AV8805 Home Theater Processor Review
Great sound and a ton of features at an amazing cost.
Company & Product Overview
Marantz was founded over 60 years ago by Saul Marantz, an audiophile engineer who had the goal of recreating a live music experience at home. Today, those original Marantz components are worth a fortune! Marantz is now part of Sound United, who also owns Denon and Classe Audio, two other brands known for a long history of great sound. This partnership allows for some great sharing of technology between the brands with Marantz products falling right in the middle cost wise. With their emphasis on audio performance first and foremost, Marantz puts out some of the best values for those of us who want our systems to sound amazing.
Today, we are testing the top of the line Marantz surround sound processor, the AV8805. This piece is designed to be used with separate power amplifiers in a home theater or media room system. It is made for the pretty serious home theater buff as by the time you couple it with enough power amp channels to round out a full home theater system, you could be pushing $10k for the stack of electronics compared to the $3000 price of the best all in one home theater receiver from Marantz. For decades, music and film lovers have gone the route of separate components over and all in one receiver. Yes, it costs more, but boy, does this route sound a lot better!
Design & Build Quality
As we said above, the AV8805 is designed to go into a system with separate amplifiers. For those of you new to this concept, we’ll take a moment to go over why this is a good thing. Most home theater systems have an all in one receiver doing all of the processing and speaker amplification. All in one receivers have gotten very good, but there is one huge advantage factor to separate components that a receiver can never overcome. That is the fact they are separate pieces which has several benefits. First, the level of the signals as they enter the preamp/processing section are extremely low. If they are subjected to any kind of noise, the signal will not be pure. You want every part of a preamp/processor to be super low noise and you also want the power feeding all of these low noise components to stay as pure as it possibly can. A great power amplifier needs a massive power supply to really drive your speakers well, but the problem is, big power supplies make noise that low level signals in your preamp section do not like. Plus, when you have a huge dynamic passage, it really puts a load on the power supply-which you never want to happen in the power supply for a preamp. Putting the power amplifiers in one box and the preamp/processor in another allows you to not have to deal with any design compromises. The result is a huge increase in low level resolution-those subtle emotional cues that make a movie or concert more lifelike. Plus your speakers really come to life with huge dynamic swings when you use a great separate power amp.
The AV8805 is designed to be the heart of a modern home theater system. It has a plethora of inputs and outputs that should cover just about any possible configuration. Not only is it feature laden, but Marantz has put a huge emphasis on providing great sound. One key part of the list of things that contribute to great sound is very high build quality. When we popped the cover off the AV8805, we were very impressed. We found a copper plated chassis and a very clean board layout designed to reduce noise. The power supply feeding all of the components is larger than most receiver power supplies, as is the total weight of the AV8805, weighing in at over 30 pounds! You’ll find solid, gold plated terminals all around and to say the AV8805 is built great, is almost an understatement, it’s just top notch and beautiful. And we have to say we really like the look from the front with just two large knobs and the retro round center display.
Features & Technology
The AV8805 checks off just about every single box on the feature list wish set for a state-of-the-art surround sound processor. An astounding 13.2 channels of processing with 15.2 balanced or RCA outputs. 8 4K UHD, HDMI inputs. Dolby Atmos, DTS-X, and Auro 3-D processing. High performance DAC’s in all channels. Audyssey MultEQ XT32, LFC, Sub EQ HT, Dynamic Volume and DynamicEQ. Zone two and three with video outs for them as well. For the analog buff there is a MM phono input. And if that were not enough, you have Heos, a cool streaming platform on board.
The 13.2 channels of processing puts the AV8805 right up there with our favorite processor, the $23K Datasat RS20i. What this means in terms of speaker set up are your left, center, right front speakers; 4 in ceiling Atmos speakers; side surrounds, rear surrounds, and a new twist which is a front wide surround. In addition, you get two sets of subwoofer outputs that can be controlled and calibrated separately. We feel most people investing at this level will have two subs, so we love this feature.
If you have read many of our blogs, you know we firmly believe in room correction when properly done. Audyssey room correction has been around a long time and in the AV8805, you get their best version. The AV8805 comes with a calibrated microphone for setting this up and even a cardboard stand, although we would recommend a tripod mic stand. Audyssey, like most room correction systems, takes out the big bass peaks that can overwhelm the critical midrange. We found Audyssey MultiEQ XT32 to work very well in the AV8805.
The AV8805 even has some on board video processing. You have a choice of full pass through or you can play around with some of it’s on board enhancements. As a general rule, we feel these are better left to the display device, but one pretty neat aspect is the vertical stretch. This allows you to have a 2:35 or 2:40 widescreen with an anamorphic lens and use a projector that did not include this mode which is normally only found on more expensive projectors.
Another great feature we found for people who are both film and music lovers, is the two channel mode. This lets you have a whole different speaker configuration for two channel. For example your normal set up may have your main speakers crossed over to subwoofers for best home theater sound impact, but for two channel you prefer to just play them full range with no subs. The two channel mode on the AV8805 lets you do just this!
