Processors

Marantz AV8801 11.2 Surround Sound Processor (SSP)

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Conclusions about the Marantz AV8801 Processor

During my review time with the AV8801, Secrets' Dr. David Rich has had the opportunity to thoroughly review the service manual for the AV8801 and his findings have lead us to ask Marantz some tougher questions about the components that make up the AV8801.

Here's the last question that Dr. Rich posed regarding the HDAM circuits in the AV8801.

"The marketing material for the AV8801 states that HDAM technology is used in the line driver and that the HDAM is made from discrete blocks and no opamps.  Based on my analysis, the actual circuitry has no HDAM blocks and uses two opamps which ultimately define the performance of the circuit. "

Here is the response from Paul Belanger, Technical Product Manager for Marantz:

"We use a discretely designed circuit in lieu of a standard Op-amp. The HDAM itself is sandwiched between 2 Op-amps in a diamond buffer configuration – the 8801 features 13 of these "discrete" HDAM boards – 1 for each channel. The HDAM SA2 is the circuitry sitting between the OP-Amps and is mainly defining the characteristic of the sound. The OP-Amps might not look best on the data sheet, however in this configuration with the HDAM and current feedback topology it was our choice for a good balance in sound.

Dr. Rich tends to focus very much on singular devices and the data sheets associated with them – Our design philosophy is quite different at Marantz. We use the appropriate component for the outcome and final sound quality we are trying to achieve. He may believe that the 8801 would sound no better than an entry level Yamaha via its preouts based on our choice of volume IC – but I can tell you in my experience, singular components do not make or break the final sound; from overall and surrounding circuit design, vibration resistance, materials to grounding points, there is SO much more involved in building a great sounding piece of audio gear."

I can't settle the fundamental debate on component parts between Dr. Rich and Marantz. What I can settle is that the overall goal of a product like the AV8801 is to allow the consumer to enjoy movies and music and it certainly does that very well. My reservations about the two channel audio performance of the AV8801 stem from the perspective that Marantz can do so much better. Marantz makes wonderful reference quality stereo gear and I was personally hoping that they would have included that reference level analog output in the AV8801. I also realize that doing so may have completely blown the price point for the product.

The bottom line is that the AV8801 does its job very well and offers just about every conceivable feature that someone might want including support for 4K. It comes in at a price point which puts it in competition with the Integra DHC-80.3, the Onkyo PS5509, the Yamaha CX-A5000 and Marantz' own AV7701. If you are looking for a processor, I would certainly recommend that you visit a dealer and give the AV8801 a listen.