|Marantz SR8001 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Thursday, 01 November 2007|
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Receivers are a tough market, given the massive changes in home theatres these days. What was red hot in receivers a few years ago – DVI comes to mind – is already dated technology. Receiver makers have fought tooth and nail to keep up with the ever-changing market and the subject of this review, the Marantz SR8001 A/V receiver, displays the fruits of these efforts. For over 50 years, Marantz has been producing some of the finest audio gear on the planet and this receiver is currently the best they make. Offering all the power, flexibility and performance you could want and a new, shallower cabinet size, which enables this receiver to fit into small places more easily, the Marantz SR 8001 is designed to be the center of a whole home audio/visual system. This receiver offers tons of features, all for a retail price of $1999.99.
The Marantz SR8001 offers four-to-two HDMI switching and up-conversion of all other video inputs to HDMI, with scaling to 480p. It is THX Select2 certified, XM radio ready with discrete channel access and offers Audyssey MulitEQ auto calibration and room correction, as well as 7.1 channel analog inputs. It uses 24-bit 192kHz D/A conversion and offers video off and source direct modes to bypass unused sections to maximize audio quality. With seven pairs of stereo analog inputs, four optical and three coaxial digital inputs with one of each out, four HDMI v1.2 inputs and two v1.1 outputs, you can even bi-amp your speakers with a flick of a switch on this receiver. Of course, the SR8001 handles a multitude of surround formats, including DTS, DTS Neo:6, DTS ES, DTS 96/24, Dolby Digital EX, Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Headphone for its included headphone jack, Dolby virtual speaker and Circle Surround. It is also HDCD compatible. You can even add XM satellite radio with the optional mini-tuner, home dock and an XM subscription. The receiver has seven discrete channels of amplification, with 125 watts per channel. Control options abound, with an RS 232 port, an IR receiver input, IR emitter out port, flasher input, multi-room in and out ports and DC 12-volt triggers. The SR8001 can output audio and component video to a second zone and audio only to a third. The receiver measures a little over 17 inches wide by six-and-three-quarters inches tall and is just under 14 inches deep, without considering the knobs and binding posts – with these, the depth is just slightly over 15 inches.
Upon arrival, I quickly opened the box housing the SR8001, removed it from its Styrofoam packing and its foam cover to reveal the famed Marantz look of deeply brushed black aluminum and the gold name badge. The receiver has a solid feel to it, weighing over 33 pounds. The front is simple, with only two large dials on either side for volume and source. A large display in the upper middle and a sizable door underneath covers most of the lesser-used controls. On the lower right are the front-mounted A/V inputs, consisting of S-video and composite, as well as stereo analog or optical digital inputs. Marantz includes a plastic cover for this input to keep the face looking clean when not in use. On the lower left are the headphone jack and power/standby button.
The rear of this piece is a little more complex. In the top left are the antennae inputs; to their right are multiple component video in and outs. Beneath them, the four HDMI ins and two outs, then the composite and S-video I/Os with the same ratios. Next are the three coaxial and optical digital inputs and one output, with the control I/Os to their right. Further to the right are the 7.1 preamp outs. Finally, on the bottom from left to right are six pairs of stereo analog inputs, four outputs, the multi-room outs and the 7.1-channel analog input. On the right side of the rear of the receiver are 11 pairs of heavy duty speaker wire binding posts, two AC outlets, IEC power cord receptacle and an RS 232 port.
The remote that comes with the Marantz SR8001 is a huge leap away from many current remotes. First off, it is light gray in color, with grayish buttons. It measures nine by two-and-a-quarter inches and is one-and-one-quarter inches tall at its thickest point. The edges are rounded off, making it easy to handle. On the top are discrete power buttons and a toggle power switch, then a small LCD display with seven buttons to the right of it. Five control the displayed functions, the bottom one scrolls through the multiple pages for each device and the top one is for higher level control. Below the display are the volume and channel controls that flank the cursor control, the controls for menu, mute, exit, previous and a round guide button. Next is the numeric keypad, which doubles for advanced control of the receiver when the remote is in amp mode, the transport keys and the device selectors. You can opt to have the remote control the selected device with a single press of the device button, or switch the receiver to that device with a double click of the button. On either side of the bottom of the remote are green light buttons that glow in the dark. Pressing these will illuminate the entire remote in a beautiful blue glow that makes all the primary functions of the keys easy to see, even in a pitch-black room. The duration of illumination is programmable from zero seconds, in which case the lighting stays on only when the light buttons are held, to 60 seconds.
