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Marantz AV8003 AV Preamplifier Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 November 2008
ImageThe Basics
The AV8003 signals Marantz’s re-emergence into the ultra-competitive AV separates market.  At $2,599, the AV8003 is one of the less expensive surround sound processors, positioned to attract those on the verge of buying separates or considering one of today’s uber-receivers, but who prioritize sound quality over bells and whistles.  Utilizing a separate processor and amplifier allows the user to improve the quality of equipment over that offered by most receivers.  An added benefit is that when the processing technologies change so much that a new processor is needed, you can still keep your amplifier.  This theoretically reduces the cost and waste associated with upgrading your equipment.

The AV8003 is housed in an aesthetically pleasing chassis, with rounded corners and a clean front panel that features a large display window above a drop-down door.  The window is flanked by a pair of large knobs that control input selection and volume.  Noticeably absent are the plethora of initials and symbols which are instead discreetly places on top of the front panel.  Looking inside, one can see the heavy copper-plated steel chassis with an enclosed toroidal transformer that has all its parts carefully laid out to maximize performance.  The AV8003 is feature-laden and can even be hooked up to your computer network to stream pictures, audio and video.  This three-zone processor also has more of the features that one might expect to find in a new surround processor, including HDMI 1.3 support, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby True HD, HD radio tuner, Anchor Bay Technologies video scaling and Audyssey room correction, as well as being XM- and Sirius-ready.  I’ve left out several features, as there are simply too many to list in this article.  Trust me, this sucker is packed with technology.

Despite the plethora of features, the intent of the AV8003 is not to be a feature showcase, but rather to provide class-beating performance.  There are many other products out there with even more features – one has only to look at Marantz’s sister company Denon for such products – but features for features sake do not always mean benefits for the user.  With the Marantz AV8003, the designers made many conscious decisions about what to include and what to dump.  These decisions were primarily based upon performance.  While I had some difficulty setting up the networking aspect of the AV8003, the rest of the set-up was straightforward.  Marantz has achieved its intent with this piece.  The AV8003 performed extremely well with both video and audio.  One would likely have to spend multiples of the AV8003’s price in order to obtain significantly better performance.
High Points
- The AV8003’s audio/video performance rivals that of units costing several times its price.
- The ability to receive network media, HD, XM and Sirius radio all in one unit is really sweet.  It seems that every receiver should be able to receive these sources, but oddly they don’t, where the Marantz does.
- The AV8003 has the ability to decode every surround sound codec (even the new advanced ones).

Low Points
- The glass fiber rounded front panel pieces feel like inexpensive plastic.
- The AV8003 can only handle seven external sources, not nearly enough for my main theater system.
Set-up of networking capabilities can be complex for the non-IT-oriented consumer.

The Marantz AV8003 is easy to recommend to someone seeking better performance than what a receiver can offer, but who is not yet ready to invest $10,000 in a single component.  The Marantz AV8003 has all the bells and whistles that today’s buyer is conditioned to look for, plus the features necessary to easily integrate it into a complex system.  This, coupled with its solid performance across the board, from stereo to DTS HD Master Audio, make this piece an easy recommendation for anyone who needs today’s feature set but demands superior performance.

The networking capabilities are a nice touch and I would like to see them expanded.  As they are now, one can use the Marantz to view family photos and video stored on a computer and as a music server.  Even with all of these features, the AV8003 doesn’t forget its main purpose.  While watching movies or listening to music, it has been able to reproduce an involving and convincing sound field.

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