, and the improvements are ones that I am happy to see. The one area I really did hope to see was Audyssey XT32 support, but that is relegated to a more expensive class of preamps.

If you're after a home theater processor, the Marantz AV7701 is a very good choice. It has all the inputs you would need, even a phono connection, and has added very nice networked audio and streaming support as audio moves from physical media to a PC or the cloud. It is as easy to setup as any processor I've used, and it had a soundstage that was completely enveloping. I recommend visiting a dealer to listen to one today.