The remote looks pretty simple and basic, much like the receiver, but believe me, it is not. The remote is not only beautiful and easy to use, but it also offers the ability to control all your home theater components, and can have up to 20 macros with up to 20 commands each. You can edit the names of each macro and anything on the LCD display, for that matter, by a text messaging system, making it quick and easy to do. Once macros are programmed in, they can be edited and modified without being totally replaced. The remote comes preprogrammed with the codes for most A/V gear, but if it doesn’t have the codes for your specific component, it is capable of learning IR commands. The codes in the manual didn’t work for some of my components, like my Denon DVD-5910Ci or my Sony BDP-S1, but I was able to control them by teaching the remote their codes. There is a learning curve to programming any remote like this, but with the manual in hand, I was able to handle my bedroom theatre fairly easily. I was getting pretty good after programming a few macros and no longer needed the manual at this point. I must admit, after using this little remote, I was impressed. Remotes are rarely as flexible as this. These features are often only seen only in aftermarket remotes and I found it a nice touch to include such a versatile remote with the SR8001.
A complete Snell speaker system was sent along with the Marantz receiver. This consisted of the J7 monitors, CR7 center, SR7 surrounds and a Basis 150 subwoofer. I set up the Snells and the Marantz in my bedroom system. Setting up this receiver was easy, thanks in great part to the HDMI connector. This allowed me to connect my Denon 5910CI DVD player, Samsung BDP-1200 Blu-ray player and my Scientific Atlanta 8300HD HD-DVR, all via the HDMI interface. I also connected the 5.1 multi-channel output of the Denon 5910CI for SACD and DVD-Audio listening, and a coaxial digital cable from my Scientific Atlanta 8300HD. Otherwise, the HDMI cable did the vast majority of the work. I ran one of the HDMI outputs to my Panasonic TH-42PX60U plasma TV. All power was filtered through a Monster HTS 5000 Mk II power center. I ran new speaker wires with 12-gauge OFC copper wire to the Snell speakers and positioned the front on Lovan Affinity stands, with the center on another stand beneath my plasma display. I placed the subwoofer in the corner of the room, a place I have long ago established as the best place in this room for this purpose, and put the surrounds on our nightstands. It sounds like a lot of work, but in reality, all the connections were made in less than an hour. I later added a second pair of speaker wires to bi-amplify the fronts with the remaining two amplifier channels. I also connected my set top box via composite and component video to test the conversion to HDMI. While it handled the video well, I preferred the HDMI connection, so I used this for all further viewing. I later removed the Snell system and went back to my Kef 5005.2 speaker system.
I turned to the receiver’s set-up menus, which are pretty straightforward and easily navigated. They didn’t have the elegant GUI of some receivers, but they were effective and logical. The Marantz does briefly display the current source on powering up and the display is simple-looking. I would have liked to see something more elegant, but I can easily live with this. The first thing you must do with any new receiver or processor is to set up your speakers. Thanks to the Audyssey MultiEQ feature on the SR8001, this is very easy. I followed the instructions, connected the included microphone, made sure the room was quiet and would remain so for a few minutes by stopping the grandfather clock nearby, positioned the microphone in my main listening position and started it up. A series of test tones came from each speaker, including the subwoofer. After a minute or so, the system cues you to move the microphone to another position. I repeated this a total of six times, the maximum allowed by this system, and was happy with its assessment. It assigned all my speakers to small, as I would have, and the distances it calculated were within inches of what I measured. I switched the EQ on and off a few times. I preferred it on, which gave me a nice balanced sound, so I kept it on for my listening. The components I received were show samples, so they already had some use and were pretty well broken in, but I ran them for a week or so before doing any critical listening, just to be sure.