Processors

Marantz AV8801 11.2 Surround Sound Processor (SSP)

ARTICLE INDEX

The Design of the Marantz AV8801 SSP

The Marantz AV8801 processor continues the Marantz design trend of clean lines and refined simplicity. The front of the AV8801 only has a power button and two large control knobs, one for volume control and the other for input selection. In the center of the AV8801 is a small porthole display that shows the current input selection and volume or tuner band and station. The porthole display is accented with a small blue ring which is illuminated when the AV8801 is on. The center portion of the front panel is made from brushed aluminum, and the left and right side panels are made from curved resin which gives the processor its refined appearance.

Opening the door at the bottom of the AV8801 reveals a large LED display, which shows the current input source, processing mode, signal type, HDMI status, and zone and channel indicators. To the left of the display are buttons for directly controlling audio processing options such as Audyssey Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume. To the right of the display is a standard set of cursor buttons that allow for easy navigation of the AV8801 setup menus as well as its multi-media interface. Directly under the display are buttons for the various input modes, HDMI output selection, and zone selection. At the bottom of the AV8801 is the headphone jack, the microphone jack for Audyssey, an HDMI/MHL port, and a USB port. In the lower-right corner of the AV8801 is an auxiliary input, which provides analog audio inputs and a composite video input.

The first thing that I noticed on the rear panel of the AV8801 was all the XLR outputs. There are thirteen balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA preamp outputs, which include front height and width channels in addition to two independent subwoofer channels.

Marantz has included a copper-plated chassis on the AV8801 and the rear panel is silk-screened in black with inputs having a sold black background while outputs have a checkered background. The AV8801 processor supports seven HDMI 1.4a inputs and three HDMI 1.4a outputs, which can be operated simultaneously or independently. This should be more than enough to handle the HDMI devices in a typical home theater with plenty of room for expansion. The processor supports a full complement of analog audio and video inputs with three component video inputs, four composite video inputs, one 7.1 multi-channel input, seven sets of stereo analog RCA inputs, and one stereo XLR input. The AV8801 does away with S-Video inputs. The AV8801 supports four digital audio inputs (2 coaxial and 2 optical). The AV8801 includes a second USB input on the rear panel, which can be used with a USB storage device or your favorite Apple iDevice.

Since so many devices in our home theaters are requiring network connections, Marantz has thoughtfully included a four-port 10/100 Ethernet hub in the AV8801. The remaining connections on the AV8801 back panel allow for antenna connections for the AM/FM/HD tuner. The AV8801 includes an M-X port for the connection of an optional RX-101 Bluetooth receiver. The AV8801 includes one IR input and one IR output jack as well as an RS-232 jack, which can be used to control the AV8801 with an external control system. Two 12 Volt DC Triggers are also included, which allows you to turn on another device, such as an external amplifier for multi-zone operations.

The AV8801 comes with a nice backlit remote.

From a technology perspective, the AV8801 uses the latest Audyssey MultEQ XT32 technology, which according to Audyssey, delivers 32 times the filter resolution of the MultEQ XT technology. Audyssey states that MultEQ XT32 provides more than ten thousand individual control points and applies its filter technology to all channels, including the subwoofers. Marantz also includes Audyssey Sub EQ HT, which allows the AV8801 to individually adjust the level and delay of both subwoofer outputs. The AV8801 supports Audyssey Pro, which allows a professional calibrator the ability to measure up to 32 positions in the room and adjust the target sound curves using a graphical interface on a PC. The Audyssey LFC (Low Frequency Containment) in the AV8801 attempts to contain low frequency sounds that can penetrate walls and ceilings and disturb your neighbors. The AV8801 uses three Analog Devices ADSP21487 DSP chips to perform all of its processing.

For those lucky enough to have a theater with front-height and front-wide speakers, the AV8801 provides three different processing solutions to help you enjoy those extra channels. Dolby PLIIz processing can start with stereo or 5.1/7.1 channels and deliver a 7.1/9.1 channel mix using the front-height channels. Audyssey DSX processing starts with 5.1/7.1 channels and a DTS, DTS-ES, or DTS-HD mix and adds the front-wide channels and/or the front-height channels, if present, to deliver up to an 11.1 channel mix. DTS Neo:X processing starts with stereo, 5.1/6.1/7.1 channels or a DTS, DTS-ES or DTS-HD mix and delivers up to an 11.1 channel mix using both the front-height and front-wide channels. Since the AV8801 supports 11.2 channels, the rear-surround channels, if present, are also active when the AV8801 is processing both the front-height and front-wide channels.

On the video side of things, the AV8801 uses an Analog Devices ADV8003 video signal processor that supports upscaling of SD and HD content to a 4K resolution of 3840x2160 at 24/25/30 Hz. The AV8801 also supports pass-through of 3D and 4K video signals. While we are seeing a lot of manufacturers include 4K pass-through, we still have a long way to go before native 4K content sources are generally available. For now, the 4K pass-through might come in handy if you happen to be an early 4K adopter and have a 4K display and a 4K media player like the Sony FMP-X1 in your theater. Marantz also includes InstaPrevue, which provides picture-in-picture previews of sources connected to the HDMI inputs of the AV8801.

Marantz shared with me some of the design changes incorporated into the AV8801 that differentiate it from the Marantz AV7701 processor. The AV8801 uses a low noise toroidal power supply and PMSA11S3 capacitors to deliver clean power and reduce residual noise.

The AV8801 has a completely new ground design and the Marantz proprietary Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module (HDAM) circuits are separated into 13 individual circuit boards, one for each output channel.

The AV8801 also uses Texas Instruments PCM1795 DACs to improve the dynamic range of the AV8801. Marantz says that all of these design choices contribute to the overall sound quality of the AV8801.