Marantz SR8001 Receiver 
Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers
Written by Ken Taraszka, MD   
Thursday, 01 November 2007

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.

Music And Movies
To test the Marantz SR8001 out on some two-channel audio, I opted for Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations. The song “Supermassive Black Hole” gave me all I could want. The eerie nature of the vocals and full fill of the background was excellent. This disc is unusual, in that some things such as the deep bass groove are very well recorded, while other parts of the song are heavily distorted. The Marantz kept everything as it was meant to be. The Basis 150 sub did a solid job holding the deep bass lines together, while the highs remained smooth. This alone is impressive, as this is an album riddled with upper end and for a receiver to do it smoothly is rare. “Soldier’s Poem” continued to show the smooth detail of the highs the SR8001 can reproduce, while keeping it separate from the deep bass line and giving all the elements plenty of air to breathe. The soundstage produced by this set-up was very wide and pleasant to listen to. I never felt the sound to be fatiguing and truly enjoyed listening to music from the Marantz. The echoes of the flamenco guitar at the start of “Hoodoo” were great and the depth of the lowest notes was clearly covered. The vocals freely came from the center of the soundstage and had great warmth to them at the start, escalating in stress and edge as the song continued. The acoustic guitar at the end of the track was amazing.

Next I cued up the concert Blu-ray disc of Nine Inch Nails Live – Beside You in Time (Interscope) to test the receiver’s true capabilities. I ran uncompressed 5.1-channel PCM audio directly to the SR8001 via the HDMI output of my Samsung BDP-1200 for this piece. The song “Terrible Lie” had sounds coming from all over the room and the loud passages exhibited intense dynamics, even at extreme listening levels. The chaos of sound in “Wish” was amazing. Every note was appreciable and the explosions of sound were off the charts. The Marantz SR8001 treated me to extreme volume with clarity during my playing of this disc, at levels I’d not have expected from a simple system.

I started off movie watching with the DVD The Last King of Scotland (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), a fictional film about the rise and fall of real-life Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. This movie is full of everything from remote jungle scenes to intense battles and the Marantz gave a solid presentation thoughout. The jungle sequences accurately portrayed the subtle nuances of rustling of leaves, giving the feeling of being in the bushes. The intense explosions during the attacks had authority and excellent dynamics. Planes flying overhead smoothly passed across the room and African background music filled the room. Voices were clear and easily discerned, even during the chaotic scenes. I tried to compare the scaling of the SR8001 to my Denon 5910CI, but both of these, when run to 480p, also went through the processor of my Panasonic plasma, so I was unable to truly compare them. However, I saw no difference between the two.

Due to some changes in my systems, I swapped out the Samsung BDP-1200 for my Sony BDP-S1 and connected it via the HDMI cable. I fired up the Demi Moore classic G.I. Jane (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray. I ran the audio via uncompressed 5.1 out through the HDMI cable to the SR8001 and occasionally switched back and forth between that and the Dolby Digital feed. The scene that really impressed me was the essay sequence, where the thunderheads fill the soundstage and are sharply contrasted by the opera music used to put the trainees to sleep. The rumble of the thunder was wonderfully realistic and the aria had great timbre to it. When I compared the uncompressed 5.1 feed to the Dolby Digital, the sound closed in and sounded compressed with the Dolby Digital track, it just didn’t have the life and air of the uncompressed feed. Later in the film, during the training scenes in the rain, the falling drops seemed very real. Rain and crickets filled the room and in fact expanded beyond it to make for a lifelike experience. Explosions and gunfire tracked well across the soundstage and carried great attack and weight, while the vocals remained clear. The video through the SR8001 was as good as when connected directly to my display.

The Downside
The Marantz SR8001 is an amazing receiver, but like all of us, it has its issues. I would have liked to be able to assign the 7.1-channel input to a source, so I didn’t need to switch it on and off every time I used it. I have had other pre/pros and receivers that do it this way, and it is an added headache when programming universal remotes. I would have liked video scaling to 1080p; in this day and age, 480p scaling feels dated. While the SR8001 does 4:2 HDMI switching and does allow input of multi-channel PCM via the v1.2 inputs, the second HDMI output is only for the main zone. It would be nice if you could run two separate HDMI outs for the first and second zones. If you plan to use both for a complicated set-up, such as a plasma for daytime viewing and a projector for nighttime, you will need to go into the receiver’s set-up menus to switch between the two HDMI outputs.

The Marantz SR8001 offers multi-room control options and a vast array of audio and video inputs and outputs. The new shallower depth made set-up substantially easier as it spun on my audio rack, allowing me to access the rear connectors. I would have liked to have 1080p scaling, a different system for accessing the 7.1-channel input and improved flexibility and control of the second HDMI output, but otherwise I can’t fault the unit. The sound of this receiver is wonderful, making it a pleasure to listen to for music and movies and the set-up menus are straightforward and easy to follow.

The included remote is something that really surprised me. It is unique in this black remote world; the light gray color and blue backlighting make for a neat look, especially at night, and the remote is programmable to control any of your components and can have up to 20 macros. The remote is so good that it can easily satisfy most people’s needs for a receiver-based home theatre. Add in the XM radio and you have a receiver that can keep even a picky audiophile happy. The Marantz SR8001 is a world-class receiver and one you should seriously consider if you are in the market for one.
Manufacturer Marantz
Model SR8001 Receiver
Reviewer Ken Taraszka, M.D
# of Output Channels 7.1

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