Receivers

Marantz AV8003 SSP and MM8003 8-Channel Power Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

As soon as I had the Marantz 8003 combo installed and setup, the first thing I did was put on my favorite recent song: "Reckoner" off the In Rainbows album from Radiohead. I was pretty instantly floored by the huge improvement that I heard over what I was used to listening to.

In Rainbows

The cymbal that comes from the right speaker seemed to just float in space as never before. Every instrument had much better separation, and details were less muddled as I was amazed how much better my Epos speakers could sound. Switching between the Flat and Audyssey curves on the fly let me determine that I preferred the sound of the standard Audyssey curve for the music I would listen to (typically alternative/college rock and classic rock), though it took switching around quite a bit to really get a feel for the differences.

After getting a sense of what the Marantz could do with music, I wanted to listen to as much music as I could so I switched to the Network mode to stream music from my DLNA server where I have all of my music stored in FLAC format. I used Asset UPnP to convert the FLAC to PCM for the Marantz (which cannot decode FLAC, but can play WAV, PCM, and most MP3's) and began to go through my collection. There were some little issues that I ran into with the DLNA player (album art has to be a JPEG image and not a GIF, and the colors were often a little strange), but the one issue that held me up the most was that you had to scroll through albums or artists in pages of 8 at a time. As my library has hundreds of albums and over 800 artists, getting to albums and artists in the middle of the alphabet could take a long time. Marantz is aware of this, but was unable to promise that it would be addressed with a firmware upgrade to allow you to skip ahead in the library.

Marantz AV8003 and MM8003 Review

While navigation might be troublesome, playback of media over DLNA was excellent. The Marantz was connected with Ethernet to my main wireless router and my server was using 802.11g, but I didn't experience any drop-outs or other issues at all while streaming lossless music. I was unable to test video myself, but that was due to the difficulty in getting a DLNA server to work correctly with my media and not the fault of the Marantz at all. While not a replacement for a Sonos or other music distribution system, the ability to access my library directly through the AV8003 was a useful feature, and one that would be very useful if Marantz was able to improve the navigation in the future.

To test the ability of the Marantz to convert component video to HDMI, I used a Nintendo Wii set to output at 480p. I set the Marantz to output to 1080p and the image that came out looked good with no added artifacts that I could see that were added to the image. Video conversion always adds a little bit of a delay to a signal, but as this is something that your display would have to do eventually (my DLP has to convert everything to 1080p to display it) it doesn't add any issues and the response time on the Wii was good enough for me to play Guitar Hero without any issue (except for annoying my wife).

As with all modern processors, the Marantz AV8003 can accept a Dolby TrueHD or DTS-MA bitstream from a Blu-ray player and decode it, as well as accepting lossless PCM over HDMI as well. Many people have been waiting for their players and processors to communicate using a bitstream instead of PCM, though there should be no difference between the two as it's the equivalent of a Zipped file on a computer: it will have to be unzipped at one point and it shouldn't matter if the player or the processor does the unzipping. If you want to see your processor say TrueHD on the front panel so you know that it's sending the highest quality audio format on the disc, then the Marantz will do that for you.

However, one thing that people don't often think about is that processors can often have restrictions on what they can do with those TrueHD/DTS-MA bitstreams when compared to receiving lossless PCM. Since unpacking that bitstream takes processing power, some receivers and processors might only be able to do room correction on signals below a certain sampling rate (for example, 16 bit/48kHz and below) if they also have to decode the bitstream. In the case of the Marantz, if you send the AV8003 a DTS-MA or TrueHD bitstream, then Audyssey is going to be disabled. However, if you send PCM then the AV8003 will be able to apply the Audyssey room correction since it doesn't have to do the decoding as well. While some people might say that they can hear a slight difference with bitstream compared to PCM, most can hear the results of Audyssey fixing issues in their listening room, so I would highly recommend using PCM signals instead of a bitstream with the AV8003. As receivers and processors get faster processors then this restriction will hopefully go away (and room correction will get even better), but for now this is something to be aware of with any receiver or processor.

Once I setup my Oppo BDP-83 to send PCM to the Marantz, I went ahead and tested it with the new Blu-ray disc from 2L recordings in Norway, The Nordic Sound.

2L The Nordic Sound

Recorded using their DXD format at 24-bit/384kHz and then down-sampled to 24-bit/192kHz 5.1 DTS-MA and PCM tracks, as well as a 24-bit/192kHz stereo track. While some of these selections were not my typical choice of music, the sound from the disc is absolutely spectacular and makes you hope that an audio-only Blu-ray profile becomes a standard in the future so more music will be released this way. The Marantz also did this disc justice, showing it can handle the dynamics of an orchestra without signs of strain. Many of these tracks used all 5 channels very aggressively and I never heard any clipping or anything else that would distract you from the sound.

When watching movies, the Marantz was fantastic as well. I finally got around to watching Baraka on Blu-ray and it was a treat for the eyes and the ears. With one of the best images I have seen on Blu-ray to this point, the Marantz passed the signal from the disc without any problems at all (unlike some other receivers and processors, the Marantz does not clip BTB or WTW signals in my testing), and the lush soundtrack made for a wonderful movie experience. It also gave me a chance to see how I liked the THX modes that the Marantz provided. While I feel the differences provided by THX were small compared to the improvements that Audyssey can make with a system, after going back and forth for a while I wound up watching movies with THX engaged.

Baraka

One of the final things I went to test on the Marantz was its HD Radio tuner. I had been tempted to try HD Radio recently as a couple of the stations that I listen to will advertise substations that contain additional programming that is interesting to me that I can't get over FM. Using a standard AM/FM indoor antenna that works fine with my Yamaha tuner, I tried to tune in these new stations on the Marantz but had issues. While my AM and FM stations would come in fine, the only HD Radio feed that I could tune in was a local jazz station that I had never listened to. While the jazz station sounded superb and I have since programmed it into my normal tuner, I was disappointed that I was unable to receive anything else in HD. However, since I don't have another HD Radio to compare to this one, I am unable to tell you if that was due to the tuner in the Marantz, the antenna I was using, the reception in my area or something else. AM and FM stations were fine, so I would lean towards it being the antenna or the reception.

Overall, I was very pleased with the day-to-day use of the Marantz combination. It had a very neutral sound and provided fantastic dynamics and control over both music and films. One thing that I didn't like was the remote that Marantz provides with the AV8003. While capable of controlling your whole system, to change inputs (from DVD to Network, for instance), I would have to go home on the remote, scroll through pages to find the Network section and select it, and then select Network again after moving to that section. After using it for a couple of days, I reprogrammed my Harmony to control everything and put the Marantz remote away. A good friend of mine uses his Marantz remote to control his entire system without issues, but it is not up to the level of a good universal remote by any means. However, all that I really cared about was the sound of the Marantz, and in that area it did not disappoint me at all.