Marantz gives his highest-quality home theater pre-stage an update:
the new AV8805 decodes up to 15 audio channels for the first time – and Auro 3D is available for free. In the team with the proven 7-channel power amplifier MM8077, the station wagon has our reference class in the sights.
Marantz AV8805 Promo Video
Nearly two years have passed since our test of the precursor AV8802A. The time took Marantz to work diligently on the technological development of the flagship. So the new AV8805 – number 03 and 04 does not exist – scores points with innovative features, and no extra charge: 4,000 euros is still on the price tag.
The highlight is undoubtedly the new 15-channel processing for 3D sound. Currently, only Denon offers a 13.2 processing with the AV amplifier AVC-8500H (test in issue 3-2018) – exceptionally priceless exotics such as Trinnov’s “Altitude” processors. In addition to Dolby Atmos and DTS: X is also on board Auro 3D, which is available since this generation for the first time for free via firmware update since June. In addition, the DTS found Virtual: X-Decoder. The power supply and the DSP and preamp sections were also optimized. On the video side, the pre-amp supports HDR10 as well as Dolby Vision and HLG. A future firmware upgrade will integrate the improved “eARC” feature. The AV8805 has to do without analogue radio via FM / AM, the tuner module of the AV8802A fell victim to the piggy bank.
The display of the orange illuminated remote control indicates whether it is currently serving the main room (Main) or the side rooms (Zone 2/3).
The innovations in detail
So far 13 channels were the maximum at Marantz, the AV8805 puts two on it. Dolby sound thus flows out of the speakers in 7.1.6 or 9.1.4 configuration. Even bigger is the jump in Auro, because the previous 10.1 channels were extended to 13.1. A height center now joins the two back surround speakers of the 2D sound level. The bottom is DTS: X, the decoder architecture can currently handle only a maximum of 7.1.4 channels.
All in all, 17 AV8805 speakers can be wired, because not every decoder works with every speaker configuration. Thus, the box setup also allows a 6.1.8 configuration, ie with 8 connected height boxes, of which after the decoder used times 4 or 6 are active.
Visually, on the other hand, everything remained the same: The Marantz black design with a separate porthole display above the main display, which is under a flap, looks clean and elegant. The front panel of the AV8805 is made of aluminum, while the matte black cheeks are made of plastic – which is not optimal for a 4,000 euro expensive high-end pre-amp. Even with the material appearance or the processing of the volume and source wheel is still up.
The rest of the case, however, is first class: Like its predecessor, the chassis was coated with copper, which contributes to a better shield against electromagnetic interference. The large toroidal transformer is said to have a higher efficiency with less affinity by using oxygen-free windings (OFC) and an aluminum socket.
The cover of the AV8805 preamp consists of three parts. The robust housing has been finished with copper for better shielding.
On the digital side, converters from Asahi Kasei (AK4490, 32-bit DACs) are still minimizing the noise, and each of the 15 improved HDAM preamplifiers in elaborate monoblock circuit design sits on its own printed circuit board at the analog end of the signal chain. The purpose of this setup is to provide better pulse reproduction, lower noise, and less distortion, thus providing a cleaner sound.
Equipment and practice
In the sea of connections on the front-stage back, hardly anything has done: Added 4 pre-outs, which now include 17 sockets in XLR format and 21 in cinch format. Whether you cabled the power amp via RCA or XLR, usually does not matter tonally. Basically, XLR is more robust and through the symmetrical transmission less sensitive to interference. 4 RCA outputs are used for the passive sonication of two side rooms. A pleasing rarity is the analogue 7.1-RCA input, to which an old SACD player can be plugged. Also, the balanced XLR stereo input you will not see very often. 4 digital S / PDIF inputs should be sufficient for most home theaters.
No contact problems: The preamp (top) and the power amplifier leave nothing to be desired with their innumerable gold plated connections. The cabling between the two components is either via the RCA jacks or via XLR; sonically, no differences should be audible in the normal case.
Marantz continues to rely on the MultEQ XT32, the largest system from Audyssey, as the automatic calibration system. It supports up to 8 measuring points, measures two subwoofers separately and offers effective sound filters with “Dynamic Volume” and “Dynamic EQ” (Loudness). The optional “Audyssey MultEQ-App” (for 20 Euro) allows the post-processing of the calibration results according to personal preferences, such as by drawing own reference curves as the basis for the EQ filters. The app is a useful addition, but should cost nothing with such an expensive device.
DAC board: All channels’ digital-to-analog conversion is provided by 32-bit DACs from AKM, type AK4490.
As suboptimal proves the functionality of the graphic equalizer, which offers only 9 controls from quite high 63 Hz to 16 kHz. Also, the two subwoofers can not be adjusted. In addition, the equalizer only works when the Audyssey is switched off. We have nothing to criticize at the box management, which sets the levels, distances and crossover frequencies of all speakers sensitively. The extensive crossover management was also exemplary.
