Processors

Marantz AV8801 11.2 Surround Sound Processor (SSP)

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Setup of the Marantz AV8801 SSP

Setting up a product like a modern A/V receiver or processor is usually a daunting task. The manual is often not organized or written in the easiest way and it may be confusing to make all those speaker and source connections. Marantz has taken a different approach to system setup with the AV8801 by not including a printed manual. Instead, the full 200+ page manual is included as a PDF file on an included CD and in its place is a very short getting started manual. It turns out that Marantz has included an on-screen setup assistant that walks you through making the connections to the AV8801. I simply connected the AV8801 to my TV with an HDMI cable, turned on the AV8801 and the TV, and followed the on-screen directions.

The first part of the setup assistant guides you through connecting the AV8801 to the amplifier and connecting the speakers to the amplifier. During the connection process, the power amplifier needs to be turned off. The on-screen directions are very clear and cover the basics of proper speaker wiring as well as speaker placement in the listening room.

The setup assistant helps you select the speakers that are present in your system, and for each speaker selected, it asks you to specify the connection type of RCA or XLR.

The setup assistant also shows you where to connect the cable from the amplifier to the AV8801.

The front speakers in my system are Definitive Technology BP-3000TL towers and each has a built-in subwoofer. For use with Audyssey, I disconnected the low frequency jumpers on the speakers which gave me two independent subwoofers. This lets the AV8801 see the BP-3000TL speakers as small speakers without bass capability. I then connected the two AV8801 subwoofer outputs to the full-range low-level inputs on the BP-3000TL towers. Although the BP-3000TL speakers are capable of full range, Audyssey delivers the best results when it can manage the subwoofers independently.

With the speaker and subwoofer connections made, the setup assistant instructs you to turn on the power amplifier and then walks you through the Audyssey calibration process. I unpacked the basic Audyssey microphone that comes with the AV8801 and connected the microphone to a tripod so that I could easily position the microphone in my listening room. I plugged the microphone jack into the front of the AV8801 as directed and proceeded to let the setup assistant walk me through the measurement process for eight positions in my listening room.

During the calibration process, the setup assistant lets you verify that all your speakers have been properly detected and it also helps you balance the subwoofer levels. Once everything is finished, the results are analyzed and stored, and the AV8801 is configured with Audyssey MultEQ XT32, Dynamic EQ, and Dynamic volume enabled for all inputs.

With the speaker setup out of the way, the setup assistant walks you through making a connection to the internet and verifies the connection by tuning the AV8801 to an internet radio station. The last step in the setup process is to connect each of your source devices to the AV8801. The setup assistant prompts you to select each source and specify the type of video and audio connection. The options are pretty standard at this point in the setup process. For example, the CD player setup expects an audio-only device. If you want to assign a source to the CD player with a video input, that option is not directly available from the setup assistant and must be done later using the AV8801 setup menus.

Once a connection has been made between a source device and the AV8801, the setup assistant instructs you to turn on that source to verify the connection. I must confess that making connections with the processor powered on is not something I would ever consider. It has always been a best practice to never make connections with components turned on. Marantz has taken care of this concern by turning off the current to the input and output connections on the AV8801 when the setup assistant is running. Please keep in mind that you can make all of the component and amplifier connections ahead of time and then just run through the AV8801 setup assistant to confirm your configuration. I connected my satellite DVR, an Oppo BDP-105 and the latest generation AppleTV to the AV8801 and was finally done with the setup process.

The last setup item to consider is upgrading the firmware on the AV8801. Marantz occasionally offers firmware upgrades and they can be easily performed over the network. The AV8801 will let you know that a new firmware update is available as long as it is connected to the internet. The length of time can vary depending on what's included in the update, but a full upgrade will take about 43 minutes. During that time, you have to be patient as the only sign of life from the AV8801 is a small counter in the porthole display that is oddly reminiscent of the HAL 9000.

While I liked the approach that Marantz took with the AV8801 setup assistant, I can't help but wonder how many people never take the time to read or even glance at the actual manual. The last step in the getting started guide is a reminder about where to find the owner's manual. It presumes that everyone still has a CD-ROM drive in their computer which is becoming less and less the norm these days. It needs to have an easy URL printed on the page that directs the consumer to the web site so that they can easily download the manual. Better yet, just put a copy in the box.