The thing that actually impressed us the most about the AV8805 from a tech standpoint is its set up menu. This will walk you through every single cable connection (both ins and outs), every input set up, and a complete step by step guide to get all of your speakers set up properly. We went through the entire process ourselves and found it can make setting up a fairly complex unit pretty simple. And for someone who knows their way around, you can go the manual route.
Once you get to the audio levels part of the setup process, you plug in the supplied microphone and you hear a series of musical tones to confirm you have the speaker config you told the system you had and it will also confirm everything is wired up to the correct channels. You’ll then follow the instructions to make sure your subs are not too loud, then you’ll hear a series of test tones and be asked to put the mic in specific places. When all this is done the unit will have set distances, levels, and crossover points along with applying Audyssey room correction.
Normally, these “auto” set up systems do not even come close to getting the distances or levels correct so we were amazed when it got the distances almost within an inch of reality and did a great job on most of the levels. What normally goes wrong with the auto distance thing is the subs will be way off in distance, not so here, which is impressive! We did find it set the subwoofer levels too low, but with an SPL meter you can fix that pretty quickly. We also felt some of the crossover points were not where they should be. If you get one of these units from Audio Advice, we can give you guidance on setting this up based on the gear you have and your room.
All and all, with the auto set up feature, you should be making great sound in about 30 minutes. There were a couple of items we are going to nitpick. These may not apply in most situations, but we are picky. Our best processors let you set speaker crossover points in 1hz increments, decent ones let you do them in 10hz jumps, and some only give you large or small which means full range or 80hz. The AV8805 steps in 20hz jumps until you get to 80, then jumps in 10hz till 120, then moves back to 20hz jumps so you get 40,60,80,90,100, 110, 120,140. We think for this price you should be able to fine tune more. Another thing we think you should get is the ability to assign an HDMI feed to more than one input. Some of use like to watch a show on TV while listening to something else. This is not possible from what we played around with on the Marantz. Marantz does have an on-screen menu you can bring up to choose a video source while you are listening to something, but this is not super simple and a little clunky. We would rather see the assign option some others have. This would not matter at all for a movie-based system, but again, at this price point, it seems like it should be there.
Overall though, this is one amazing processor with many features not found anywhere near its price.
After we dialed everything in, we ran the AV8805 through some cuts we are very familiar with. The system we used consisted of B&W 8.2’s across the front, JL Audio subs, B&W 8.4’s for surrounds and B&W Cinema in ceiling for Atmos. Amplification was all some legacy Classe Audio.
The first cut was off a Dolby Atmos test disc. There is a cut on the disc of a music video done by Enrique Iglesias. We feel this is one of the best demo tracks out there to hear the great effect of object based surround Dolby Atmos offers. Plus we have played it hundreds of times on various systems. There is some group hand clapping in the beginning that had a great rhythmic quality to it. Then there are lots of voices coming from overheard that move all around. The AV8805 did an incredible job of tracking these object based effects. The only system we had previously heard that was better used a Datasat processor and those start with Atmos at around 15K. This guy is good!
We moved on to the nightclub scene in John Wick. This is around 40 minutes in and you’ll hear music, glasses tinkling with great overhead effects. He then heads into another bar where he’ll take down the bad guys with both his silenced weapon and ends with a couple of bangs from his other weapon. The way everything tracked here just had us on the edge of our seats. From the subtle glass noises to loud gunshots, you just got sucked into the movie.
It was at this point we wished our test system had more speakers so we could hear a full 9.2.4 set up! The Marantz just puts a well done audio track all around you and does it in a way that pulls you totally into the film. We never sensed a trace of harshness either and coupled with the big Classe amps, the sound was totally effortless.
The AV8805 offers just a ton of great sound and features for the money. While it is $4.5k, it’s not in the $15-30K range of the world’s best processors, yet it offers some features you only find in that rare air. If you want the latest in object based surround and video, the AV8805 has it all. Another great feature is the fact that with a bit of guidance from Audio Advice, you can get it set up quickly and performing like it should. The auto-set up system in comparison to all the others we have tested works just great with a couple of exceptions we can guide you through. A proper set up makes all the difference in the world and its not that hard to achieve with the AV8805! We can’t wait to hear one with 13 speakers and two subs!
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
All the Latest
The AV8805 packs in all of the latest in object based surround with its 13.2 channels. You’ll also get the most up to date video processing and have plenty of room to grow with its huge number of inputs and outputs.
Best In Class Auto Set Up
We have never seen an auto set up system work so well. This makes it very simple for the average home theater enthusiasts to get the most out of it without a lot of outside help.
For 60+ years, Marantz has been all about great sound. The tradition continues for home theater with the AV8805. The way it decodes object based Dolby Atmos is stunning and will just pull you into the movie. Plus in two channel, it sounds fantastic.