Native 3D audio decodes the AV8805 via Dolby Atmos, DTS: X and Auro 3D. The 3D-Upmixer Dolby Surround and DTS Neural: X, with which also the Cross-Format-Upmixing is possible, is now joined by DTS Virtual: X for artificial 3D or Surround-Sound without the use of height or rear boxes. A useful feature is the “channel extension”, which plays native Auro on all Auro-compatible speakers – even if not every channel is included in the original stream. For example, a 9.1 signal can be mixed up on 13.1 boxes. The Auro upmix of non-system audio signals (PCM, Dolby, DTS) may be fine-tuned in reverb (small, medium, large) and upmix strength (0 to 16). Both options are hidden in the “Audio” menu under “Surround Parameters” and are only visible when the Auro decoder is activated.
Video and multimedia
The HDMI 2.0 board understands 4K / 60p signals including HDCP 2.2, 4: 4: 4 color resolution as well as the current HDR standards HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. The upgrade-ready structure of the preamp also allows the exchange of the HDMI section – practically, if HDMI 2.1 is expected next year to launch. The video processor converts lower-resolution images of the digital and analogue inputs into 4K format and, with a sensitive video equalizer, allows, among other things, corrections for brightness, contrast and color saturation. Among the 6 image modes you will also find 2 according to the ISF standard (Night, Day).
The AV8805 wirelessly networks via Wi-Fi, AirPlay and Bluetooth to mobile devices. At network music sources, there is an internet radio tuned-in.
All other streaming offerings such as Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Juke, Soundcloud and Amazon Music are integrated into the free HEOS app, which elicits the AV8805 also comprehensive multiroom functions. HEOS and an Amazon-compatible speaker are also needed for the voice assistant “Alexa”, which can be used in the basic functions of the preamp. The media player also supports HiRes sound formats such as WAV, ALAC, FLAC and DSD via WiFi and Ethernet.
The power amplifier MM8077
The MM8077 power amp is the largest in the Marantz portfolio and has been on the market for a number of years, and we’ve come across quite a few. The highlights of the 7-channel race car are the efficient and powerful high-current toroidal transformer and two 50,000 microfarad electric motors produced in-house. For effective heat dissipation, the power transistors are mounted in a cooling tunnel instead of on a heat sink: A fan on the left side sucks fresh air out of the housing, another blows out the heated air on the right. The tunnel principle works so well that the fans rarely and briefly start; in the test, the power amp was not audible. The downside: For 13.2 sound you need two pieces of the 2,000-euro cars.
Sound quality surround
With at least 130 watts per channel in multi-channel operation and a total output of 1,100 watts, the MM8077 power amp is ready for any eventuality. The subtle drop in frequency response from around 10 kHz is the rule at Marantz, which also contributes to the typical sound of the devices.
The sound check in 5.1.2 configuration with two height boxes was a pleasure: Gentle, yet fine-resolution in character flowed 5.1 music with lots of suppleness and musicality in beautiful tones from our speakers – even at high levels, no trace of hardness slipped in the sound. Classical music with a large orchestra, the Marantz duo granted a lot of space and staggered the acoustic stage clean in depth and width.
The Audyssey measurement provided plausible results and three sound curves, of which we liked the “Reference” with subtle drop in altitude best. However, Audyssey’s “Dynamic EQ” circuit caused problems for our Nubert AW-1100 subwoofer to overdrive and distort. In addition, it was loud “Dynamic EQ” cheeky from the surround boxes, and dialogues from the center were less clear. We therefore skipped the circuit.
It continued with various Dolby Atmos clips: The swirling leaf in “Leaf” made the Marantz team dance extremely believable and tangible. However, the synthesizers in “Audio-sphere” made clear that a 5.1.2 set-up in terms of 3D sound can not deliver the optimum. 4 height boxes play more convincingly over the head, which costs points in the hearing test. Action strips like “Ghost in the Shell” (2017) in the Atmos mix thundered pretty convincingly on the Marantz team, the spatiality of the effects was exemplary. The comparatively gentle mind of the station wagon let miss some explosive brilliance or aggressiveness with explosions and shots, for it was possible also with extreme levels stress-free hearing – only the pure sound pressure sets finally the limit.
Even in 2-channel mode (Pure Direct mode), the Marantz station wagon is a highlight and enraptured with beautiful tones, which especially instrumental music benefits. But with pop, rock or electronic music you are in good hands with the duo, this is ensured by a precise durchhörbarer, plastic and dynamic sound, which invites to hours of listening pleasure.
Thanks to 15-channel processing, 4K compatibility, many multimedia features and high-quality components, the AV8805 is a real high-end highlight. In combination with the MM8077 power amp, the front-end station wagon easily attracts attention in our reference class.